1. Versailles, France
The famous French landscape designer André Le Nôtre laid out these gardens southwest of Paris in the 17th century at the behest of Louis XIV. The Sun King wanted them to magnify the glory of his palace at Versailles, which was itself a monument to his absolute rule. The 250 acres (101 hectares) are riddled with paths that lead to flower beds, quiet corners decorated with classical statuary, ornamental lakes, and a canal that King Louis used for gondola rides.
2. Singapore Botanic Garden, Singapore
Considered one of the world's prettiest botanical gardens, the Singapore Botanic Garden was established in 1859. Its 128 acres (52 hectares) are divided into three "cores." Bukit Timah Core is geared for educational and recreational use. In Tanglin Core, visitors can find a bandstand and many statues sprinkled among favorite native plants and trees. The most popular core for tourists is Centre. The National Orchid Garden is in this section, atop the park's highest point, where more than 60,000 colorful orchids bloom.
3.Descanso Gardens, La Canada Flintridge, California
A mere 20-minute drive outside of Los Angeles you'll find a bucolic paradise with more than 100,000 plants and one of the world's largest collections of camellias. The gardens and woods of Descanso ("rest" or "repose" in Spanish) unfold over 160 acres (65 hectares) of the San Rafael Hills. Don't miss the Japanese garden and the International Rosarium that is home to thousands of roses. Children particularly enjoy riding the Descanso Gardens Enchanted Railroad, a mini-diesel train.
4. Butchart Gardens, Vancouver Island, British Columbia
The Butchart Gardens are a dazzling example of a successful reclamation project. The land, used for years by Portland Cement, by 1904 had exhausted its value as a quarry. That's when Jennie Butcher, the wife of Portland Cement's owner, filled the space with soil from nearby farms. Her vision expanded into a 55-acre (22-hectare) tract filled with 700 varieties of plants that bloom from March to October.
5. Villa d'Este, Tivoli, Italy
A Renaissance cardinal decided to make life in Tivoli bearable by turning a dilapidated Benedictine monastery into a lovely villa, the Villa d'Este. This was embellished by one of the most fascinating garden and fountain complexes in the world, recently listed by UNESCO as one of Italy's 31 major historical/artistic sites. Among the most bewitching of the mossy fountains are the Fontana del Bicchierone (water pours out from a large shell-shaped basin); the Rometta fountain, which is a miniature Rom complete with a wolf-suckling Romulus and Remus; and the Avenue of the Hundred Fountains, where animal heads, lilies, a small boat, basins, and so on all spurt water.
6. Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C.
You might feel as though you've stepped into a Merchant-Ivory set in any of the gardens that make up this estate at the north end of Georgetown, one of Washington's poshest neighborhoods. Vines tumble down stone walls enclosing the Fountain Terrace. Lovers' Lane meanders past a Roman-style amphitheater built around a small deep-blue pool. And what used to be a simple cow path leading away from the pool is now called Melisande's Allée, perhaps as a nod to the haunting opera Pelleas et Melisande.
7. Gardens of the Villa Éphrussi de Rothschild, St.-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France
In the early 1900s, Béatrice Éphrussi, a Rothschild baroness, built a pink-confection, Venice-style villa surrounded by breathtaking gardens, with the sparkling sea beyond. Pathways meander through the seven themed gardens, the focal point being the French gardens, with a lily-pad-dotted pool, dancing fountains, and a Temple of Love replicating the Trianon at Versailles. There are also a Provençal garden, filled with olive trees and lavender; a lapidary garden, with sculptures too large to be displayed in the villa; and Spanish, Japanese, Florentine, and exotic gardens.
8. Stourhead, Warminster, England
To the English gentry of the 18th century, the more classical something could be, the better. Stourhead is a grand example of genteel fascination with the past. Henry Hoare II punctuated the gardens of his Wilshire estate with re-created ruins and classical buildings such as the Pantheon and Temple of Apollo.
9. The Master-of-Nets Garden, Suzhou, China
This residential garden in southeast China, called Wangshiyuan in Chinese, was designed during the Song dynasty (A.D. 960-1270). The arrangement of pavilions, halls, music rooms, winsome bamboo groves, and waterside perches is an exercise in natural harmony. The central section is a small world within itself; piles of yellow stones form "mountains" complete with caverns, and a tiny arched bridge called the "leading to quietude" crosses a pond to a small pavilion in the center.
10. Sans Souci, Potsdam, Germany
Frederick the Great of Prussia built the splendid rococo palace as his summer place, where he could live without a care, sans souci. Busts of Roman emperors, decorative statues, and a Chinese teahouse dot the lavish grounds.