Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Historic Southern Gardens Approach Blooming Season!

Some of the most beautiful and historic gardens in the South will be moving into full bloom over the next 4-5 weeks. Depending on the location, azaleas, dogwoods and a wide variety of other blooming plants provide explosions of color beginning in mid-March and continuing until nearly the end of April.

Here are links to some of my favorites:

One of the premier spring events in the South, the annual Muskogee Azalea Festival attracts thousands of visitors each year. Although they have been hampered by winter ice storms that have damaged trees and shrubs for two years in a row now, the hardworking folks in Muskogee will be ready for the crowds beginning on April 1st. The main day of festivities is scheduled for April 18th this year and will feature a parade and numerous other events. The Festival takes place at historic Honor Heights Park in Muskogee and features thousands of blooms covering 40 acres of grounds.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Sites, Maclay Gardens began as a private winter home and has evolved into one of the most beautiful places in the South. Planted by Alfred B. and Louise Maclay beginning in 1923, the gardens have been called a "masterpiece of floral architecture." Absolutely breathtaking by the last week of March each year, the gardens feature winding pathways, beautiful water features and stunning cascades of azaleas, dogwoods and a wide variety of other flowering plants, even including mountain laurel. I have visited many locations over the years, but this very well may be the prettiest in the South at full bloom.
Blue Spring Heritage Center - Eureka Springs, Arkansas
This magnificent historic site and preserve is located just six miles northwest of downtown Eureka Springs, one of the finest destinations in the South. Once called Eureka Gardens, the beautifully landscaped gardens and natural settings surround Blue Spring, one of the deepest springs in Arkansas. Once a campsite on the Cherokee Trail of Tears and the location of the oldest known human habitation site in Arkansas, the heritage center is absolutely stunning in the spring. The blooms usually reach their peak during the first two weeks of April. With its beautiful blue water, natural rock formations and beautiful array of planted gardens, Blue Spring is one of the prettiest places in the nation.

An easy drive from the sparkling white sand beaches of Panama City, Destin and Fort Walton Beach in Northwest Florida, Eden Gardens State Park is the location of magnificent gardens that move into full bloom even as Spring Break books along the Emerald Coast. Surrounding the historic Wesley or Eden Mansion, the gardens were created by Lois Genevieve Maxon during the 1960s and donated by her to the people of Florida in memory of her parents. Beautiful year-round, Eden Gardens turns into a dramatic display of azaleas and other blooming plants during the last two weeks of March each year.

There are many other locations around the South that are stunning this time of year and I will be taking a look at some of the others over coming weeks, but these are some of my favorites to get you started.

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