The Deep South is often associated with antebellum homes, distinctive cuisine and classic Southern hospitality and effortless grace. But another major reason why the Southern states are such an alluring destination is its vast collection of botanical gardens with brightly colorful plant species often seen only in this part of the country.
Possibly the most famous and most photographed example is Biltmore Estate. But there are many, many other extraordinary places that don’t attract nearly as much attention, yet deserve an equal measure of nationwide, if not worldwide fame.
Bellingrath Gardens & Home
12401 Bellingrath Gardens Road
Theodore, AL 36582
Located in Mobile County about 30 miles from the City of Mobile, Bellingrath Gardens and Home was the extraordinary public garden and historical home of successful entrepreneur Walter Bellingrath and his wife Bessie. As one of the earliest franchise owners to sell Coca Cola in the Southeast, Walter Bellingrath attained enough wealth to develop a 10,500 square foot home on his 900-acre property that overlooks the scenic Fowl River and completed in 1936. However, the gardens existed a few years before as part of the Belle Camp fishing camp, a peaceful sanctuary for Bellingrath to enjoy in an effort to get away from his former residence in Mobile and his busy schedule.
Garvan Woodland Gardens
550 Arkridge Road
Hot Springs National Park, AK 71913
Known as the “crown jewel of botanical gardens” in Arkansas, Garvan Woodland Gardens is the official botanic garden of the University of Arkansas. Located within the spectacular Ouachita Mountains of Southwestern Arkansas and a few miles from the historic city of Hot Springs, this impressive 210-acre botanical garden was bequeathed by longtime resident and businesswoman Verna Cook Garvan after her death in 1939 and is just one of only eight public woodland gardens in the country, as well as the only one of its kind that’s located on a body of water, specifically the manmade Lake Hamilton.
Related: Best Hot Springs In The USA
Magnolia Plantation & Gardens
3550 Ashley River Road
Charleston, SC 29414
Unquestionably one of the most beautiful places on Earth, Magnolia Plantation is home to America’s oldest garden, founded by Thomas Drayton and his wife Ann in 1680. Elegantly spread across more than 450 acres, the property has been owned by the same Drayton family for 15 generations and is a must-see attraction for nature lovers in the Charleston area, despite the fact that it’s located more than 12 miles away from the center of one of the finest cities in America. Open year round including on major holidays, Magnolia Plantation is also known for having America’s last large-scale Romantic-style garden, formerly popularized in Europe during the 18th century.
Memphis Botanic Garden
750 Cherry Road
Memphis, TN 38117
In a city that calls itself the Birthplace of Rock n’ Roll, Memphis Botanic Garden has to compete with the city’s biggest and most famous attractions, like Sun Studio, Stax Museum, the National Civil Rights Museum and of course Elvis Presley’s Graceland. But this phenomenal attraction bordering Audubon Park and the University of Memphis is consistently mentioned as one of America’s best botanical gardens and recently certified as a Level 4 arboretum, the highest level of accreditation through industry-leading ArbNet.
New Orleans Botanical Garden
1 Palm Drive
New Orleans, LA 70124
Not long after Hurricane Katrina destroyed nearly all the plant life in the New Orleans Botanical Garden in 2005, a “Master Plan 2018” was developed in an effort to restore public parks in time for last year’s 300th anniversary. After replanting the entire botanical garden, visitors are now enjoying the 12 revitalized acres of unique artwork and lush gardens featuring more than 2,000 plant species from all over the world, including colorful varieties like azaleas, summer poinsettias, crepe myrtles and lilies.
About the Author:
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who has covered national/international travel for CBS Local and all things San Francisco for CBS San Francisco. He is a Media Fellow of Stanford University and a member of the Freelance Council of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW).
He is a lifelong resident of Santa Cruz County, California.