F is for Fun and Flowers at Norfolk Botanical Gardens

Beginning each April, the Norfolk Botanical Gardens open up their extensive grounds to bicyclists three nights of the week from 4 -7 pm throughout the Summer.   We always keep a membership to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens, but never use it enough.  Mr. Garner and I would occasionally have a date at the NBG,  “sweet lovers love the Spring” and all of that.  We had a picnic one year for Mother’s Day which was wonderful!  Over the years we would make it out to the gardens, once, maybe twice a summer to walk or ride bikes along the trails, over the bridges and around the slight hills (the only ones in our flat coastal area!), climb the NATO tower, stretch out on a blanket in the Renaissance Court,  and simply enjoy the garden.  We loved it, and would always ask ourselves, “Why don’t we do this more often?”

This year Mr. Garner issued a proclamation and scheduled Weekly Wednesday Bike Nights at NBG and so far it has been the highlight of our Spring!

On each weekly visit we find something new in bloom, more colors and textures along the path, a shift in the landscape as perennials emerge and bare branches become green, and always a heavenly scent on the breeze.


The first week we were entranced with an enormous Weeping Cherry tree in the Flowering Arboretum.  Among the trees mostly bare, this tall tree with long pink tresses beckoned us closer.  The slightly lemony scent of Winter Daphne in the Winter Garden also got us off of our bikes for a sniff.  Daffodils scattered yellow in the fields, while others added precision along the paths.  The tree branches were studded with buds, thick and fuzzy.  The Tulip Magnolia trees offered elegant pink cups.  The Jasmine twined around the pergolas in the Butterfly Garden.

The next week we simply could not fill our lungs enough with the glorious clean scent of blooming Crab Apple, and we noticed that more of the trees in the Flowering Arboretum were clothed in gauzy green as leaves started stretching out for the sunshine. A riot of bulbs were in bloom, tulip, hyacinth, and more in the Sunken Garden and Circle Gardens.


The following week we found ourselves in love with an enormous Japanese Cherry.  By parking the bike and stepping under the branches one could enter into a fairy bower where dappled sunlight filtered through a million or more fluffy pink cherry blossoms.   We also found a Dove Tree!  Have you ever heard of a Dove Tree?  It has the loveliest white flowers that look like – Doves! The wisteria was covered with bees feasting on nectar hidden in plump purple blossoms.  Further along, large clusters of tightly furled and surprisingly fuzzy ferns in the Fern Glade offered a whimsical and slightly Seussian feel to the day!  And along the Border Garden walkway the pom-pom blossoms of Viburnum continued the theme.

Then the Azaleas started blooming!  I should mention that the Norfolk Botanical Gardens were first established as the Azalea Gardens.  There are likely thousands of Azalea bushes throughout the garden.  Some neon bright, some softer, some with large formosa blossoms other with tiny blossom clusters.  My favorite fuschia-purple variety smells fantastic – we have one on the side of our house.  In the Enchanted Forest at the NBG, they line a large section of the shady path, and bring new meaning to the phrase “a breath of fresh air.”

Last week the Sarah Lee Baker Perennial Garden and Border Garden walkway beds were filling in with Shasta Daisy, Fox Glove, several varieties of Iris and Peonies, and we were delighted to spot a bunny leaping across the path to a hedge.  The orderly acres of roses in the extensive Bicentennial Rose Garden are offering a profusion of color and scent.

We’ve seen brides being photographed, flocks of children with mom and dad, and a few regulars; an elderly gent on his regular evening walk, a couple who know every nook and cranny of the garden,  a teen and her mom.  As the weather warms up, there are perhaps more people than at first.  But there are long stretches where it seems we have the entire glorious garden to ourselves, and surrounded by beauty and fragrance it feels somewhat sacred.  There are moments when the softening sunlight casts a holy golden glow through branches, and gilds the edges of flowers.  And yet, it feels a little bit like home…

I can’t wait to see what will be blooming next!

God’s Garden, by Robert Frost

God made a beautous garden
With lovely flowers strown,
But one straight, narrow pathway
That was not overgrown.
And to this beauteous garden
He brought mankind to live,
And said: “To you, my children,
These lovely flowers I give.
Prune ye my vines and fig trees,
With care my flowerets tend,
But keep the pathway open
Your home is at the end.”

Then came another master,
Who did not love mankind,
And planted on the pathway
Gold flowers for them to find.
And mankind saw the bright flowers,
That, glitt’ring in the sun,
Quite hid the thorns of av’rice
That poison blood and bone;
And far off many wandered,
And when life’s night came on,
They still were seeking gold flowers,
Lost, helpless and alone.

O, cease to heed the glamour
That blinds your foolish eyes,
Look upward to the glitter
Of stars in God’s clear skies.
Their ways are pure and harmless
And will not lead astray,
Bid aid your erring footsteps
To keep the narrow way.
And when the sun shines brightly
Tend flowers that God has given
And keep the pathway open
That leads you on to heaven.

This post was inspired by Blogging through the Alphabet with Marcy over at Ben and Me.  I’m also sharing this over at HSPA Blog and Tell Show Us Your Flowers.  And it might make it into Barb’s Outdoor Nature Hour Blog Carnival at Handbook of Nature Study!

As always, thanks for stopping by – we love visitors!


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