Norfolk Botanical Gardens – Part 1
By: Shane Main
In the late 1930’s the issues, though different, were much the same as today. It was just prior to World War II, and we were still recovering from World War I. Most Americans were concerned with politics, the economy, and how to save money while investing in quality family memories.
On June 30, 1938, Representative Norman R. Hamilton announced a Works Progress Administration (WPA) grant of $76,278 for the Azalea Garden project. The city of Norfolk provided Thomas P. Thompson and Frederic Heutte, a young horticulturalist, with a seventy-five acre section of high, wooded ground and another seventy-five acres of the Little Creek Reservoir to establish a city garden.
A group of more than 200 women and 20 men were assigned to the Azalea Garden project. Laboring from dawn until dusk, the labor crew cleared dense vegetation and carried the equivalent of 150 truckloads of dirt by hand to build a levee for the lake.
Within less than a year, a section of underbrush had been cleared and readied for planting. By March of 1939, four thousand azaleas, two thousand rhododendrons, several thousand miscellaneous shrubs and trees and one hundred bushels of daffodils had been planted.
Responsible and respectful are the two words I would use to describe the individuals who oversee the garden’s development. Today’s garden is breathtakingly beautiful and the attention to respecting the history of the land is as important as the drive to further develop it. Walking from the parking lot into the trails and gardens takes you back in time and into another state of mind. While breaking from a hectic day to do research for this post I almost forgot why I was there to begin with. The plants and wild life are abundant and the serene setting is the perfect place to enjoy a bike ride, a peaceful lunch, or even to step into another culture.
Many would think that spring and summer are the times to visit the gardens, and while that may be true, there is plenty to be seen in the fall as well. Though azaleas and butterflies are long past their peak, the world famous Rose Garden and many other exhibits are just now coming into their own. The wild life is still present and the fall colors have not yet appeared, which means you have not yet missed the opportunity to witness their magic for this year.
(Below) This gazebo, attached to the Baker Hall Visitor Center, is one of the newest structures on grounds. It is a great example of how you can integrate an outdoor living environment into the nature we all love. All this scene is missing is an outdoor kitchen and patio with an outdoor fireplace.
The Baker Hall Visitor Center gazebo, surrounded by beautiful lilies.
Everyone loves the peaceful bliss of seeing wildlife share in our environment. God’s creation is abundant at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens. I captured a few images on camera, but saw twice as many that I was too slow to catch. In a few instances I was so taken by the moment and forgot to point and click.
(Left) Crane perched on the side of the canal that runs throughout the park. (Center) Our state bird atop of an arbor. (Right) Butterfly sunning himself on one of the many walking paths.
My favorite spot is under the arbors that cover the walk ways throughout the grounds. I would love to have a backyard arbor like one of the several around the grounds. With the whisper of a soft breeze and the fragrance of Flora surrounding me it was a respite from an otherwise hectic week.
A few of the different arbors throughout the gardens covered in Wisteria.
The Japanese Garden is an oasis into another culture and mind set. From the Bonsai Collection to the Zen Garden you will feel like royalty walking through a secret garden. During regular seasonal hours you can have lunch at the adjoining Garden Café and escape into a zen asian retreat.
Three of the many Bonsai in the Japanese Zen Garden's collection.
More shots of the beautiful Zen Garden.
Whether you are looking for a quick break from the busy work day, an outdoor activity for the kids, or a long day immersed within the beauty of nature, the Norfolk Botanical Gardens is waiting to offer you many moments of bliss. With its’ seasonal setting in Southeast Virginia, the landscape and foliage is ever changing, offering something new with each passing season to keep its’ visitors intrigued and exploring. The Gardens welcome you to come and experience the nature that you have been missing in your day to day happenings within the suburban sprawl.