Tag Archives: Hydrangeas

Memphis: Memphis Botanic Garden



Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis Botanic Garden

If you think the most popular attraction in Memphis is Graceland, know that the Memphis Botanic Garden has its own legion of devoted fans.

Here are more than 96 acres, with 28 specialty gardens, among them: an extensive holly collection; a hosta trail designated as an American Hosta Society National Display Garden; a Cactus and Succulent Garden; Conifer Collection; Four Seasons Garden; Hydrangea Garden; Azalea Trail; Magnolia Trail; Rose and Iris Gardens.

The Daylily Circle is an official Display Garden by the American Hemerocallis Society and features approximately 500 different daylilies. The Herb Garden is one of the largest in the United States, with 750 species represeningt those which will do well in the Mid-South, or are being trialed.

One of the photographed locations in the Memphis is the Japanese Garden of Tranquility (Seijaku-En). Originally designed by Dr. P.T. Tono of Tokyo, the garden was redesigned in 1989 by garden designer, Dr. Koichi Kawana who  worked with local landscape architect J. Ritchie Smith. Dr. Kawana pioneered the design of traditional Japanese gardens that employ native plants.

Instead of merely reading a list of plants, the Butterfly Garden is a wonderful place to visit, and see firsthand which plants attract different species of butterflies in terms of color and nectar. Many of these plants found here are natives. Herbs such as parsley, fennel, and chives are food for butterfly larvae, while coneflowers, goldstrum daisies, asters, and joe pye weed are nectar sources.

The W.C. Paul Arboretum is a showcase of rare trees and is a must see for horticulturalists.

A wonderful tribute to honor the men and women in the Armed Forces of the United States, the Blue Star Memorial Marker and Garden is designed to represent the stars and stripes of the American flag.

What’s Special

My Big Backyard children’s garden is part horticultural display, part children’s museum, part playground and part imagination extraorinaire.

Memphis Botanic Garden

Memphis Botanic Garden

Among the many attractions, Seedling Circle is a special spot for toddlers while Nature Play features more challenging activities, like fort-building. Raindrop Stop comes on every 30 minutes, with one minute of clouds and thunder followed by two minutes of “rain”.  And in Wormville, young visitors Wiggle like a worm through larger-than-life worm tunnels.


Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.

Phone: (901)636-4100

Address: 750 Cherry Road Memphis, TN 38117

General info email: info@memphisbotanicgarden.com [ info ]

Ball Ground: Gibbs Gardens

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Ball Ground, Georgia

Gibbs Gardens

Although classified as a botanical garden, Jim Gibbs tells visitors “it’s a pleasure garden, a feast for your senses.” Nestled in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains are more than 220 acres of gardens developed by the Gibbs family. Jim Gibbs is the retired president and founder of one of Atlanta’s leading landscape companies. 16 garden venues, with the nation’s largest Japanese Gardens and Water Lily Gardens, as well as springs surrounded by millions of naturalized ferns and native azaleas, dogwoods, and mountain laurels. There’s always something in bloom – daffodil display, rhododendrons, the Hydrangea Garden, crape myrtle trees, roses, a wildflower meadow and much more. The Japanese Garden is truly spectacular!Open March 1 – November 30, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving day. [ info ]

Hydrangeas, Drama Queens of the Woodland Garden

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Hydrangea macrophylla

When I think of hydrangeas, I picture a Southern belle holding a limp wrist to her forehead, demanding refreshment to quench her thirst from the hot Southern sun.

“Hydra” means water and hydrangeas do tend to wilt rather dramatically to let you know when they want to be watered (although experts say this isn’t necessarily the best indication). However, hydrangeas truly are the belle of any good woodland garden and definitely worthy of attention (and extra watering)– whether they’re mophead or a lacecap (pictured).

Mophead hydrangeas (such an unattractive name for such beauty), with their dramatic blue and purple and pink blooms the size of your grandmother’s mop, truly are drama queens of the landscape. The lacecap variety are more delicate, and perhaps don’t get the attention they deserve.

According to the University of Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture, five popular hydrangeas are:

  • Bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla), sometimes called garden hydrangea, French hydrangea, or Florist’s hydrangea; the flowers are mophead or lacecap.
  • Oakleaf hydrangea ((Hydrangea quercifolia ) with large, cone-like white flowers and large leaves that resemble an oak tree.
  • Smooth hydrangea (hydrangea arborescens)
  • Peegee hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)
  • Climbing hydrangea (hydrangea anomolapetiolaris)

What about the popular “Endless Summer” hydrangeas series? This cultivar that blooms from late spring through fall is Hydrangea macrophylla. For all, color is dictated by the pH of the soil.

If you want visit some public gardens with hydrangea collections worth viewing, here are some suggestions:

In Norfolk, Virginia, the Norfolk Botanical Garden’s Kaufman Hydrangea Garden features approximately 300 hydrangeas representing 20 different species and 200 different cultivars.
The most prevalent is the Bigleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla), but many other interesting types are found here too.
Gibbs Gardens, located in Ball Ground, GA, north of Atlanta, opened in 2012. More than 1,400 hydrangea, of 150 varieties, are interspersed with the rhododendron and are planted on a forested north-facing slope of mature deciduous trees with gentle sloping walkways on the hillside. Blossoms appear in May and continue to October. Colors include blue, pink, white, lavender and purple depending on the soil acidity. What’s interesting here is that some of the hydrangeas have both pink and blue blooms. According to Jim Gibbs, this comes from lime leaching from pathways close to the plants.

Of course, the easiest thing is to have your own hydrangea collection to enjoy every day!

A Garden Traveler’s Pilgrimage: Charleston

Whaley Garden

Where’s your Holy Grail?

Will you follow the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) across northern Spain, a route walked by millions of pilgrims since the Middle Ages, and who, even today, make the journey on foot, or by bicycle or even on the back of a mule? Are you one of the legions of Elvis fans across the world who make the annual pilgrimage to Graceland in Memphis?

For gardeners, Charleston, known as “a city set in a garden” is Mecca – the ultimate destination for gardeners. For me, within this Celestial City of Southern Gardens, my own Mecca remains steadfast: Mrs. Whaley’s Charleston garden on Church Street.

It was early on a Sunday morning and the garden wasn’t open to the public the first time I made it there. But we were heading back to Atlanta and I could not/would not leave Charleston without making an attempt to see one of the most visited private gardens in America.

Like many of the gates and fences standing sentinel at the gardens of Charleston, the grillwork here was fashioned in black wrought-iron; a flirtatious Southern belle offering just a glimpse of a well-turned ankle. It was a charming gate, but still, it was keeping me outside of this particular Eden and I wanted to see more. Was that pittosporum (Pittosporum tobira) around the corner? I fancied that I caught a whiff of Confederate jasmine. Perhaps that sweet scent was a tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans)? Somewhere nearby a church bell was chiming.

Mrs. Whaleys garden view Church Street rosesThe current occupants of the house were undoubtedly enjoying a leisurely second cup of coffee, lingering over the Sunday paper, oblivious to this strangers lurking just outside. But I was determined to catch a peek at the masterpiece the late Emily Whaley created, based on the plan originally drawn up for her in 1940 by Mr. Loutrel Briggs, the renowned landscape architect who designed many of the wonderful gardens in Charleston.

Alas, my traveling companion was tugging on my arm, mumbling about trespassing on private property, and I was forced to retreat with only a hasty look at my Holy Grail of Charleston’s gardens. In my mind I was not trespassing. After all, when your garden is the title of a book – “Mrs. Whaley and Her Charleston Garden,” by Emily Whaley in conversation with William Baldwin — as well as the subject of numerous magazine and newspaper articles and has even appeared on the cover of the Charleston telephone book, it’s inevitable that stray gardener pilgrims will pop up from time to time.

Luckily for me (and everyone else), during the Historic Charleston Foundation’s Annual Festival of Houses and Gardens, owners of the private gardens in the Historic District of Charleston graciously open their signature wrought-iron garden gates – and in many cases their front doors – to welcome visitors. During the month-long celebration, daily tours feature the interiors and gardens of nearly 150 historic private houses in 12 colonial and antebellum neighborhoods during the peak of the city’s blooming season.

I have visited Mrs. Whaley’s garden several times – legitimately, courtesy of events like these in Charleston – and I am always inspired and always vow to return. After all, inspiration is what we’re all searching for, in one form or another.
The late Emily Whaley said it best: “Inspiration is the bottom line. Without it the first move could not be made. . . . We see, absorb, winnow, and sift, and finally our imaginations take wing and out of all this come our gardening plans.”

Thank you, Miss Emily.


Hoover: Aldridge Gardens

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Hoover, Alabama

Aldridge Gardens

The Aldridge Gardens was originally the home of horticulturalist Eddie Aldridge and his wife Kay, who conveyed the property to the city of Hoover in 1997. Although best known for the magnificent hydrangeas, the gardens showcase 30 acres of shade gardens with many varieties of camellias and native plants and trees. There’s a  3-acre wildflower garden, spiral herb garden, and nature trails around 7-acre lake.

What’s Special

Eddie with Snowflake closerThe signature flower of Aldridge Garden is the Snowflake Hydrangea, discovered by Eddie Aldridge and his father in the woods in Alabama in 1969 and later patented.


Free Admission
Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day

3530 Lorna Road

Hoover, AL 35216

Phone 205.682.8019

Email info@aldridgegardens.com [ info ]

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Dothan Area Botanical Gardens

Dothan, Alabama

Dothan Area Botanicagallery-19_dothanl Gardens

Construction began in 1996, and today the Dothan Area Botanical Gardens features 50 acres of cultivated gardens with plants and trees indigenous to Alabama. There are over 15 specialty gardens: the Demonstration Garden with a working windmill; Butterfly Garden; Azalea, Camilla and Hydrangea Gardens; The Bernice J. Dykes Memorial Garden; Succulent Garden; the Daylily Garden with over 200 cultivars of daylilies; a Rose Garden with more than 400 roses, a Shade Garden and others.

The Southern Heirloom Garden (photo)is a collection of bygone plants that are often overlooked with the arrival of hybridization — poppies, larkspur, old roses and Confederate Jasmine in spring, followed by petunias, zinnias, and Black-eyed Susans and others in summer. Many of the specimens were collected throughout the Southeast from family gardens, old homes and roadsides.


Free of charge and open daily, most gardens are accessible to visitors with disabilities. Group tours are available by reservation.
Location: 5130 Headland Avenue, just off U. S. Highway 431 North. 4 Miles North of Dothan
[ info ]

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