Rain is never a problem during virtual visits to botanical gardens. Though visitors can’t literally stop and smell the roses, they can take lingering gazes at the beautiful plants through online tours of gardens near and far.
During these uncertain days — while many public gardens have been temporarily closed — onlookers can use virtual tours to relax and plan ahead for a time when they might walk along these garden paths in person.
Many botanical gardens have an array of features on their websites to leaf through, although visitors sometimes need to browse around the site to find all the available virtual experiences. (Those eager to visit in real life should check ahead to see whether a garden is open to the public.)
Gardeners and others might find respite by exploring the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden via dallasarboretum.org. On a virtual visit to this 66-acre soothing spot, viewers can see tulips bloom in rich colors and hear the sound of waterfalls shush. Verdant grounds greet onlookers, while vibrant hues of flowers pop out along the pathways and elsewhere.
Navigating the website, visitors can choose to watch numerous short videos, often ranging from about 3 minutes to 11 minutes, which cover different areas of the garden, including the Lay Family Garden, the Jonsson Color Garden, the Red Maple Rill and others.
Dave Forehand, vice president of gardens, leads video tours, stopping at places to point out some lovely areas and offer background information. (Unfortunately, wind and an occasional airplane overhead sometimes affect the sound quality.)
“I’m bringing all the beautiful Dallas blooms to you,” he says on one video. “We want to do our best to show you what we look like.”
The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, which opened to the public in 1984, has earned numerous awards and much attention, including a listing among “Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in the U.S.,” in National Geographic, according to the website.
In the Jonsson Color Garden, Forehand says, “This is one of those places everybody loves to come.” Viewers can see why, with splendid beds of tulips all around, and other blooms.
“We’ll plant 25,000 tulips in these beds,” he says. “We plant different varieties of tulips, and of those varieties, we have early blooming, mid-blooming and late blooming tulips, so we get a progression of blooms.”
The video about the Lay Family Garden showcases, among other things, perennials, a grotto and water features, “so you always have that beautiful sound of water,” he says. The fish in a pond are friendly, he says: “If the koi could wave, they would.”
The videos appear to be quite popular, with some having thousands of views since being posted this spring.
They’re easy to sit back and watch. “We’ll bring the Arboretum right to your electronic devices,” he says.
Many more stay-at-home garden trips can be searched online, although some garden websites are less easy to navigate than others. Manipulating the 360-degree images sometimes take getting used to so the images don’t swirl all around.
The Denver Botanic Gardens, at botanicgardens.org, has many features, including some brief (often less than a minute) soothing video trips that roll through areas such as the Water-Smart Garden and Annuals Garden and Pavilion, while gentle music plays.
Elsewhere, the Portland Japanese Garden, japanesegarden.org, in Oregon shows off its pretty grounds with eight separate garden styles. Areas include a Sand and Stone Garden, Flat Garden, Tea Garden and Strolling Pond Garden, among others. Visitors can take in the stunning 360-degree images of colorful tall trees, pathways, bonsai and more. Videos are available, such as a 20-minute amble around with curators to discuss the scenic garden and point out attractions such as waterfalls.
Garden gazers can take a virtual visit to the United States Botanic Garden, in Washington, D.C., at usbg.gov. The site offers plenty to dig into. Viewers can explore 360-degree images of areas at the Conservatory, National Garden and Bartholdi Park. Users can manipulate the crisp images to rotate and move closer in or out — sometimes with the U.S. Capitol in the background. Among many other features, the extensive site has short videos, including a series about the Botanic Garden’s Orchid Show.
Avid fans can also listen through an audio tour — via cellphone or online. As if making stops on a tour, the narration covers key points, such as the pollinator garden and more.
At the Gardens at Texas A&M University, gardens.tamu.edu, a virtual 360-degree tour features the Leach Teaching Gardens. During a nearly eight-minute video, guides talk about the various areas, including as a rain garden and bird garden. At the same time, viewers are able to move the video images all around.
And don’t forget: Austin’s own Zilker Botanical Garden also has a virtual tour, at zilkergarden.org/tours-docents with interactive 360-degree views of various spots, such as the Mabel Davis Rose Garden and Hartman Prehistoric Garden. (The virtual tour is from 2014, according to the website.)
Viewers can zoom in and out and click on icons for information about garden features. For example, in the Cactus and Succulent Garden, it says, “Lucky visitors might catch a glimpse of a Texas Spiny Lizard or a Carolina Anole, our green chameleon.”