Don’t let winter’s chill keep you from visiting wonderful gardens! Last December my family visited Bellingrath Gardens and Home, located just 15 miles from Mobile, AL, and we were amazed to see poinsettias, paperwhites and amaryllis growing outside! You might expect to see camellias blooming in winter, but roses, salvia and geraniums? Even shrimp plants – those hothouse denizens – were in full bloom in the great outdoors.

Lighted arbor

What a festive backdrop for December-blooming roses!

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

Christmas container

Traditional Christmas colors abound in this pot filled with a poinsettia, paperwhites, flowering kale, geraniums and petunias.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

Cajun Christmas lights

Cajun Christmas lights add a touch of the Deep South on the Bayou Boardwalk.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

Our visit was truly fantastic. The Bellingrath estate, which began as a lowly fishing camp, was reinvented by Mrs. Bessie Mae Bellingrath – a devoted gardener. She hired designers and a score of gardeners to create the great landscape that visitors enjoy today. The gardens have been open since the 1930s, when the Bellingraths had such a popular open house that they had to use the Mobile Police Department to direct traffic.

All those designers and workers did quite a job! Today, special attractions include the rose, butterfly and geometric gardens, as well as the Bayou Boardwalk and Mirror Lake. And don’t miss the Bellingrath conservatory, full of annuals, orchids and tropical plants.

If you visit during the holiday season, you’ll get the special treat of seeing scads of Christmas lights artfully strung about the garden from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. There are more than 3 million lights in the garden, and visitors can take a self-guided walking tour of the 65-acre grounds.

If you want to experience it all, go in the afternoon to see the plants, then walk through the gardens again just as dusk approaches to see the lights. Be sure to visit the lit rose garden for a truly Victorian-era feel!

If you bring the kids along, they’ll certainly get a kick out of the Bayou Boardwalk, with its crawfish boil and hungry alligators, and gardeners of all ages will love the versatile plant life. If you’re looking for last-minute Christmas or hostess gifts, make sure to stop by the gift shop. There are lots of festive ornaments with garden themes for the holidays. And if you get hungry, don’t worry: The café is also located here, where you can get dinner, as well as something hot to drink to chase away the cold.

Bellingrath truly has a little something for everyone no matter what time of year you visit, but if you’re in Mobile during the holidays, it’s really a must-see! So wrap up in something warm and enjoy the beautiful views this amazing place has to offer!