Nestled up to the Fowl River just inland from Mobile Bay lies Alabama’s oldest—and southernmost—public garden, a historic estate surrounded by 65 acres of vibrant plantings. Because of its location, flowers blossom a little earlier at Bellingrath Gardens and Home. “We are blessed with a mild, Gulf Coast climate,” says Sally Ericson, public relations manager. “There is plenty of room to find a favorite spot to relax and enjoy each other’s company.”
Come March, expect boldly colored azaleas, tulips, camellias, and a circular set of beds containing 2,000 rose plants in one of Ericson’s favorite spots: the Rose Garden. The formal space stays in bloom nearly all year long; and its graceful gazebos are recently refurbished. The Conservatory, located in the Rose Garden, hosts hothouse favorites such as bleeding heart vines, orchid sprays, and vivid hibiscus. Another cozy couples’ hideaway? The Secret Garden, an intimate oval ensconced in greenery and anchored by a brick-lined fountain. Don’t worry, there are several benches for canoodling.
Inside the Bellingrath Home, built in 1935 from brick and ironwork salvaged from mid-1800s Mobile, visitors find antiques, period furnishings, and a sizable porcelain collection throughout its 15 rooms. Watch for a particularly romantic piece of porcelain upstairs. In Jacob Petit’s The Picnic, two lovers barely notice the titular meal or the grinning pup at their feet. Docent-guided tours begin every half hour. Aside from renowned ecological and horticultural speakers, winter programming also includes stargazing evenings. Adult admission for gardens only, $14; admission with home tour, $22.