By TRACY COURAGE // Photography provided by each location
April is one of the most perfect times in Arkansas. It’s the beginning of spring when trees are greening, flowers are blooming, and summer’s heat and humidity are still a ways off.
The Natural State has numerous gardens where visitors can enjoy flora and fauna.
Some are private, some are public, some large and some small. But they all showcase Arkansas’ natural beauty.
THE Bernice Gardens
The Bernice Garden, located at the corner of Daisy Bates Avenue and South Main Street in downtown Little Rock, is a popular gathering spot for locals.
Privately owned by Anita Davis and intended for public use, the 100-by-150-foot garden has landscaped areas with ornamental grasses, herbs, daylilies and wildflowers. Mosaics, rock formations and sculptures created by Arkansas artists are located throughout, and the art is made from reusable, recycled and sustainable materials.
Beginning this month, the weekly farmers’ market will return on Sundays from 10-2 p.m., until October.
Moss Mountain Farm
Be ready to walk when you visit the private
home and gardens of P. Allen Smith, which the New York Times hails as a “stunning estate.”
Visitors walk up to two miles as they tour Allen’s Jefferson-inspired Arkansas Farm home and explore the terraced gardens overlooking the Arkansas River, the English rose garden, an ornamental vegetable garden, Poultryville, the Garden Home and the eHow Cottage.
The more than 15,000 tulip bulbs planted last year are expected to be in peak bloom April 11-12.
Two events are planned: April 4-5: Tiptoe through the Tulips, 10 a.m.-2 p.m • April 21- Easter celebration, 12-4 p.m.
GARVAN WOODLAND GARDENS
Garvan Woodland Gardens is a garden lovers’ paradise with more than 200 acres of woodlands and gardens whose colors change with the seasons.
More than 85,000 people visit annually, and this month, visitors will be treated to thousands of azaleas that will be blooming. And as an added bonus, those who visit in early April will still be able to enjoy the late-variety stars of the Tulip Extravaganza that ends April 12.
Along with azaleas, Garvan’s dogwoods will be in full bloom. Camellias, a flowering shrub, will be blooming, as well the Chinese viburnum. By late April, rhododendrons, Glenn Dale azaleas, early roses, tree peonies and plenty of wildflowers should be in bloom.
Visitors will find the largest groupings of azaleas in the Garden of the Pine Wind, the Asian garden that is home to Bridge of the Full Moon. The 11-foot stone structure has a sphere-shaped arch–or full moon opening – that is one of the most recognized features in the gardens. Another favorite place is Anthony Chapel where more than 200 couples are married each year.
Last year, the gardens added the Bob and Sunny Evans Tree House. The $2 million structure is located in the Evans Children’s Adventure Garden, a 1.5-acre space with a 12-foot waterfall, a cave, bridge, and rock maze for the young – and the young at heart- to enjoy.
Other popular features are the koi pond for feeding fish and the Sugg Model Train Garden.
Botanical Garden of the Ozarks
Botanical Garden of the Ozarks attracts more than 80,000 visitors a year who come to admire the natural beauty of the Ozarks. The garden, situated on 42 acres, borders Springdale and Fayetteville and is adjacent to the Razorback Regional Greenway bike trails.
The garden is actually a collection of 12 themed gardens including a Japanese garden, a vegetable and herb garden, a butterfly garden, a shade garden, rose and perennial garden, rock and water garden, a four-season garden, and children’s garden. The Ozark Native garden features flora native to Arkansas while the Sensory Garden offers plants such as lemon balm, lavender and blueberry bushes that appeal to the five senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.
April is a great month to view the garden, according to BGO’s horticultural team, because the lengthening days bring out the blooms of spring ephemerals, such as tulips, bloodroot, bleeding heart, mayapple, wake robin, dogtooth violet and the tiny dancing flowers of barrenwort. The larger trees and shrubs like azaleas and rhododendrons, flowering quince, redbuds and dogwoods also will be in bloom.
One of BGO’s unique features is its Butterfly House, the only one of its kind in the state.
“Visitors can witness all stages of a butterfly’s life cycle, from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to adult butterfly,” says Liz Atwell, BGO’s communications coordinator. “The Butterfly House features only native butterflies like monarchs and the spicebush swallowtail.”
Children love the special “tree” in BGO’s Children’s Garden. The inside of the trunk is hollow and features a mural painted by local artist Brandon Bullette. They can also climb up the bridge that leads to the top of the tree and see the entire garden from a bird’s eye view.
On April 27, the garden will host the Earth Theatre Festival featuring four family-friendly plays performed by Arts Live Theatre, a local nonprofit youth theatre company. Short performances of The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Peggy the Pirate and Tom Sawyer will be performed throughout the gardens beginning at 3 p.m.
Compton Gardens and Conference Center
Compton Gardens offers residents of Bentonville and beyond access to a 6.5-acre native woodland garden which is quickly becoming a regional destination garden and special events venue.
The gardens are named after Dr. Neil Compton, a Bentonville physician, writer, photographer and founder of the Ozark Society. Most of the plants and trees in the garden are native plants. Visitors this month will find the gardens awash in columbine, golden Alexander, Baptisias, crested iris, celandine poppies, violets, blue iris, and mayapple. Golden ragwort and wild ginger should also be in abundance.
“We do have several specimens that are non-native which were planted by Dr. Compton and his wife many years ago that we keep for just that reason,” says Jeannie McIntire, with the Peel Compton Foundation, which manages the gardens.
The property also includes a rain garden, bird sanctuary, several springs, bridges, bike trails, and a greenhouse where plants are grown for the garden’s annual tree and plant sale. This year’s sale will be on April 26-27 from 7 a.m. to noon.