As COVID-19 restrictions loosen, some of us are feeling confident enough to step outside to explore what’s nearby for a little welcome distraction and entertainment. (We always recommend you follow your country’s guidelines.)
Since it’s too early for many of us to hop on a plane given border restrictions, why not check out a local botanical garden (plants) or arboretum (trees)? We’ve discovered that several are ready to welcome you, allowing you to walk easily with social distancing and wander among the beauty and tranquility of flowering plants and woodlands.
Located in central Singapore, just minutes away from Orchard Road by bus or car, the 160-year-old Singapore Botanic Gardens is a visitor attraction for the sophisticated traveller and the local resident. Set up in 1822 by Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore and a keen naturalist, the original gardens were re-located in 1859 to their present location.
In 2015, the garden was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the first and only tropical botanical garden on the list in Asia and the third behind Padua, Italy’s Orto Botanico di Padova and London’s Royal Kew Gardens. Organized in four sections, two sections are open to visitors at this time. They are the Ginger Garden, with its several hundred species of gingers divided into special zones organized by region, and the Rain Forest, with 314 species of plants and tropical forest trees, herbs, ferns, climbers and shrubs.
In the U.S., in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, there is the charming Awbury Arboretum with walkable woodlands, wetlands, meadows, fields, farmland and community gardens and agricultural village. It’s located in the historic Germantown neighborhood and was once the private enclave of a wealthy Quaker family whose shipping fortunes in the mid 1800s created Philadelphia’s Fairmont Park and the city’s waterworks.
A stewardship program is in place to preserve the trails, trees, gradually restore the visitor center (the Cope family main house) and other historic buildings and expand the arboretum’s educational programs.
Look a little outside London, always considered a top city for its public parks and gardens, for a visit to historic Stonor House (pre-ticketing Wednesday – Sunday for garden entrance only) in Oxfordshire. With its lush parkland set in a dramatic, sweeping valley deep within the heart of the Chiltern Hills are three gardens.
Green slopes fringed by a host of centuries-old beech and ash trees gives visitors a range of options for an enjoyable visit. One park features ponds and fountains of the 17th-Century Italianate Pleasure Garden, and another is the old Kitchen Garden designed and nurtured by Lady Camoys. The third is an eclectic arboretum that attracts animals including badgers, hares, rabbits, pheasant, soaring red kites, ravens and buzzards.
While services like a visitor center and restaurants are not operational at these venues, these unique parks will help alleviate some of the stress that we have all been experiencing.
Isabelle Kellogg's press relations career, with a speciality in travel and hospitality, enabled her to make an easy transition to journalism and write about the topics she loves.