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Magazines > Searcher > January 2003
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Vol. 11 No. 1 — January 2003
Gardens of the World Wide Web
by Tara Breton • Knowledge Manager L.E.K. Consulting LLC

It is January, one of the hardest months for the New England gardener. Even intrepid veterans know that it will be months before the time comes to plant indoor seeds under special grow lights in the basement. The torment grows daily as the seed catalogs arrive one by one. Burpee, White Flower Farm, Jackson & Perkins...I have them all. My husband has commented more than once that he didn't know one person could inhabit so many mailing lists.

In the last few weeks I have poured over each and every picture, bending page tops and taking notes over what colors and plants I want to see bloom where icicles now hang. I have spent hours cutting photos from Architectural Digest magazine and meshing them with those of the National Arboretum. I astonish myself with the impressive results which I never bothered to write down. I then summed up the total cost of my live plants, seeds, bare-root roses, and tree saplings as I prepared to write 17 different checks. What? It can't be $1,712.43 plus shipping! Whoa!

Obviously I need a better plan. In fact, I could use any plan except the I-like-the-color-where-can-I-plunk-it system I have employed for the last 2 years. Heavens knows it hasn't been terribly effective so far, except to feed the rabbits. (No one ever told me furry bunnies like crocuses.) It's taken me a few years to admit it, but I need to do some serious research and goal setting.

My first attempt at gardening was pretty much try and fail, with emphasis on the latter. We'd bought the house in a January when everything was covered in snow, and I had The Grand Plan of putting in walkways and arbors and trellises and fences and herb gardens, while tearing out old ragged stick plants that appeared half-dead upon first inspection. In the end, I planted just two 'Peace' roses that year, and let the rest of the "stuff" just grow. Hey, who knew seasonal changes could convert a mass of wimpy sticks into a delightful honeysuckle plant? Amazing.

In March 2000, just 2 months after our house purchase, the wonderful Janet Evans of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society published an elegant reference article in Searcher simply entitled "Gardening Resources on the Web." Of course, know-it-all me didn't bother reading the article until October, after my roses barely survived and everything else had died from slugs, overexposure, or weevils. If I had, well! On the other hand, Y2K was a pretty good year. My spring investment only reached $78 and change. Imagine the travesty and carnage if I'd decided to implement both Phase I and II that year!

The next spring arrived, and with it great dreams of My First Year of Living Color. After all, look at all I'd learned about plant types. I foresaw mounds of red and pinks to the left of the blue patches, and rows of puffy yellow blobs to the far right behind the green lumps. Though I didn't know exactly which plants to pick, I had the color schemes all set in my mind. I knew when to water and which books to read and where to buy seeds. So I sent away for another $150 worth of plants and happily ensconced those where the colors would look just perfect.

I soon learned that planting 6-foot cosmos in front of the 10-inch daisies looks a bit silly (apparently size really does matter). White iceberg phlox blooms in July and peach tulips in May. My contrasting colors weren't working in synch. The good news is that I'm a cheery person, able to take such revelations in stride. After all, cosmos are annuals as long as you snip the seed pods off before they spread to every part of your lawn in a way that makes the dandelions look like shrinking violets. And please don't ask how I learned that lesson, okay?

Back to the books. Surely the behemoth wall of tomes at the local bookstore could provide assistance. But my goodness, which one to choose? There were more manuscripts on Feng Shui than Willy Wonka has chocolate bars. Ever the practical engineer, my husband suggested that I purchase a regional landscaping manual and read about garden plans before I spent much more money on experiments. This narrowed the selection to just over 80. I stopped counting after seeing Spanish Phrases for Landscaping Professionals. My research path had more potholes than wisdom.

In desperation, I called my sister-in-law, Karen, a member of a local garden club and someone who actually uses those Latin terms. This knowledgeable lady had a practical piece of advice I had not considered: Figure out what type of garden I really wanted. Did the idea of a formal setting with trimmed hedges and topiaries sound appealing? Or would I find the tussy-mussy English garden arrangement more practical for my lifestyle? Speaking of style, what about my house style? Cape Cod homes tend to maintain a less-rigid layout than Georgian manors. Once I knew what appealed to me, I could establish a landscaping plan and stick to it.

Excellent advice. Back to Ms. Evans' article — and the lead called Garden History links []. It certainly is a well-organized list by geography and by brief subject. I found links to the gardens at the Biltmore Estate, the Hearst Castle, and even the Hancock Shaker Village Farm.

From there I explored. All throughout a Nor'easter (AKA blizzard) that raged one winter day in Western Massachusetts, I clicked link after link...after link...after link. The lights only dimmed once, and the DSL kept pumping pictures and plans to my desktop. I stopped only when the CD-ROM burner screamed in agony from overload; otherwise I never changed out of my flannel pj's. I soon lost track of my original purpose — landscape plans — and started dreaming of the possibility of managing a botanical garden one day with thousands of plant species and millions of visitors.

The number of cool Web sites is on the increase, and a few are getting multimedia, adding sounds, 3-D images, and 360-degree tours. My quest progressed far beyond the "landscaping plans" I had initially sought, moving instead to general garden tours. Many sites I ended up bookmarking were for the overall effect. I contacted about five over the phone, and two by e-mail; each provided me with either colorful brochures or suggestions of materials to read. Some places were fascinating for the location and the views, in countries I had not anticipated. In a few, I discovered that the language was not compatible with my mental understanding, regardless of which fonts were installed on my computer. I have included select ones for the interested, with a note about the language issues. Here is a selected listing from my tour Around the Planetary World in 80 Hours of Surfing.


The Royal Botanic Gardens of Sydney [] consist of three separate garden features in a single location — each simply stunning for anyone who has not ventured Down Under. First established in 1816, it is the oldest scientific institution in the country and home to such rare varieties as the Wollemi pine. There are only 38 of these trees in existence, and scientists believe a few may date back to before the Roman Empire. Be sure to check out the photos on the rich aboriginal plants that once flourished where the streets of Sydney now lie. The Mount Annan Botanic Garden site has several landscaping management plans available in the marked sections on the site.

Moving southwest to Canberra, the Australian National Botanic Gardens [] have a less graphic-intensive Web site for easier downloading. The links are divided into clear categories such as photographs, maps, plant names, and each includes a delightfully detailed bibliography. Most pictures are just digitized shots of the plants, pleasant to look at but not helpful when designing a home gardening scheme. Of particular interest to some, however, may be the section concerning which animals roost in the eucalyptus trees, including the Ogmograptis scribulam, or the scribbly gum moth, as it is better known. And the dragons. One mustn't forget the inhabitants of the lower Rainforest Gully!

Tasmania may be best known for the devilish cartoon character drawn by Warner Brothers Inc. If you visit the gardens, you may see an actual devil. They look a bit more like an angry black pig than a whirling dust cloud, so be warned. Located to the southeast of the nearby Australian continent, the island houses a considerable number of gardens. The Bernawarra Gardenspecializes in perennials, ground covers, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, clematis, and over 200 roses, while Bowthorpe accompanies a Georgian homestead with English oaks and elms along the streets. The Bernawarra site [] simply has no pictures whatsoever, but I did call the people one evening for a brochure. It took several weeks to arrive, but the glossy pages were lovely.

Unlike much of the northern U.S., Australia does not have many low-temperature areas or seasons. Therefore, gardens that flourish in the cooler climates have different types of plants, including more varieties of bedding ivy. The Ballarat Botanical Gardens [] have produced a massive and lush Web site dedicated to showing off its marble statues and thick green vegetation. The North gardens house a zoo, while swans feed on the South Garden lawns near the Trout Hatchery. The work that goes into the creation of the floral clock is well-timed. Individual maps of the various garden sections provide detailed photographs. My only disappointment came from not being able to enlarge the photographs.


The National Botanic Garden of Belgium [] site allows browsing in three different languages. Located just outside of Brussels in the small village of Meise, the garden's history dates back to 1788. The wide variety of nonnative plants is astonishing — magnolias, Japanese maple-trees, and even a giant sequoia. A colorful interactive map requires a new browser window, and it does fill up more than the average monitor screen. Printing is a messy option, so bookmark the site for later reference. Interested conference planners may even book the Bouchout Castle for meetings and other social events.


The URL is as simple as the name: Botanique. Just enter No more words are needed. This site is my favorite, not only for the Resources links to organizations and publications, but also for the portal of more than 2,300 botanical gardens and nature sites in North America. Choose the state or province of interest for a list, or choose the map option if suddenly the location of Ottawa has escaped the memory (psst — Ontario). Not all the gardens listed have Web sites, and a rare few are defunct. Most secondary sites are bilingual, though not all. But ahhh — the variety!

If headed to the far west reaches of Canada, the province of British Columbia offers up a true treasure on 55 acres. The Butchart Gardens [] have existed since 1904 when a pioneer in the Portland cement industry exhausted the quarry by his house. His enterprising wife convinced him that tons of top soil could be placed on the old spot, creating the area known as the Sunken Garden. By the 1920s, more than 50,000 people came to visit each year and the gardens have been open to the public ever since. Over 1 million plants from 700 varieties are used for beds each year — all annuals. And yes, you can even buy a video.

"With its collection of 22,000 plant species and cultivars, 10 exhibition greenhouses, some 30 thematic gardens, and teams of researchers and activities staff, the Montréal Botanical Garden ranks as one of the world's largest and most spectacular botanical gardens." So says the site at Clicking on the Gardens & Greenhouses button brought up a very interactive map along with several drop-down menus. Users with QuickTime can view 360 degree panoramic views of the lilac gardens in full bloom, the Orchids and Aroids Conservatory, and even the Garden of Innovations. Relax, those are just the new trends in landscaping, such as rock formations, not computers set out to pasture!

When gardeners retire, is Vancouver one of their hot destination stops? With places such as the VanDusen Botanical Garden

, it would hardly be a surprise. People can rent the facilities; they have plenty of family activities, and yet the site has over 7,500 different plants on 55 acres. The Rhododendron Walk was designed to show up how the plants relate, while the Sino Himalayan Garden bring the Asian world far closer to the touch. Amazing, since the garden only began development in 1971.


Originally formed in 1904, the National Forest Park of Athalassa now covers over 2,000 acres. Over 500 trees, shrubs, and herbs have been recorded in the area, 12 of them endemic. There is a network of clearly marked trails to walk and plenty of flora to investigate. Be sure to click through to the Machairas Trails [], for shots of the rare plant, strictly protected by the Bern Convention, called Lefka Astragalus (Astragalus macrocarpus ssp. lefkarensis).

Then there is Spring in Northern Cyprus []. It is not clear who sponsors this Web site, but we must thank whoever it is. This virtual tour of Cyprus presents a wonderful impression of this Mediterranean island. Pages cover the coast and dunes, grasses, 'I Fioretti' (the little flowers), echium and allieds, walls and rocks, St. Hilarion cabbages, anemones and ranunculus, ophrys, orchis and serapias, bulbs and tubers, gladiolus, ferula (and other Apiaceae), cistus and rockroses, common shrubs, exceptional shrubs, pear trees and other Rosaceae, seeds and other vegetalia, and a picture index. The main site is French, but someone named Pierre Mercan has translated it into English. Merci!


The Finland Forest [] provides a glimpse into a world not often explored by gardeners: trees. It might sound silly until one considers the sheer volume of trees in this country. The site handles multiple languages, including English. Those with higher connection speeds may want to click on the wolf picture in the left frame. The new window launched provides a virtual excursion through the forest during the snow season.


The Ballyfin House is a magnificent example of the type of architecture that went into some of the greatest houses in Ireland built during the 1800s. It is said to be the finest sandstone neo-classical house dating from that period in Ireland. An architect by the name of William Morrison was involved in designing the original house in the late 1700s. When Sir Charles Coote bought the house and estate in 1812, he brought the architect Richard Morrison to redesign and rebuild the original house. For coverage, go to

The North County Longford, including the Granard area, has some interesting botanical features, many only discovered in recent years by amateur botanists. The main features include forest and lakelands, but there are also many old, undeveloped meadows. Derrycassan Wood has a great variety of plant life, even though it is mainly coniferous forest, and Lough Kinale has most of the species of plant life found around other midland lakes. The Ballywillan area, where the disused railway exists, is also a good source of plant life. To learn about plants growing in the Granard area that are rare or absent from the midlands, go to


This Web site [] contains a gallery of photographs of wild flowering plants found in the Maltese Islands.Each series of pictures is sorted by family (heather, pea, cabbage, honeysuckle, etc.), but has little more than close-ups shots with some interesting background features. The link marked "info" does not focus on landscaping or plants, but on the islands themselves: "The Maltese Archipelago consists of a group of small, low-lying islands located in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, about 96 km to the south of Sicily, and 290 km to the north of the Libyan coast." So why go to this site? Ahh, the daisies!


The 240 acres of the Lal Bagh Gardens form one of India's most beautiful botanical gardens. Originally designed in the 18th century by the ruler Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan, the design came not from India, but from other lands such as France, Afghanistan, and Persia. It is located in the southern suburbs of Bangladore and holds some of the oldest rock formations on the Earth — "believed to be more than 3,000 million years old." Be sure to investigate the Flower Clock, an actual working timepiece measuring 21 feet across and decorated with many flower forms in different colors. Find the garden on the Web at


Citing itself as an index to the botanical gardens of Mexico, this portal

is not comprehensive, but well-assembled. Each sublink has a complete description of the site, history, and contents, and all in English. When known, a link to the home page for the garden is posted. Be sure to investigate the rest of the Eco-Travels Web site for more Mexican information. I hope that this represents a work in progress, as more listings by the journalist-founder would be ideal.

Heading to Los Cabos anytime soon? Stop by the Gardens of Huerta Verde at for a long cool drink on the lush, tropical, shade-covered porches during the afternoon siesta. There's even a chapel on the grounds for reflections, prayers — and sometimes marriages. The site claims to be always in bloom with varieties of bougainvillea, hibiscus, gardenia, jasmine, aloe vera, cactus, coconut palm, and papaya. Unfortunately, the snapshot images do not easily enlarge for clarity.


Love Solanaceae? These plants, known in a variety of forms such as herbs, shrubs, or trees, comprise about 85 genera and 2,800 species. The Botanical Garden of Nijmegen [] specialize in these plants and even hold world conferences about them. At present, its slide collection consists of more than 6,000 images. These include, but are not limited to, chile peppers, Dutch-German potatoes, and various tomato strains. Do not pass up the chance to see the Eggplant genetics resources network.

While it does not have the vast number of photographs as the Nijmegen's site, the Utrecht Botanic Gardens
[] have a greater variety of plants. Not all sections of the site are in English, and it would certainly behoove the surfer to know the proper Latin names when looking for specific plants. Focusing on topics of cultivation and propagation information, the site does not post large photographs of its overall theme and landscaping. Shame. I would love to have seen all the varieties of Jack-in-the-pulpit in their natural setting.


If you speak the language, you will find the site full of details. Or so I have been told by a colleague at work who spent the summer working there as an intern. Everyone else can surf the site to find shots of rippling streams, winter trees, and the rock gardens. The PDF documents often contain more details not posted on the site — but all in Portuguese. Jardins, Espaços Verdes e Lagos
[] is the home page title.


Where to start? I truly believe this is some of the most stunning though stark landscapes on Earth. Rugged in terrain and steeped in history, the gardens reflect the pride these people take in their ancestry. There are several places to view, the first one being the residences of South West Scotland (the Lowlands). Here you can find the Logan Botanic Gardens, Glenwhan Garden, and the 75 acres of Castle Kennedy, which lies between two lochs. While the Castle does not seem to carry its own site, be sure to browse the Garden Lover's Guide for the descriptions at

Strath of Garry, in Pitlochryin, county of Perthshire, dates back 700 years, before the discovery of North America. It has not had an easy history due to its geographical location at the edge of a mountain pass. The most recent gardens [] have been under constant development throughout the last 300 years and now span more than 25,000 acres. Some areas, such as the Hercules garden, are being restored to their original designs of the mid-1800s; this estimated completion is still some years away.

The last stop is, of course, the Highlands. More than 600 years old, Cawdor Castle [] boasts a fully-restored residence and three full gardens. If the name seems familiar, it rightly should. William Shakespeare romantically linked it to Macbeth, and it remains home to the Cawdor family to this day. Acres of heather and other wildflowers bobble happily; visitors may contact the Castle regarding special events.


Originally founded in 1822, the Singapore Botanical Gardens were closed in 1829 for an unknown reason, but later reopened by an Agri-Horticultural Society and then handed to the government for upkeep. At latest count, the gardens cover more than 100 acres. The site provides general information, although the lack of pictures was disappointing. Clicking on the miniscule white font in the tiny mint green border near the top of the screen at provides links to alternative sites plus quick samples of the trees found in the gardens. Contact them for brochures, but be sure to specify which language!


If the rains in Spain stayed mainly on the plains, these gardens in Andalucia [] would never exist. Located on the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula, bumping up against the Mediterranean Sea, the various gardens specialize in flower pots and container gardening. Windowsills are also a popular venue for expanding color beyond the ground level. Sevilla, Cordoba, Malaga...all have links to this one portal. Marbella had the best pictures, although one must click through several levels to find the external links.


The Bergianska Tradgarden [], also known as the Bergius Botanical Garden, holds events every month throughout the year. There is a connection to the University of Stockholm; its best if visitors browse through the site. English is not an option, but the pictures are lovely.

A slightly less complex site with constantly changing graphics is the Göteborg Botanical Garden
[] on Sweden's west coast. Consisting of more than 430 acres, it was conceived and planned by the municipality of Göteborg in the early 1900s as a botanical garden with an emphasis on horticulture. The Palm House is known for its international plants and is only one of the few greenhouses built in the Victorian Period that remains in Europe today.

On occasion, higher-education facilities may house a garden complex or larger greenhouse. But three separate gardens of historical note? That is the situation at Uppsala University, home to the Botanical Garden, Linnaeus' Hammarby, and Linnaeus' Garden []. Guided tours are available, and while pictures on the Web are scarce, the map of the garden provides great detail based on the historical layout. The Linnaeus Garden, for example, uses a 1745 layout by the professor of the same name who started in medicine and eventually became responsible for the garden, altering its design from its initial 1653 form.


Conservatoire & Botanical Garden of the City of Geneva (Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques de la Ville de Genève) [] is a site with most of the information en Français. However, a quick historical translation reveals that the gardens are more than 175 years old, dating back to the mid-19th century. The library has an online catalogue as well as a detailed description of the archives. Interlibrary loan is also a possibility, although staff cannot tell you how many items are not in French. Sorry, there are no photos on the site, but the resources are too good to omit mentioning. Certainly a site to bookmark for later research.

Le Jardin botanique de Porrentruy[ contains more than 800 species of flowers, including 80 roses and 180 members of the iris family. Since Switzerland is a neutral country, the history and plants extend back more than 200 years with limited wartime damage. There is only a very small, nondetailed map on the site for those interested in the layout of this estate's garden, with detailed photographs only from various angles. Be sure to follow the directional arrows in the lower left side of the browser to view all possible photographs. For iris lovers, this is a place worthy of a spring visit.

United Kingdom

When one considers U.K. gardens, inevitably the stereotypical English style comes to mind. Cottage Gardens certainly dominate; Graham's Paradise Garden [] bills itself as a "cottage garden in the middle of a city," and is little more than someone's backyard posted on the Web for all to view. There is no room for any grass to grow and plants seem to jumble all together in a pleasant disarray. A very cute listing with little real appeal except for the National Garden Schemes sublink detailing which 3,600+ gardens are open to the public each year. With airfares so low, this seems a marvy time to just pop over the pond. Just don't forget to bring a raincoat.

The queen of the U.K. sites is also one at the very top of my bookmark list. Arrogant in its description, the Information Gardens site [] claims that "the gardens of Britain are quite rightly lauded as amongst the best in the world" and so they feature "those that are open to the general public...seasonal gardens, historic gardens, impressive parklands, period gardens, cottage gardens, and even garden museums." The site is simply divided by County, so be sure to have an atlas ready as the site offers no maps. Start your tour of English gardens here, and no other portal listing may be necessary!

Back to My Garden

Please note that I have listed no U.S. sites; to this end, I submit the following Web portal — — and suggest the adventurous click through wherever their hearts desire based on their personal location. If it appears familiar, well — see Canada above.

And for the curious people who have read this far, the informal layout design suits my purpose and housing situation. It also suits my haphazard budget, which I swear I will get straightened out next year. After all, who can pass up the idea of planting the lovely ivy I encountered in Montreal (it'll look great next to the front steps) and then there's the tulips from the Netherlands (two shades of yellow, to the left of the rustic wheelbarrow), and I just saw some bearded iris bulbs in blue variegated for sale....

Interested in knowing more about professional landscaping techniques? Any Web search engine will pull up lots of companies specializing in the field, each with its own version of promotional ads. Don't want pesticides around the little children or pets?

Less-Lawn [] is accurately named. The idea is simple: creating sustainable landscapes with as few chemicals as possible. To quote directly from the "About Us" page, "Our techniques tend heavily toward low-maintenance, organic, and wildlife-friendly...we go out of our way to avoid chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, as well as engine noise, fumes, and strict monocultures."

Under the techniques section, a user will find guidance on edging beds, mulching for less money, and how to propagate plants without a lot of fuss.

For those who want some help on actual plans rather than just words and advice, check out the area marked Designs. Native grasses are discussed, as are the options for tree group plantings, building a pond, and how to get rid of those nasty taproot plants such as dandelions. Depending on the browser, some JPGs may not work; drop the Webmaster an e-mail for those items.


Better Homes & Gardens (the Big One)

Flowers, bulbs, plans, projects ... there are more than 25 detailed plans to browse here, complete with a plant listing of colors, sizes, and the number to purchase. The user has to figure out where to get the actual plants and if the items will fit into a particular climate zone. Registered members of BHG can access an online Plan-A-Garden feature. I highly recommend registering (use an alias name if desired) to test the product. If it appears useful, don't waste computer time and frustration on a basic system. Go to your local computer store and check out the following software packages, the details of which I shamelessly copied from their marketing people.

3-D Home Landscape Designer

Broderbund — $39.99

Features include a virtual image of the home, 3-demensional objects such as gazebos, fences, and lighting, an extensive plant encyclopedia, and ways to view the exterior either at night or during the daylight hours.

Garden Deluxe

Multimedia 2000 — $34.99

Features include four CD-ROMS, a plant care calendar, and more than 650 color photos and illustrations. While I haven't beta-tested this product, it claims to have zoom levels, rotation, and seasonal views.

Master Landscape & Home Design

Punch! Software — $59.99

A combination program to please the architect and landscaper both, this super-system consists of nine separate programs for home planning as well as landscape design. Use the climate zone system to find plants perfect for your region, and even include your own pictures for accuracy. A fast CD-ROM drive speed is highly, highly recommended.

Complete LandDesigner 3D Design Collection

Sierra Home — $69.99

Considered by many the top product for the price, the system houses 84 already professionally designed landscapes, thousands of ready-made objects such as fountains, statues, and furniture, and a suite of systems for house, garden, and even deck plans. The marketing department claims to have "comprehensive information" on plants and gardening. You cannot buy the software from the site itself any longer. Check with your local computer stores about availability or similar programs.

Tara Breton's e-mail address is
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