Sunday, June 7, 2009

Spring at Bellingrath Gardens

One of my favorite travel destinations is located in South Alabama, just outside Mobile. Bellingrath Gardens is close enough for my family to visit on a fairly regular basis, and the spring is normally our favorite time of year there. The 905 acre estate boasts over 250,000 azaleas, hydrangeas, fuschias, Easter lilies, and much more.

Begun as a fishing camp by Mr. Bellingrath, the available acres appealed to Mrs. Bellingrath and she began planting azaleas, camellias, and other southern favorites on the property in the early 1900's. It was in the spring of 1932 that the couple opened the grounds to the public for an afternoon, and they were overwhelmed by the response. In 1934 they opened the lovely grounds to ongoing public visitation.

Changing with the seasons, Bellingrath has been likened to "a beautiful woman with a different dress for every week of the year." Summer roses draw crowds, fall color is led by chrysanthemums, the holidays feature loads of poinsettias, winter is the time of camellia blossoms. But the spring stars are the azaleas that form walls of lovely pink flowers bordering the long winding paths that work along the lovely estate, the perfect backdrop for photos and breathtaking up close or from a distance. Shown here are the Azalea Trail Maids, southern belles in traditional gowns that stroll the estate among the lush azalea plantings. Another wonderful spring feature is the Japanese garden with its graceful wisteria.

Unfortunately, this year is not ideal for azaleas. The flowers are lovely, but will not be lasting as long as they normally do, so the window of opportunity is very limited. However, Bellingrath is still worth visiting at any time of year, and even if you miss the azaleas this year, you should place Bellingrath on your calendar for next spring, and consider visiting the see the many thousands of other lovely flowers in bloom. Generally, the azaleas start to bloom in late February and are at their peak during March.

Admission prices range from $5.50 to $26, depending upon the age of the visitor and whether you wish to view the gardens only or to also tour the home and/or ride the riverboat cruise.

So lovely, the Gardens have been the subject of many works of art. You can visit a collection by Richard Earl Thompson featuring Bellingrath Gardens listed at (which by the way, supports nonprofit environmental organizations and helps to preserve natural beauty with the income from purchases made from downloaded art). Canvas prints are also readily available from other sources. (Please note: we are not affiliated with these or other art sites and cannot vouch for them but found them through an online search.)


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