My daughter is in Colorado with several solitary hours to use up before meeting friends. When she Googled "things to do in Denver," the Botanical Garden popped up. She is not really interested in gardening (or rather, she isn't interested in gardening tasks), but it's a nice day to be outdoors and didn't cost a lot.
Well, she was totally blown away. "Mom, you just have to come here, you'll love it. It's so beautiful! Have you ever heard of [list of Latin plant names]? And they have lots of workshops." She is under orders to take pictures and get me something from the gift shop.
I live in northern NJ and am not likely to visit DBG any time soon, but it started my new bucket list. I've been to Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, the Butchart Gardens in British Columbia, and Parc L'Orangerie in Strasbourg (which doesn't really count because I was only six at the time).
What would you consider a must-see garden?
One of the best gardens I have seen is the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden in Vancouver, BC-while in the area the VanDusen Botanical Garden is also a worthy choice. Closer to home for you is Chantilceer Garden in Wayne , Pa.
My experiences with Botanical Gardens and arboretums are quite limited so far, but just in case you meander a little bit south to NC, I can share my personal views of a couple of gardens.
First the NC Arboretum in Asheville. Perhaps it is because I consider myself to be a relative newbie in several area of horticultural study, or perhaps my current passions are a touch too specific. But I left the Arboretum with mixed feelings. They had the grounds manicured and things looked pleasant, but to me the plants were largely the more common species that I can see anywhere if not in quite so grand of scale. One area that I felt was sorely missing was a 'Japanese garden' themed area. Of course that is a purely personal. i was told that they wanted to concentrate on the native species, and that is fine, but even then I could not find several plants that I would have thought they would be wanting to showcase. I did not see any trilliums at all, and only a few arisaema. I did not see plants such as Goodyera pubescens anywhere.
They did have a very nice bonsai display of approximately 50 specimens, and talking with the guy overseeing that area, they have several more that they can put into the rotation for more diversity and when a particular specimen is not looking its best.
The Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden in Kernersville is rather small at the moment, but they are making efforts at improving and growing the garden. Once again, I left wanting to see more.
I have not visited the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh myself yet, but it has been recommended to me by several friends and everything I have heard regarding this garden has been positive.
DBG is a definite must-see! When I lived in Louisianna I made sure that I got to Colorado as often as I could!
Internationally there are a huge range of gardens worth visiting; we've just come back from Europe and can recommend:
1) Frankfurt's "Palmengarten" which is a full botanic garden, not just a Palm-house! The glass-houses were amazing but the rock gardens and troughs were also good and their take on a prairie garden complete with masses of camassias was impressive.
2) Prague (we were at the Czech RG conference) has an incredible range of private gardens featuring crevice gardens; The Castle garden at Pruhonice is well worth the entry price and has a huge variety of garden typoes.
3) Mt Congreve Ireland - a fantastic array of gardens and a mass planting of rhododendrons.
4) Mt Usher Ireland also pretty fabulous but wet weather curtailed our visit!
5) Glasnevin BG Dublin - don't bother! A very disappointing RG which has deteriorated since we last saw it in 2013.
6) Wisley England - a must and they have a newish Crevice Garden which must be developing nicely since we last saw it in 2011!
7) Kew gardens England - of course!
8) Sissinghurst - Mecca to all gardeners - you have to see it at least once before you die!
9) Great Dixter - a marvelous creation.
10) Caher Bridge Garden Ireland (The Burren) - an amazing garden created by one guy who is continuing to develop and extend it.
11) The Eden Project Cornwall - amazing ecologically minded project which gives hope for the future.
12) Lost Gardens of Heligan - impressive and extensive gardens
There are a huge number of National Trust Gardens in the UK all of which are worth seeing!
Good luck with that bucket list!