Bullington Gardens – Hendersonville, NC

Notes: A photo journal follows the summary. Always check with a garden’s website to find the most current information.

Visited:  April 1-2, 2021 (temperatures dipped at this time, causing some freeze damage to blooming apple trees in the area)

Location:  95 Upper Red Oak Trail, Henderson, NC

Website:  bullingtongardens.org

Admission/parking fee:  Free admission and parking.

Accessibility:  Accessible parking is beside the main building (house). Almost all of the garden is very accessible, but not the sloping woodland nature trail.

Gift shop:  None

Coolest (to me): The impressive older plant specimens, planted decades ago. Discovering little-known plants in the display gardens and Woodland Garden.

Nearby: Take time to go into tree-lined downtown Hendersonville, very pedestrian and full of art galleries, museums, and great places to eat. Do not miss the Hendersonville Visitor Center, where the friendliest people will help find the best area places and activities for you. From downtown, take the winding drive to Jump Off Rock for a panoramic view of several states.

Linda’s Plants & Shrubs (256 Stepp Acres Lane, Hendersonville) is a large garden center with a great view and knowledgeable staff. They grow a large selection of very healthy, full plants. I went home with several perennials, including 3-4 new varieties of ajuga to add to my collection.

Do not miss the Flower Bridge, which I would describe as a North Carolina High Line.

Fairfield Inn & Suites Hendersonville Flat Rock (exit 53 of Interstate 26 West) was a perfect location to head in many directions and the staff could not be better. It is highly rated and, although we didn’t use it, the indoor pool with an accessible chair lift was enticing.

Photo journal:

This garden was started by Bob Bullington, who retired, moved from NYC to Hendersonville, NC, in 1979, and created a nursery and plant collection. Ten years later the land with his house and nursery was given to the county. Bullington Gardens is now an impressive non-profit 501C that works closely with the county’s Cooperative Extension and public schools.

Educational Director John Murphy at the base of a huge Sargent’s Weeping Hemlock tree, probably planted by Bob Bullington in the early 1980s. It doesn’t take long while talking to John to see his love of plants is matched by a dedication to the many area schoolchildren that experience hands-on learning in this garden.

At first the plaza looks like a pleasant place for photos or to sit and chat – and it definitely is…

… then you see the many planting beds, projects, work areas and notebooks of an active school program.

Follow the nature trail through the Native Woodland Garden, maintained by the Western Carolina Botanical Club, to discover Bloodroot, Oconee Bells and more.

Bloodroot blooming in Early April.

I was impressed by the many plants in bloom on the First of April, when I was bundled in a scarf and jacket. I saw many wildflowers, bulbs, flowering almond, Pieris, Helleborus, lungwort…)

The Herb Garden was in its winter state and obviously the Fairy Garden needed to warm up. The popular Fairy Garden opens in June to the delight of many. Warm season plant collections include daylilies and dahlias.

Check the website before visiting. Unlike many public gardens, Bullington Gardens is open Mon-Sat and closed on Sundays.


Porcelain and Decorative Arts Museum at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens

In May 2021 I toured the new Porcelain and Decorative Arts Museum at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens for the third time. Each time is even more fascinating as I notice new things and learn more about the collection. This time I toured with current and potential docents and may     join this group who get to share the stories of items within. Here is a glimpse of what you can see there.

The museum is open for timed ticket access, requiring preregistration here.

These yellow flowers are details from one of several metal sculptures of Southeastern wildflowers by Trailer McQuilkin. This is one of my favorite displays in the museum. If you think the flowers are detailed, wait until you see the base of the sculptures, which includes insects and bits of wood and, well, things you would find beneath each plant. Look even closer – many make a game of finding the artist’s signature.

Did you know that James Audubon, John James Audubon’s second son, was also an artist? Here is an original work by him, located with other bluejays to see how different artists and media interpret the same natural subject. You can see also that contrast of artists and media in groupings of iris, orchids, the Georgia state bird and flower, and more.

Flora Danica is a collection of ten reference books of scientific illustrations of the flora of the Danish empire. It was ordered by the King of Denmark and published by botanist Christian Oeder in the mid to late 1700s. A comprehensive collection of this Flora Danica encyclopedia is on display at this museum.

n 1790, the Danish Crown Prince Frederik had exact copies of the illustrations meticulously hand painted onto a dinner set as a gift for Catherine II of Russia. She died before the set was complete, so the original set stayed in Denmark. Botanical names of each plant were painted on the underside of each piece. Imagine attending a state dinner party, lasting for hours.

The conversation was bound to include a comparison of illustrations on the plates in front of you and the people around you. I definitely would have picked up my plate and read the plant’s scientific name written below. It would have been a disaster if they had served English peas.

Flora Danica porcelain is still in production today as luxury dinnerware. If I know anyone with a set, I suspect they have a premonition that I would spill my peas on the table and not invite me to dinner.

Finally, imagine this at your bedside, your tea staying warm while a bit of glow from the hot coals inside act as a nightlight.

So many treasures, so many stories to hear and learn. So much to look forward to…

State Botanical Garden of Georgia       botgarden.uga.edu
2450 S. Milledge Avenue, Athens, GA 30605      706-542-1244




New accessible path to the Middle Oconee River at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, Athens

In late February, 2021, Mike and I visited the new accessible path to an overlook viewing the Middle Oconee River.

Paved pathways through the State Botanical Garden of Georgia’s many display gardens are accessible, even the hillside Shade Garden, built before the ADA Act. A new pedestrian entrance with an elevator provides access from the main parking area, plus an overlook to the Visitor Center, new Center for Art and Nature Porcelain and Decorative Arts Museum, and the lower entry plaza that unites both. A visitor can borrow a scooter or wheelchair while the visitor center is open to discover the buildings and gardens.

But this new path brings accessibility into natural areas and the river that forms one boundary of the 313-acre botanical garden. The path led us from a small parking lot into an open area flanked by tall trees, through grassy lowlands with some standing water (there had been rain earlier that week, but the raised walk was dry), and to an overlook with a view of the Middle Oconee River.

Mike’s scooter comes apart and fits into our trunk – so useful for garden visits and discovering new places. He had spent time in town on the scooter before coming, so it only had enough battery life left to get to the overlook and back from the small parking lot below the Shade Garden, quite a distance.  I heartily suggest discovering this feature from the small parking lot at one end of this new trail. I would then move the car to accessible parking near the main pedestrian entrance to enjoy the display gardens and buildings.

Both Mike and I have worked at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia; I recently retired after 16 years there. So as we walked this path we understood how much work had been done over the years to reclaim some of this area from invasive privet and create this lowland habitat. There is still a lot of privet in the area, as can be seen from the network of over five miles of unpaved nature trails that connect to the overlook and small parking lot, but the botanical garden is doing an admirable job reducing privet and other invasives from natural areas. Invasive plants are a very formidable adversary.

One of the most charming features of the small overlook is the number of people who come off the trails here or pass by during their trail runs. Whether you only catch their eye or chat a bit, there is a moment of warmth and friendliness.


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Massee Lane Gardens


The American Camellia Society’s Massee Lane Gardens in Fort Valley, GA, one of only two public gardens maintained by a national plant society.  This property already contained a collection of mature specimens when the 150-acre farm was donated to the society by David C. Strother in 1966. Now it also contains the ACS headquarters, a visitor center, an extensive porcelain collection, various display gardens, woodland areas, a pavilion and seating areas overlooking a tranquil pond. The nine acres of developed gardens have views of woodlands, a pond and a pecan orchard on the rest of the property. Millstones are used to accent the paving, grounding you more in the history and the region.

Operations Manager William Khoury toured me and the two Camellia enthusiasts with me through the Camellias. I learned a lot that day. And, thanks to the extensive Camellia plant selection for sale, ‘Spring Festival’ and ‘Wendzalea’ rode home with us in the back seat. We were enchanted by the many blooms when we visited in mid-January, but Massee Lane Gardens is at its peak in February, when they hold the annual Festival of Camellias. This month-long event includes daily tours and exhibits, painting and craft classes, on-site lunch options, wildlife program, children’s activities and more.

I ventured off on my own for a bit, photographing remnants of the old farm and close-ups of Camellia blooms. Then I discovered the Stevens-Taylor Gallery filled with porcelain on display. I especially enjoyed the detailed birds and flowers. Another extensive porcelain exhibit is in a large gallery inside the visitor center and includes a few massive pieces, including a snowy owl.  Massee Lane Gardens is home to the largest collection of Edward Marshall Boehm porcelain sculptures on public display in the United States and includes Cybis, Connoisseur, Bronn and other porcelains in their collection.

Massee Lane Gardens is a special place, offering a vast collection of well-labeled Camellias with complementary woodland plants such as ferns and heucheras, and a surprisingly large visitor center and porcelain collection. Part of Massee Lane’s charm is the feeling that the world has slowed down, and it is fine to take time to breathe in the scent of a camellia blossom, sit on a bench, play with different angles in a camera, or take in the details and beauty in a piece of porcelain.

Visited:  Friday, January 15, 2021

Location:  100 Massee Lane, Fort Valley, Georgia 31030

Website:  https://americancamellias.com/massee-lane-gardens

Great web page for visiting during the February 2021 peak season:  https://www.americancamellias.com/news-events/festival-of-camellias-at-massee-lane-gardens-2021

Accessibility:  Accessible buildings and parking. Original brick paths were no problem for my friend’s 4-wheel scooter, but could be tiring for someone pushing a wheelchair, especially on a crowded day. The brick paths were built when this was a private collection, so are not promenades. There are asphalt paths that provide easy access to many camellias and a pavilion overlooking the pond.

Both porcelain exhibits are very accessible. The Stevens-Taylor Gallery is close to the visitor center, a quick walk via paved paths, a ramp and a rose garden.

Gift shop:  Surprisingly extensive, including books, jewelry, home décor, gifts, tea and more. They have a handy book at the checkout counter that describes and shows each of the many plants that they offer for sale (Oct.-April). The entrance to the gardens and porcelain collection is through the gift shop, where you can pay a low entry fee into the garden (we opted to become members of the Camellia Society for only a couple dollars more).

Standing under blooming camellia trees. I now want a camellia forest on my property with a bright Tiffany Blue bench underneath to contrast with the blooming trees and the carpet of blooms on the ground below (I originally thought of a yoga platform but get real – I am much more likely to use a bench.)

Nearby and lunch ideas: The staff at Massee Lane Gardens recommended The Swanson Restaurant; I like The Perfect Pear for lunch. The two restaurants are a block apart in downtown Perry, GA. Check menus and hours online. Reservations would be a good idea. All around are fun shops. I could spend well over an hour roaming downtown Perry.

Note:  Peak Camellia season occurs among the shortest days of the year. I like to fit day trips into daylight hours, which means getting on the road early to allow time for lunch and a stop or two. It takes about 2-1/2 to 3 hours to drive from Athens, GA, an easy day trip. Yes, it is a short drive from I-75, but beware of the route that your phone gives you. If you take the fastest route you will miss so much. Our route through Madison, Forsyth and Musella included views of pastures, farmland, historic homes and town squares. It adds a few minutes but turns the trip into an experience. From Musella to Massee Lane Gardens was enchanting, with an abundance of pecan and peach orchards (Peach County, GA, is aptly named.)

Trivia: Did you know that black, white and green teas are all created from Camellia sinensis leaves? The different teas are the result of different growing, harvesting and processing. Also, these camellias grow well in Georgia. I have two plants in my shade garden and drink tea daily but doubt I will ever try crafting my own tea.

Botanical Garden of the Ozarks – Fayetteville, Arkansas

Balloon Flowers

I grew up and earned my Landscape Architecture degree in Northwest Arkansas, so spending a cool summer morning looking at familiar, much-loved plants with my sister and her oldest son was a treat.

 The Botanical Garden of the Ozarks looked like a small garden online, but we three plant geeks had to rush off after an hour and a half to meet people for lunch. The garden was cleaning up from a fundraiser the evening before. Even though tents coming down limited taking overall photos, it did not affect strolling the series of twelve themed backyard gardens set around an accessible circular path. In the center was a lawn that focused on a pavilion/stage. This created a sunny center surrounded by mostly shaded display gardens, which was welcome on a summer morning.

 We were able to see many plants and take many photos in the gardens around the building and parking lot before we even entered, so by the time we entered and paid our fee, we were already in the experience. Kudos to the responsible rain garden between bays of parking too.

Once in the garden you could look at the map given to you when you paid the affordable admission and decide where you wanted to spend your time. These gardens seemed small when I saw them on a map, but we spent a full 20 minutes in each garden that most interested us: the Ozark Native Garden, the Sensory Garden, and the Rock and Water Garden. The butterfly house was beautiful, filled with plants that thrived in Zone 7 gardens, and had an abundance of informative signage. Most of the others we were able to move a little faster, and each had its charm. A couple we just weren’t interested in that day. That is perfect – providing something for everyone without trying to be all things to all people. Kids can enjoy the butterfly house, children’s garden and soft great lawn; someone wanting time in nature can find a bench in a display garden to read or sketch. Each display garden was very different, most linked with the Streamside Trail through the trees. I thought there was a great balance of accessible walkways through intensely planted display gardens with natural woodland paths with beautiful large stones serving as footbridges.

 Plant people and photographers would love the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks. There are many well-signed interesting tree and shrub specimens and large drifts of perennials that sing when they are in bloom (and, I can imagine, when they are showing off fall color).

Visited:  Saturday, June 22, 2019

Location:  4703 N. Crossover Road, Fayetteville, AR

Websitewww.bgozarks.org  2017 YouTube video

Accessibility:  Great hierarchy of paths on a pretty level site lets a wheelchair or stroller around and into the gardens. Short distance from parking to entrance.

Gift shop:  Small, same room as where you buy tickets, includes local crafts and signature items.

Note:  Started in 1990s. Only butterfly house in Arkansas. Approx. 80,000 visitors/year. Free admission with the AHS Reciprocal Admissions Program

Coolest (to me): Umbrella magnolias in the woods near the Shade Garden, massive plantings of lilies in bloom everywhere, dragonflies abundant around water garden.

Nearby: Northwest Arkansas is a beautiful area with great small town downtown shopping/ restaurants and hiking in natural areas. Fayetteville, Bentonville and Rogers downtowns are very much alive. Nearby Eureka Springs and Crystal Bridges Museum are both well worth the drive.


The Trial Gardens at UGA , Athens, GA

The Trial Gardens at UGA is open 24/7 on the campus of the University of Georgia. My favorite time to visit, besides the open house days, is on a Sunday morning, when the campus is quiet and I can roam with my camera in the early morning light. Annuals and perennials are trialed en masse, allowing you to compare plants side by side. Recently I have enjoyed the abundance of vivid caladiums and David Austin English Roses.  The perennial borders around the edge are great inspiration and the gazebo in the center can be a quiet refuge surrounded by a riot of blooms and butterflies.

These photos were taken in mid-October. One of my favorite discoveries was the Echenbeckia, a cross between Echinacea and Rudbeckia. 

Trial Gardens at UGA is not only a destination, but it also hosts plant sales and has a wealth of information on the website about the plants that perform the best there – great information about plants for the Southeastern U.S.

The UGA campus in Athens, Georgia, is also the home of  the State Botanical Garden of Georgiathe Founders Garden and Ethnobotanical Garden – a great opportunity to tour four very distinct gardens in one visit.

Philadelphia Flower Show

Every gardener should experience the Philadelphia Flower Show. The show is so eclectic – including landscapes, talks, educational exhibits, plants, flower arranging, front door and balcony vignettes, botanical illustrations, miniature landscapes, plus an abundance of vendors selling plants, garden supplies, flower arranging supplies, books, jewelry, home decor and more.

We visited the Philadelphia Flower Show in 2018, and that year there were three snowstorms during the show. One delayed us a day in the airport, one was 17” that left us stranded for a day in our Doubletree Princeton hotel room, where we went after Philly. No complaints – we needed the rest after so much walking around the show and Philly and we had the best hotel staff ever, including the poor person who went outside to clear snow every time wi-fi went down. The show was wonderful and I would take that trip again in a heartbeat.

My top four tips for a visit to the Philadelphia Flower Show:

1 – Plan for a couple days – it takes at least two visits to see it and our flight delay could have left us with not enough time.

2 – Pay for one of the preview parties in the first few nights – not the super pricey one, but the one with a band and bars. What I saw were 1/3 there for the dancing and partying, 1/3 there on dates and would see the show and dance a bit, and 1/3 of us totally focused on the show, with plenty of room for photography, seeing details, and really absorbing the majesty of the displays while they are very fresh. The people watching, live music, drinks and party atmosphere added energy to the evening.

3 – Stay in a hotel within a few blocks. With the cold and snow, that was a blessing. As soon as we started talking about this trip, I booked a hotel room that would be easy to cancel. Ours was across the street from both the show and the Reading Terminal Market.

4 – See Philadelphia. It is a fantastic city and there is so much to see within walking distance of the show.

Come to England with me!

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia is launching a new Garden Travels series – and Mike Sikes and I are the first speakers on Tuesday, March 26. We are inviting folks to gather together for a social hour first at 6:00 pm, enjoying dinner or coffee at Donderos’ Kitchen (Dutch treat,) then seeing a presentation on English gardens in the Gardenside Room at 7:00.

Last June Mike and I spent a week at Sissinghurst (which gave us after-hours access to the entire grounds,) then traveled north to Chatsworth, with private tours of the national rambling rose collection and the headquarters of David Austin Roses, plus many other garden visits. We’d love to tell you about it and have gone through 3,000 photos to find the very best to show.

This is going to be fun and we want our friends to be there, so please come and bring anyone you would like – this event is open to the public. The talk is free, but of course we encourage you to feed the donation box at the Garden.

Eze and Le Jardin D’Eze

Visited early November 2011

Far above the Mediterranean, between Nice and Monaco, is the historic hilltop village of Eze, once a fortress.  Towering above that is a botanical garden filled with cacti and succulents and sculptures of goddesses. Beside each statue is a small poem, in both French and English; many informative signs fill the garden. The stone steps are plentiful, uneven and steep, but the 360 degree view of a historic church and the valley and coastline below is amazing and worth the hike. If your idea of a botanical garden is lots and lots of bright annuals, well, this is not it. This is a celebration of plants that grow on an exposed, dry site balanced by a series of fluid, feminine sculptures by sculptor Jean-Philippe Richard with their own quiet beauty, gentle sentinels looking down on the Cote D’Azur and valley below. 



My best friend and I spent two nights at Chateau Eza. In the mornings Kris sat on one side of the breakfast table filled with cappuccinos, French pastries, fruit and cheese, sketching the coastline and I sat on the other side, sketching the statues looking down on us from Le Jardin D’Eze. It was the first time I had sketched in a decade and about the most inspiring spot to start sketching again.

In between the hotel and garden is the wonderful town of Eze, at its best in the early mornings before the tourist buses unload and the narrow stone streets fill with people. Browsing boutiques, gift shops, and art galleries, people-watching with a glass of wine at an outdoor table or a sketchbook at a bench outside the cathedral, photographing perfect vignettes, and enjoying le Jardin d’Eze easily fill a day.



































Middleton Place

Middleton Place, Charleston, South Carolina

After seeing Middleton Place in so many landscape design and history books, in 2011 I attended a 2 day retreat in the Inn at Middleton Place, the LEED certified hotel on the grounds. I highly recommend staying in this hotel if you are interested in visiting Middleton Place (as well as Magnolia Plantation and Drayton Hall, right down the road and worth visiting.). A quick stroll down a path through the woods, beside water, then beside the gardens brought us to the restaurant.

I woke up Sunday morning at 6 am, gathered my camera and notebook and excitedly ran to the garden as soon as it was light enough to see. Guests at the hotel have access to the gardens when it is closed to the public. I had the garden to myself for hours that early March morning, playing with my camera, listening to the birds, and strolling among the sculptures and blooms as if it were my own private garden. It was a magical morning. Spring was just breaking, but many of their famous camellias were in bloom, as well as spring bulbs.

Middleton Place is one of the most famous gardens in the world, featured in landscape history courses and advertised as ‘America’s oldest landscaped gardens.’ It has been under the same family stewardship for over 300 years. One resident was President of the First Continental Congress, another a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The live oaks and camellias are ancient by our standards and the gardens and statuary are wonderful. It is where the first Camellia japonicas were probably introduced by André Michaux in 1786 and was probably one of the places John and William Bartram visited (when they weren’t back in Philly chatting with their buddy Ben Franklin.) Middleton Place is also stunningly beautiful and peaceful.