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Fun with Flora

Waterfall in Portland Japanese Garden

By Joan Rykal

In addition to public botanic gardens (you can find one in almost every state), there are the formerly private, and now public, gardens of the estates of some America’s founding financial fathers. Biltmore and Chanticleer, both mentioned in this article, are just a few of the fabulous gardens on display for all to enjoy.

If the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson was right when he said “the earth laughs in flowers,” then get ready to enjoy a summer full of blooming fun when you plan a visit to the gardens we’ve listed.

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens (Boothbay, Maine)

Rose Arbor. Photo courtesy of Rain 0975

The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens opened its doors in 2007, but this newcomer does not disappoint. The Garden encompasses 270 acres of waterfront and wetlands. The Garden’s mission is “inspire meaningful connections among people, plants, and nature through horticulture, education and research.”

With fairy houses being all the rage for gardeners now, you won’t want to miss the Garden’s Fairy House Village. Stroll the various gardens and enjoy the beauty of Maine. Upcoming events include the End of Summer Tea on September 11 and The Great Pumpkin Hunt on October 22.

Nearby RV resorts are Pinehirst in Old Orchard, and Moody Beach in Wells; both are just over an hour’s drive.

Chanticleer (Wayne, Pennsylvania)

Ruin Garden. Photo courtesy of Pete Anderson

Beautiful gardens encompass land that was once part of a private estate, Chanticleer offers visitors more than 15 different garden areas over 35 acres. There’s Bell’s Run Creek with its winding waterway; Minder Woods which features a woodland path with a tree canopy for shade; and Pond Garden with flitting hummingbirds and goldfinches.

The house and grounds of Chanticleer were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Visit to see what’s in bloom and to get more details on hours of operation, admission and more. The website also features the daily journal entries of Adolph Rosengarten Jr., who logged daily noted about the property from 1933 to 1985.

Nearby RV resorts are those located in the Lancaster County area.

Biltmore Estate (Asheville, North Carolina)

The grounds and gardens of the Biltmore Estate were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed NYC’s Central Park, and combine forests, meadows, and waterways in both formal and informal gardens throughout the grounds. Several of the gardens have loop trails for easy walking.

Bird watchers won’t want to miss the trail at the Bass Pond and Boathouse where they can see many species of birds. For a more formal garden, check out the Italian Garden that features statuary and three water gardens. If you’re visiting in the fall, don’t miss the Azalea Garden which is said to have a distinctive cotton candy scent come autumn.  Visit for more information on the Biltmore and all it has to offer its visitors.

Nearby RV resort is Scenic, in Mocksville, which is less than 20 minutes away.

Lewis Ginter (Richmond, Virginia)

Photo courtesy of Valerie

The history of the land on which the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is located is in itself worth the visit but so are the more than a dozen themed gardens. Plus, the domed Conservatory is the only one of its kind in the mid-Atlantic area.

Once hunting ground for the Powhatan Indians as well as land owned by Patrick Henry, prosperous businessman Lewis Ginter purchased nine acres to create a destination for Richmond bicyclists. Now encompassing 50 acres, the gardens include the Asian Valley, the Children’s Garden and the Cochrane Rose Garden. Don’t miss the Edible Display Garden that focuses on edible landscaping and features food producing plants.

Visit for more information on the Garden.

Nearby RV resorts include Chesapeake Bay in Gloucester, Harbor View in Colonial Beach, and Williamsburg in Williamsburg, which are all just about an hour away.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (Miami, Florida)

Palm trees reflection in the lake

Named for American botanist David Fairchild (1869-1954), the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami has a mission to “inspire a greater knowledge and love for plants and gardening so that all can enjoy the beauty and bounty of the tropical world,” and is considered one of the best botanic gardens in the world.  Fairchild actually was the first Chief of the Office of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction for the USDA, and he traveled the world bringing back such plants to the United States as mangos, alfalfa, dates, nectarines and horseradish.  Though a Michigan native, Fairchild believed Miami was the best place to propagate tropical plants. In 1938 the Garden opened to the public and in 1940, Fairchild went on the Garden’s first official collecting expedition.

A visit to the Fairchild is truly like being transported to the tropics. There’s the Montgomery Palmetum which exhibits over 1000 palm trees in all shapes and sizes, while the Simons Rainforest, spanning two acres features streams, waterfalls, orchids and other rainforest plants. The Clinton Family Conservatory is home to colorful butterflies and features a twice daily butterfly release.

The Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is a true wonderland where you can see all the exotic flora and fauna of the tropics. For more information visit

Nearby RV resort is Miami Everglades which is approximately a 15 minute drive.

Cheekwood Art and Gardens(Nashville, Tennessee)

Boxwood Garden. Photo courtesy of Michael Hicks

In addition to offering beautiful gardens and works of art, Nashville’s Cheekwood Art and Gardens also features an interesting exhibit of sculpture along a nature trail that can be enjoyed any time of year.

Cheekwood originally served as the private residence of the Cheek family, one of Nashville’s earliest entrepreneurial families (two members of the Cheek family developed the blend of coffee that became known as Maxwell House coffee.)

Descendants of the original owners offered the house and grounds as a site for a botanic garden and art museum in the late 1950 and Cheekwood opened to the public in 1960. Set on 55 acres, Cheekwood includes 11 separate gardens, plus the Carell Woodland Sculpture Trail.

For more information visit

Nearby RV resort is Natchez Trace, in Hohenwald, which is less than two hours from Cheekwood.

Chicago Botanic Gardens (Glencoe, Illinois)

Located in Glencoe, Illinois Chicago Botanic Gardens encompasses 385 acres that contain 26 separate gardens and in total features more than 2.4 million plants. Each of the 26 gardens is spectacular in their own right and they include an English Walled Garden, a Japanese Garden, the Heritage Garden and the Rose Garden. Not to be missed are the Sensory Garden and the Model Railroad Garden.

The Sensory Garden is a delight to the senses of sight, sound, smell and touch. The Model Railroad Garden features 18 model G-scale trains running on 18 tracks amid 5,000 plants and contains more than 40 miniature American landmarks.

A varied calendar includes family events, live music, plant sales, workshops, and seasonal events. For hours, admission price and more information visit

Nearby RV resort is Pine Country in Belvidere which is a little over an hour’s drive away.

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden (Dallas, Texas)

Photo courtesy of Emma Nairne

More than 15 areas await visitors to the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden which even includes a pecan grove.

Awash with seasonal color, the Margaret Elisabeth Jonsson Color Garden features 6.5 acres of seasonal blooms. Spring brings blooms to the more than 2,000 varieties of azaleas, while autumn hails the blooms of the chrysanthemums. The Pecan Grove, which sees 100 Japanese Cherry trees bloom each spring, transforms to a Pumpkin Village for the Garden’s “Autumn at the Arboretum” event, which begins Saturday, September 17 this year.

For more information visit

Nearby RV resorts are Bay Landing, in Bridgeport, and Lake Tawakoni in Point, both of which are a little over an hour’s drive away.

The Desert Botanic Garden (Phoenix, Arizona)

Hall of Cacti. Photo courtesy of A. Dombrowski

The Garden offers five walking trails to explore the Sonoran Desert including the Desert Discovery Loop Trail and the Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Loop Trail. On Thursday and Saturday summer evenings there are Garden Flashlight Tours designed to allow you to hear and feel the desert at night!

In March 2017, the Garden will open a new butterfly exhibit that will feature educational displays as well as offer tips on creating your own butterfly garden.

Nearby RV resorts include all those located in the Phoenix metro area.

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Garden (San Marino, California)

Once a working ranch owned by the heir to a railroad fortune, the Huntington Botanical Garden has 12 gardens and 15,000 plant varieties. The Shakespeare Garden actually can trace it roots (no pun intended) to plants y cultivated during Shakespeare’s lifetime. Visit the Garden in January and February and you can delight in the blooms of over 1200 varieties of camellias. Throughout the grounds you will find permanent sculpture installations as well as fountains and other surprises.

The calendar offers many events including classes, specialized tours, music in the garden and lectures. On September 27, the Huntington will host a Harvest Moon Celebration in the Chinese Garden that will mimic a Chinese festival.

Nearby RV resort is Soledad, in Acton, approximately 55 minutes away.

Portland Japanese Garden (Portland, Oregon)

With Sapporo, Japan as its sister city, it stands to reason that Portland, Oregon is home to a world-class Japanese garden. Influenced by the Shinto, Buddhist and Taoist philosophies, the five gardens were designed to promote peace, harmony and tranquility.

Located on five acres within Portland’s Washington Park, the gardens include the Tea Garden, complete with a tea house; the Sand and Stone Garden, which is a dry landscape garden, as well as the Flat Garden, Strolling Garden and Natural Garden.

For information visit

Nearby RV resort is Portland Fairview in Fairview which is less than 30 minutes away.

If you’re taking the ultimate road trip and plan on traveling to more states than those we’ve covered here, check out to find a garden where you’re headed.

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