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10 Beautiful Gardens in America

  • Getty Images

    Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, Charleston, South Carolina

    It's easy to imagine Scarlett O'Hara twirling her hooped skirts down the paths of this luxurious 1679 plantation. Antique camellias let loose with a burst of color in spring, which is also peak season for Magnolia's azalea collection — the largest in the country. On a guided boat tour of the flooded rice field, look for wood ducks, egrets and alligators.

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    Filoli, Woodside, California

    Long before the high-tech titans arrived, this hilly region south of San Francisco was already home to the mega-wealthy — including Gold Rush millionaire William Bowers Bourn. From 1915 to 1917, he and his wife created this 654-acre bountiful Eden, with magnolias, wisteria and blooming orchards. The estate's Daffodil Daydreams celebration in late February showcases more than 100 varieties.

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  • Allerton Garden, Kauai, Hawaii

    Once the retreat of Hawaiian royalty, this plumeria-scented paradise nestles in the Lawai Valley on the Garden Isle's south side. In the 1930s, Robert Allerton and John Gregg designed the site's "garden rooms" — with waterfalls, pools and artwork — that are now part of the National Tropical Botanic Garden. Special evening tours follow twilight-lit paths.

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  • The Biltmore, Asheville, North Carolina

    No expense was spared on this 250-room chateau, home of George Vanderbilt in the early 1900s. George didn't scrimp on the gardens either, hiring Frederick Law Olmsted, the mastermind behind New York's Central Park, to create outdoor spaces ranging from formal gardens to the 250-acre Deer Park, laced with hiking trails. Springtime's Festival of Flowers showcases over 100,000 bulbs.

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  • Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania

    Inspired by visits to dozens of villas and chateaux, mega-wealthy Pierre DuPont bought this former farm west of Philadelphia in the early 19th century, transforming it with fountains, conservatories and 11,000 types of plants in 40 indoor and outdoor gardens. In spring, be sure to stroll the 600-foot-long Flower Garden Walk.

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    The Getty, Los Angeles, California

    This premier museum has a secret bonus: glorious gardens — featuring outstanding city views — designed by artist Robert Irwin. The landscaping follows a natural ravine high on a hill, creating a hushed retreat in the midst of urban bustle. The sound and sight of water is everywhere, tumbling over stones and sparkling in pools dotted with floating azaleas.

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  • Bill Hatcher/National Geographic Creative/Getty Images

    Fort Worth Water Garden, Fort Worth, Texas

    In a city where summer temps flirt with 100° F, this oasis provides a refreshing getaway. The centerpiece of the 4.3-acre garden, designed by master duo Philip Johnson and John Burgee, is an Escher-esque series of steps, with cascading water ending in a small meditation pool.

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    Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia

    Walk through this estate's spectacular gardens and buildings, and marvel at the brilliance of its designer, Thomas Jefferson, America's third president and author of the Declaration of Independence. This elegant yet functional estate is a testament to Jefferson's genius. Autumn is the secret standout season, with bright foliage framing the grounds.

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    Green Animals Topiary Garden, Portsmouth, R.I.

    This whimsical garden, just north of the ostentatious opulence of Newport's stately manors, is home to fanciful topiaries, including a unicorn, elephant, birds and chubby bears. The property, developed by cotton magnate Thomas Brayton in the late 1800s, is filled with 80 shapes sculpted from California privet, yew and English boxwood.

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    Vizcaya Museum, Miami, Florida

    The winter home of early 1900s agricultural industrialist James Deering, this lavish 10-acre spread on the edge of Biscayne Bay features an enormous mansion framed by European-inspired gardens, including a lavish outdoor sculpture garden. Need a break from all the fluffery? Head to the protected patch of rockland hammock (native forest).

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