Find inspiration for your own landscaping plans with 10 links to online garden tours.

Share story

Travel is a great way to top off an education, especially for gardeners, who can pick up landscape and planting ideas and advice by seeing others’ gardens.

But they don’t have to leave home to do it. Virtual garden tours on the computer show actual gardens through video or still images, music, narration and text. About the only thing missing is the scent of the flowers as they scroll by.

Some cyber tours are informational, posted mainly to answer gardening questions. Others are designed to entertain, the digital equivalent of coffee table books or travelogues. Still others are therapeutic and chatty, providing welcome bursts of color and commentary during the dark winter months.

Some are so enticing that viewers may be motivated to rise from their chairs and actually plan a visit. Directions are included on most Web sites.

For the tours’ sponsors and creators, there are many benefits. Educational institutions or public gardens use virtual tours to boost donations, enlist public support or build enrollment.

Here’s a list of a few of the many interesting virtual tours:

For children: Cultivate this Michigan State University virtual garden, at http://4hgarden.msu.edu/kidstour/tour.html”>http://4hgarden.msu.edu/kidstour/tour.html. Or tour this kids’ garden developed by Smith College: www.smith.edu/gardens/kidscorner/index.htm.

Private garden: A woman whose children call her “Moosey” has created an easy-to-follow Web site that helps move you through her New Zealand country garden. It also contains helpful sections about flower shows, containers, flower bulbs and more. www.mooseyscountrygarden.com.

Public garden: The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, England, http://www.rbgkew.org.uk/places/kew/index.html.

Medicinal garden: Take a virtual stroll through the University of Washington Medicinal Herb Garden and gather information about the more than 1,000 species in its 2 ½ acres of greenhouses and grounds, http://nnlm.gov/pnr/uwmhg/.

Tourist sites centered on prominent gardens: The French Impressionist painter Claude Monet’s gardens at Giverny, in Upper Normandy, for example, where he drew much of his inspiration. This is another place that can be visited virtually from your home, at http://giverny.org/gardens/. For a virtual tour of the gardens and hedge maze at Hampton Court Palace in Southeast England, a property once owned by King Henry VIII, see www.hamptoncourt.org.uk/gardens/tour.asp.

Institutional/Educational: University of Florida Indian River Research and Education Center at Fort Pierce, http://irrecenvhort.ifas.ufl.edu/virtualgarden/.

“Virtual tours and virtual labs are something that is becoming more and more necessary at the University of Florida as we are delivering many courses via distance education,” said Sandra Wilson of the university’s Department of Environmental Horticulture. “I teach courses to students located throughout the state. The virtual garden tour brings the gardens to them, as it is impossible for most students to travel here.”

See also the Missouri Botanical Garden: www.mobot.org/visit/virtualtour.asp. That brings you a six-minute virtual tour plus garden overview and garden detail tours.

Or, enjoy a virtual walk through the botanic garden at Oxford University: www.chem.ox.ac.uk/OxfordTour/botanicgardens/default.html.