It may not exactly feel like it here on the East Coast, but spring has definitely sprung. One of our favorite springtime activities? Strolling through a botanical garden with an interesting past, so we can take in the first blooms of the season and learn some history at the same time. Below, we've collected some of the most historically interesting botanical gardens around the world. Know of a great one we missed? The more the merrier, so please share in the comments!
Orto botanico di Pisa (Italy)
Founded in 1544, Pisa's botanical garden is the oldest of its kind in Europe. Its current location, which opened in 1591 (still a pretty long time ago!), boasts a number of features that should delight anyone interested in the history of science. One of the most fascinating: the original facade of the building that housed the University of Pisa's botanical institute, which is completely encrusted in seashells.
Lost Gardens of Heligan (England)
One of Great Britain's most enchanting spots, the Lost Gardens of Heligan weren't always lost. Until the first World War, they were carefully maintained by generations of the Tremayne family, which owned the Heligan estate. After the war, however, the gardens fell into disrepair. Restored in the mid-1990s to reflect their 19th-century grandeur, the gardens have found new life as a popular tourist destination.
Bartram's Garden (United States)
The oldest botanical garden and arboretum in the United States, Bartram's Garden in Philadelphia predates the U.S. itself by nearly 50 years.
Hortus Botanicus Leiden (Netherlands)
Nearly as old as Pisa's, Leiden's university botanical garden was the first established in the Netherlands, in 1590. The garden's early design reflects two major concerns of early modern Dutch society: science, in the form of a study collection of medicinal plants, and colonialism, which here took the form of specimens collected by the Dutch East India Company.
Montreal Botanical Garden (Canada)
Though not nearly as old as some of the gardens on this list—it opened in 1931—Montreal's gorgeous and enormous botanical garden still has plenty of history worth noting. Its original buildings are an important example of Great Depression-era Art Deco architecture, and the grounds themselves played a crucial role in the 1976 Summer Olympics, during which they served as a race course.
Orto botanico di Palermo (Italy)
Palermo's lush botanical gardens are a real urban oasis, just a short walk from the city's beautiful (but often hot) center. Since it opened in the late 18th century, the botanical garden has been a working research center under the aegis of the University of Palermo—but with its neoclassically-influenced design and lovely statues, it could double as a luxurious palace pleasure garden.
Featured image via Flickr user lugri
An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the Lost Gardens of Heligan are located in Wales. We regret the error.