Polly Nightingale

At this time of year when flowers come into their own, showing off their lovely blooms, you find yourself being drawn into the garden. I’m no gardener (dead heading and weeding are about my limit), but even I can appreciate the simple symmetry of a tulip, blousy bloom of a peony and delicate colours of a sweet pea. Strolling through a garden, marvelling at the shapes and shades, breathing in the scents and listening to birdsong, is a full-on sensory experience. Every garden has its own charms, but all offer a sense of serenity that is utterly beguiling.

Seeking out these oases can be rewarding, if rather time consuming, and on holiday you don’t always have time to spare, so here are a few to look out for on your travels.

Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens are one of Cape Town’s best known attractions. Dubbed ‘the most beautiful garden in Africa’, the gardens, at the foot of Table Mountain, were the first to be dedicated to the native flora of a single country. In the same city but less well, The Company’s Gardens were created by the Dutch East India Company in 1652 to supply their ships. There are various sub-gardens centred on roses, herbs and rockeries, plus fishponds and an aviary, and the oldest cultivated pear tree in South Africa.



India is synonymous with exotic spices and in Wayanad, Kerala, you can take a tour of one of the many spice plantations, walking among cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, pepper and vanilla plants that thrive on the fertile hillsides. The aromas are amazing! Watch as plants are harvested and see the production process in full swing. Afterwards you’ll have the chance to sample some of the spices for yourself.



Away from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech medina you’ll find a different world at Jardin Majorelle. Created by the French painter Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s, the gardens are a riot of tropical flowers, bamboo, cacti, coconut palms and banana plants. You’ll come across pools and streams, plus colonnades, pavilions and fountains painted in brilliant ‘Majorelle blue’, a colour the artist associated with the Atlas Mountains. Now owned by Yves Saint Laurent, these luxuriant gardens are often used for art shows and exhibitions.



Once the British summer capital of Burma, Pyin Oo Lwin is home to Kandawgyi Gardens, the national botanic gardens. Designed by an Englishman in 1915, they were modelled on London’s famous Kew Gardens, and showcase indigenous plants including over 500 species of trees and 300 types of orchid. Roses, lilies, rolling lawns, lakes and Alpine scenery make this a great favourite with visitors and locals alike.



One stop on Ecuador’s cruise train is a rose plantation in Cotopaxi. Ecuador’s roses are renowned the world over, thanks to the temperate climate, fertile soil and quality of the sunlight. You’ll have a chance to view some of the 70+ colours in a walk round one of the greenhouses as you learn about rose cultivation, the worldwide markets and individual preferences. Apparently Germans like deep red and white, pink is favoured in Arab countries, and Russians love flowers with long stems. You’re sure to find you own favourite here among the mass of blooms.


A stroll around a garden is guaranteed to bring a smile to your lips and is a very pleasant way to spend a few hours on your holiday, wherever you are.