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GARDENS


Janet Marinelli, who has worked in the world of botanical gardens for more than 20 years, says it only makes sense that walking into a lush green wonder can instantly lower your blood pressure: “A garden’s calming effect is absolutely amazing -- to be enveloped in nature in a beautiful way is powerful.” The author and former director of publishing and interpretation at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, she believes that botanical gardens provide a keen connection with nature because plant magnificence is concentrated and in such close proximity. Furthermore, they offer a place to learn botany outside of a traditional classroom. Here is a quartet of places where Marinelli finds the “plant pageantry just awesome.”

CONSERVATORY OF FLOWERS
San Francisco, California
Situated in Golden Gate Park, this conservatory, an 1870s monument to a gilded era of beauty and grace, was recently rescued from decay by a $25 million restoration campaign. Nearly 2,000 plant species from more than 50 countries thrive in five galleries of displays, making this conservatory rank among the nation’s most inspiring horticulture museums. Included in the unusual collections is a high-altitude orchid gallery that boasts more than 700 of the world’s 1,000 known species. Romantics can even book a wedding in the Orchid Gallery. (415) 666-7001, www.conservatoryofflowers.org

LADY BIRD JOHNSON WILDFLOWER CENTER
Austin, Texas
Named for the first lady who championed America’s roadside beautification, this Central Texas destination exemplifies the botanical garden’s modern evolution by giving you a heightened sense of the region you’re exploring. The center, a research extension of the University of Texas at Austin, specializes in native flower and plant conservation and offers more than 23 different gardens that share space with meadows and woodlands. Visitors can learn how to attract butterflies and hummingbirds to their gardens, hike along trails and paths, or simply daydream on a bench next to a Hill Country stream. Picnic grounds, a café, and a shop are on-site. (512) 232-0100, www.wildflower.org

PHIPPS CONSERVATORY AND BOTANICAL GARDENS
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Known for its elegant Victorian-era greenhouse of steel and glass, the Phipps is undergoing a massive expansion to make it a twenty-first-century model for green-building efforts and sustainable gardening practices. A commanding presence in Schenley Park, the Phipps offers the stunning exhibit “Tropical Forest: Headwaters of the Amazon” in its 12,000-square-foot Tropical Forest Conservatory, considered the world’s most energy-efficient. On the grounds, visitors will also find the Café Phipps and the Shop at Phipps. (412) 622-6914, www.phipps.conservatory.org

DESERT BOTANICAL GARDEN
Phoenix, Arizona
This 50-acre outdoor museum framed by Papago Park’s fiery-red buttes serves as home to almost 140 rare, threatened, and endangered plant species. Newest to the garden is the Ottosen Entry Garden, part of a series of new installations and the place to learn about a dynamic variety of desert plants. Also, on Fridays during certain months of the year, the garden hosts a live-jazz evening complete with food and wine available for purchase. The Garden Shop stocks gifts, jewelry, and plants that mirror Sonoran Desert style, and a full menu is served at the Patio Café. Concerts are held during October, and February through July. (480) 941-1225, www.dbg.org