4 Tricks From the World's Most Fab Gardens

Alexandra Nathan

The green-eyed monster doesn't sneak up on us when it comes to green spaces—it smacks us hard right on both the green thumbs. There are lots of reasons to covet our neighbor’s garden: perhaps they have more elbow room, the perfectly manicured edges, multi-leveled shrubbery to die for, or perfectly timed bloomers that keep their spaces colorful from March to November.

But the Joneses have nothing on our four favorite public gardens. These most famous soil set-ups are perfect for stealing ideas from; consider it an homage effort to make our gardens into miniature versions of the ones we wish they were.

  1. Tivoli Gardens, Rome, Italy. 
    What It's Got: 200 fountains on sloping, terraced spaces.
    How to Copy: Add mini waterworks of your own. And choose stone elements that look antique (read: beat up) to mimic Tivoli’s Benedictine convent backdrop.
  2. Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia. 
    What It's Got: A bloomer’s paradise, Butchart’s 55 acres are studied without being stuffy. Inside its grounds are numerous "themed" gardens, including a Japanese garden, an English rose garden and a bog garden. 
    How to Copy: Learn from Butchart that your garden doesn't have to be all one thing. It's okay to mix in small areas of multiple types of gardens that are self-contained. And that's a far better look than planting it all together as a mish-mash.
  3. Claude Monet Gardens, Giverny, France. 
    What It's Got: Serenity and easy beauty. Claude Monet immortalized his scores of water lilies set amongst drooping willows lining the ponds’ banks in paint, and generations of gardeners were hooked. 
    How to Copy: Try retooling his impressionist masterpiece to fit your smaller, suburban canvas by blanketing a big swath with lilies, and also incorporating wildflowers and blooms that don't look too formal. The key here is an easy air.
  4. Versaille Gardens, Versaille, France. 
    What It's Got: Louis XIV had dozens of minions manning the clippers to get his perfectly manicured garden masterpiece just right, detailed patterns revealing designs made just so. How to Copy: You can take a cue from all that obsessive limb and leaf culling and add in boxy hedge and sculpted topiaries to your curb repertoire. Versailles is sort of the anti-Giverny, so you'll have to make a choice between the two. But what we learn from looking at the gardens at Versailles is how gorgeous restraint and precision can look in a garden.