With more than 10,000 beautiful and fascinating plants, Auckland Botanic Gardens is a gardener's nirvana. Enter through the award-winning visitor centre and unwind over a coffee while you plan your route through the plantings.Begin with the refreshingly different edible garden. Here fruit, vegetables, nuts and edible flowers are featured to encourage people who want to grow more of their own food. There is also an informative display that compares different methods of composting.A more predicable theme, New Zealand natives, offers visitors a wonderful opportunity to find out more about the unique features of New Zealand's natural vegetation. A special feature of this garden is the collection of threatened native species.Deeper into the gardens, past the lower lake, things become a little more exotic. Palms from around the world grow alongside many mature native trees in a delightful setting with two meandering streams.Colour becomes the focus throughout the extensive rose, camellia and magnolia gardens. From here the spring blossom valley leads to the African garden, a collection of plants from the southern end of Africa - an area regarded as one of the world's richest floral kingdoms. Passing the upper lake and the intriguing rock garden, the edible theme emerges once more at the aromatic and informative herb garden. Signage also explores the contribution that herbs make to medicines, dyes, insect repellents, cosmetics and perfumes.From here the visitor centre is once more nearby and a visit to the library can help answer any of the more challenging questions you may have.The Auckland Botanic Garden is conveniently located close to the southern motorway - about 30 minutes drive from the city centre.