When traveling west on I-44 from downtown, take the Vandeventer exit and turn left onto Vandeventer, get in the left hand lane, turning left on Shaw Blvd., you will see the gardens after about 1-2 blocks. From downtown, it's about a 1/2 hour drive. Ticket prices are $7 for adults and $5 for kids 12 and under.
When you arrive at the gardens, you are given the choice of taking a tour with a tour guide (only given at 1:00 so arrive early) or you can go on a self-guided tour. We preferred the self-guided so that we could go at our own pace and see or skip whatever we'd like.
As a background to this garden, it was opened to the public in the 1950's and to this day, is used as a research facility "to discover and share knowledge about plants and their environments, in order to preserve and enrich life".
The Climatron Conservatory (a bubble like looking structure) houses a variety of plants and animals with the appearance of the rain forest. Housed in the dome are banana trees, waterfalls and even animals such as tropical birds, quail and doves. There are beautiful flowers and palm trees among the paths leading through the exhibit. There are so many varieties of plants, flowers and trees in the conservatory it's not possible to write about them all. This is an exquisite place designed for many beautiful pictures. Don't miss this while at the gardens.
The Shoenberg Temperate House - another jaw dropping site of beauty. This building was constructed rather recently, in 1990. The theme of the Temperate House is that of a warm, dry climate from the Mediterranean and southeast U.S. There are seven gardens within this structure, my favorite being the Moorish Garden. There is a balcony just above this garden which allows for a nice view. The flowers in this garden are purple and white and surround a fountain and blue and white tiles are laid around the fountain. We are told flowers bloom all year, but for the best show, the spring is the time to visit. There is also a section entitled the Biblical Garden boasting 30-40 plants that are mentioned in the Bible.
The outdoor sections of the gardens host many beautifully looking and smelling flowers. However, for something out of the ordinary, the gardens has a maze made of hedges. On your mark, get set, go...see who can make it through to the end first! And don't cheat by cutting through one of the hedges like one of our kids did! There's a rose garden, lillies, iris, tulips, crocus, a Japanese garden where you can walk across the water on a bridge (the cherry blossoms are exquisite here), and other international areas with plants native to those areas and I couldn't begin to name.
There is so much to see here, make sure you plan enough time to be able to take it all in.