Three continents – Three spectacular botanical gardens


Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden

Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, Cape Town, South Africa (the plants in the lower right are cycads, more on them later)

In our travels Blonde and Brunette have found botanical gardens to be oases of tranquility and beauty and good places to hid from the cops. OK, the second part isn’t true but we didn’t want to be gushing girlishly about flowers and ruin our reputations!

Brunette got indoctrinated into the botanical garden fan club on a long ago visit to Phoenix, Arizona. She took her husband, who’s more prickly than any cactus, and her 4 sons who thought all cacti looked like their favorite male parts and she marched them around the Desert Botanical Garden.  And that’s how a botanical garden bully was born!

In Cape Town we sought out the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. This garden is part of an area of South Africa called the Cape Floristic Region. In 2004 the Cape Floristic Region, including Kirstenbosch, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  That made it the first botanical garden in the world to be included within a natural World Heritage Site.

Kirstenbosch botanical gardens

Bright clivias in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, South Africa

In addition to pretty flowers Kirstenbosch has cycads, one of the oldest groups of seed-bearing plants in the world. They lived when dinosaurs literally roamed the earth. They’re very tough, spiky plants so one theory has it that they weren’t popular at dinosaur salad bars and were able to survive. Unfortunately, they’ve become too popular in modern times. So many people took them from the wild that now a permit is required to own one and cycads are endangered.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden

Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden

Although the plants are fascinating, one of the best things about Kirstenbosch is its setting on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town. We were there at a chilly, wet time of year but the gardens were still a lush treat.

Orchids in the Singapore Botanic gardens

Orchids in the Singapore Botanic gardens – we think they look like dancing ladies (or drag queens but hey, we don’t judge!)

When we were in Singapore we found another garden that was a lush treat too,  but not a cool one, a very hot and humid one. Blonde doesn’t see how heat and humidity can combine to make anything good but at the Singapore Botanic Garden they actually do. And this garden is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Singapore’s first UNESCO site for that matter.

We went to the gardens in Singapore the morning we arrived from a seemingly endless non-stop flight from Newark, New Jersey. We were jet lagged and disheveled and the garden was near the hotel where we were staying so we bumbled over.  It turned out that that was a perfect time to go – you just need to be able to see to enjoy a garden – you don’t have to have a fully functioning brain. It also helped a lot that they had the Halia Restaurant which was just what we needed for an attempt at rejuvenation.

National Orchid Garden, Singapore

National Orchid Garden, Singapore

Although the garden is full of eyegasm beauty with fountains, blossoms, trees, ducks and winding paths we were most taken by the National Orchid Garden which is within the larger botanic garden. Despite our lifelong fear of huge spiders lurking in orchids we couldn’t resist looking at and photographing most of the more than 1,000 varieties of orchids in the garden. Be grateful that we will only show you a minor sample of our photographs here – hoping it’s enough to inspire you to make your own visit.

Purple orchid in Singapore Botanic Gardens

Purple mystery flower in Singapore Botanic Gardens

Because the Singapore Botanic Gardens are open from 5:00 a.m. until midnight and free (except for a small charge to go to the Orchid Garden) they are a popular spot for early morning joggers as well as tourists and locals. Why anyone is up at 5:00 a.m. and running anywhere, especially in hot, sticky Singapore, mystifies us but in case you’re one of those crazy people we want you to know about this option.


Cap Roig Botanical Garden, Catalonia (Spain)

In 1927 Russian Colonel Woevodsky, an architect, and Dorothy Webster, an English aristocrat and garden geek  purchased this property overlooking the El Golfet beach and cove in the Mediterranean Sea near Calella-de-Palafrugell. They began building a  medieval style castle and a park and that work didn’t all conclude until 1974. (If you’re familiar with Gaudi you may share our suspicion that it takes the Spanish people a long time to finish projects.) The gardens, with more than 1,000 botanical species, run in terraces to the sea.  One of our favorite areas was the cactus garden.

Cap Roig Botanic Gardens

Cap Roig Botanic Gardens overlooking the Mediterranean Sea

It’s also the home each year of the famous Cap Roig Music Festival which takes place in July and August. When we were visiting it was July and Brunette was determined to get the world’s most expensive tickets to see Elton John perform in the gardens on opening night of the festival. Fortunately she failed at that endeavor as Elton John cancelled a couple of days ahead of time because he had appendicitis.

Cap Roig Botanic Garden, Spain

Bright red/orange unknown (to us) flower at Cap Roig Botanic Garden, Spain

If you’re traveling somewhere that’s new to you we’d suggest finding out if they have any botanical gardens. We always find gardens to be beautiful, great places to take pictures and quieter than other tourist locations.

At least until we show up and start giggling at the shapes of the cacti.




  1. Kathryn Jahn says

    Those pretty flowers who name you don’t recall are clivias — they are native to southern Africa. Here in upstate New York they are ‘tender’ houseplants that stay inside all winter (and take up a lot of room because they grow quite large) and can go outside for summer. I have seen them growing outside in southern California.

    • says

      These three really were amazing places! And as I was writing the post I thought of several others that were smaller but wonderful too so that will probably be a future post. Thanks for reading our blog!

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