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Garden Tours
A Treat for the Senses

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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...

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.

For more information about North Louisiana, check out the following websites:

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