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Wander Through a Winter Garden

by Debra Bokur

Dec 2, 2019

Fgcanada | Dreamstime.com


Not so long ago, my husband’s job required we relocate to Washington, D.C. for a full year, and the temporary move from our mountain wilderness in Colorado to the intensity of the capital city was tough for me. While immediate access to world-renowned museums, dining and cultural venues also made it fabulous in many ways, what made it most bearable for this outdoor lover were my regular forays to the United States Botanic Garden, where I could immerse myself in nature, even if just for part of an afternoon.


While the 10 rooms and two garden courtyards that comprise the space are amazing at any time of year, I loved it most after autumn left the trees bare, and the quiet of the indoor conservatory was filled with winter sunlight spilling through the graceful glass, transforming it into a magical refuge.


Happily, there are plenty of stunning botanical gardens in all corners of the world that stay warm (and even green) all year-round. If you’re searching for a wintery landscape, the Myriad Botanical Gardens in Oklahoma City is home to the Crystal Bridge Conservatory, which spans two separate climate zones and provides a protective 13,000 square feet of display area for 750 species of plants. There’s even a cascading indoor waterfall and a bridge that overlooks a tropical forest.


Oklahoma City Myriad Botanical Garden. Photo: Krista Parham | Dreamstime.com


One of the most spectacular controlled botanical spaces in the world can be found in Cornwall, England. The Eden Project is a collection of colossal biomes erected within an immense crater. Each biome is a climate-specific biological community nurtured by geothermal energy. Separate structures house the Western Australian Garden, Mediterranean Biome and Rainforest Biome. There are also exhibitions, outdoor gardens, play areas, dining and accommodations that include camping and hostel spaces. The Eden Project even offers a therapeutic horticulture program designed to support those suffering from anxiety, depression or other social challenges through hands-on immersion in nature.


Not far away in North Yorkshire, England, the RHS Garden Harlow Carr, operated by the Royal Horticultural Society, is situated on what was once a royal hunting ground and part of the Forest of Knaresborough. A Winter Walk is offered along paths lined with winter-flowering shrubs including Sarcococca and Daphne. The path leads into woodlands where winter aconites cover the earth. After your walk, settle into the cozy space at Betty’s Café Tea Rooms and Shop to enjoy a cup of tea and something sweet to nibble. Don’t ask me how I know, but luscious cake trolley favorites include Grande Raspberry Macaroons and Warm Treacle Tart.


Back stateside at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, (about 15 miles from DC) a wonderful tropical garden can be found within the Atrium, while nature trails lead past the glorious, soaring silhouettes of leafless trees and dreamy mist rising from the surface of frozen lakes. The gardens also host a Winter Walk of Lights, offered until after New Year’s Day. Areas include the Fountain of Lights, animated Lakeside Lights and a Holiday Nature Walk.


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