By Monica Poling
National Cherry Blossom Festival: The quintessential spring flower experience is the largest spectator event in Washington, D.C. A two-hour parade is the highlight, but there are plenty of out-of-the-way settings to enjoy a more Zen-like ambience, like the U.S. National Arboretum, which houses some 200 varieties of cherry trees.
For fun you can taste, guided tours offered by DC Metro Food Tours explore the history and architecture of local neighborhoods while making stops at area eateries. The Official Cherry Blossom Food Tour features cherry-based bites and recipes inspired by Japanese cuisine. (nationalcherryblossomfestival.org)
Tucson Botanical Gardens: With its distinctive Southwestern vistas, Tucson is home to flora that’s completely unique to Arizona’s desert lands. At the Tucson Botanical Gardens, originally a private home, 17 themed gardens are scaled to residential size, providing an intimate experience. Gardens here feature a distinctive regional flair and include Aloe Alley, the Native American Crops Garden and specific areas for cacti and succulents.
Also in Tucson, Loews Ventana Canyon is surrounded by scenic desert landscapes that are particularly colorful in spring, when eager wildflowers burst onto the scene. A half-mile paved nature trail features more than 200 signs identifying the area’s indigenous plants and animals and includes an 80-foot waterfall and a butterfly garden. (tucsonbotanical.org)
Atlanta Botanical Garden: One of the last remaining urban forests in Atlanta, Storza Woods makes up nearly half of the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The woods, which include a variety of hardwood trees such as maple, oak, black cherry, hackberry and flowering dogwood, are best viewed from above, along the 40-foot-high Canopy Walk.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden is also the only botanical garden in the United States to employ an “amphibian conservation coordinator.” Meet rare and endangered frogs under the coordinator’s watch every Saturday at 11 a.m., when the conservatory team feeds them while answering questions from visitors. (atlantabotanicalgarden.org)
Montreal Botanical Garden: Known as one of the greatest botanical gardens in the world, the Montreal Botanical Garden features 20 themed gardens and more than 22,000 plant species. The adjacent Biodome gives guests glimpses of multiple North American ecosystems, such as a northern maple forest, the cold estuary waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the subarctic climate of the Labrador coast.
Inside the botanical garden, the First Nations Garden provides guided tours and is home to more than 300 different plant species and 5,000 trees, shrubs and grasses. Inspired by Native American and Inuit cultures, the garden showcases activities related to the plant world, including gathering food and medicinal plants. (espacepourlavie.ca/en/botanical-garden)
Coming up Roses
Coronado Flower Show: The largest tented flower show in the United States, this eagerly anticipated annual event celebrates its 89th anniversary this year. In addition to assessing the dazzling floral arrangements on display at Coronado’s Spreckels Park, show judges visit more than 5,000 homes throughout the area and award the top residential gardens trophies and ribbons during the event. Food, a beer garden and live entertainment round out the festivities.
While in Coronado, head to Silver Strand State Beach, which showcases a variety of local plant life as well as sand dollars, snowy plovers and California’s famed grunion fish. Every Sunday, guests of nearby Loews Coronado Bay can enjoy complimentary guide-led nature walks to learn about the habitats of the coastal area and the many creatures who call them home. (coronadoflowershow.com)
Couturie Forest: One of the oldest urban parks in the country, New Orleans City Park has been in operation since 1854 and provides a base for the 12-acre New Orleans Botanical Garden as well as the 60-acre Couturie Forest. The forest, made up of eight distinct ecosystems, is set on New Orleans’ highest elevation—43 feet above sea level—and is the perfect spot to view native trees, waterways and wildlife, including fish and more than 40 species of birds.
After touring the gardens, glide through City Park’s beautiful bayous and lagoons on board the Bella Mae, an authentic Venetian gondola. The romantic tour includes cheese and crackers, chilled Champagne and live music upon request. (neworleanscitypark.com) L