Saturday, August 7, 2010

Beautiful Bellingrath Gardens (part 2)

While touring Bellingrath Gardens near Mobile, Alabama, our path soon led to the Bellingrath Home, now a museum on the National Register of Historic Places. Walter and Bessie’s home was built on the property in 1935, three years after the Gardens were made public. An avid collector of antiques, porcelain figures, sculpture, cut glass, furniture, and anything else that attracted her fancy, Bessie needed a place to display her massive collections and to entertain friends and family.

Even though the English-style home contains 15 rooms in 10,500 square feet, Bessie managed to fill it with her many purchases, which historian and director of the museum Tom McGhee described during our tour. All of the Bellingrath’s original furnishings are on display, and guests get a look at the “ultra modern” bathrooms of 1935, the kitchen with its original appliances, German silver countertops and sinks and the Butler’s Pantry, overflowing with Mrs. Bellingrath’s collection of silver, crystal and china.

While the Bellingrath home is definitely interesting and worth touring, the main attraction is still the gardens. In addition to an explosion of azaleas in the spring, visitors love the Chrysanthemum Festival, an oriental-themed celebration featuring mums that generally peak the second week of November. In December, Magic Christmas in Lights transforms Bellingrath Gardens and Home into a winter wonderland glowing with three million twinkling lights. Nine hundred pieces created on site are set into 12 holiday-themed scenes throughout the Gardens.

Other notable stops include the Asian American Garden, Bayou Boardwalk, Mirror Lake, Conservatory, Butterfly Garden, Chapel, and Boehm Porcelain Gallery, where you can watch a video about the Gardens. The Southern Belle River Cruise, usually held on Fowl River from March to November, was temporarily out of service when we visited as the boat was being used to help clean the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

A recent innovation is the addition of cell phone audio tours. Visitors can dial in, press numbers specified on signs, and listen to descriptions of plants and scenes. Using speakerphones the messages can be heard by an entire group free of charge.

Bellingrath Gardens is open from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m. Guided tours are available starting at 9:00 a.m. Allow at least 1 1/2 to 2 hours to tour the Gardens, 30 minutes to tour the Bellingrath Museum Home and 45 minutes for the cruise when available.

The Gardens are located 20 miles southwest of Mobile, Alabama, and a two-hour drive east of New Orleans.

A combination ticket for the Gardens and Home is $19.00 for adults, $11.50 for children, with kids under age 5 free. Check out the gift shop and café for a quick snack while there. For more information call 800-247-8420 or click on

Photos by Beverly and Larry Burmeier

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