Five More of the World’s Most Beautiful Historic Gardens

Historic Gardens Delight, Inspire

(This is the second of a two-part series about the world’s most beautiful historic gardens.)

Let’s look at five more of the most beautiful gardens on the planet that have stood the test of time.

Taj Mahal Gardens, Agra, India

historic gardensThe famous Taj Mahal mausoleum took 22 years to construct. It was commissioned in 1631 by Shah Jahan, the Fifth Mughal emperor, as a final resting place for his third wife. Much of the original design remains the same, although green lawns were added during a British renovation in the early 1900s.

For Shah Jahan, the Taj Garden represented paradise as described in the Koran. Which is why it featured abundant fruit trees, blooming plants and birds of all kinds.

Typical of Moghul-era gardens, water is a central element. The garden is studded with flowing fountains in the center. A linear reflecting pool and a raised marble tank at the center of the garden continually reflect the spectacular monument.

The Taj Garden is divided into four equal parts, separated by walkways. Each quarter area has 16 flowerbeds, and each bed contains about 400 plants. Arranged in a symmetrical pattern, the trees of the Taj garden are divided into two types: Cyprus (signifying death) and fruit-bearing (signifying life).

Rousham House, Oxfordshire, England

By the beginning of the 18th century, the English began to replace the formal, manicured style of their gardens with a more open, naturalistic design.

historic gardensOne of the founding practitioners of this new approach was the eminent landscape architect William Kent.

In 1738, Kent was hired to remodel the house and grounds at Rousham Park in Oxfordshire.  His design linked the gardens to the surrounding countryside through connected vistas and complementary plantings.

The resulting 136-acre parkland is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved examples of an early English landscape garden.

These historic gardens feature sweeping fields and wooded paths that lead to miniature classical temples, adorned with statues of ancient gods. Uncommercialized and unspoiled, one section of the estate is also home to a handsome herd of rare longhorn cattle.

The house itself, built in 1635 by Sir Robert Dormer, is still owned by the original family. The gardens are open to the public every day, but the house is open by appointment only.

The Mount, Lenox, Massachusetts

The beautiful grounds of Edith Wharton’s home, The Mount, were designed by the esteemed author herself, who believed that a garden should possess “a charm independent of the seasons.” Wharton purchased the 113-acre property in 1901. She envisioned her gardens as an elegant series of “outdoor rooms,” in harmony with the house and surrounding natural landscape.

These “rooms” include a sunken Italian garden, which uses serene tones of greens and whites combined with porticos and alcoves in its stone walls. The centerpiece of this garden is a rustic rock-pile fountain surrounded by white begonias.

A gravel promenade of intertwined linden trees connects the Italian garden to the more formal French flower garden. Here, a rectangular pool is surrounded by beds of annuals, perennials and shrubs that create a vivid splash of color. Many of  Wharton’s favorite flowers (such as phlox, lilies, hydrangea, and dahlias) still grace the flower beds.

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The Mount’s historic gardens also include a rock garden, complete with unusually molded grass steps cut into a sloping hill.

Wharton only resided at The Mount for 10 years before moving to Paris.  The property was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1971.

Kenrokuen Park, Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan

The beautiful Kenrokuen Garden, one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, is celebrated for its beauty in all seasons. Located outside the gates of Kanazawa Castle, the garden was developed in the mid-17th century by the Maeda clan, who ruled during Japan’s feudal period (1620s to the 1840s). It’s regarded as one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan.

In 1759, about eighty years after its creation, nearly the entire garden was destroyed by a massive fire. The historic gardens were  gradually restored and expanded in increments, beginning in 1774. The completed garden was eventually opened to the public in 1874.

The Kenrokuen Garden contains roughly 8,750 trees, and 183 species of plants on its 28 acres. Among the garden’s many water features is the oldest fountain in Japan powered by natural water pressure. The grounds also include numerous bridges and stone monuments, hidden nooks, and several teahouses.

The name Kenrokuen means “having six factors,” which references the six attributes of a perfect garden landscape:  Spaciousness, tranquility, artifice, antiquity, water sources, and broad views. An unusual stone lantern, designed in the image of a Japanese harp, has become the symbol of Kenrokuen Garden.

Hildene, Manchester, Vermont

Hildene is the former summer home of Robert Todd Lincoln, the only child of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln to survive to adulthood. Built at the turn of the 20th century, the house was inhabited only by Lincoln’s descendants until 1975.

The formal historic gardens, located behind the home, still contain original plantings which date back to 1907. Hildene’s gardens were designed to resemble a stained-glass Romanesque cathedral window, with differently colored flowers forming the panes of colored glass and privet hedge to represent the leading between panes.

This 400-acre estate also functions as a campus for environmental and agricultural education for high school students. It includes a teaching greenhouse, composting facility, vegetable gardens, apple orchard, and 600-foot floating wetland boardwalk.


Architectural Digest

House Beautiful

Taj Mahal

Rousham House & Garden



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