After months in monochrome, the capital has erupted into colour. Here are some of the best places to enjoy the city's flowers during the months ahead, whether your taste is for grand displays, cottage gardens or wild flowers in the forests...
Parks and formal gardens
To Francis Bacon, a garden was the "purest of human pleasures ... without which buildings and palaces are but gross handiworks." It is certainly true that the magnificent parks that surrounded the palaces of Moscow's tsars and nobles have often proved the more lasting attraction. Say "flower gardens" to many Muscovites and they will immediately think of the colourful displays at Kuzminki. The buildings of this 18th-century aristocratic estate are less memorable than the landscaped park and the avenue of flowerbeds, under leafy arches, leading up to the front gate. The tulips are cleverly staged to flower continually from late April through to early June.
The Alexander Garden, next to the Kremlin, was first laid out in the early 19th century when the Neglinnaya River was imprisoned in its underground pipe. The popular pathways are bordered every spring by ranks of tulips in strictly regimented banks of colour. There are also lilacs in flower surrounded by beds of pansies.
Another great place for spring flowers is the old Apothecary Garden on Prospekt Mira. The one advantage of the late spring was that the crocuses, daffodils and tulips all came bursting out together. Around the winding wooden paths, there is a lake of colour: pink corydalis and white stars of Bethlehem, golden anemones and blue grape hyacinths.
The entrance fee has been raised to 100 roubles this year to fund ongoing restoration of this garden, founded in the 18th century by Peter the Great. Given the garden's limited area, the curators say they "try to select only the rarest and most unusual, but at the same time most beautiful, plants."
In 1945, the Academy of Sciences laid out an enormous Botanic Garden in the north of Moscow. This is also a lovely place to stroll. Apart from a few designated areas, like the Japanese garden, it is generally more of an aboretum where wild flowers flourish under the trees. The Ostankino and VDNKh parks nearby also have a nice mixture of natural and formal landscaping with themed flowerbeds, later in the summer, near the entrance.
Moscow's large forest-parks have a rich variety of plant life. The carpets of wild flowers are particularly beautiful in May. One of the most accessible places to see this natural phenomenon is in Sparrow Hills, where the shade-tolerant yellow anemones spread under the trees from April. Parks such as Serebryany Bor and Izmailovsky are all full of flowers. The early spring blooms, which appear even before the trees have leaves, are soon replaced by starry stichworts, purple vetch and yellow archangels, the delicate flowers of wild strawberries and wild pink dog roses.
They say that the fruit trees in the Kremlin garden always bloom first, probably because they are higher up and south facing. Whatever the reason, they make a beautiful frame for the gold domes of Cathedral Square.
The orchards at Kolomenskoye are one of Moscow's most attractive places at any time of year. In autumn, people come to pick the apples, but in spring it is the flowering avenues, dropping petals onto the dappled paths, that make these riverside hills so popular. Although building work has slightly eroded its charm, the loveliest orchard is on the clifftop near the Church of St. John the Baptist.
To enjoy the swift, sweet flowering of dacha gardens, take the electrichka out of town in any direction. Peredelkino, for instance, just 20 minutes from Moscow's Kievsky Station, has gardens full of colour. Boris Pasternak's dacha is surrounded by an overgrown tangle of flowering thorn trees, as if to protect itself from the sight of the monstrous new housing development across the road.
More accessible still, the cottages of Sokol's 1920s artists' village are at their finest in the spring. Not only do individual gardeners take great pride in their individual plots of land, there are also flowers in the communal areas, around the playground and community centre.
Kuzminki Park, 6 Topolevaya Alleya, m. Kuzminki
Alexander Garden, Manezhnaya Ul., m. Alexandrovsky Sad
Kremlin Gardens, The Kremlin, 202 3776, m. Alexandrovsky Sad
Apothecary Garden, 26 Prospekt Mira, 680 6765, m. Prospekt Mira
Botanical Garden, 4, Botanicheskaya Ul., 977 9145, m. Vladykino
Ostankino Park, 1st Ostankinskaya Ul., 181 5511, m. VDNKh then tram 11
VDNKh, Prospekt Mira, 544 3400, m. VDNkh
Sparrow Hills, Ul. Kosygina, m. Vorbyovy Gory
Serebryany Bor, Tamanskaya Ul., m. Polezhayevskaya then trolleybus 21
Izmailovsky Park, Izmailovsky Prospekt, m. Izmailovskaya
Kolomenskoye, 39 Prospekt Andropova, 115 2768, m. Kolomenskaya
Peredelkino, Pogodina Ul., m. Kievskaya then overground train (elektrichka) from Kievsky Station
Artists' village, Surikova Ul., m. Sokol