Take a garden stroll in Tennessee
Spring is officially here and that means the slow emergence of flowers in all their beautiful hues and shades. Tulips, daffodils and even some cherry blossoms have already begun to bud and bloom. There’s no better way to enjoy the steady oncoming of warmer weather and beautiful flora than a stroll in one of Tennessee’s many gardens. Here are some gardens just waiting to be explored:
Spreading over 20 acres with over 1,750 varieties of hosta, daylilies, dahlias and a variety of annuals, shrubs, trees and perennials, The Gardens of Sunshine Hollow in Athens is the perfect way to spend a Saturday outdoors. Three thousand feet of terraced flower beds surround a spring-fed lake. Each scene is three dimensional and the eight miles of trails are complete with quaint foot bridges. Groups of ten can get a guided wagon tour where they’ll see every flower and learn the history of the beautiful gardens. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children under 18 years of age. Children under 12 are admitted free.
Tour Rock City in Chattanooga, which includes an enchanted 4, 100-foot walking trail that features caves, rock formations and lush gardens. Nearly a half million people from around the world come to take in the natural wonders. Take a self-guided walk, about 60 to 90 minutes, among the bluebells, lilacs and rhododendrons. You don’t have to wait until spring to enjoy flowers because Rock City Garden maintains a year-round garden. See goldenrod and red impatiens in the summer; fall crocus and Japanese honeysuckle in the fall; and snowdrops and periwinkle in the winter. Along the trail you’ll find a 1,000-ton balanced rock, a 100-foot waterfall and the legendary view of seven states (Tennessee, Kentucky-Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama) from Lover’s Leap.
Located in East Knoxville, the Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum is a 47-acre “secret garden” that holds significant historical data from Civil War and Native American activity. The garden certainly has the feel of a secret garden Frances Hodgson Burnett would describe. With beautiful flowers growing alongside stone walls, wooden doors leading to hidden passageways and walkways covered on either side with lovely shrubbery, it’s very easy to believe the garden is enchanted as you amble along the grounds. You can enjoy this natural wonder for free. The arboretum also hosts private events and outdoor concerts in the summer.
Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art in Nashville is a gorgeous 100-acre estate featuring not only stunning gardens and walkways but also fascinating art that can be found in the mansion-now-turned-museum. It was first owned by the Cheeks, one of Nashville’s first entrepreneurial families. Cheeks developed a high quality coffee in one of the best hotels in Nashville, the Maxwell House. Postum (now General Foods) bought the company, Cheek-Neal Coffee, for more than $4 million. The proceeds from that sale were put towards the 100-acre estate in West Nashville that locals and tourists now visit and enjoy year-round. The botanical gardens are visited by over 175,000 people a year. The fifty-five acre site includes fountains, statuary and beautiful views. Visitors will find a Japanese garden, a color garden and an award-winning wildflower garden. Speaking of awards, Cheekwood’s dogwood collection was accepted into the North American Plant Collection Consortium, making it the first collection in Tennessee to do so. It’s also the first dogwood collection in North America to be recognized by the organization.
The Hermitage in Nashville is home to the beautiful garden President Andrew Jackson cultivated for his wife, Rachel. In 1825, Rachel purchased flowering plants including wallflowers, polyanthus and geraniums. She was very enthusiastic about her garden designed in a typical four-square English garden consisting of four quadrants and circular center beds. When Rachel died, she was buried underneath a grand cupola with a long passage extolling her virtue and beauty. Jackson would always walk the gardens and visited her grave site every day until his death. The president was laid to rest next to his wife. You can tour the 1,120 acres which includes thirty-two historic buildings, archeological sites, two springs, a cotton patch and a vegetable garden along with the mansion itself. Take the opportunity to partake in the new multimedia tour, complete with interesting stories and facts that transport you to days long gone.
The historic Falls Mill in Belvidere dates back to 1873 when it was a cotton and woolen factory. It was later converted into a cotton gin then a woodworking shop. The water wheel powers the millstones today that grind cornmeal, grits and flour. Open every day, Falls Mill is located in a lush green cove along the banks of Factory Creek. Antique machinery, history and even a printing press await visitors to marvel and learn about the deep history connected to the site. Lace up your most comfortable walking shoes because you’ll want to explore the scenic grounds and building. Public tours are available every day except for Wednesdays.
The Lichterman Nature Center in Memphis is located on 65 acres of forest, meadow and lake, attracting over 30,000 visitors a year. The nature center has several loops you can take as you learn about the different plants, trees and flowers that thrive. Each loop is no more than .3 miles long and includes the Native Plant Loop, Forest Loop, Tree and Shrub Loop, Meadow Loop and the Forest Ecology Loop. An amphitheater, greenhouse, gazebo and backyard wildlife center, which houses the educational animals in exhibits highlighting habitats and a forest view from two stories up are also featured on the grounds.
Six acres of lush greenery will welcome you to Oaklawn Gardens in Germantown. Daffodils, azaleas and blossoming dogwoods are abundant and make for a great afternoon in nature. You can watch the master gardeners take care of the plants, flowers and shrubs and ask those gardening questions. The beautiful gardens are great any time of year but it’s recommended you begin your trip planning the first two weeks of April. That’s when the gardens experience their explosion of color and it is most impressive.
Edible gardens, an arboretum and sculptures are great assets to the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis. It was founded in 1976 and houses over 2,000 objects, including French and American Impressionist paintings and German and English porcelain. The 17 acres of public gardens include woodland tracts, cutting gardens and formal spaces. The gardens were carved out of native woodlands and were designed in an English park fashion. You can find sculptures from 18th century to modern day in the South Lawn, Cutting Garden, Woodland Gardens and Formal Gardens. Admission is
$7, but you can tour the galleries and gardens for free on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon.
Which of these gardens are you most interested in visiting? Let me know in the comments below!