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Bellingrath Gardens near Mobile Bay in Alabama - Pictures of Unsurpassed Beauty
Garden Lovers Delight
Bellingrath Gardens is located on the Fowl River in Theodore, Alabama just off of Mobile Bay which connects with the Gulf of Mexico. Pictures will be shared with readers of this post as well as videos that others have produced showcasing this unsurpassed beauty in the southeastern part of the United States.
My mother, niece and I were traveling to Florida from Houston in the year 1986 and decided to detour slightly off of our path to take in the renowned Bellingrath Gardens and Home. It was not much of a detour since it is only about 25 minutes south of Mobile and we had planned to spend the night in Mobile anyway.
We had heard of the stunning beauty of the Bellingrath Gardens from my grandparents who had traveled extensively in the United States. Assuredly the detour was well worth it!
Walter Bellingrath was the President of the Coca Cola bottling plant in Mobile, Alabama after he and his brother William secured the franchises to do the bottling in Montgomery as well as in Mobile. Mr. Bellingrath chose to operate the plant in Mobile.
Bessie Mae Morse was a stenographer at the Mobile Coca Cola bottling plant and became Walter Bellingrath's wife.
In addition to the Coca Cola enterprise Walter Bellingrath was a founding partner in the Waterman Steamship Company in 1919 and went on to acquire the National Mosaic Tile Company located in Mobile in 1920. Obviously he was entrepreneurial and very successful financially
He originally purchased this land (which was to become the famous Bellingrath Home and Gardens) in 1917 as a fishing camp for recreational purposes for himself and his buddies.
George B. Rogers
The architect that had built the home in which the Bellingrath's had purchased to reside in Mobile, Alabama was George B. Rogers. They liked his designs and enlisted his help sometime later in developing the gardens at that address of 60 South Ann Street.
When they decided to have a home built on the location of their fishing camp which they called "Belle Camp" they chose George B. Rogers to also help them with that project of both the residence and the gardens.
Azalea Trail and Beyond
The Bellingraths allowed people to tour their home gardens in Mobile when the very first Azalea Trail was developed. But what really drew great interest was when their gardens at Belle Camp were opened for the occasion of the Alabama Federation of Women's Clubs annual meeting in 1932.
The renamed Bellingrath Gardens have never closed since that date when droves of people were introduced to those gloriously designed garden sites. Naturally the word spread and those 65 acres (26 hectares) have been visited by countless individuals ever since April of 1932 when it was first opened to the public.
The Bellingrath home was completed between 1935 - 1936 and great use of recyclable materials were utilized in its construction. The architect George B. Rogers obviously saw the beauty and utility in using bricks, flagstone and even ironwork from other sources and the end result is a gorgeous 15 room home which is situated overlooking the Fowl River. The landscaped gardens with land and water features seem to mesh perfectly into this great tapestry of a design.
Each season of the year showcases something special in the Bellingrath Gardens. These year round gardens are beautiful no matter what season one may encounter them. My mother, niece and I saw them in August.
In the winter one can count on seeing vast amounts of Camellias in bloom. Azaleas...some 250,000 of them!...fill the gardens with their special kind of beauty in the spring. Roses of every type and color highlight the gardens in the summertime. Chrysanthemums rule the days of the fall and holiday lights fill the Christmas season with sparkle and an extra air of festivity.
Needless to say there are many other plants in addition to those that are mentioned above which artfully dot the grounds adding to the enjoyment of the Bellingrath Gardens in each and every season of the year.
Types of Gardens
There are distinct forms of gardens that can be enjoyed while strolling the extensive grounds at Bellingrath Gardens. They include the following:
- Mirror Lake aptly named due to the reflections of the sky, clouds and surrounding landscaping.
- Oriental - American Gardens (Many of my pictures show features of this part of the grounds.)
- Rose Garden
- Formal Gardens
- Butterfly Garden
- Great Lawn
Also to be enjoyed is a conservatory on the grounds which houses tropical plants and other specimens.
Bellingrath Gardens was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
Open every day except for Christmas be sure and tour the home and chapel in addition to the gardens. Fine antiques decorate the home. The Bellingraths had amassed over the years an extensive porcelain collection which includes porcelains from the finest makers.
Bellingrath GardensClick thumbnail to view full-size
The gardens at Bellingrath extend down to the water and the walkway along the Fowl River is not only pleasant but the breezes coming off of the water gave us a little respite from the heat on the day of our visit. How pleasant it would be to sit on that covered area of the pier merely enjoying the river views for a while.
45 minute river cruises can be arranged from February to November if one chooses.
Mrs. Bellingrath preceded Mr. Bellingrath in death. Prior to his last days on earth Mr. Bellingrath graciously saw to the establishment of a foundation to care for their beloved home and gardens so that the public could enjoy these grounds in perpetuity.
If you wish to see sites of unsurpassed beauty near Mobile Bay make it a point to visit the spectacular Bellingrath Home and Gardens if you find yourself anywhere near the southeastern part of the United States. From old oak trees draped with Spanish moss to the Fowl River and other ponds and water features to individual specimen plants or others massed together for maximum effect...this garden is a delight for all the senses. Be sure to take your camera! You will want to capture pictures of your own making.
Have you visited Bellingrath Gardens?
© 2010 Peggy Woods