Saturday, April 7, 2012

Bellingrath Gardens - FLOWERS !

After we left Dauphin Island, Alabama, we headed about 20 miles north to go see the Bellingrath Gardens. Our good friend in the Seattle area, Dick Howell, told us about it and Kim LOVES gardens so off we went.

It was well worth the visit....what wonderful gardens !

Kim took all these wonderful photos so she gets all the credit.
Bellingrath Gardens and Home was the creation of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Bellingrath. The Gardens first opened to the public in 1932 while a national garden club meeting was taking place in Mobile. Mr. Bellingrath placed an ad in the Mobile paper, announcing that anyone who would like to see the spring garden could do so free of charge. After an overwhelming response, the couple decided to keep the gardens open year-round, beginning in 1934.

Throughout the year, this 65 acre Garden Estate is in full bloom with camellias in the winter, azaleas in the spring, roses in the summer, chrysanthemums in autumn and Magic Christmas in Lights during the holiday season.

On your self-guided walking tour, you will enjoy the 2004 Top Public Rose Garden in the U.S., as awarded by the All-America Rose Selections, experience the Bayou Boardwalk, marvel at Mirror Lake, behold the Great Lawn, view the Asian-American Gardens, stroll through the Butterfly Garden, observe formal garden terraces and more!

Tour the Bellingrath Home, complete with its original furnishings and Mrs. Bellingrath’s extensive collection of decorative arts. Built in 1935, the 10,500 square foot home was designed by prominent architect, George B. Rogers. The style of the Home was dubbed “English Renaissance” by Rogers. Additionally, take a 45-minute cruise along the Fowl River aboard the Southern Belle. As you enjoy your relaxing cruise, learn about birding habits, ecological systems and civil war history of the area. The Southern Belle departs daily from Bellingrath Gardens and Home between March and November.

The Azalea's were in bloom now as it was an early spring. We were told, by the staff, that the day after we left, they were expecting a huge rain storm that would knock down most of the flowers. We picked a great day to visit. Check out these photos.

..and these were just the Azaleas.

Here's a quick bio on Walter and Bessie Mae Bellingrath:

Walter Duncan Bellingrath

Though a native of Atlanta, Walter Bellingrath was raised in the small town of Castleberry, Alabama where he got his start at the age of 17 with the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. His first job was as a station manager and his duties included sending and receiving telegraph messages. His old telegraph key sits on his desk in the Bellingrath Home as a reminder of those simple beginnings of one of the South's most generous benefactors.

In 1903, Walter and his older brother William heard about an opportunity to purchase the new franchise to sell bottled Coca-Cola in southern Alabama. After being turned down for the necessary loan by every bank in Montgomery, Alabama; the two tried once more and were successful. The franchise territory stretched down to the Gulf Coast and when it was determined that they should split the territory, Walter took Mobile since, as he later joked, he liked to fish.
The Mobile Coca-Cola Bottling Company became one of the most successful in the United States as time went on and Walter Bellingrath's business interests stretched to owning the National Mosaic Tile Company, serving on the board of the First National Bank, owning a warehousing company and he was an original founder of Waterman Steamship Company of Mobile.

Bessie Mae Morse Bellingrath

Bessie Morse Belllingrath was one of nine children born to Sewell and Alice Morse of Mobile. Her father was skilled as a ship's carpenter and although a native of Maine, he had adopted Mobile as home in 1853. Although Mrs. Bellingrath's early interest was in the arts, practicality led her to be a stenographer. Her last job was with the Mobile Coca-Cola Company. She married its owner, Walter Bellingrath, in November of 1906.

Mrs. Bellingrath's love of gardens developed quickly and the couple's South Ann Street home was long admired for its extensive gardens and became the basis for Mobile's famous Azalea Trail in 1929. It was her idea to start planting azaleas at "Belle Camp" an otherwise rustic fishing camp, and her husband always credited her genius for the creation of Bellingrath Gardens which opened to the public in the spring of 1932.

As the economic depression worsened, friends quietly kept Mrs. Bellingrath aware of families in need. She would appear checkbook in hand, begging for an azalea, camellia or whatever bloom she saw in the family yard. She would convince the stunned homeowner that Bellingrath Gardens had been unable to locate one and then offer hundreds of dollars in an era when the U.S. government declared that $25 per week was a comfortable income. She told a flower shop owner that her crocheted afghans were the most handsome she had seen and offered her $100 each for a dozen, knowing the money would put the woman's niece in college, which it did.

Mrs. Bellingrath had a keen interest in antiques and collected from New Orleans to New York. Like azaleas, she always was ready to purchase an item brought to her porch in a car laden with children, paying top dollar for the family "treasure." Antique dealers along famed Royal Street in New Orleans had few customers during the Depression and they saved their best for the lady from Mobile who never quibbled over a price. One dealer once admitted that when Mrs. Bellingrath arrived, prices doubled, but she never complained. She knew that her purchase might be their only sale of the week.

I'll post a few more flower photos but I've uploaded all 108 here for your enjoyment (too many to post on the blog)

A great stop on our trip....took about 3 hours to tour the gardens.

1 comment:

  1. Flowers are one of our favorite things to photograph...great job with these photos!