For a restorative journey after the loss of my father, I proposed to Mom that we take a trip chasing azalea season across the gardens of the South. It was their 49th year together when we lost Dad, and some of our fondest memories that year were traveling together in springtime to see grand gardens like Maclay Gardens in Tallahassee and Callaway Gardens in Georgia. In fact, our last trip together was through the gardens of Historic Spanish Point in Sarasota. Dad died later that same week.
Mom and Dad introduced me to gardens at a very early age as a part of our annual travels down the East Coast of the United States. While they always chose Florida as a destination – and in those pre-Disney days, always found gardens for us to enjoy in springtime, like Cypress Gardens, Masterpiece Gardens, Washington Oaks Gardens, and Rainbow Springs – we’d stop in other states, too. Traveling during azalea season meant immersing in those magical moments in the South where the sun sparkles through the Spanish moss and illuminates blooms in pink, purple, and red beneath the grand live oaks. Many of the gardens of the south were old plantations, adding a dimension of history to our explorations.
Thanks to these early travels, I fell into a lifelong love affair with gardens. While I’ve never been able to replicate their beauty at home, I’ve made a point of seeking them out wherever I travel. And thus our mother and daughter journey fell into place. Mom spent more than a month researching potential destinations, and I worked out the logistics for spending that long on the road. A key element of our journey was to arrive in Wilmington just in time for the annual North Carolina Azalea Festival, which meant timing our travels to optimize azalea blooms between our Florida home and our Wilmington destination. And we did.
As I finish research on each garden we visited, I’ll be sharing Buckettripper articles about the Gracious Gardens of the South. In a month’s time, Mom and I visited 26 formal and botanical gardens and two natural sites as well as many private sites opened to the public during the North Carolina Azalea Festival. Follow along as I fill in the links below to share the joy of visiting Southern gardens in springtime.
Gracious Gardens of the South Road Trip
Dothan Botanical Gardens, Dothan
Bellingrath Gardens, Mobile
Mobile Botanical Gardens, Mobile
Aldridge Gardens, Hoover
Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham
Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Huntsville
Oak Hill, Rome
Barnsley Gardens, Adairsville
Hamilton Rhododendron Gardens, Hiawassee
South Carolina Botanical Garden, Clemson
Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve, Spartansburg
Glencairn Garden, Rock Hill
Kalamia Gardens, Hartsville
North Carolina Azalea Festival, Wilmington
New Hanover County Extension Arboretum, Wilmington
Airlie Gardens, Wilmington
Burgwin-Wright Museum, Wilmington
* Venus fly-trap / pitcher plant bog * Wilmington
* Venus fly-trap / pitcher plant bog * at Carolina Beach State Park, Wilmington
Brookgreen Gardens, Pawleys Island
Cypress Gardens, Monck’s Corner
Middleton Place, Charleston
Magnolia Gardens, Charleston
Charles Towne Landing, Charleston
Savannah Botanical Gardens, Savannah
Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens, Savannah