Who doesn’t love seeing flowers bloom? Here are some top garden destinations to surround yourself with colorful blooms from January through December. So, whether you armchair travel or are ready to hit the road to explore, there are many wide-open spaces with amazing displays of flora and fauna waiting to view online or in person.
At Boyce Thompson Arboretum, an hour drive west of Phoenix, you can see the desert bloom. A top 25 botanical garden in the U.S., it preserves more than 502 globally-threatened species of plants within 135 acres of gardens. Wildflowers begin in late February/early March and go through at least April. Then other flowers such as Saguaro cactus flowers bloom in May and June.
In Yosemite/Mariposa County, the Merced River’s poppy bloom can happen any time from March to June, but most likely these really pop in March and April. Dozens of species of wildflowers also thrive along the steep walls of the canyon. The winding Canyon is about 25 miles long and you can pull the car over at a number of spots to see the blooms, or take an easy hike on the Merced River Trail for an up-close view. A more strenuous hike is the Hite’s Cove Trail. An added bonus is that at end of the canyon to the east sits the entrance to Yosemite National Park.
Visalia in central California’s San Joaquin Valley has over 200 crops growing with plenty of opportunities for visitors to see blossoms of almonds, walnuts, pomegranates, oranges, peaches, nectarines, apricots, and more, all bursting with color in spring. A beautiful drive along the country roads edge the farmers’ fields. Take the time to explore shops, restaurants, and local makers who use diverse crops for inspiration. Check out the area Blossom Trail map. Find suggestions on places to get first-hand experiences in the Farm Fresh Itinerary, or take a tour of a local farm or dairy for an in-depth look at how their farmers feed the world. Not far away are wildflower blooms seen on a drive through the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains that come alive each spring, bursting with colors like purple, pink, and orange.
The Flower Fields in Carlsbad transform these rolling hills north of San Diego into a spectacle of color when over 50 acres of Giant Tecolote ranunculus flowers bloom from early March into early May. You can walk through the fields at your own pace or hop on a tractor for a ride through the flowers.
Coyote Canyon is the place to be in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California. The spot may only be accessible by a single dirt road, but roughing the terrain (and politely passing by other wildflower gawkers) means catching sight of electric yellow Parish’s poppies, desert lilies, dune evening primrose, desert chicory, sand verbena, and more in spring. If the crowds are too great, opt for Henderson or Palm Canyons as both are hitting their mid-bloom stride.
Oceanside’s Mission San Luis Rey includes one of the oldest living pepper trees. Originally planted by the mission padres, it is more than 200 years old and remains a living testament to Oceanside’s history.
It seems the entire state is a wildflower wonderland from mid-July to mid-August. Four towns northwest of Denver – Granby, Grand Lake, Winter Park, and Kremmling – are good spots to branch out from with easy hikes and drives to see the flowers. The official “Wildflower Capital of Colorado,” is Crested Butte, southwest of Denver, with lilies, primrose, honeysuckle, iris, marigolds, and hundreds of others blooming across the hills. Don’t miss fall in Colorado in early to mid-September when the trees start their annual turn of color.
Over 1,000 acres of rolling hills, meadows, and forests bloom at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library in Wilmington starting with woodland wildflowers in March and continuing with blooming azaleas in late April/May.
The Alfred B. Maclay Garden State Park in Tallahassee is a masterpiece of floral architecture. Peak blooming season lasts between January and March. Within 28 acres of tended gardens, there are over 60 varieties of azaleas and more than 150 varieties of camellias totaling several hundred shrubs for both the azaleas and camellias. There’s also a walled “secret garden” and a native plant arboretum featuring Piedmont and Florida flame azaleas, white wild indigo, English dogwood, gardenias, wisteria, ginger, and jasmine.
The Lake Placid area is called the Caladium Capital of the World. About a two-hour drive south from Orlando, Lake Placid grows approximately 90 percent of the world’s supply of caladium bulbs in large fields that have been compared to the tulip fields in Holland for their beauty during the summer months. The patchwork of colors of over 40 varieties of red, white, and pink, and all combinations of the colors is a handiwork of art. The best time to see the fields are late July, August, and September when you can drive down Highway 621 in Lake Placid and see them from the road and also visit the farms. Lake Placid holds a Caladium Festival in July.
The Quilt Gardens near Elkhart (2 ½ hours north of Indianapolis) combines quilting, gardening, and art into a one-of-a-kind event featuring more than a million vibrant blooms displayed in a colorful patchwork of 16 quilt-inspired gardens spread out over several cities in northern Indiana. The gardens are free and open to the public from the end of May to mid-September each year.
The Kansas prairie is filled with blooms starting in spring when the wildflowers cover the vast area of the Flint Hills, continuing into summer when many pollinator necessary plants like milkweed bloom, and continuing into fall when the grasslands turn magnificent shades of red, orange, and bronze heralding the start of autumn that rivals when trees turn color. The Flint Hills region of Kansas is the largest unplowed remnant of tallgrass prairie in the world.
The state tree is the dogwood and for good reason. Several towns celebrate Missouri’s abundance of dogwoods seen in the spring mostly in the wild in the southern part of the state. Camdenton showcases the trees that grow in the woodlands surrounding the Lake of the Ozarks. Charleston combines dogwoods with azaleas for a spring flower festival. Dogwood Canyon Nature Park near Branson is a prime spot for viewing and includes guided hikes. Or explore on your own with a drive along Highway 5 from Versailles to Camdenton or Highways 165 and 265 around Table Rock Lake. Hiking at Ha Ha Tonka State Park along the Colosseum Trail and the Spring Trail, Bennet Spring State Park near Lebanon on the Natural Tunnel Trail and the Oak-Hickory Trail, Echo Bluff State Park on the Current River Trail, and the Painter Ridge Trail or Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial State Park near St. Louis along the Dogwood Trail and the Woodbine Trail will give up-close views of the dogwoods.
Rochester’s Highland Park is home to the largest collection of lilacs in North America with more than 500 varieties on 1,200-plus bushes. Each May when the lilacs are in bloom the park is the site of the Rochester Lilac Festival. The lilacs typically bloom mid-May, and visitors to the park can enjoy the sight and smell of the flowers in bloom for about 2 weeks. With a moniker of the “Flower City” Rochester has an international reputation for horticultural opportunities where visitors can enjoy abundant gardens, parks, festivals, tours, and chances to learn how to make your own garden grow – indoors or out – all year round.
Considered America’s largest garden tour, Garden Walk Buffalo includes over 400 urban gardens open to visit in late July. While the majority are private home gardens, the garden walk also includes trial gardens at the university, neighborhood and church gardens, and the city’s public gardens and parks, all accessible using the garden walk map or via the free Hop-on/Hop-off shuttle.
In late spring from the end of May through June, the rhododendrons that cover the hillsides of the western North Carolina Blue Ridge mountains explode in blossoms of brilliant colors ranging from white and pastels to vibrant purple and red. This flowering shrub has become a symbol of the Blue Ridge Parkway and each spring tourists from across the United States head to the mountains to witness this annual spectacle.
Shore Acres State Park, once the home of a lumber baron, Louis J. Simpson, is home to an unexpected English botanical garden tucked into the pines and fir trees of an Oregon coastal forest right along the cliffs of the Oregon coast. The blooms start with spring bulbs and daffodils late February-March, followed by tulips, rhododendrons, and azaleas, flowering annuals/perennials, rose bushes, dahlias throughout the year, and ending with some 300,000 holiday lights in the garden from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve.
For a few short weeks each spring, visitors to Landsford Canal State Park in Catawba, South Carolina are surrounded by rare Rocky Shoals spider lilies (Hymenocallis coronaria). Though visitors usually venture to the park for its spectacular beauty of the Catawba River and incredible canoeing and kayaking along the waterway, these lilies are a rare treat to encounter each year. This fragrant lily is only found in select Southern states – South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and perhaps North Carolina – and requires plenty of direct sunlight and a very swift but shallow watery surface upon which to grow. Blooming season is generally the months of May and June. The park has a bloom calendar for the lilies and even a Lilyfest (mid-May) each year.
Roan Mountain State Park encompasses more than 2,000 acres of southern Appalachian forest at the base of 6,285-foot Roan Mountain. The best time of year to see the rhododendrons in bloom is in June. Insider Tip: The Appalachian Trail and Rhododendron Gardens of Roan Mountain can be accessed at Carver’s Gap, an 8-mile drive from the park. Wildflowers can be seen in hollows and ridges of the Roan foothills ranging from Dutchman’s breeches to trillium and bee balm. There are 30 comfortable cabins, as well as RV and tent camping at the 107-site campgrounds in the park. Each cabin has a front porch with rocking chairs, a fully outfitted kitchen, a full bath, a wood-burning stove, and gas/electric heat. Visitors can hike along the creeks and ridges, tour the century-old Miller Farmstead or enjoy cross-country skiing in the winter months.
Each summer the Woodstock Inn & Resort showcases a 10,000 square foot sunflower house merging gardening with architecture and landscape design as you stroll through the “hallways” created by over 50 varieties of sunflowers. The resort also hosts a magical Gourdwalk.
April in the Hill Country means peak wildflower bloom and bluebonnet season – the Lone Star state’s official flower. Follow the self-guided Texas Hill Country Wildflower Trail near Fredericksburg to see miles of bluebonnets mingling with other native plants.
Each year, when spring comes around, in East Texas, the Tyler Azalea and Spring Flower Trail is a beautiful showcase of stunning scents and amazing colors. When you either take a drive or a walk through the trail that stretches over 10 miles, there are plenty of natural wonders to marvel at in this idyllic part of Texas.
Held mid-March-mid-April, it’s a sight to see the cherry blossom trees in bloom around the Tidal Basin in Washington DC. Or head to New Jersey for the Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival, also in April, with the largest cherry blossom tree collection in the country.
The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is held in the month of April. Designed as a driving tour, there is no one place to view the millions of tulips in bloom. Instead, hundreds of tulip fields are scattered across the valley, creating a rainbow of colors on the horizon. A map shows where to stop and enjoy the blooms.
You could spend the day at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum with its 17 miles of walking trails, paved roads for cycling, and several garden areas filled with native flowers in bloom. The adjacent Longenecker Horticultural Garden includes the largest flowering crabapple collection in the world that blooms in spring.
International Garden Blooms
Nanjing’s Plum Blossom Festival in Nanjing, China offers visitors the chance to stop and smell the flowers from late February into March. China’s answer to Japan’s Cherry Blossom Festival, this month-long celebration showcases 35,000 plum blossom trees in 120 varieties – including China’s oldest – scattered in a 250-acre park on Purple Mountain. Travelers who visit Nanjing during the latter part of the festival will also smell the fragrant scents of other trees in the gardens including peach blossom, pear blossom, cherry blossom, and Osmanthus.
Tiger Hill Art and Flower Festival in Suzhou, China, showcases blooms March-May with thousands of flowers, including more than 100,000 pots and 60 varieties of flowers like hydrangeas, tulips, hyacinths, and many more on display.
The Thimphu Rhododendron Festival is a unique festival that takes place at the Lamperi Botanical Garden in Butan each April. Bhutan is home to 52 species of rhododendrons and over 300 types of medicinal plants. As travelers explore the grounds they will be able to admire the many flowers that fill the grounds such as junipers, magnolias, orchids, the national flower – blue poppy, edelweiss, gentian, and daphnes.
Fuji Shibazakura Festival at Lake Motosuko, Japan, in April-June is one of the most popular occasions nationwide to see shibazakura, a pink moss that covers the fields, with Mount Fuji in the background.
The Wisteria Flower Tunnel in Kitakyushu, Japan, is in bloom late April-mid-May with 150 wisteria flowering plants and over 20 different types creating a magical tunnel that visitors walk through where they are surrounded by multicolored flowers that hang above them.
For 50 weeks of the year, the town of Koma in Japan could be just about anywhere in rural Japan: peaceful, relaxing, and a good hiking area. But in early October into November, the area bursts into color when 500,000 red spider lilies come into bloom. Called cluster amaryllis or higanbana and manjushage in Japanese, the area’s fields are transformed into a surreal atmosphere.
Phurua Marigold Field in Phurua, Thailand, is famed for its golden field of marigolds. There are actually two fields you can visit, blooming in late November, while the second one blooms from late December through late January.
Blue poppies at Reford Gardens in the Gaspésie region bloom from the end of June to the end of July. The Himalayan blue poppy (Meconopsis betonicifolia or M. baileyi) is one of the marvels of the plant world. Elsie Reford grew these from seed in the 1930s and today these create a blue palette across the gardens. From July-August, fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) is visible almost everywhere along the roads, the hiking trails, the forest glades, and even along the seaside in the Gaspésie region of Québec.
One of the best places to see bluebells is in Kent at Hole Park Gardens in Rolvenden during the annual Bluebell Spectacular. The Hole Park website has a bluebell barometer with updates on when the bluebells are at their peak in spring. Visitors to the gardens in early April will see swathes of crocuses, narcissi, and daffodils. A ‘Camelia Walk’ with shade-loving hellebores takes walkers down a path also flanked by flowering cherry trees. Before the bluebells take center stage, the meadows and woodland floor are a sea of primroses and dainty blue scillas.
With 300 days of sunshine a year, it’s not surprising that the Côte d’Azur offers blooms nearly year-round. Yellow mimosas start the bloom-a-thon in January-March followed by violets in March, orange blossoms in April, roses in May, Jasmin in July, and countless other garden offerings in this botanically rich reach region. Follow the 130-kilometer long Mimosa Route for views of these stunning trees as the road winds from Bormes-Les-Mimosas to Grasse, the heart of the French perfume industry.
The Watsonia that blooms in November on Lion’s Head Mountain in Cape Town creates swathes of pink-purple blooms across the hillside of this popular hiking and photo stop that showcases the fynbos plants of the Western Cape.
Featured image: Plum Blossom Blooms