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.
So we (mainly me) decided to stop and check it out.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For other areas in shade, several varieties of coleus were massed together for effect.
The property also has a man-made lake aptly named Mirror Lake.
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.
Another area of the garden is devoted to butterflies. Pentas seemed to be the favorite flavor of the day.
Other unique flowers include several colors of hibiscus
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.
Yellow shrimp plants (Pachystachys lutea) were used in many of the container plantings.
This looks like some form of millet although it is much thicker than the variety I have. It also has a delicious molasses scent.
Several plantings of croton were interspersed among the gardens.
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.
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.