Hello sunshine! The days are getting longer. The birds are singing. I cracked open my window the other day and there was a (almost) warm breeze blowing in. My neighbors have appeared on the sidewalk, bleary eyed from too much winter binge watching. Spring is here Hampton Roads.
It’s time to celebrate the end of winter. If you lived in Michigan, like I used to, you wouldn’t be celebrating until mid-April. In Hampton Roads, now is the time to get outside and see what’s blooming.
In no particular order, here is a list of some of my favorite gardens in Hampton Roads. Some are big, some small, some wild, some historical, and some are secret.
Norfolk Botanical Garden
Let’s start with the star. The largest and most spectacular garden in Hampton Roads is blooming right now with over 100,000 daffodils, but there is always something blooming at NBG. In the next month, the azaleas will be amazing. Take a walk in the Enchanted Forest and you’re likely to be alone with the most gorgeous colors towering above your head. https://norfolkbotanicalgarden.org
This is another big garden, but this one is totally natural. Spring is a great time to visit the Dismal Swamp. No mosquitoes right now and the Dismal Swamp is not dismal. Over 100,000 acres stretching down to North Carolina, the main entrance is located near downtown Suffolk. For first time visitors, I would highly recommend the Great Dismal Swamp Safari. The Safari departs on a bus from the Suffolk Visitors Center. Naturalist Penny Lazauskas leads the tour. Penny says that the sweet pepper bush is blooming right now. It’s also known as “poor man’s soap”. “You can use the leaves and flowers to freshen up.” Book a spot on the Safari at https://www.visitsuffolkva.com/218/Great-Dismal-Swamp-Safari
Fred Heutte Center
Tucked into the middle of Ghent, the Fred Heutte Center is a little gem of a garden. http://www.genserva.com/fhcgarden/
Fred Heutte was Norfolk’s first parks director in 1936. He is the man responsible for the thousands of crepe myrtles lining the streets of Norfolk. The Fred Heutte Center, a charming little building in Ghent Square, continues to promote “urban beautification through horticultural education”. On April 27 – 28, visit for the 38th Annual Herb Sale and Festival http://www.genserva.com/fhcgarden/herb19.htm You can talk to the dedicated gardeners who keep this Ghent neighborhood beautiful and buy some plants for your own garden.
Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center
Not too far off Northampton Blvd. in Virginia Beach is the garden with the big name, also known as Hampton Roads AREC. Dr. Laurie Fox, Horticultural Associate, calls the AREC “one of the area’s best kept secrets.” Ten acres of demonstration gardens are free and open to the public. Dr. Fox calls them “pocket gardens”. There are 28 of these gardens, each with a different theme, maintained by the Virginia Beach Master Gardeners. There is something in bloom all year long, but springtime is beautiful. https://www.arec.vaes.vt.edu/arec/hampton-roads/gardens.html
Hermitage Museum and Gardens
William and Florence Sloan built the Hermitage house in 1908 as a summer home on the banks of the Lafayette River in Norfolk. It was expanded to 42 rooms by 1936 and filled with art. The Sloans were instrumental in founding the Chrysler Museum. The historical home is worth a visit, and the gardens are gorgeous in the spring. There are 12 acres of formal gardens, natural woodlands and wetlands. A garden lecture series begins in April with Dean Horton, Director of Horticulture at Mount Vernon. http://thehermitagemuseum.org/garden-lecture-series/
Want to see some animals with your blooms? The Zoo http://virginiazoo.org
is full of beautiful natural habitats for the animals as well as formal gardens for the pleasure of the visitors. It starts with the beautiful display around the life-size elephant sculpture at the entrance of the zoo and continues throughout. Don’t miss the Rain Garden and the Organic Rose Garden. http://virginiazoo.org/exhibits/horticulture/garden-links/ The Zoo also grows several vegetable and herb gardens to supplement the resident’s diets.
I love the 5-mile Noland Trail at the Mariners’ Museum and Park https://www.marinersmuseum.org
in Newport News, especially in the spring. The Mariners’ Museum Park is 550 naturally wooded acres. The Noland Trail follows the shoreline of Lake Maury, over 13 bridges to the famous Lion Bridge with a beautiful view of the James River. This is the time of the year when the trees are budding and the wildflowers are peaking out from under the fallen leaves. The Noland Trail is free and open to the public daily. There is parking at the Mariners’ Museum.
The formal gardens of Colonial Williamsburg https://www.history.org/History/CWLand/index.cfm
are not only beautiful, but also historically accurate. Not far from Merchant Square, you can stroll down to the Colonial Nursery. https://www.history.org/history/CWLand/nursery1.cfm
The Nursery maintains a small vegetable garden. You can purchase seeds for your garden that would have been used in the 18th century colonies. There are also “garden historians” on site to answer questions about historical gardening and gardening tools.
Historic Garden Week
The largest garden “Open House” happens in Virginia each spring. The Garden Club of Virginia hosts Historic Garden Week April 27 – May 4. This is the peak of springtime color throughout Virginia. It is a chance to peak into the gardens of historic sites and private homes. Maybe even a chance to see someone’s secret garden. For more information about the gardens in Hampton Roads on the tour go to https://www.vagardenweek.org
About the Sponsor of this Post:
Rose & Womble Realty Co. was born and bred in Hampton Roads – our owners live and work here in the Seven Cities. We are a family-owned and operated business – with multiple generations working at all levels, from agents to managers. Our leadership and support services are all located in Hampton Roads. We enjoy ‘Connecting Heart and Home’ for you everyday.