On a continent where the natural landscape is so incredible there’s doesn’t seem to be much sense in creating a garden. However despite the dramatic surroundings, Latin America has some amazing garden spaces that are quite inspiring and visionary. There’s the garden created amongst lava outside Mexico City, the floating gardens of the Amazon and the creations of many landscape designers and architects in Brazil and Chile.
- Sítio Roberto Burle Marx, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Marx was a Brazilian landscape designer and known for his designs of parks and gardens. In 1949 he acquired a 100-acre estate, Barra de Guaratiba, to house his growing collection of plants. Marx was said to have “painted with plants” and indeed more than 3500 species flourish on this estate stuffed with flora.
- Floating Gardens of Xochimilco, Mexico
The southern neighborhood of Mexico City, called Xochimilco, has more than 50 miles of canals known as the Floating Gardens. The canals surround raised agricultural fields, called chinampas, formed by alternating layers of aquatic weeds and earth in cane frames rooted to the lake floor. Locals and tourists board boats with musicians for tours of the area.
- Orchids, Costa Rica
If you want to get some serious orchid viewing in, come to Costa Rica to see the national flower. Costa Rica has the richest orchid flora in Central America, with more than 1400 identified species. The greatest diversity exists in the misty mid-elevation cloud forests.
- Las Pozas, Xilitla, Mexico
This now decaying creation was set in motion by the fabulously rich Englishman Edward James who fell in love with the area and saw it as a means to grow the lush tropical orchids he collected. In an area surrounded by waterfalls he amassed 18 000 orchids until a freak snowstorm killed them. He then decided he would create a concrete sanctuary instead with enormous flowers tinted in rainbow colors, set alongside huge concrete trees, fabulous towers and gothic archways. It was never actually completed and when he died it decayed without a rich patron. It is still magnificent, with the jungle slowly reclaiming the site.
- La Paz Waterfall Gardens, Costa Rica
These gardens contain just about everything you expect from Costa Rica – lush tropical rain forest, spectacular waterfalls, birds, butterflies and flowers. This attraction is themed around magnificent waterfalls that line the trail and can be accessed by trails and viewing platforms. There is also a butterfly observatory, the largest in the world at 50 feet, where you can walk amidst the free soaring butterflies. There is also a Hummingbird Garden that attracts 24 different species of the birds.
- Luis Barragan’s Gardens of El Pedregal, Mexico
These 1250-acre gardens were begun on the lava fields south of Mexico City. Barragan used his skills as a landscaper and architect to dot them with houses and plazas, fountains and ponds, cacti and pepper trees. Steps, garden paths and water pools were carved into rock outcroppings and crevices and native flora grown on layers of topsoil.
- Adolpho Ducke Botanical Gardens, Manuas, Brazil
These effervescent gardens sit high atop the list of top Manaus cultural attractions. They are easily second to none and the perfect way to see the unique plants and grasses of the Amazon. However unlike many other gardens, these are a sizeable 62 square miles. There are a variety of trails to trek to give you your very own Amazon jungle tour experience as well.
- Bahia Azul, Chile
Juan Grimm was a Chilean architect who designed over 300 gardens in Chile and Argentina. His beautiful garden on the ocean’s edge in Chile is astounding. The seaside house was painted to match the lichen on the rocks and the steps are hidden to blend into the landscape. He also used native plants or those that had acclimatized to the Mediterranean climate.
- Estancia Dos Talas, Buenos Aires, Argentina
This ranch outside Buenos Aires contains 1500 hectares of stylish gardens, lawns and infinite pampas. Ride through the property by day and relax in the French-style mansion by night.
- Castleton Botanic Gardens, Jamaica
Many of the trees and plants introduced to Jamaica were first planted here, thanks to the help of the Kew Gardens in London. The 10-hectare gardens were established in 1862 and thus one of the oldest public botanic gardens in the western hemisphere. There are collections of palm trees, native plants and ornamental plants.