Visiting a 155-acre botanical garden in late-July Virginia can be a challenge. Luckily for us, the weather was unseasonably cool this year, and there was plenty of shade throughout.
The Norfolk Botanical Garden was created in 1938 by a local city official, Thomas P. Thompson, and a horticulturist, Frederic Heutte. Heutte believed that the local climate was ideal for azaleas, so they went to work to establish a city garden. In 1958, it became Norfolk Botanical Gardens and today offers 155 acres and 40 theme gardens to view on foot, by tram, or by boat.
We started out on foot. First we visited the Japanese Garden near the boat docks. We were thinking that a boat tour would have been really nice, but since the weather was agreeable and we had been doing a lot of indulging on our vacation, we figured that we could use the exercise.
I was eager to check out the Kaufman Hydrangea Garden. This area has a USDA hardiness zone of 8 and is pretty close to the ocean, so the H. Macrophyllas should not have the same frost issues that I have at home of limited-to-no flower blooms. This gardens boasts over 900 plants from 20 species, with the majority of them being “mophead” or big leaf varieties. Unfortunately in late July, they are past their prime.
This photo above shows a hydrangea with blooms that have dried to a pretty, soft bluish purple.
A few hydrangeas were still blooming.
Just outside the hydrangea garden we noticed a strong, sweet fragrance. It turned out to be a large shrub in full bloom that made a canopy you could stand under.
Nearby, we walked through Renaissance Court that contained several areas of carefully structured grassy terraces, a diverse statuary, and an ornate fountain. It’s no surprise that this area is vastly popular for wedding photos, which are sure to look good from every vantage point.
There was so much to see that we didn’t make it to all the gardens. We eventually hopped on the tram and took a ride to the entrance. The driver was well versed in horticulture and a few plant lore tidbits as well. For example, she told us the at the Native Americans used the needles from pine trees as a diuretic.
Below are a few more pics we took during our tour. One is of the enormous rose garden, which was mostly finished blooming, but their numbers were astounding. The website says that there are 3,000 roses planted there, and I believe it.
If you are in the area, be sure to add this to your itinerary. If you can’t make it to Norfolk, or if you want to know more, check out their website. It is very easy to navigate and full of interesting information including videos and a photo gallery. I hope you enjoyed the tour. Are you thinking of adding this garden to your summer bucket list?