Sunday, March 8, 2009
Memphis Botanic Garden
After my trip to Baltimore, I had to make a quick stop in Memphis for work. With little time to spare away from work, I managed to fit in a very short visit to the Memphis Botanic Garden. I was lucky to have great weather - 79F/26C at the end of February!- but it’s still not quite spring in Memphis. Some early flowering trees are starting to flower and it's daffodil season, but everything else is still waiting to leaf out. Given that I was just coming from freezing temperatures in Baltimore, it was incredible to just walk outside without a jacket, to enjoy the sun and the smells and sounds of spring.
The Memphis Botanic Garden is quite large at 96 acres, although much of it appears to be classic grass and tree parkland. There is a complex network of paths throughout - the map available at the entrance is definitely handy.
The first little garden pocket is the Sensory Garden (below). In late spring, the main sensory experience was definitely smell, with Loebner Magnolia in full glorious, very scented bloom.
The Japanese Garden of Tranquility is next. True to its name, the design of this garden is very simple - definitely more about the overall design than plants (although early spring may not be the best time to judge).
Across the lake from the Japanese garden begins the woodland garden. This was the most spectacular portion of the Botanic garden at this time of the year: wide drifts of yellow and white daffodils covered the forest floor. There’s probably nothing quite as cheerful and uplifting in spring as a massive carpet of spring bulbs, but I think they are most effective when covering a large area - not always the most practical in a regular city garden. It's also best to stick to one kind of bulb or colour theme to really make a big impact. Many bulbs, including daffodils, naturalize, meaning that once you plant a few bulbs they’ll keep multiplying and filling in an area. Daffodils are quite slow however, so a lot of bulbs are needed to get them off to a good start.
Several magnolias were also waking up in the magnolia walk - I bet this will be a lot more spectacular later in spring. Two Cornus Officinalis were also in spectacular bloom.
Although it’s hard to tell this early in the spring, the Memphis Botanical Garden certainly seems worth a trip if you’re in the area. They have many gardens with something in bloom most of the year, and are just expanding a children's area this year.
What: Memphis Botanic Garden
Where: 810 Cherry Rd, Memphis TN [Map]. Unfortunately, Memphis is definitely car-oriented, so there is no good public transportation to the gardens.
When: Season starts in late February with bulbs and early flowering trees, and continues to November. Check the Memphis Botanic Garden website for the month-by-month bloom schedule.