In this part of the south, we have a spectacular flower season. Late in the year, during the month of November, ornamental camellia trees start to flower. My hometown is called the Camellia City, and a multitude of varieties burst with colors of white, pink, and crimson all through the winter until March when the last of the bloomers begin to fade. Before the camellia bloom completely fades, in late February the azalea buds start to open. Azaleas grow well down here in the panhandle of Florida; they love our acidic soil. At the same time, wisteria vines you never would have noticed during the rest of the year gracefully drape themselves over the landscape. The humidity is low, the temperatures are mild, and the community spirits are high. I think it is the prettiest time of year here.
Sean does not work a regular 9-5 job, so we don’t get to see each other every evening after work. Sunday is our only day off together, and we both treasure that time we get to spend together. Last Sunday, the first weekend of March had perfect weather! No humidity, clear blue skies, and nice mild temps in the 60-70 degree range. Do you notice how I lead with “no humidity”? Being right on the Gulf of Mexico, a low humidity day is precious, rare, and not to be taken for granted! It was such a pretty day, the azalea bloom was starting to take off, and we decided to drive 2 hours out to Theodore, Alabama to visit Bellingrath Gardens. It is about 2 hours away; the perfect day trip distance. We woke up early, ate breakfast, and headed out in the car. We stopped at the rest area when we crossed the state line into Alabama, and the attendant there gave us a coupon for a $2 discount on admission. That was a lucky coincidence.
Neither of us had ever been to the garden before, although we had talked about going for years. I have to say, it exceeded every expectation I had. I don’t think we could have picked a better day to go. There are over 65 acres of gardens there. The site was originally bought by Mr. Bellingrath as a fishing camp, but his gardener wife with the help of their architect transformed the landscape. There are beautiful old oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, camellias, ferns, azaleas, and much more. There are over 250,000 azaleas, so March is really a perfect time to visit. Since we were there at the very beginning of March, there were still plenty of camellia flowers as well. The show of colors was truly stunning. Sean and I had a wonderful day walking the grounds, just relaxing and enjoying the beautiful scenery. The gardens are located on the Fowl River and feature a large boardwalk on a bayou, a rose garden, a conservatory, a “Mirror Lake”, Asian American gardens, a large lawn, a chapel, and the historic home of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath. You can pay extra to buy tickets to tour the house, but we missed the tour this trip. It was too pretty a day to be inside anyway