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Gardens Around the Country Celebrate Spring

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By Victor Block

Spring has sprung, and summer will soon arrive. If you're a flower gardener -- and the National Gardening Association estimates that members of more than a third of American households are -- you already may have begun to till soil and plant seeds. If you enjoy gardens more by watching than working, however, now is the time to plan a trip to take in some of Mother Nature's bountiful beauty.

Gardens come in a variety of types, sizes and offerings. Some are urban pockets of color and scent, others world-famous destinations that people travel far to see.

Many city dwellers live close to outstanding public gardens. Residents of Los Angeles have easy access to what is said to offer more types of plants than any other botanical garden in the world. They're located in 16 themed areas at the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens. The gardens include sections devoted to native plants of California, Australia, China and Japan; desert, jungle and subtropical flora; and herb and rose gardens.

Vibrant colors team with chapters from the past in Charleston's gardens. That South Carolina city is home to three spectacular settings that were born in pre-Revolutionary times. Magnolia Gardens were established in 1671 and once listed as among the three most outstanding attractions in the United States, along with Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon. Moss-draped live oaks spread their branches over masses of color that line inkylakes.

Water is also a major feature of Cypress Gardens, where island-studded lagoons reflect a blaze of color. What today is a swamp garden in the mid-18th century served as a freshwater reservoir for a nearby rice plantation.

 

Middleton Place also was an important plantation when creation of its gardens got underway in 1741. They were laid out in the classic style then in vogue in Europe, which accounts for the descending terraced lawns that lead to the oldest camellia plants in the Western world and more than 100,000 azaleas.

Portland, Oregon, touts itself as the City of Roses, and the International Rose Test Garden alone could be reason enough for that moniker. It was founded as a safe haven for hybrid flowers grown in Europe during World War I. The grounds are divided into several areas where more than 10,000 roses thrive.

A very different atmosphere greets visitors to two Asian-inspired settings in Portland. The Japanese Garden is considered to be the most authentic one of its kind outside of Japan. Among five distinct areas are a Strolling Pond Garden, Sand and Stone Garden and Bonsai Terrace. The Lan Su Chinese Garden offers an immersion in an authentically designed Ming Dynasty-style atmosphere. The richly planted landscape encompasses open colonnades, graceful bridges and covered walkways.

Touches of humor add to the appeal of some topiary gardens, where shrubs and trees are trained and trimmed into ornamental shapes. At Ladew Gardens in Maryland they echo the love of hunting by the property's original owner. Topiary scenes include horses, riders and hounds pursuing an unfortunate fox.

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