Summerdale, AL - Events of Thursday May 10 to Sunday, May 13, 2012
Bellingrath Gardens is located on the far side of Mobile Bay in Theodore, AL, which is to the southeast of the city of Mobile. We love gardens, and we have visited Bellingrath several times before. However, we have never been there at this time of year, so we decided to drive over to Bellingrath to have a look.
It takes a little over an hour to get to Bellingrath from Rainbow Plantation, so we wanted to get a relatively early start. That meant we would be driving near Panini Pete's well before they stopped serving breakfast at 10:30, so we made a point of stopping to have some more beignets.
As we mentioned before, the beignets at Panini Pete's are light and airy like cream puffs except without the cream filling. They are served with lemon, which when squeezed onto the beignets, combines with the powdered sugar to lend a delicious hint of lemonade flavor.
After we finished our yummy beignets, we made our way to Bellingrath. Bellingrath Home and Gardens is part of a 65-acre estate originally owned by Walter and Bessie Bellingrath. Walter, who was one of the first Coca-Cola bottlers in Alabama, bought the property along the banks of the Fowl River in 1917 as a fish camp. In the 1930s, the Bellingraths decided to build a year-round home there and moved out of their house in Mobile. Today, the house and gardens are owned by a foundation and are open to the public.
You can buy tickets to visit the gardens, tour the house, and take a boat cruise on the Fowl River. Tickets are available for the garden only or for the garden in combination with either one or both the other tours. We toured the house and took the boat cruise on our first visit, so we just toured the garden this time.
The first stop along the path that starts behind the visitor center is at the Rose Garden and the conservatory.
Inside the conservatory is a nice array of tropical plants.
As we continued down the path from the conservatory toward the house, we could see the annuals were just starting to bloom.
The Fowl River is an estuary, which means it is a waterway where fresh and salt water mix. Estuaries are important ecological areas, and Bellingrath has a boardwalk that makes a loop over a bayou that flows into the river right near the house. The boardwalk provides an opportunity for wildlife viewing, although we have never seen anything more than a couple of turtles sunning themselves on a log. However, it's a pleasant walk if it isn't too hot.
From the boardwalk, we headed to the upper end of Mirror Lake.
In the past, we have visited Bellingrath Gardens in March to see the azaleas in bloom, in April to see the spring perennials and in the fall to see the mums, but we have never been there in May. We knew most of the perennials would be done blooming, but we were hoping the annuals would be starting to come into their own. Unfortunately, the planter boxes that line the bridge over the upper end of Mirror Lake were not yet in place, and many of the annual beds along the walkways had not yet been planted even though the threat of frost has been over here in lower Alabama for at least two months. One area that was in full bloom, however, was around the pavilion where they sometimes have weddings.
From the annuals that were in bloom, we could see this summer's color theme was going to be red, yellow and orange.
On our way back from Bellingrath, we needed to make a stop at Camping World in Robertsdale, which is near Rainbow Plantation. Camping World also happens to be very close to L.A Barbecue where we stopped for a late lunch a few weeks ago, and it was early afternoon when we finished at Bellingrath and Camping World. Since we were already on a cheat day from our diet with the beignets that morning, we figured we might as well stop for a late lunch at L.A. Barbecue.
We both had the same barbecue pork lunch plate we had the first time we were there along with cole slaw and potato salad for our sides. This time we tried some of the alternate barbecue sauces. Paul liked a mixture of Carolina (a thin, vinegar-based sauce) and Texas Tangy. Margery tried several sauces, but went back to the mixture of Southern Sweet and Texas Tangy she liked the first time we were there.
A few days after we visited Bellingrath was Mother's Day. Margery got a nice Skype call from Lora. Skype, which provides audio and video communication over the internet, works infinitely better with our Verizon Broadband than it did with the satellite internet we used to have. Gone are the satellite delay and the dropped calls.
Later in the day, we drove down to the Shrimp Basket in Foley for lupper so Margery wouldn't have to cook on Mother's Day. The restaurant was fairly crowded for the middle of the afternoon, but we didn't have problem getting a table. Margery had a fried clam basket, and Paul had a fried catfish basket.
With the arrival of Mother's Day, we were down to our last couple of days at Rainbow Plantation. We didn't get in all the sightseeing we wanted to do, but that is just a good excuse to return. Look for our next post to see where we ended up next.