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Sara-Jane & Alica at Virens Studio

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Need a Break? Checkout These Eccentric Gardens

Mar 19, 2022

When the world is just too much, gardens are a safe space to breathe and take a break. And some of the best, are places where gardeners really let their imaginations take over. Accessing the odd recesses of their minds to transport us to new leafy green worlds. So, brew a cuppa of whatever you fancy and enjoy some unusual and Eccentric Gardens...

Garden of Cosmic Speculation (Dumfries, Scotland)

A 30 acre spectacle covered with 40+ unique areas that celebrate cosmic energy. Created by landscape architect, Charles Jencks and Maggie Keswick at their Scottish home, 'to satisfy our senses and then to provoke a reflection on our own existence.' It is open to the public for a single day each year, where you can see works steeped in mathematics, representing black holes, fractals, the big bang and twisting DNA helixes.

Torre Guinigi (Lucca, Italy)

Located at the top of a 45m Tuscan tower, this garden dates back to the 1300's. One of the few remaining private defensive towers that were constructed as symbols of wealth and status, this roof top garden houses a grove of tall evergreen Holm oaks (Quercus ilex). It was originally a kitchen garden that serviced the cookery on the floor below. At one time accessed by stairs on the outside of the building, today you can climb them inside.

Dubia Miracle Garden (Dubia, UAE)

A glorious cartoon fantasy covering nearly 18 acres, this garden explodes with colour and imagination. Featuring 50 million flowers and 250 million plants, it is the worlds largest natural flower garden. Here you can see displays featuring everything from airplanes to Disney characters.

Dewston Gardens & Grottoes (Monmouthshire, UK)

Built by Railway Director, Henry Oakley, at the turn of the twentieth century, Dewston showcases a passion for ferns and tropical plants. The ground-level of the estate is features rock outcrops, ponds, rills and glasshouses. As his collection began to take over, Henry carved out subterranean grottoes, tunnels and sunken pits creating a second layer of plant life. At one point in its history the gardens were forgotten, covered over and filled in, they have since been painstakingly excavated and restored.

Sacro Bosco (Bomarzo, Italy)

An enchanted Italian garden filled with monumental Mannerist sculptures. Built in the 16th century by, Pier Francesco Orsini, a Condottiero (military commander in service to a city, lord or pope). This garden was an expression of the grief he felt at the passing of his wife. The seemingly random nature of the sculptures add to the magic of the place as you wind your way around massive representations of mythological figures and monuments that fill the green space.

Alnwick Poison Garden (Northumberland, UK)

Alnwick's unique garden is 'filled exclusively with around 100 toxic, intoxicating, and narcotic plants. The boundaries of the Poison Garden are kept behind black iron gates, only open on guided tours. Visitors are strictly prohibited from smelling, touching, or tasting any plants, although some people still occasionally faint from inhaling toxic fumes while walking in the garden.'

Sound interesting? The Poison Garden is a small slice of the larger 14 acre estate site created by the, Duchess of Northumberland. Taking inspiration from historical gardens that often included plants to both heal and harm, this garden is a way to get people and especially children interested in plants, with all of their oddities and complexities.

Jardin Majorelle (Marrakesh, Morocco)


Truly an artists paradise, this garden was created by, Jacques Majorelle, in the heart of Marrakesh. Starting in 1923, he and his wife began the garden as part of their home. It is a blend of his French-orientalist painting style and the vibrancy of Morocco. The succulent, cactus and bamboo plantings are matched with various water features and a cubist building draped by hot pink Buganvilla. It is swathed in a particular shade of deep cobalt blue (named for the artist) plus brick reds, yellows and pastel aquas all hidden behind high walls that quiet the intensity of the city. Revived by fashion designers, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé after they purchased the property in the 80's, it now houses several museums and welcomes some 700,000 visitors a year.

Las Pozas (Xilitla, Mexico)

A surrealist dream covering 80 acres of Mexican rainforest. The site features various concrete structures (some as high as four stories), sculptures and water features. Built over 40 years by poet, Edward James, and a team of 70+ local artisans. It once housed a collection of orchids, pet birds, snakes and deer in pens around the property.

Cougar Annie's Garden (Hesquiat Harbour, Canada)

A remote homestead located on the shores of, Clayoquot Sound, this garden is only accessible by boat or floatplane. In 1915, Ada Annie Rae-Arthur and her family settled in the desolate area, building a home and an extensive garden on the 5 acres that they had cleared and named, Boat Basin Farm. The family lived on a stipend provided by Annie's Scottish in-laws with the understanding that her husband Willie was kept clear of his opium habit. Rather than leave when Willie passed, Annie persevered. She continued to run her mail order nursery (selling seeds and bulbs) out of the garden (through her very own post office). She even advertised for a new husband. In total Annie was married four times (and had 11 children). After Willie drowned, her second husband shot himself in the leg, number three succumbed to pneumonia and four was run off at gun point when he attempted to push Annie off a cliff. She lived to the age of 96, tending her 100 varieties of perennials, shrubs and trees and is said to have been an expert shooter. Collecting bounties for some 60 cougars and 80 bears, she came to be known as, Cougar Annie. The property was restored after her death in mid 1980s and is open to visitors on a limited basis.

Sara-Jane & Alicia at Virens Studio


Virens is a studio based in Vancouver, Canada that specializes in Ecological Planting Design, Urban Greening Consultation and Horticultural Writing. Get in touch today and don't forget to follow us @virensstudio on Instagram.

© Virens Studio 2022 (all photos are used for demonstration purposes and do not necessarily belong to us.)

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