With spring in sight (according to the calendar, if not yet the weather) flowering trees and blooms are almost here, and if you prefer seeing them en masse, we’ve got you covered with a list of the best gardens in New England, one per state. Whether you look forward to roses, peonies, lilacs, or maples…as a haven within a city, or tucked within an historic estate in the country, we think these favorite New England gardens will have you thinking spring.
BEST GARDENS IN NEW ENGLAND
Elizabeth Park | Hartford, CT
Located in the capital city, Elizabeth Park’s 102 acres are most celebrated for housing America’s oldest municipally-operated rose garden, which dates back to 1904. Spanning 2.5 acres, it currently contains about 15,000 bushes of 800 rose varieties, including ramblers, climbers and shrubs. The garden faced demolition in the 1970s due to rising maintenance costs; but was thankfully saved by a group of volunteers. elizabethparkct.org
The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens | Boothbay, ME
The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay (New England’s largest botanical garden) is worth bragging about. Opened in 2007, it boasts 248 acres that include 11,000 blooming tulips each spring. Woodland trails, impressive stonework, stunning ornamental gardens and a Visitor Center are all included. The garden is also one of the few botanical gardens in America on the water, and hosts several events throughout the season. mainegardens.org
Arnold Arboretum | Jamaica Plain, MA
While it’s tough to choose a top garden spot in Massachusetts, the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain stands out thanks to its title as the country’s oldest public collection of plants, dating back to 1872. Spanning 265 acres, the arboretum is a living museum dedicated to the study and appreciation of woody plants. There are 15,000 trees, shrubs and vines on site, including renowned collections of maples, crabapples, lilacs and rhododendrons, as well as the many other trees and shrubs. Don’t miss the view from the top of Peters Hill or a stop at the Visitor’s Center for maps and self-guided tour brochures. arboretum.harvard.eduBONUS! Heading to the Cape this season? Check out the Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich, especially known for its stunning rhododendrons during the last two weeks of May and the first two weeks of June.
The Fells Historic Estate and Gardens | Newbury, NH
A visit to the early 20th century summer estate of former diplomat and statesman John Milton Hay includes seeing more than just the 22-room Colonial Revival home. Set overlooking Lake Sunapee, the tranquil 83.5 acres include the original “Old Garden,” 100-foot stone wall perennial border, rock garden, rose terrace, heather beds, Japanese water lily pool, and woodland trails. thefells.org
Hildene | Manchester, VT
Some of the best gardens in New England can also be found at some of its finest house museums. In Vermont, head to Manchester, home of Hildene — the former home of Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert. See the cutting and kitchen garden; enjoy the fine perennial gardens, with roses and lilies; and stroll the walking trails. Hildene is especially known for its truly stunning peonies in early summer. We strongly encourage planning your visit around their blooming schedule, but the grounds are impressive year-round. hildene.org
The Botanical Center | Providence, RI
In Rhode Island, head to the new Botanical Center in Providence’s Roger Williams Park, the largest indoor gardens in New England. The Conservatory and greenhouses encompass approximately 12,000 square feet of gardens, complete with a waterfall and ever-changing displays of fragrant plants. providenceri.com/botanicalcenterBONUS! The Newport Mansions also come equipped with stunning gardens — The Breakers has trees and terrific fabulous flower beds, The Elms has gardens in the Classical Revival style, and Rosecliff the French.
What do you consider the best gardens in New England? Let us know!
This post was first published in 2013 and has been updated.