France: Giverny Gardens

The Giverny gardens are probably the most famous in France. Monet created some of his famous ‘Water Lily’ and ‘Japanese Bridge’ paintings here. As well as the gardens you can also visit Monet’s lovely and very colourful house. Monet started his famous water garden by digging a small pond and expanding upon it; he then remodelled the landscapes and gardens about it to better inspire his work, or as he put it, “I’m good for nothing except painting and gardening”.


In spring the garden is full of colour with daffodils, tulips, pansies, and cherry-tree blossom. Summer planting will include clematis, roses and sunflowers amongst many others that give blasts of colour like an artist’s pallet. In Autumn dahlias, asters and nasturtiums take centre stage.

July, through to the beginning of August, is the optimum time to visit if you want to see the water lilies in full bloom. The ponds are also edged in colour and beauty with weeping willows, cherry trees, irises, azalea’s and much more. A true delight to visit.

The village of Giverny is close to Paris and the gardens are open every day from April to November.

France: Gardens of the Château de Versailles

The magnificent gardens of the Château de Versailles are designed to impress. Originally, they were meant to be viewed from the inside of the Château so that their patterns and symmetry could be fully appreciated. The gardens are very formal with no less than 372 statues on display. It is also safe to say that water is a huge theme within their confines: there are 600 fountains, 55 water features and 35 km of canals!

Immaculately kept, this is splendour on a grand scale covering 800 hectares, of which 300 hectares are forest. Don’t worry – there are cycles available for rent!

As well as the gardens of course, you must also visit the château itself, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The gardens are open every day to visitors.


Italy: Botanical Garden at Padua

The botanical garden at Padua was created in 1545, on the property of the Benedictine monks of St. Justine. It was the first ever of its kind in the world and has made a huge contribution to the development of many modern scientific disciplines such as medicine, ecology, chemistry and pharmacy.

Work there changed the perception of plant and human interaction. Its main task was always scientific research and the garden continues to specialize in this hundreds of years later; its semi-circular botanical theatre is still regularly used today. It was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 1997, on the premise that it served as a basis for the understanding of the relationship between nature and culture.

The garden is not a large site, but it is beautifully designed, and the original layout has been lovingly retained over the centuries, even though there have been some additions. The centre of the garden has a circular shape, with the main paths passing through cutting it into quadrants. Water surrounds it, which is representative of a symbolic barrier that separates earth from the rest of matter. Inside the barrier are specimens of plants that make up our natural world.

There are around 6,000 different plants that can be seen in the garden today and they are arranged according to their historical, environmental and ecological categories. The garden also houses special collections including poisonous, insectivorous, carnivorous, Mediterranean and aquatic plants. An interesting feature about this garden is that all the plants are kept in their natural habitats, whether those should be hot and humid or, at the other end of the spectrum, alpine-like and cold. This is a masterpiece of academic beauty, not to be missed.

The gardens are open every day for visitors.


Netherlands: Castle Garden Arcen

We all know about Holland and its association with tulip gardens, but perhaps this Dutch garden is not quite as well-known.

Arcen Castle goes back to the 17th Century. It was built in the Baroque style and is a wonderful sight just on its own; however, it takes on another aspect altogether when combined with its gardens. Both the castle and the gardens were lovingly restored in the 80’s and then opened to visitors.

As you enter the gardens, they are formal and traditional, with neat flower beds and hedges. Moving to the rose garden beyond, hundreds of species have been planted providing a total of almost 10,000 blooms. The garden then adopts a less formal architecture of grassy areas and ponds where ducks and geese abound. Multitudes of meandering pathways allow easy access. Following on from here you’ll walk into a beautiful woodland area filled with violets and many other plants, lending to it colour and shade; waterfalls and streams flow through this part of the garden and it’s truly beautiful! As you reach the far side of the gardens, a surprise awaits: themed gardens from Thailand, Italy, Japan and more! Decorative art and architecture galore. In total there are 15 types of gardens. Well worth a visit.

Arcen Castle Garden is in the village of Arcen in the province of Limburg.

For help with how to bring some of these influences into your own garden get in touch with North Leeds Garden Design today.