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  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.


Great Dixter, England

“It feels like walking into a Dr. Seuss book.” A friend pretty much summed up Great Dixter in those few words. Parts of the centuries-old home were listing in different directions, the flowers were dancing among each other, succulents and container plants were artfully, yet playfully, arranged and topiaries rose out of a meadow. Classic design features and familiar plants were not as expected. Great Dixter combines amazing plants and horticulture with whimsy – letting Nature laugh (which always makes a lady more beautiful.) 


I thought the most impressive features of Great Dixter were the many containers and succulents in the landscape and the meadows. Here are a few images from my visit. 








Dream Vacation for Garden Geeks – in Carolina.

This weekend I am reading up on the gardens I will soon be visiting in England. The adventure starts with a week in Sissinghurst, staying at the Priest’s House on the grounds. We can actually wake up in the morning, pad over to the window, and look out onto the famous White Garden. This stay includes access to Sissinghust grounds before and after hours. From there we will take day trips to nearby historic gardens and charming villages.

But you can have a similar experience by only crossing one state line, not a whole ocean. In March 2011 I attended a retreat at the Inn at Middleton Place. This inn is LEED certified, with each room offering a view of the river. Stroll down a path through the trees and enjoy a delicious breakfast outdoors or in a dining room with a woodland view. 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 probably one of the places John and William Bartram visited (when they weren’t back in Philly chatting with Ben Franklin.) Middleton Place is also stunningly beautiful and peaceful.

Back to my visit. On Sunday morning I jumped out of bed, grabbed a camera, jacket and notebook and wandered the gardens at Middleton Place for a few hours, having the entire garden to myself. The birds were waking up. It was an incredibly peaceful, inspiring morning. Many of these photos are from that early March morning. I would think it would be as memorable an experience to visit the garden at twilight in summer, or during an early summer morning. Oh, and visiting other historic gardens and charming villages? The Inn at Middleton Place is about 15 miles from Charleston and just down the road from Magnolia Plantation and Drayton Hall, both well worth visiting.