Vacation trips are great breaks from work -- both at the office and in the garden. But that doesn't mean I don't want to look at other people's gardens for relaxation and inspiration.


Every trip north to cabin land makes me yearn to replicate those flower-bedecked cottage porches. Long walks show just what determined gardeners can manage even when limited to Zone 3 hardy plants.

The highlight of our most recent trip was the showy grounds at Glensheen, the Duluth mansion with the garden to vie for (with the staff to go with it). It's not filled with exotica, just mostly the usual suspects: peonies, roses, poppies, allium, hosta and the like. But artfully arrayed in formal gardens with meandering brick pathways, a stunning carved marble fountain and Lake Superior for a backdrop, it's hard to go wrong. (Their towering peonies didn't even flop in their sturdy cages.)

There's also a vegetable garden to tour for ideas -- why put lettuce in rows when you could grow it in a circle pattern? Amazing what a backdrop of brick walls and balustrades can do to make a veggie garden look attractive. The cute gardener's cottage helps, too.

Another favorite stop in Duluth is the waterfront rose garden. Again, hard to beat the view, but the roses do their best.

But it's nice to tour your own garden again upon coming home, since a lot changes in five days: There are fat peapods to pick, broccoli and cabbage heads forming, blueberries morphing from green to pinkish to deep blue, and the lilies have finally unleashed their showy blooms.

What's your favorite garden to tour on vacation?