Top 10 Unusual Gardens Around the World

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“One is nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth.” – Dorothy Frances Gurney

At its most basic, a garden is a piece of land shaped into a place where fruits, vegetables and flowers bloom, but they can be so much more and these unusual gardens certainly are that.

A place for contemplation, relaxation or a haven to unwind and enjoy the world around, a simple collection of plants, water features and ornaments, or an extravagantly designed masterpiece that strays so far from tradition you’ll wonder if it’s a garden at all.

The Cheapflights team has searched high and low to uncover 10 of the most unusual gardens found on earth from a mathematical masterpiece to a beautiful rubbish collection.

Las Pozas, Xilitla, Mexico

A “Surrealist Xanadu” in the heart of the Mexican jungle, Las Pozas (the Pools) combines man-made structures with exotic flowers, native plants, waterfalls and pools to create a strangely harmonious, and peaceful, garden.

The gardens are the creation of eccentric English poet and artist Edward James, who bought the 80-acre former coffee plantation in the mid-1940s in an attempt to create his own Garden of Eden

Between 1949 and 1984, James built a total of 36 surreal concrete sculptures and structures on the site with names such as the House with a Roof like a Whale, and the Staircase to Heaven

As of 2007, the gardens are maintained by the Fondo Xilitla foundation.

Top 10 Unusual Gardens Around the World. Bamboo Castle, Las Pozas, Mexico. Photo by Rosa Menkman
Bamboo Castle, Las Pozas, Mexico. Photo by Rosa Menkman
Top 10 Unusual Gardens Around the World. Las Pozas, Mexico. Photo by Rosa Menkman
Las Pozas, Mexico. Photo by Rosa Menkman
Top 10 Unusual Gardens Around the World. Hands of Plutarco, Las Pozas, Mexico. Photo by Rosa Menkman
Hands of Plutarco, Las Pozas, Mexico. Photo by Rosa Menkman
Top 10 Unusual Gardens Around the World. El Anillo de la Reina (the Ring Queen), Las Pozas, Mexico. Photo by Rosa Menkman
El Anillo de la Reina (the Ring Queen), Las Pozas, Mexico. Photo by Rosa Menkman
Top 10 Unusual Gardens Around the World. Structure with a roof shaped like a whale and the Bamboo Castle, Las Pozas, Mexico. Photo by Rosa Menkman
Structure with a roof shaped like a whale and the Bamboo Castle, Las Pozas, Mexico. Photo by Rosa Menkman
Top 10 Unusual Gardens Around the World. Fountain in Plaza San Isidro, Las Pozas, Mexico. Photo by Rosa Menkman
Fountain in Plaza San Isidro, Las Pozas, Mexico. Photo by Rosa Menkman
Top 10 Unusual Gardens Around the World. House of Don Eduardo, Las Pozas, Mexico. Photo by Rosa Menkman
House of Don Eduardo, Las Pozas, Mexico. Photo by Rosa Menkman
Top 10 Unusual Gardens Around the World. A Stairway to the Sky, Las Pozas, Mexico. Photo by Rosa Menkman
A Stairway to the Sky, Las Pozas, Mexico. Photo by Rosa Menkman
Top 10 Unusual Gardens Around the World. Las Pozas, Mexico. Photo by Rosa MenkmanLas Pozas, Mexico. Photo by Rosa Menkman
Las Pozas, Mexico. Photo by Rosa Menkman
Top 10 Unusual Gardens Around the World. Gate of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Las Pozas, Mexico. Photo by Rosa Menkman
Gate of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Las Pozas, Mexico. Photo by Rosa Menkman
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The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Dumfries, Scotland

Science and mathematics plus sculptures and landscaping, equals one fascinating garden of cosmic proportions.

The Garden of Cosmic Speculation is a 30-acre garden created by landscape architect and architectural theorist Charles Jencks at his home, Portrack House in South West Scotland.

Inspired by science and mathematics, the garden’s sculptures and landscaping are suitably inspired by everything from black holes to fractals. There is also a distinct oriental influence thanks to Jenck’s late wife Maggie Keswick, an expert on Asian garden design.

While the garden is private, it does open up to the public one day a year as part of Scotland’s Gardens Scheme and raises money for Maggie’s Centres, a cancer care charity.

Top 10 Unusual Gardens Around the World. The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Scotland. Photo by John Lord
The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Scotland. Photo by John Lord
Top 10 Unusual Gardens Around the World. The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Scotland. Photo by John Lord
The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Scotland. Photo by John Lord
Top 10 Unusual Gardens Around the World. Universe Cascade, the Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Scotland. Photo by John Lord
Universe Cascade, the Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Scotland. Photo by John Lord
Top 10 Unusual Gardens Around the World. The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Scotland. Photo by Stuart Caie
The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Scotland. Photo by Stuart Caie
Top 10 Unusual Gardens Around the World. The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Scotland. Photo by Scotland's Gardens
The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Scotland. Photo by Scotland’s Gardens
Top 10 Unusual Gardens Around the World. The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Scotland. Photo by Scotland's Gardens
The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Scotland. Photo by Scotland’s Gardens
Top 10 Unusual Gardens Around the World. The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Scotland. Photo by Scotland's Gardens
The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Scotland. Photo by Scotland’s Gardens

Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India

The saying goes that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, but in the case of the Rock Garden, city’s junk was transformed into everyone’s treasure.

Public servant Nek Chand began creating his masterpiece in 1957 from cast-off industrial and home waste he collected from demolition sites across Chandigarh.

However, his chosen site was actually conservation land with a building restriction. He managed to keep his construction secret for 18 years and when the authorities finally uncovered the garden it had grown into a 12 acres of courtyards filled with hundreds of sculptures.

Thanks to public support, the garden was saved from demolition and Chand was awarded a salary and a workforce of 50 so he could complete his vision.

Today, Nek Chand’s Rock Garden is spread over a massive 40 acres.

Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India. Photo by Lian Chang
Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India. Photo by Lian Chang
Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India. Photo by Koshy Koshy
Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India. Photo by Koshy Koshy
Close up. Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India. Photo by Giridhar Appaji Nag Y
Close up. Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India. Photo by Giridhar Appaji Nag Y
Ornamental waterfall. Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India. Photo by Giridhar Appaji Nag Y
Ornamental waterfall. Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India. Photo by Giridhar Appaji Nag Y
Bangle statuettes. Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India. Photo by Giridhar Appaji Nag Y
Bangle statuettes. Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India. Photo by Giridhar Appaji Nag Y
Ceramic and waste statuettes. Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India. Photo by Giridhar Appaji Nag Y
Ceramic and waste statuettes. Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India. Photo by Giridhar Appaji Nag Y
Humble beginnings. Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India. Photo by Giridhar Appaji Nag Y
Humble beginnings. Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India. Photo by Giridhar Appaji Nag Y
Monkeys. Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India. Photo by Giridhar Appaji Nag Y
Monkeys. Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India. Photo by Giridhar Appaji Nag Y
Ceramic and waste statues. Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India. Photo by Giridhar Appaji Nag Y
Ceramic and waste statues. Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India. Photo by Giridhar Appaji Nag Y
Ceramic and waste art. Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India. Photo by Giridhar Appaji Nag Y
Ceramic and waste art. Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India. Photo by Giridhar Appaji Nag Y

A French Kiss in Akaroa, Christchurch, New Zealand

Held every year late in the New Zealand summer, the Ellerslie International Flower Show attracts a global audience of garden designers and garden lovers who come to see the best of garden design, gardening trends and new products.

Founded in Auckland in 1994, the show moved to its current (and fitting) home in Hagley Park, Christchurch in 2008, New Zealand’s Garden City.

In 2013, landscape designer Ben Hoyle picked up his 6th Gold Medal for his sunken oasis called ‘A French Kiss in Akaroa’ that featured a lounge pit filled pillows where visitors could take in a unique view from below the waterline. The inspiration for the garden came from the history of French settlement in the South Island town of Akaroa.

Kate Hillier, exhibition manager at the Ellerslie International Flower Show said the garden, along with several others, had been donated to New Brighton – a coastal suburb in Christchurch that was badly damaged in the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake.

“We look forward to seeing the garden live on, brightening the days of people living in such a seriously damaged area.”

A French Kiss in Akaroa, Christchurch, New Zealand. Photo by Ellerslie International Flower Show
A French Kiss in Akaroa, Christchurch, New Zealand. Photo by Ellerslie International Flower Show
A French Kiss in Akaroa, Christchurch, New Zealand. Photo by Ellerslie International Flower Show
A French Kiss in Akaroa, Christchurch, New Zealand. Photo by Ellerslie International Flower Show
A French Kiss in Akaroa, Christchurch, New Zealand. Photo by Ellerslie International Flower Show
A French Kiss in Akaroa, Christchurch, New Zealand. Photo by Ellerslie International Flower Show

Forestiere Underground Gardens, Fresno, California, USA

Forestiere Underground Gardens are the creation of Sicilian immigrant Baldasare Forestiere, who built the garden over 40 years from 1906 until his death in 1946.

Inspired by a childhood fascination with the catacombs in Rome, Forestiere built the Underground Garden as an escape from the scorching Fresno summer.

Today a listed California Historical Landmark, the three-level underground structure is a network of rooms and passageways and features a summer and winter bedroom, kitchen, fish pond, a parlour complete with fireplace, and several subterranean gardens.

Many of the garden’s plants are over 100 years old and thanks to the underground construction are protected from frost over the winter months.

The garden is home to a variety of fruit-bearing trees and vines from citrus to berries that were planted at different times, so the trees bloom one after the other giving a lengthened growing season.

Site Entrance. Photo by Forestiere Underground Gardens
Site Entrance. Photo by Forestiere Underground Gardens
Entrance Room. Photo by Forestiere Underground Gardens
Entrance Room. Photo by Forestiere Underground Gardens
View of underground citrus tree from the surface. Photo by Forestiere Underground Gardens
View of underground citrus tree from the surface. Photo by Forestiere Underground Gardens
Underground tree growing through a skylight. Photo by Forestiere Underground Gardens
Underground tree growing through a skylight. Photo by Forestiere Underground Gardens
Underground Parlor. Photo by Forestiere Underground Gardens
Underground Parlor. Photo by Forestiere Underground Gardens
Underground kitchen. Photo by Forestiere Underground Gardens
Underground kitchen. Photo by Forestiere Underground Gardens
Trinity Courtyard. Photo by Forestiere Underground Gardens
Trinity Courtyard. Photo by Forestiere Underground Gardens
Boat Planter underground with citrus tree. Photo by Forestiere Underground Gardens
Boat Planter underground with citrus tree. Photo by Forestiere Underground Gardens

Arctic-Alpine Botanical Garden, Tromsø, Norway

The Arctic-Alpine Botanical Garden (Arktisk alpin Botanisk hage) is the most northern botanical garden in the world and home to an impressive display of Arctic and alpine plants from across the globe.

Opened in 1994, the garden is run by the Tromsø University Museum and aside from the Arctic collection it features plants from the Himalayas, South America and even Africa.

The city of Tromsø lies 220 miles (350km) inside of the Arctic Circle (corresponding to the north coast of Alaska) and experiences the famed ‘Midnight Sun’ from mid-May until late-July. However, from late-November until mid-January 17 the sun never rises, but thanks to the Gulf Stream winters in Tromsø are relatively mild with an average temperature of −4.4°C.

The garden is open from May to October and entry is free of charge.

Part of the rock landscapes. Photo by Arve Elvebakk/Arctic University of Norway
Part of the rock landscapes. Photo by Arve Elvebakk/Arctic University of Norway
The saxifrage Saxifraga lowndesii from Nepal. Photo by A.E./Arctic University of Norway
The saxifrage Saxifraga lowndesii from Nepal. Photo by A.E./Arctic University of Norway
Blue poppy Meconopsis. Photo by Arve Elvebakk/Arctic University of Norway
Blue poppy Meconopsis. Photo by Arve Elvebakk/Arctic University of Norway
Gentiana ‘Silken Skies’ on a frosty September day. Photo by Martin Hjaman/Arctic University of Norway
Gentiana ‘Silken Skies’ on a frosty September day. Photo by Martin Hjaman/Arctic University of Norway
Giant cowslip after a frosty October night. Photo by Martin Hajman/Arctic University of Norway
Giant cowslip after a frosty October night. Photo by Martin Hajman/Arctic University of Norway

Bookworm Garden, Sheboygan, WI, USA

Pull up a pew, make yourself comfy and settle down for story time in Sheboygan’s Bookworm Garden.

The creation of local gardener Sandy Livermore, the garden takes inspiration from over 60 of the world’s most loved children’s books including Hansel and Gretel, Winnie the Pooh, Goodnight Moon, Where the Wild Things Are and, of course, the Secret Garden.

The garden is divided into six themed areas, called Gateways. Books for each area are laminated and stored at the entrance of each Gateway

The garden is open from May 1 to October 31 and entrance is free.

Bookworm Garden, Sheboygan. Photo by ~Ealasaid~
Bookworm Garden, Sheboygan. Photo by ~Ealasaid~
Bookworm Garden, Sheboygan. Photo by ~Ealasaid~
Bookworm Garden, Sheboygan. Photo by ~Ealasaid~
Bookworm Garden, Sheboygan. Photo by ~Ealasaid~
Bookworm Garden, Sheboygan. Photo by ~Ealasaid~
Bookworm Garden, Sheboygan. Photo by ~Ealasaid~
Bookworm Garden, Sheboygan. Photo by ~Ealasaid~
Bookworm Garden, Sheboygan. Photo by ~Ealasaid~
Bookworm Garden, Sheboygan. Photo by ~Ealasaid~
Bookworm Garden, Sheboygan. Photo by ~Ealasaid~
Bookworm Garden, Sheboygan. Photo by ~Ealasaid~

Tarot Garden (Giardino dei Tarocchi), Tuscany, Italy

The imaginative sculptures by French artist Niki de Saint Phalle sparkle against the picturesque Tuscan landscape in the Tarot Garden (Giardino dei Tarocchi) of Capalbio, Italy.

Inspired by Gaudí´s Parc Güell in Barcelona, Spain, de Saint Phalle wanted to create a “small Eden where man and nature meet”.

Each of the garden’s giant statues was designed and painstakingly handmade by de Saint Phalle including the Empress, the Tree of Life, the Devil, the Magician and the Sun.

The Tarot Garden is open 2.30pm to 7.30pm from April to October

Tarot Garden (Giardino dei Tarocchi) of Capalbio, Italy. Photo by g.sighele
Tarot Garden (Giardino dei Tarocchi) of Capalbio, Italy. Photo by g.sighele
Tarot Garden (Giardino dei Tarocchi) of Capalbio, Italy. Photo by Falk Lademann
Tarot Garden (Giardino dei Tarocchi) of Capalbio, Italy. Photo by Falk Lademann
Tarot Garden (Giardino dei Tarocchi) of Capalbio, Italy. Photo by 2beiner
Tarot Garden (Giardino dei Tarocchi) of Capalbio, Italy. Photo by 2beiner
Tarot Garden (Giardino dei Tarocchi) of Capalbio, Italy. Photo by 2beiner
Tarot Garden (Giardino dei Tarocchi) of Capalbio, Italy. Photo by 2beiner
Tarot Garden (Giardino dei Tarocchi) of Capalbio, Italy. Photo by 2beiner
Tarot Garden (Giardino dei Tarocchi) of Capalbio, Italy. Photo by 2beiner
The Empress. Tarot Garden (Giardino dei Tarocchi) of Capalbio, Italy. Photo by Yellow.Cat
The Empress. Tarot Garden (Giardino dei Tarocchi) of Capalbio, Italy. Photo by Yellow.Cat
Tarot Garden (Giardino dei Tarocchi) of Capalbio, Italy. Photo by Alessandro Bonvini
Tarot Garden (Giardino dei Tarocchi) of Capalbio, Italy. Photo by Alessandro Bonvini
Tarot Garden (Giardino dei Tarocchi) of Capalbio, Italy. Photo by Alessandro Bonvini
Tarot Garden (Giardino dei Tarocchi) of Capalbio, Italy. Photo by Alessandro Bonvini

Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech, Morocco

The Majorelle Garden is a 12-acre botanical and landscape garden designed by the French artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s and 1930s.

Open to the public since 1947, the garden was owned by legendary fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent from 1980 until his death in 2008 (his ashes are scattered in the garden).

The garden contains cacti, exotic plants and trees set off by vibrant colours, pools, streams and fountains.

Majorelle even created a special shade of bold cobalt blue, now called Majorelle Blue, that is found on many of the buildings throughout the garden.

The garden also houses the Islamic Art Museum of Marrakech, which includes North African textiles from Saint-Laurent’s personal collection and ceramics, jewellery and paintings by Majorelle.

Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech, Morocco. Photo by Khalid Albaih
Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech, Morocco. Photo by Khalid Albaih
Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech, Morocco. Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech, Morocco. Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
La villa Majorelle, Marrakech, Morocco. Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
La villa Majorelle, Marrakech, Morocco. Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech, Morocco. Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech, Morocco. Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Majorelle Blue in the Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech, Morocco. Photo by Ken Feisel
Majorelle Blue in the Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech, Morocco. Photo by Ken Feisel

Poison Gardens, Northumberland, England

A garden so deadly you can only enter with a fully qualified guide.

The Poison Garden at Alnwick Garden, is the personal project of the Duchess of Northumberland.

Over 100 plants of varying degrees of deadliness are grown in the Poison Garden and many of the plants had to be given a special licence from the Home Office to be included in the display.

Some of the garden’s deadly inhabitants include mandrake (a strong narcotic), deadly nightshade (just three of the sweet berries are enough to kill), opium, and foxglove (a 16th-century laxative, the entire plant is poisonous).

Daily tours run every 20 minutes with the last tour leaving at 5.15pm.

Poison Gardens, Alnwick Gardens, England. Photo by Jo Jakeman
Poison Gardens, Alnwick Gardens, England. Photo by Jo Jakeman
Foxglove. Photo by liz west
Foxglove. Photo by liz west
Opium poppies. Photo by Dave
Opium poppies. Photo by Dave
Deadly Nighshade. Photo by Rosana Prada
Deadly Nighshade. Photo by Rosana Prada

Main Image by Ellerslie International Flower Show

Top 10 Unusual Gardens Around the World was last modified: November 16th, 2015 by Kara Segedin
Author: Kara Segedin (256 posts)

Writer, traveller, Tweeter, blogger and part-time adventurer. A kiwi living in London off to explore the world! I can never travel enough!