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These Are the 12 Most Beautiful Gardens in the American South

From Louisiana to Alabama, these historical gardens showcase the native plants and natural beauty of America’s South.

Stroll the South’s most beautiful gardens and meet colorful blooms, inhale sweet fragrances, and learn more about local history through one of the region’s most popular pastimes: gardening. From the Louisiana garden, which is home to over 20,000 rose bushes, to the historic North Carolina gardens that recreate the heirloom vegetable gardens of the 18th and 19th-centuries, it’s easy to find inspiration and joy when surrounded by natural beauty. Plan a weekend trip to one of these beautiful gardens and bask in the beautiful colors and fragrances of the American South.

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PHOTO: Marilyn Wellan
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Gardens of the American Rose Center

WHERE: Shreveport, LA

More than 65 individual gardens and 20,000 rose bushes make up the Gardens of the American Rose Center, which is touted as one of the most fragrant in the South. Located on a 118-acre wooded tract near Shreveport, Louisiana, the gardens are home to the national headquarters of the American Rose Society. The roses are at their best from mid-April to late May and from mid-September to late October. The gardens magically transform into a winter wonderland of twinkling lights for the annual Christmas in Roseland festivities during the holiday season.

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PHOTO: Courtesy of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
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Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

WHERE: Sarasota, FL

Selby Gardens is a tropical, urban oasis of over 45 acres of bayfront sanctuaries, connecting people with native flora and regional history. The gardens include the Downtown Campus on Sarasota Bay—the only botanical garden in the world dedicated to the display and study of orchids, bromeliads, gesneriads, and ferns—and the Historic Spanish Point (HSP) Campus, located less than 10 miles south along Little Sarasota Bay, one of the largest preserves showcasing native Florida plants.

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PHOTO: Tom Hennessy
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Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

WHERE: Richmond, VA

Founded in 1984, the 82-acre Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden boasts four lakes, 5,700 unique taxa of plants within 15 distinct outdoor gardens, including a Children’s Garden, Rose Garden, Asian Valley, Cherry Tree Walk, a classic, glass-domed conservatory, and greenhouse. The onsite Kroger Community Kitchen Garden has harvested and donated over 50,000 pounds of fresh vegetables to community kitchens, providing more than 42,000 meals for Central Virginia’s hungry children and homebound seniors. The garden is also home to the Lora M. Robins Library, a resource library dedicated to horticulture, botany, botanical art and history, and landscape design.

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Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens

WHERE: Savannah, GA

Located 10 miles southwest of historic downtown Savannah, 19 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, the 51-acre Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm is considered a “museum of plants” thanks to its lush storied gardens. The garden’s collection began in the late 1880s when property owner Mrs. H. B. Miller planted three giant Japanese timber bamboo plants, founding today’s collection of over 60 bamboo taxa, the most extensive American bamboo collection open to the public east of California. Hike the gardens’ Judge Arthur Solomon Camellia Trail, home to one of the largest camellia collections outside of China.

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Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center

WHERE: Chattanooga, TN

Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center is Chattanooga’s 317-acre green oasis. Located just 10 minutes from downtown Chattanooga, the center is home to over 1,000 species of flora, over 150 tree species, and over 40 resident animals that are all native to east Tennessee. Set off on a guided nature hike along the 15+ miles of onsite trails, or join volunteer efforts to remove invasive plants. Participate in the active iNaturalist project by adding your photos and observations of the center’s native flora and fauna. Purchase native plants from the onsite, Native Plant Nursery and bring the beauty home to your garden.

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Rip Van Winkle Gardens

WHERE: Jefferson Island, LA

Rip Van Winkle Gardens are situated on Jefferson Island, one of five Louisiana islands that formed during pre-history when the enormous pressures of the earth forced a site of pure rock salt up from a mother bed, five miles below the surface. Stroll through approximately 15 acres of semi-tropical gardens nestled among 350-year-old oak trees centered by an estate built in 1870 by actor Joseph Jefferson, who played the part of Rip Van Winkle on stage over 4,500 times. The gardens are popular among birdwatchers, thanks to over 260 species of resident birds, including the Spoonbill Roseate, a genuinely southern bird that gets its red color from eating crawfish.

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PHOTO: Mike Kerr
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Memphis Botanical Garden

WHERE: Memphis, TN

The Memphis Botanical Garden is the floral crown jewel of the mid-South. Over 23 specialty gardens include the Herb Garden, where over 500 types of herbs sprout annually, the elegant Japanese Garden of Tranquility, the Rose Garden with its 75+ rose varieties, a Hosta Trail recognized by the American Hosta Society as one of two certified trails in the South, and the Tennessee Bicentennial Iris Garden, which showcases hundreds of varieties of irises. Kids are invited to splash, dig, play, and daydream in the dedicated children’s garden, My Big Backyard, where more than a dozen unique areas spark discovery and imagination.

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PHOTO: Photos courtesy of Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens
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Birmingham Botanical Gardens

WHERE: Birmingham, AL

Daffodils, forsythia, native azaleas, pansies, tulips, herbs, dogwoods, irises, and native wildflowers populate this beautiful garden in Birmingham. Located at the southern foot of Red Mountain, the gardens are open 365 days a year, from dawn to dusk, and admission is always free. Stroll several miles of walking paths and meet the 12,000 different types of plants, 25 unique gardens, and more than 30 works of original outdoor sculpture that make this garden one of the South’s most beautiful.

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PHOTO: Kyle Dreier/Courtesy of Cheekwood Estate & Gardens
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Cheekwood Botanical Garden

WHERE: Nashville, TN

Head to Nashville for 55-acres of southern beauty in bloom and a picture-perfect mansion that is a popular wedding proposal location. Opened in 1929, Cheekwood Botanical Garden’s Georgian-style mansion was once the residence of Nashville’s Cheek family, who made their fortune as wholesale grocery entrepreneurs. Don’t miss a visit to the onsite Carell Dogwood Garden, which displays the garden’s Nationally Certified Collection of Cornus, commonly known as dogwoods.

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Gardens at Old Salem

WHERE: Winston-Salem, NC

Initially settled by the Moravian community in 1766, the town of Salem is one of America’s most authentic historical sites. Each and every home garden here has been meticulously recreated to cultivate heirloom vegetables, herbs, and ornamental flowers. Set off on an immersive tour of the gardens guided by the diverse group of people who lived here from 1770 to 1989 via Salem Pathways, a choose-your-adventure template using your phone’s internet browser.

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Callaway Gardens

WHERE: Pine Mountain, GA

Hike ten miles of winding trails through Callaway Gardens‘ 2,500 spectacular acres. Stop and smell the azaleas along the Azalea Trail, a 1.6-mile path that features over 700 varieties of azaleas, arguably the South’s favorite shrub, or set off on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail, a six-mile trail that highlights Georgia’s beautiful native plants.

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PHOTO: New Orleans Botanical Garden Collection
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New Orleans Botanical Garden

WHERE: New Orleans, LA

Funded by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s as the city’s first public classical garden, the New Orleans Botanical Garden at City Park offers lush foliage, tranquil fountains, and the nation’s largest collection of mature live oaks. Don’t miss a stroll through the New Orleans Historic Train Garden, a historical replica of the city complete with a miniature train made entirely from natural materials.

 

1 Comments
L
Librarian4 September 12, 2021

While all these gardens are very beautiful, I can't believe Bellingrath Gardens in Mobile, Alabama was left off.  There is so much history as well as beauty there.  Definitely a monumental slight. :(