The reason we only stayed one night at our previous stop in Vicksburg is we decided to make a slight detour back to the Mobile, AL, area to visit Bellingrath Gardens. The azaleas for which Bellingrath is so famous usually bloom about the middle two weeks of March, which is when we passed through the area on our way north to the wedding in Branson. However, this year the azaleas would be blooming several weeks late due to the unusually cold winter, so we skipped Bellingrath on our way north.
We checked the Bellingrath web and Facebook pages when we were in Maumelle on our way back south. It was reported that the azaleas would be nearing their peak sometime after Easter. Therefore, we decided to shorten our stay in Vicksburg and head back toward Mobile.
When we visited the Mobile area previously, we always stayed at Escapees Rainbow Plantation in Summerdale, AL. However, Summerdale is on the eastern side of Mobile Bay, and Bellingrath is on the western side. Since we would be staying in the area such a short time, we decided to stay on the western side of Mobile right up the road from the gardens at Paynes RV Park in Theodore, AL, a Passport America park.
Paynes RV Park has roads that are a mixture of dirt and gravel. The sites in the front section are mostly gravel with a little grass, and the sites in the back section are mostly grass with a little gravel. The photo below shows our site in the back section...
...and the next photo shows shows some of the sites in the front section.
Paynes RV has full hookups with 30/50/amp electric and Wi-Fi. Some of the sites (including ours) were a little narrow. Most of the sites are pull-throughs, and the ones in back are extra long.
The next morning, we drove the car a few miles down the road to Bellingrath. There were delphiniums, hydrangea and Easter lilies blooming by the entrance.
You can get admission to the garden only or the garden plus a house tour and/or a cruise on the Fowl River, which runs past the estate. Since we did the entire package just last year, we opted for the garden only this time. If you want to read the two posts about our visit to Bellingrath last year, click here and here.
We knew the azaleas wouldn't be at their peak because Margery called Bellingrath while we were still in Maumelle, and they told her the azaleas were loaded with flower buds, but still only at about 30 or 40% of them were open. We decided to go ahead with our plans to go to Bellingrath anyway knowing the display wouldn't be as spectacular as we had originally hoped. The walkway in the photo below should be lined with solid pink; but, as you can see, most of the buds still haven't opened.
It was hard to believe the azaleas had been delayed by that much. It looked like it would be at least another week until they reached full bloom, which would make the peak about a month late. We visited Bellingrath about the same time last year, and the azaleas were completely done. What a difference a year makes! Thankfully, there were other flowers to supplement the azaleas.
Some of the additional flowering plants included (left to right) Delphinium, miniature daffodil, and wisteria.
The camellias were also blooming. Camellias are an evergreen shrub that bloom during cool weather, usually December through March. Tea is a member of the camellia family.
The next photo shows Margery in a courtyard in front of the house. As we said, we skipped the house this trip because we just toured it last year.
A few of the azalea were a little farther along than most, like this one by the patio behind the house.
The next composite photo shows two of the many varieties of azaleas at Bellingrath.
Beyond the house, there is a boardwalk that crosses over and winds around an inlet of the Fowl River that is supposed to be a good place to spot wildlife. The only thing we saw along the inlet the day we were there were these two turtles sunning themselves on a partially-submerged log.
From the boardwalk, we walked around Mirror Lake, which is one of the most beautiful features of Bellingrath Gardens. Fortunately, the azaleas surrounding the lake were blooming more fully than most of the ones in other areas.
There is a little grotto along the far side of Mirror Lake where we saw a common five-lined skink. There was one in almost the exact same location when we were at Bellingrath last year. Maybe it was the same one.
After we left Bellingrath, we were both hungry, so we decided to drive a little out of our way to check out a seafood restaurant called Beaudean's that was recommended by the lady who checked us into the campground.
Paul had a fried shrimp basket with slaw, hush puppies and fries, and Margery had a catfish po' boy with onion rings. A po' boy is a submarine-type sandwich from the Gulf Coast region of the south. Po' boys are usually made from some sort of seafood such as shrimp, catfish, oysters, crab, or crawfish, although roast beef and Louisiana hot sausage versions of the po' boy also exist.
From Beaudean's, it was back to the motor home. We'll be moving on in the morning, so stay tuned for our next adventure.