TAKE MY WORD

My Favorite Garden

We asked experts to recommend a garden anywhere in the world. You'll dig their answers.

LEEDS, ENGLAND
York Gate Garden

When asked to spotlight a special garden, designer Andy Sturgeon (who has won numerous awards at the Chelsea and Hampton Court flower shows) picked York Gate, saying simply, "It's a gem." The one-acre garden is tucked behind a 12th-century church and comprises a series of outdoor rooms: The Dell is an informal woodland garden with half-hidden pathways and a stream; a formal herb garden, with an Italianate summer house, is dotted with topiaries, many pruned into spirals. 011-44/113-267-8240, perennial.org.uk, $7.

PORTLAND, ORE.
Elk Rock Garden of the Bishop's Close

What can you say about a garden that overlooks a dormant volcano? "'Wow' is right," says landscape architect Steven Koch, whose Portland firm is known for its ecologically sustainable work. Vast lawns lead to woods with magnolia trees and English-style borders (designed by Frederick Law Olmsted). The vista opens up at the edge of the gardens—from a bluff, you can see Mount Hood and the Willamette River. The east-facing scene calls for a sunrise visit. 800/452-2562, diocese-oregon.org/theclose, free.

ESCONDIDO, CALIF.
Queen Califia's Magical Circle, Kit Carson Park

"Queen Califia's Magical Circle garden in the park's arboretum is a sculptural fantasy," says landscape architect Pamela Palmer, whose firm, ArtEcho, won the American Society of Landscape Architects' top residential-design award last year. The Magical Circle was dreamed up by the late French artist Niki de Saint-Phalle; it depicts the mythical figure Queen Califia standing on top of a 13-foot-tall, five-legged eagle. (Legend has it that California was named for the warrior queen.) Eight totems, each covered in hand-cut glass and stone, represent the cultures that settled the state. 760/839-4691, queencalifia.org, free.

WAYNE, PA.
Chanticleer

Julie Moir Messervy, who collaborated with cellist Yo-Yo Ma on the Toronto Music Garden, didn't think twice about her top pick. "I love how quirky Chanticleer is," says Messervy of the garden in suburban Philadelphia. Walk among the cut flowers and the bulbs (there are tens of thousands) and you may come upon a carved-stone sofa. Stroll through a woodland only to encounter a ruin where plants appear to be reclaiming all vestiges of man. Bend over a gushing fountain and you may be startled by the carved marble faces looking up at you. Formerly the estate of Christine and Adolph Rosengarten Sr. (he was head of a pharmaceutical company), Chanticleer was established in 1913. It was made a public garden by Rosengarten's son, Adolph Jr. 610/687-4163, chanticleergarden.org, $5, guided tours $10.

CRESTWOOD, KY.
Yew Dell Gardens

Imagine sprawling lawns dotted with evergreens surrounding a Cotswolds-style castle; a secret garden overflowing with 70 types of hellebores (Lenten roses) hides at the end of a holly-canopied allée. Then imagine that you're only 15 minutes from Louisville, Ky., usually thought of as a mecca for horse lovers, not horticulturists. "This is a must-see," says designer and author Wayne Winterrowd, who visited the gardens while working on nearby residential projects. Yew Dell was the vision of plant expert Theodore Klein, who started the now-public garden as a nursery and laboratory in 1941. Klein collected and tested more than 1,000 plants and developed more than 60 unique plant varieties, including a variegated redbud and several types of sugar maple. 502/241-4788, yewdellgardens.org, $7.

GAMBIER, OHIO
Schnormeier Gardens

"The last thing you'd expect in the middle of the Midwest is a Japanese teahouse," says designer Tracy DiSabato-Aust, author of The Well-Designed Mixed Garden. "The garden, owned by entrepreneur Ted Schnormeier and his wife, Ann, offers many things—except a sense of place." Indeed, the 75-acre garden in central Ohio is a monument to the unexpected. Along with a Chinese pavilion, there's a Japanese zigzag bridge over a pond with Australian black swans. The Schnormeiers also added a waterfall, 10 lakes, and dozens of sculptures. The garden is privately owned, and it's only open one weekend a year (in 2008, June 14-15). schnormeiergardens.org, free.

TAKE MY WORD: GARDENS

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