Escape to 5 of the World's Most Tranquil (Some Secret!) Gardens

March 22, 2018

It takes a certain talent to claim a green thumb: a masterful combination of art, science, and sixth-sense-level intuition that eludes most people. While many of us try our darnedest to keep window box planters and fickle houseplants alive, there are master gardeners and designers out there, creating their own masterpieces out of landscapes both curated and natural.

In Dreamscapes: Inspiration and Beauty in Gardens Near and Far photographer Claire Takacs visits more than 60 of the world’s most awe-inspiring gardens, many of which are unavailable for public viewing. Below are five of her favorites, along with additional exclusive commentary speaking to each garden’s iconic, individual style.

Mount Macedon Garden (Australia)

Mount Macedon, Victoria Photo by Claire Takacs

This is an exciting garden to find in Australia, especially at the end of summer, when I photographed. It’s so full of color, texture, and movement, and influenced by the New Perennial movement, which is typified by a more naturalistic approach to planting. I love seeing this in Australia and also seeing a garden thriving with this style of planting here, which is relatively new for Australia. Garden designer Michael McCoy is a hugely talented designer and his planting combinations are truly breathtaking. I loved the view taken from a ladder at sunrise, especially.

Dyffryn Fernant (Wales)

Dinas, Fishguard, Pembrokeshire, Wales Photo by Claire Takacs

This is one of my favorite gardens in the world. I love the wildness and how beautifully and soulfully garden owner Christina Shand has designed it. It is more intensely managed around the house than it is when you move farther away. You cannot see where her garden ends and the wider landscape begins. This great sensitivity to the surrounding landscape has resulted in a garden which is very personal and has such great feeling. As soon as you enter, you know you are in a very special and unique place.

Mill Garden (Spain)

Rascafría, Madrid, Spain Photo by Claire Takacs

This small garden designed by Miguel Urquijo and Renate Kastner is a few hours north of Madrid. It exemplifies a simple, restrained garden that's sensitive to the surrounding landscape. I loved the clipped heather and yew, which Miguel clips himself; they echo the shapes of distant mountains. The subtle shapes and lack of color, save for a few slight punctuations, create a very calm and peaceful garden that is stunning to look out onto from the back of the house, seated on a wooden bench. Not only is beautiful, it has a plant palette that is relatively low-maintenance and well-adapted to the harsh conditions of the local environment.

Hermannshof (Germany)

Weinheim, Germany Photo by Claire Takacs

This is the experimental park and public garden where director Cassian Schmidt creates masterpieces with his planting combinations. It’s a garden which his colleague Noel Kingsbury rightfully describes as “the most exciting garden in Europe.” The planting combinations are bold, striking, and constantly changing. Garden enthusiasts make pilgrimages here to witness the incredible seasonal changes. It’s very exciting to see such creativity combined with science. They monitor how many hours per square meter each planting takes, so other public spaces can use it as a resource.

Kenrokuen (Japan)

Kanazawa, Japan Photo by Claire Takacs

Kenrokuen is a garden which is very special to me. Cherry blossoms inspired a trip to Japan at the beginning of my career. I wanted to create garden imagery that would make my work stand out, so I could hopefully have a chance at making a start in this industry, which I’d wholeheartedly decided to pursue. I researched Japanese gardens and found Kenrokuen, as it’s considered one of the five most beautiful landscape gardens in Japan.

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“I love our garden backyard. Started the garden setting 25 years ago. Now everything is big and lush. Japanese maples and cypress, huge rhododendrons, ferns. Very tranquil.”
— BerryBaby

I couldn’t believe it when snow began to fall while I visited. It was like being in a magical and surreal landscape painting, that to me was just perfect. I was photographing underneath an umbrella and framed a view of a bridge with cherry trees in the foreground and clipped azaleas. It was then that a couple with two brightly colored umbrellas crossed the bridge and entered my frame. They completely made my picture and this became my most recognized image―and still is. In 2008, I won the inaugural International Garden Photographer of the Year competition with this image, selected from more than 20 thousand entries. I think it’s a bit of a timeless and peaceful scene to look at. Since then, I’ve visited Japan three more times and it’s become one of my most favorite countries in the world to travel and photograph gardens.

Which of these special gardens would you visit first? Tell us below!


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • BerryBaby
  • Sj Dc
    Sj Dc
  • Hana Asbrink
    Hana Asbrink
Hana is a food writer/editor based in New York.


BerryBaby March 22, 2018
Kenrokuen is beautiful! I love our garden backyard. Started the garden setting 25 years ago. Now everything is big and lush. Japanese maples and cypress, huge rhododendrons, ferns. Very tranquil.
Hana A. March 22, 2018
Sounds incredible, BB! I love a Japanese garden myself. Are you on the West coast? Wish you could share a photo with us!
BerryBaby March 22, 2018
Yes, the beautiful PNW. A friend visited from the midwest and described it perfectly ‘everywhere you look, it’s a postcard!’ We are 10 minutes from wine and farm country. Such gorgeous scenery.
Sj D. March 22, 2018
The Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden in Hong Kong is also breathtakingly serene
Hana A. March 22, 2018
Just looked that garden up, stunning! I love all the traditional gardens amidst the modern skylines in Asian cities. Thanks for sharing Sj Dc!