New Orleans Botanical Garden

During my recent visit to New Orleans, I visited the Botanical Garden in City Park several times, both to photograph the gardens and attend an early evening Motown concert in the Pavilion of Two Sisters.

The Botanical Garden dates from the original WPA-funded rose garden, planted in 1936. The art deco influences of the period are evident in the architecture and sculpture. Surrounded by the largest stand of mature live oaks in the United States, the Garden has over 2000 plant species in its twelve-acre site, filled with butterflies, raucous mockingbirds, and a purple martin colony nesting in hanging gourds.

The Rose Parterre is a collection of modern varieties—tea roses, hybrid teas, and grandiflora roses, planted in geometric beds defined by boxwood hedges. Coretta Scott King is a dazzling cream grandiflora rose frosted with coral, Mr. Lincoln a stalwart hybrid tea rose, its tall limbs topped with brilliant deep red blooms. I saw many old favorites, including two that share my daughters’ names, the pink grandiflora Queen Elizabeth and the butter-colored floribunda Julia Child.

One of my earliest memories is picking Japanese beetles off my mother’s roses. Visiting an extensive rose garden is like seeing old friends again, and making new ones.

The geometric boxwood gardens are surrounded by side gardens with trellises supporting varieties of climbing roses. Antique roses, including the light pink Blush Noisette, date from the early nineteenth century. They have one treasured short bloom time and overpowering sweet scents.

A rectangular water garden filled with water lilies separates the two sides of the rose garden.

The butterfly garden is a jumbled planting of nectar and larval host plants for butterflies and caterpillars. I saw masses of lantana covered with butterflies next to large clumps of phlox. The shade garden showcases a collection of shade-loving plants and shrubs, a cool respite from the intense southern sun.

The Pavilion of Two Sisters anchors one end of the garden, a cantaloupe-colored stucco structure lined with French doors opening to a terrace. Outdoor weddings take place in the adjacent azalea and camellia garden. The gardens adjoining the pavilion are planted with white and vivid blue perennials and annuals.

The roses were in full and opulent bloom during my late March visit, the azaleas nearing the end of their season. Vivid red oriental poppies provided a backdrop in the flower beds.

I discovered a large bed of Louisiana iris in the adjacent sculpture garden, in hues of red, yellow, and shades of purple. Through volunteer efforts, the many varieties of Louisiana iris are being identified throughout the state.

Readers, do you have a favorite botanical garden?

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