Spring heralds in the colorful hues and familiar scents of dogwoods, daffodils, hyacinths, lupines, and tulips, plus dozens of other native and imported varieties. For an opportunity to get out and smell the roses, so to speak, here are five fabulous flower festivals across the U.S. to consider.
Half way between Dallas, TX and Shreveport, LA, you'll find the town of Tyler, TX which celebrates the onset of spring with its annual Azalea and Spring Flower Trail (tel. 800/235-5712: www.tylerazaleatrail.com). The entire city is on show as the trail (actually two trails totaling some eight miles in length) takes in a combination of private and public gardens. This year will be the 50th anniversary of the festival and runs from March 20 to April 5. You can choose between walking and driving the trail. Both trails start at the intersection of South Broadway (U.S. 69) and Houston Street, then the Dobbs Trail (Rusk Trail) splits at the intersection of South Broadway (U.S. 69) and West Rusk Street and the Lindsey Trail one block further south on South Broadway at the intersection of West Lindsey Lane.
For a shorter walk, try the area between West 4th Street and West Dobbs Street where the streets are wider and there is plenty of sidewalk space. On Saturday March 28, visitors can tour the spectacular private gardens of several notable Tyler residences, open for viewing for the first time as members of local garden clubs serve as guides. The tour costs $10 per person and tickets can be purchased at the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce. You can view all the garden locations, as well as both trails on the Azalea Trail using Google Maps through a link on the festival website or you can download and print a PDF version.
Beautiful Mount Vernon, approximately 60 miles north of Seattle is home to the annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival (www.tulipfestival.org) from April 1 to 30 and this year, after what has been a cool March so far, the month of April promises a sea of stunning tulips, daffodils and irises that are due to bloom right on schedule. Local flower growers are open to the public, like Roozengaarde (www.tulips.com) with its three-acre display garden complete with authentic Dutch windmill (garden admission: $3 per person and open daily 9am-7pm) and Skagit Valley Bulb Farm/Tulip Town (www.tuliptown.com) featuring tulip fields with 60 varieties, a landscaped windmill park, International Peace Gardens, trolley rides, and face painting ($5 for adults, free for children 16 and under and open daily 9am-6pm). The Skagit Valley Gardens (www.skagitvalleygardens.com) have ornate floral displays and greenhouses filled with annuals, perennials, hanging baskets, trees, shrubs, and roses.
You can drive, walk, or cycle along the streets of Mount Vernon to catch the best blooms and a map on the festival website lays out the locations of the different flower varieties. There are also numerous side activities like wine tours of the Skagit Valley (www.bonvivanttours.com), day cruises to Canada via Anacortes (www.anacortes.org), Tulip Country Bike tours (www.countrycycling.com), helicopter rides over the tulip fields (tel. 888/377-4115), cruises around Deception Pass (www.deceptionpasstours.com) and cruise/motorcoach tours from Seattle to the tulip farms (www.clippervacations.com).
Disney's version of a flower festival makes it an exciting and interactive adventure for kids and adults alike. The 16th annual EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival (disneyworld.disney.go.com) will be held from March 18 to May 31, 2009, at the EPCOT Theme Park at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista. See millions of blooming flowers and a vibrant collection of themed topiaries, attend public demonstrations of advanced gardening techniques from around the world, or get up-close with hundreds of colorful butterflies inside Minnie's Magnificent Butterfly Garden. Admission to Epcot Theme Park is $75 for adults and children ten and older, and $63 for children aged three to nine years for single day but large discounts are available using Disney park multi-day tickets and Park Hopper options. See the Disney World website for further details and to purchase tickets online at disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/epcot.
A lot more than a mere flower festival, Historic Garden Week (www.vagardenweek.org) is an event that lets visitors step through the gates of more than 250 of Virginia's most beautiful gardens, homes and historic landmarks during what is billed as America's Largest Open House from April 18 to 25, 2009. Three dozen Historic Garden Week tours present a rich mosaic of some of the country's finest properties at the peak of Virginia's springtime color with events scheduled from throughout the state. On show, will be a variety of formal gardens, annual and perennial gardens, herb gardens, walled gardens, cottage gardens, cutting gardens, water gardens, and secret gardens.
Gain access to beautifully renovated historic properties dating back to the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and the Victorian eras, as well as stunning contemporary residences featuring exceptional artwork and some of the country's best collections of antiques. Tuckahoe Plantation, a boyhood home of Thomas Jefferson with exquisite gardens and other James River plantations can be toured individually with tickets available on the day at each location. Each tour includes five to six local houses and gardens, many open to the public for the first time. Ticket prices for tours range from $10 to $35 per event, and there is a small service charge added to the tour price when buying advance tickets online. Program highlights include:
- Old Town Alexandria on April 18 touring six handsomely restored private 18th and 19th century homes and gardens in Alexandria's charming Old Town district plus admission to George Washington's expansive estate, Mount Vernon, and four other sites of historic importance, as well as the beautiful grounds of the American Horticultural Society.
- The Orange Club tour in Madison and Green counties on April 18 featuring three fine antebellum mansions with magnificent pastoral vistas, lunch and wine tasting at the Sweely Winery Estate, and a nostalgic visit to a charming 1880s country chapel.
- Williamsburg Garden Club's April 21 event in Colonial Williamsburg in the Governor's Land at Two Rivers suburban neighborhood -- an escorted walking tour featuring historic colonial revival gardens to contemporary ornamental spaces with perennial and shrub borders. Tour participants learn about landscape details, plant selection, color themes, and succession planning. Other stops include a children's learning garden at the Matthew Whaley Elementary School, and beautiful English-style landscapes in a marina village on the James River
The Nantucket Island Annual Daffodil Festival (www.nantucketchamber.org/visitor/events.html) takes place from April 24 to 26 this year. Over three million fresh daffodils take over the Island, not to mention plenty of daffodil themed events and activities, celebrating the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Store windows and shop fronts are decorated and adorned in vibrant yellows, there's a children's daffodil parade where the kids decorate their bicycles, skateboards, and wagons with daffodils; and for the adults, a daffodil themed hat parade (known as The Daffy Hat Pageant) featuring some rather ornate and imposing daffodil inspired headgear. Most events take place on the Saturday, including an antique car parade; a festive dog parade featuring daffodil dressed up pooches; the actual Daffodil Flower Show at the Nantucket Garden Club; the Daffodil tailgate picnic; art exhibitions,; raffles; and craft shows. All this is set against a backdrop of streaming yellow (plus daffodils in shades of white, orange and pink) with bulbs planted and blooming throughout the island.