Tennessee Azeleas

The First Signs of Spring Are at Tennessee’s Botanical Gardens, Garden Shows and Scenic Byways

Thanks to the polar vortices that came knocking on our doors this winter, spring seems to be running a little late. At least the days are getting longer.

But I want more than plant catalogues and a few pitiful green onions in my vegetable garden to mark the end of winter and start of spring. I’m thinking it’s a good time to look for songbirds, go to a lawn and garden show or see what’s blooming at a botanical garden.

The 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count starts February 14 and continues through February 17. Count birds for as little as 15 minutes to add your observations to this global event. From balconies and backyards to public parks and wildlife viewing areas, there are lots of birds to see in Tennessee.

Great Backyard Bird Count

Participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count is fun and easy and helps researchers better understand bird populations, migration pathways, populations and habitat needs. (Photo: Cathy Summerlin)


The Dogwood Arts House and Garden Show will be held in Knoxville’s Convention Center on Henley Street from February 14 through February 16. Thousands will attend this annual fundraiser for April’s Dogwood Arts Festival and be inspired by hundreds of exhibits and classes from decorating and home improvement to cooking and gardening.

Do a bird count at the 1,300-foot sandstone outcropping at Sharp’s Ridge Memorial Park, an excellent birding site located about 10 minutes from downtown Knoxville.

A little more than eight miles east of Knoxville, Seven Islands State Birding Park is another good birding location. Check out my fellow blogger Linda Lange’s October 2013 posting about Tennessee’s 56th state park.

The first waves of migrating songbirds appear in the lower elevations of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park during late March. The park is home to more than 200 species of birds. Little River Road, Cades Cove Loop Road and the Western Foothills Parkway are especially beautiful when dogwoods and redbuds bloom.

Tennessee Azeleas

One of life’s great pleasures is welcoming flowers in spring, whether in a carefully cultivated garden or a natural landscape filled with wildflowers. (Photo Cathy Summerlin)


Tour indoor gardens, get ideas for your garden, find plants and seeds or hear lectures on topics ranging from native plants, composting and perennials to attracting bluebirds and hummingbirds during the 25th annual Nashville Lawn and Garden Show at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds from February 27 – March 2.

Special events during the show include a Better Beer Garden with a dozen local and regional breweries offering more than 30 craft beers on opening day and a two-day wine festival featuring 15 of Tennessee’s most celebrated wineries on Friday and Saturday.

About eight miles west of downtown Nashville, Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art has 55 acres of outdoor gardens that are gorgeous during spring as flowering magnolias, redbuds, dogwoods, daffodils, hyacinths and wildflowers come into bloom. More than 100,000 tulips have been planted for this year’s spring season. A family-friendly six-week spring festival, Cheekwood in Bloom, begins March 22.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Watchable Wildlife site recommends Radnor Lake State Park as one of the best places in our state for warbler and other songbird migration. I love its spectacular spring wildflower displays.

A springtime drive along the Natchez Trace Parkway offers picture-perfect dogwoods and redbuds in bloom around every curve.

Nashville Lawn and Garden Show

More than 18,000 people are expected to attend the four- day Nashville Lawn and Garden Show, one of the most popular gardening events in the southeast. (Photo courtesy Nashville Lawn and Garden Show)


The 96-acre Memphis Botanic Garden has 23 specialty gardens with deciduous Asian magnolias, a wildflower woodland and more than 300,000 daffodils that start blooming in February as well as a family garden known as “My Big Backyard” designed to encourage kids to have fun in the outdoors.

Birding is excellent year round at Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge, one of the top birding sites in Tennessee.

Japanese Garden at the Memphis Botanic Garden

The Memphis Botanic Garden is home to this Japanese Garden of Tranquility (Seijaku-En) with Japanese and regional native plants. (Photo by Andrea Zucker courtesy Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Looking for Spring Break ideas? Don’t miss these spring events all across Tennessee!

Which signs of spring are you most looking forward to seeing this year?

Hi there! I’m Vernon Summerlin. Like many, I came to Nashville to break into the music industry. After years of striving, I...Read on



    Arthur Ravel

    I just moved to the area and visited Radnor Lake for the first time today. It is amazing, way more trails to explore than I expected. I took lots of photographs of animals and plant-life. You can check it out at http://www.neochromatic.com/radnorlake
    Hope to see you on the trails! Thanks!

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