Bellingrath Garden and Home

I love a good Atlas.  When traveling by motorcycle, I make it my mission to find alternate highways away from interstates.  Al handles interstates well.  Me, not so much.  So, for every trip, the atlas (and they now have these in large print!) is part of my luggage.

As I was planning our trip home, I noticed this on the map.

atlas, motorcycle

So we (mainly me) decided to stop and check it out.

Bellingrath Garden

The 10,000 square ft. weekend home was built in 1935 for Mr. and Mrs. Walter Bellingrath, one of Coca Cola’s first bottled Coke suppliers.

Bellingrath Garden

In 1932, before the home was built, Mrs. Bellingrath had the 65 acres, which was once an old fish camp, landscaped into a showplace of azaleas, camellias, and roses.   (I’ m glad she had her priorities straight.)

The gardens and house were constructed during the Great Depression and Mrs. Bellingrath was well aware of local families in need.  She would buy various items from people such as crocheted afghans or other objects of art for exorbitant amounts of money.  People would line up on her doorstep in hopes of selling their various wares.   She bought every item.

She would also hear of families in dire straights and, after making a visit to their home, claim she had been looking for a particular plant (which just happened to be in their yard) and insisted she needed it for her gardens.  She would pay  hundreds of dollars for one plant or shrub.

When construction of the home began, the handmade brick came from a home that had been built in 1852 and was being torn down.  That home belonged to a Vanderbilt.  When an old hotel in Mobile was demolished, the beautiful ironwork was brought to Bellingrath estates to be used.  Repurposing at its best.

Bellingrath Garden Bellingrath Garden Bellingrath Garden

I like her style.

When you first walk into the gardens, you are surrounded by a symphony of yellow flowers called Golden Trumpet or Allamanda cathartica.  This tropical plant is hardy in zones 10-11 and will vine up to 20 ft. making it stunning throughout the garden.

Bellingrath Garden

Bellingrath Garden

Bellingrath Garden

I had to look twice at the begonias (or are these fuschia?  I can’t remember) Either way, most I see in zone 7 are about 1-2 ft. tall.  These were at least 4 ft. tall. and formed a hedge along many of the pathways.

Bellingrath Garden

For other areas in shade, several varieties of coleus were massed together for effect.

Bellingrath Garden Bellingrath Garden Bellingrath Garden Bellingrath Garden Bellingrath Garden Bellingrath Garden Bellingrath Garden

The property also has a man-made lake aptly named Mirror Lake.

Bellingrath Garden Bellingrath Garden

In the midst of landscaping the property, several artesian wells were located.  These wells, along with native stones unearthed during construction , were beautifully incorporated as part of the grand plan.

Bellingrath Garden Bellingrath Garden

Another area of the garden is devoted to butterflies.  Pentas seemed to be the favorite flavor of the day.

Bellingrath Garden


Bellingrath Garden

Other unique flowers include several colors of hibiscus

Bellingrath Garden

Bellingrath Garden Bellingrath Garden

I thought this might be an amaranth at first, but I think it’s a Chenille plant or red hot cat’s tail which is also a tropical zone 10-11 plant.

Bellingrath Garden

Yellow shrimp plants (Pachystachys lutea) were used in many of the container plantings.

Bellingrath Garden

This looks like some form of millet although it is much thicker than the variety I have.  It also has a delicious molasses scent.

Bellingrath Garden Bellingrath Garden

Several plantings of croton were interspersed among the gardens.

Bellingrath Garden

Cat Whiskers (Orthosiphon aristatus) is also a tropical plant which can become shrub-like as a perennial to zone 9.  It was about 3 ft. tall in this garden planted in part shade.

Bellingrath Garden, cat whiskers

We did not get to see all of the gardens due to a time factor, but I did enjoy getting off the motorcycle for a while and walking around.  Most importantly, it seemed to renew my gardening spirit back which I seemed to have lost this summer.

So, next time you take a trip, check out an Atlas.  You might be surprised what roads will lead you where and what awaits and the end of those roads.

Happy trails!


Posted in Butterflies, Flowers, Garden, Motorcycle trips, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

A Break From Everything

Back in July, my job went from three days a week to five days a week (my choice).  I know people work five days a week all the time, but I’ve haven’t in about twenty-five years.  I’m feeling it.

Needless to say, my garden looks pitiful.  I can’t even take a picture of it.  It’s that bad.

So I will just focus on vacation.

Every year, Al takes me for a motorcycle trip.  We’ve been to the Smoky Mountains, Rocky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Black Hills to name a few.  We have never been to the beach though.

Until now.

We arrived in Navarre, Florida Sunday.  After traveling through cloudy, cold weather and then cold rain, we were happy to arrive in a much warmer and sunnier climate.

Navarre is home to the Gulfs Longest Pier.

navarre pier

It measures 1545 ft. long and is 30 ft. above the water.  It is beautiful in every direction.

navarre navarre navarre navarre navarre

From the pier, we saw a dolphin swimming

navarre dolphin

and a very large sea turtle that swam away before I could snap a pic.

Here is a shot of the pier from the beach area we are at.

navarre pier

Our condo also has a private fishing pier


with its own collection of sea life.

navarre stingray

that looks like a stingray to me

navarre ocean jellyfish


navarre ocean jellyfish

jellyfish up close and personal

The pier for the condo does have rules and I love the last one.


Today the skies looked a little ominous.  But, dang it, we were at the beach for the first time in our lives and we were going to swim it.

navarre ocean allen

that’s my Al

navarre ocean navarre ocean IMG_0074

Tomorrow we are hoping to visit the National Aviation Museum to see the Blue Angels practice.

Fingers crossed for good weather!




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August Blooms

I noticed summer fading at 8:15 last night.

coleus caladium

I remember when my boys were little and being thankful when the days were getting shorter.  This meant I could get them in the house a few minutes earlier, wash a days worth of dirt from their bodies, and get some food in them before ten o’clock.

My garden and flowers are winding down for the summer, too.

The rue has continued to surprise me this year.

rue flower

This is its second year with me and has grown to a height of two feet.  I will save the seeds and see what happens next year.

rue seed pod

Rue seed pod

The plumed celosia I save every year from seed is just now blooming.  A little late but I’ll take it.

celosia celosia

I can always count on my old-fashioned petunias to pull through no matter what summer brings.  They are very fragrant in the evening, so just follow your nose and you will find them.

old fashioned petunias old fashioned petunia

The white caladiums and begonias really glow at night.

caladium begonia caladium

I noticed some passion flowers (Passiflora incarnata) blooming in the butterfly garden.

passion flower

They are a host plant (food source) for the Gulf fritillary butterfly along with the variegated fritillary and Zebra longwing.  I didn’t see any caterpillars but I did want to show you the fruit it produces.

passion flower fruit

This fruit looks very much like a kiwi and I’ve read that people make jelly from it.  I opened one last year and it was just hollow inside with a lot of seeds.

I was excited to see a monarch butterfly on my Asclepias tuberosa

monarch butterfly

and then shocked to see a praying mantis having it for lunch.

monarch butterfly and praying mantis

I need to direct him to the other flower bed where the grasshoppers have decided vacation.

Hopefully this monarch caterpillar will escape unscathed.

monarch caterpillar

My fennel jungle is usually full of swallowtail caterpillars by now.  I only saw these two yesterday.

swallowtail caterpillar swallowtail caterpillar

Over the years, people have given me garden art and I love using it wherever I can.

frog man

I wish he would pull that dang grass for me

I love when they tell me they saw this or that and thought of me.

Garden Greeter

Garden Greeter




bee happy garden art

Although this one made me wonder…

garden rock face


Posted in Butterflies, Flowers, Garden, Rocks, Seeds, summer flowers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Chicken Coop Update

My little chicken coop has undergone some change since last year.

chicken coop july '13

last summer

The living roof is filling in nicely

chicken ccop

with a variety of sedums

chicken coop

On the front and side of the coop I planted amsonia hubrechtii (Arkansas blue star), ornamental millet, old-fashioned petunias, celosia, wild bergamot (bee balm)  and sunflowers.

chicken coop

I found an old enamel table top at a flea market and had a very talented artist paint on it.

sunflower painting chicken coop

I love sunflowers and so do bees and they are still busy gathering nectar and pollen for their winter supply.  Sunflowers are a great late summer flower for them.

sunflower chicken coop

The red door is also undergoing a change.  Beth has sketched a sunflower on the door for me to paint so I decided to paint the door a light blue to match the sunflower painting.  I have the outline done but knowing me it might be a month or two (or ten) before I finish.

chicken coop

On the chicken end, the brown speckled Sussex chicks I bought in April are almost as big as the older girls.

chicken, brown speckled sussex 4 wks. old

baby speckled Sussex

As they age, their speckles are becoming more prominent.


speckled Sussex almost 5 mo. old.


I named them Lady Mary, Edith, and Rose and they are almost to the age where they will start laying eggs.

Except this one


Lady Mary is Mr. Lady Mary.  He’s just beginning to crow and becoming protective of his girls so we’ll see how this goes.  He likes to peck at my polka dot boots but I like to think he’s doing this because they are bright and not because he sees me as a threat.


I’m thinking about renaming him Carson.

Any thoughts or new names?






Posted in Bees, Chickens, Farm life, Flowers, Garden | Tagged , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Mad As An Old Wet Hen

That’s the phrase my grandmother used all the time to describe one of her sisters.  I’m not kidding when I say that every story she told about my great-aunt ended with this phrase.  She obviously had quite a temper and, although I never witnessed one of those tantrums, I treaded lightly around her.

That’s how I am feeling today about straw.

Yes, straw.

For years, I have used straw as a mulch.  I liked the way it looked, it was easy for me to haul around, and did a good job suppressing weeds.

Last year, the straw seemed to have a lot of grass seed in it.  This year it was full of grass seed.

grass straw grass straw

So I have spent the better part of the summer pulling grass from my mulch.

Not happy.

My happy place had turned into a grassy place.  No LOLing here.

Every time I would start on a section I would get more and more frustrated.  So I did what most of us would do.  I turned to Facebook.  Within minutes of asking for suggestions about mulch in our gardening group, I was directed to a local guy who bales pine straw.  Several in our Master Gardener group use him as well as our local botanical garden.

So I gave him a call and he met me the same day.  He had six bales left and I was able to get all of them in my truck.  They were lightweight and very easy to work with and in a matter of a couple of hours, I was done.

My happy place was back.

pine straw

impatiens, pine straw

flower  bed

allium cernum

flower bed, allium, black eyed susan, coreopsis

I know any mulch is not weed proof, but I’m hoping to have better luck with this.

What is your favorite mulch?


Posted in Arkansas, Farm life, Flowers, Garden, Mulch, summer flowers | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments


I have a framed saying from years ago when Al started fishing.

It says:  Waiting for the fish takes patience but waiting for the fisherman takes more patience

I’m not refuting that statement because I have fished with this man before.   Casting, reeling, trolling, casting, reeling, trolling.  Hour

lake allen

after hour


after hour

allen lake

Sometimes catching a fish

allen lake

sometimes not.

Talk about patience.

Gardeners must also experience patience.


Patience with weather,



coneflower ratibida pinnata?

and unwanted animals.


But nothing has tried my patience more than a group of trees in my yard.

In 2001, our local conservation office offered pecan tree seedlings for fifty cents each.

They were about one foot tall and I bought five.  They didn’t know the variety but did tell me they were seed grown.

I knew they would take a while to produce pecans.  About eight years the experts said.

Eight years went by and nothing happened.  Nine years.  Ten years.


I had resigned to accept the fact I may never get pecans from these trees.

I began to wonder if they really were pecan trees.

If not, fifty cents was pretty cheap for a shade tree.

So imagine my surprise when Al told me to look in the tree last night.

pecan tree

After thirteen years, it looks like my patience has paid off.

Yes, Blonde Gardener, they do exist.



Posted in Arkansas, Farm life, Garden, Home | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

B is for Bee

Last weekend, my dad and I suited up to check the bee hives.


I added a super last month (painted seaside green) because my little hives are growing!


When the weather starts to warm, the bees will come out on their “porch” to cool off.  I saw this in mid June.


And this a couple of weeks ago when the temps got in the 90’s.



The other hive hasn’t done this yet although it appears to have more bees inside.


Any time you open a hive to check, you will accidentally kill some bees.  Each bee has a specific job to do in the hive.  Some bees are the housekeepers.  After I closed up the hive, I noticed these bees removing a dead bee from the hive.  It took two bees to get it out.  Once out,  one bee left leaving the remaining bee to finish the job.


The white spots you see in the middle are bee larva.


The top layer of creamy white is honey.  I could tell immediately when I pulled it out because it was heavier than the other frames.


I will not take any honey out this year.  This is typical for a first year hive.  Bees need food for winter so this will be their pantry.

The bee man at the bee meeting looked at my pics and was worried that I won’t have enough honey for winter.  I still have quite a bit blooming though and I also have flowers blooming well into the fall, so I hope they get busy and prepare.






Anyone out there with bee advice, let me know what you think.





Posted in Arkansas, Bees, Garden | Tagged , , , , , , | 15 Comments