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 the best gardens in New England. Whether you look forward to roses, peonies, lilacs, or maples…as a haven within the city or tucked onto an historic estate in the country, we think our picks for the best gardens in New England (one each for Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) will have you thinking spring.
If we missed your favorite, leave us a comment and tell us about it!
Elizabeth Park in 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.
The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in 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.
Arnold Arboretum in 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.
Heading to the Cape this season? Check out the Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich, 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 in 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.
Hildene in Manchester, VT
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, peonies, and lilies; and stroll the walking trails.
The Botanical Center in 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.
Of course, the Newport Mansions each come equipped with a stunning garden — The Breakers has trees and terrific fabulous flower beds, The Elms has gardens in the Classical Revival style, and Rosecliff the French.
Want more? Check out the Best 5 Public Gardens in New England, chosen by Virginia Small. Small is a former senior editor at Fine Gardening magazine, and the author of Great Gardens of the Berkshires (Down East Books, 2008).