A Treat for the Senses
Garden Tours - A Treat for the Senses
By Rochelle Caviness - December 9, 2002
I breathe the morning air of the world while the scent of Eden's roses yet lingered in it...
From Books and Gardens, by Alexander Smith
Gardens nourish the soul in a manner akin to prayer. Everything about a garden, from its most beautiful bloom to its very weeds reminds one of the cycle of life, and promise of rebirth inherent in every seed that falls. Gardens are also like people, they come in every shape and size. Some are practical, only producing edible products, while others are planted strictly for their beauty. As well, some gardens are small, other grands, some are well tended while others are allowed left to revert to wild state. No matter what type of garden you happen to stumble across, I warrant that you will find it nearly impossible not to stop for a few moments to contemplate the special characteristics that it contains. And should you happen to change across a fragrant blossom I doubt that anyone, fully sighted or visually impaired, could stop themselves from bending over to take a deeper whiff of the natural perfume that so readily tantalizes the nose.
North Louisiana hides a treasure trove of outstanding ornamental gardens. Its southern growing season is mild and extended, allowing for a wide variety of plants to be grown. You could easily spend your entire visit to Northern Louisiana visiting the numerous gardens that abound in the region. However, if you time is limited, and you can only visit one garden - be sure to make it the American Rose Center.
The American Rose Center
Located near Shreveport, Louisiana, the American Rose Center is the headquarters of the American Rose Society. Located on the grounds of the Center is an outstanding demonstration garden containing over 20,000 rose bushes. In all, these bushes represent over 650 rose varieties. This is the largest garden in the U.S. devoted to one plant. While the main focus of the gardens is roses, you'll also find a host of other plantings, such as Azaleas, Camellias, and Dogwood trees.
The garden is currently spread out over 50 acres, and boasts over 60 theme gardens created by various chapters and affiliates of the American Rose Society. Some of the theme gardens that you will discover at the Rose Center, including thornless, antique, single petal, and miniature roses. There is also a butterfly garden and a Japanese garden on the grounds. As well as exhibiting a variety of colors and styles, the roses on display also run the gamut from those with no scent to those that are so strongly scented that, when planted in a mass planting, the scent is over powering.
To really do the American Rose Center justice, plan on spending a full day there. Be sure to bring a picnic lunch as I'm sure that you'll want to eat outside, surrounded by the varied scents and sights of the gardens. The gardens are easy to navigate, by sight or with a white cane. As well, guided tours are also available. These tours are conduct via electric golf carts, and they are an ideal means of getting a general overview of the entire center, and for learning about the center and its plantings. I toured the gardens in September, and while the gardens were past their prime, it was still an excellent visit with most of the roses still being in bloom. According to the guide I had at the gardens, the best time to visit the gardens is from about the middle of April until Mother's Day. In addition to the gardens proper, special events are held at the center throughout the year.
Other gardens to visit include:
In addition to touring formal gardens, North Louisiana is characterized by its wealth of outdoor recreation opportunities. In this regard, you will find numerous nature preserves, wildlife refuges, state parks, and other similar areas where you can see and experience a wide variety of plants in a natural setting. For example, the Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Monroe has a nature center and interpretive boardwalks that take you into the bayou. For the more adventurous, you can hike around the area, or canoe through the bayou itself.
- The Biedenharn Museum & Gardens, in Monroe.
The Biedenharn gardens are, collectively, called ELsong. The main garden is an elegant ornamental garden that is accented by classical sculptures and water accents. The garden is divided into themed sections, and off of the larger main garden is a small 'Biblical' garden, in which you will find plants mentioned in the Bible. You will also find an enchanting conservatory on the grounds, that houses a wide variety of tropical plants.
In addition to touring the garden, while you are at the Biedenharn, be sure to also tour the main house and the Bible Museum All three attractions are free. The Biedenharn house was originally the home of Joseph Biedenharn, the first bottler of Coca-Cola. The Bible museum, located next to the main house, houses the extensive bible collection of Biedenharn's daughter Emy-Lou.
Barnwell Garden & Art Center, in Shreveport.
Barnwell Center's features a domed conservatory and Fragrance Garden for the Visually Impaired.
The domed conservatory at the Barnwell Center features a variety of tropical and hot house plants. Be forewarned, many of the plants in the conservatory have thorns, some of them very big thorns, so you'll want to watch were you put your hands. As well, the walkways in the conservatory are a bit cramped, and there are some uneven steps that appear suddenly, so you'll want to be careful while walking around.
The Fragrance Garden is located outside of the building. Looking at the main door, follow the sidewalk to your right. You will come to a heavy metal rail, on your left. This rail will lead you to the Fragrance Garden. At present, there are twenty-two small planting areas in the garden. These areas are at waist level, and are lined up in a row. At each station is a brailled placard that lists the common and official name of the planting, as well as a short comment about the plant, such as vigorous creeping or fragrant white flowers.
When I visited the fragrance garden, it was in the process of being replanted, so there were not many plants available. However, from the placards it seems that most of the plants used in the fragrance garden are herbs, and it is a hands on garden. You can touch the plants, and even pick a few leaves in order to crush them so that you can experience the full vigor of the plants scent.
- Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo, in Monroe
While the zoo does not have a formal garden area, per se, however the zoo boasts over 700 plant species and is so heavily planted that the entire zoo could count as a garden in its own right.
- Olde Covered Bridge Garden, in Shreveport, is a display garden for Garrison's Nursery.
- R. W. Norton Art Galley, in Shreveport, boasts an azalea gardens with over 10,000 plants.
For more information about North Louisiana, check out the following websites:
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