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In honor of National Public Gardens Day on May 6, 2011, I thought I’d share a few botanical gardens with you. Hopefully this will inspire you to visit a public garden in your area today, or soon.

A visit to a botanical garden is an interesting and exciting way to reconnect with nature without having to go hiking or camping. Right in your own city is a peaceful oasis away from the urban buzz. Each garden offers something different, but most have, at the very least, classes, events, exhibits and a gift shop. They probably have volunteer opportunities, too!

By walking through a botanical garden, you can learn about ecosystems, biodiversity and sustainability. Outdoors you can see what plants grow naturally in your area, and conservatories hold exotic plant collections. You can get ideas about landscaping your own yard, and if you visit at different times of the year, you will marvel at how beautiful plants are in every season.

Many botanical gardens do extensive horticultural research to document plants, understand evolution and extinction, and preserve our delicate ecosystems. This is especially important in light of our changing climate.

Most large cities have a public garden. Find a garden near you at the American Public Gardens Association. Here are a few of the most well-known in the US.

The United States Botanic Garden

100 Maryland Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20001, 202-225-8333

Photo: Anosmia

‘Steeped in history, rich with tradition, the United States Botanic Garden (USBG) is one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America. It informs visitors about the importance, and often irreplaceable value, of plants to the well-being of humankind and to earth’s fragile ecosystems. The Garden highlights the diversity of plants worldwide, as well as their aesthetic, cultural, economic, therapeutic, and ecological significance. ‘ (Read more …)

New York Botanical Garden

Bronx River Parkway at Fordham Road, Bronx, NY 10458, 718-817-8700

Photo: asterix611

‘One of the Botanical Garden’s paramount goals is to lead in the documentation of every plant and fungal species on Earth. Despite growing habitat destruction and other environmental challenges, Garden scientists persevere in exploring new ground. Comprehensive identification of species and determination of plant relationships are important prerequisites for conservation efforts and sustainable management of plant resources used as foods, medicines, and fuels.  (Read more… )

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

900 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11225, 718-623-7200

Photo: Flatbush Gardener

‘A century ago, Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s founders had the vision to transform a city ash heap into a premier botanic garden in the heart of the borough. Since the Garden first opened its gates to the public, it has been a vibrant place for education, research, world-class horticulture, and sanctuary. Join us this summer in celebrating our first 100 years and our exciting plans for the future!’ ( Read more …)

Missouri Botanical Garden

4344 Shaw Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63110, 314-577-5100

Photo: fotobydave

‘To discover and share knowledge about plants and their environment in order to preserve and enrich life. – Missouri Botanical Garden mission.

‘The Garden is a center for botanical research and science education, as well as an oasis in the city of St. Louis. The Garden offers 79 acres of beautiful horticultural display, including a 14-acre Japanese strolling garden, Henry Shaw’s original 1850 estate home, and one of the world’s largest collections of rare and endangered orchids. (Read more …)

Dallas Arboretum

8525 Garland Road, Dallas, Texas 75218, 214-515-6500

Photo: LocalTravelPhotos

‘The Dallas Arboretum, one of the most beautiful outdoor attractions in Dallas, features 66-acres of spectacular display gardens that showcase incredible seasonal flowers, ornamental shrubs, trees and plant collections in a serene setting on White Rock Lake. (Read more …)

Tucson Botanical Gardens

2150 North Alvernon Way, Tucson, AZ 85712, 520-326-9686

Photo: kibuyu

‘As the Tucson Botanical Gardens moves forward, its leadership respects the Porter legacy and all that it embodies. Bernice Porter was committed to creating a garden that was both aesthetically beautiful and educational. She envisioned it as a community resource for learners of all ages, knowledge levels, and abilities—a center where one could learn about plants, gardening, and nature.’ (Read more …)

Denver Botanic Gardens

1007 York Street, Denver, CO 80206, 720-865-3500

Photo: Giant Ginkgo

‘Located in the middle of the Mile High City, Denver Botanic Gardens was one of the first gardens in the country to emphasize native plants and to champion environmentally responsible practices, such as water conservation and biological control of pests. Today, Denver Botanic Gardens continues this tradition at three unique sites: Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield and Mount Goliath. Each of these demonstrates the varied ecosystems of Colorado. (Read more …)

Chicago Botanic Garden

1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, IL 60022, 847-835-5440

Photo: JanetandPhil

‘We believe:

Beautiful gardens and natural environments are fundamentally important to the mental and physical well-being of all people. People live better, healthier, and more satisfying lives when they can create, care for, and enjoy gardens. The future of life on Earth depends on the degree to which humans understand, value, and protect plants and the healthy habitats on which they depend. Our mission: To promote the enjoyment, understanding and conservation of plants and the natural world.’ (Read more …)

Find a public garden near you at the American Public Gardens Association, and get out on Friday May 6 for a learning adventure!

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.