With the swirling colors of seasonal flowers, bright green leaves, and stone paths to stroll along, botanical gardens are wonderful places to spend time outdoors. Plan your visit to one of Connecticut’s botanical gardens in the spring to see blooming bulbs and trees, the summer to see native flowers, and the fall to see stunning foliage and late boomers. Here are the 10 best in the state.
The Arboretum at Connecticut College is composed of 770 acres of swaying trees and native plants labeled with their names. If you visit in the right season, you’ll be overwhelmed by the bright colors of azaleas and rhododendrons, which make great backgrounds for selfies. Visiting in the spring will allow you to experience blooming mayapples with their characteristic leaves and hidden flowers, so do keep your eyes open for this unique species.
This education-focused arboretum and botanical garden features numerous classes for adults, including landscaping and plant care, and activities for children such as plant adaptation activities. Flora highlights include a stunning collection of magnolia with approximately five species and cultivars. Walk along Magnolia Drive in the spring to see the stunning display of large, white magnolia flowers.
For botany aficionados, the Marsh Botanical Garden has a unique collection of species and they post online when the rarer species are in flower or close to blooming so you can plan your visit accordingly. To accompany their seasonal outdoor gardens, they also feature several greenhouses including one focused on carnivorous plants with species from North America, Borneo, and Sumatra, among others. Succulent lovers rejoice as they also have a Desert House with benches to allow for some relaxation among the plants.
The highlight of Elizabeth Park is its rose garden located in the center of the park. The rose garden is the oldest municipally operated rose garden and the third largest in the U.S. The rose garden in Elizabeth Park has 800 varieties of roses in all colors and over 15,000 individual rose bushes. To see and smell the roses in full bloom, visit the gardens in late June or early July. For those uninterested in roses, there is also an herb garden, perennial garden, and rock garden.
Wickham Park features 250 acres of gardens, arboretums, woodlands, and more. They also feature an impressive eight manicured gardens including an English garden, Scottish garden, lotus garden, and rhododendron garden. Their newest garden is the rhododendron garden, which come springtime, will feature over 100 flowering rhododendrons and azaleas, making this a great garden to visit to stunning, showy flowers.
Harkness Memorial State Park is a fun park to visit for strolls along the water, to have a picnic, tour the mansion, or wander the carefully maintained gardens. Surrounding the mansion, which has over 40 rooms and can be toured seasonally, are greenhouses and cared for gardens. The gardens were designed in the 1910s to 1920s. The collection consists of gnarled, old boxwoods and seasonal flowering herbs and shrubs.
Opening seasonally, Hollister House Garden is a formal English garden located in the picturesque region of Litchfield Hills. Mark your calendars for the seasonal opening day celebration. You’ll be treated to daffodils and unique hellebores in a smattering of colors. The Hollister House Garden is composed of 25 manicured acres surrounding an 18th century house, making it a beautiful and historical place to visit.
Behind the Torrey Life Sciences Building in the Tech Quad, you’ll find the impressive Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Conservatory and Gardens at the University of Connecticut. This is a living plant collection with over 5,400 plants housed in a massive greenhouse and outdoor garden. The flora feature ferns, orchids, passionflowers, and succulents to name a few and their up-to-date website lists a massive number of plants blooming each day. Plan a visit to the garden for Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. or Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
The Gertrude Jekyll Gardens at the Glebe House is the only remaining garden in the U.S. that was planned by the renowned Gertrude Jekyll. This English-style garden features classic English-style garden hedges, a planted terrace, and paths lined with roses. The garden is open during daylight hours, but visiting times for the Glebe House Museum vary by season so it is best to check their website to plan accordingly.
The Garden of Ideas’ mission is to allow the public to explore and experiment with nature, art, and science. This private garden features numerous plant species and outdoor art installations spread over eight acres of marshes, woodlands, and meadows. Visit in the fall for a stunning walk through the colorful foliage or in the spring for early blooming bulbs. There are also numerous activities for children including the very fun garden gnome that is hidden in a new spot each week. When your child finds the gnome, they can claim a prize!