Take in the sights and tastes of LA

Published 5:14 pm Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Today’s Special

Here’s a road trip for you.

The weather in LA…that’s lower Alabama… is pleasant year-round and this scenic place has something pretty to see every day. DW and I stopped by after a few days spent on Dauphin Island with son Zachary, his family and in-laws.

Two of my most favorite things are beaches and gardens so I hit the jackpot with this trip. The morning we left the beach was warm and sunny so we took the opportunity to tour Bellingrath Gardens and Home just an easy 20-minute drive from Dauphin Island going towards Mobile.

I had been there with my mother and siblings when I was a teenager, Daddy went fishing out of nearby Bayou Labatre and we went sightseeing.  I vaguely remembered the exterior of the home but this time the gardens drew DW and me there.

In about four hours we toured the gardens and the home, ate lunch in the Magnolia Café and souvenir shopped before heading back to Tennessee.  And I took a hundred pictures…there’s so much to see!

What I remembered most about my first trip to Bellingrath Gardens though was the pet motel situated in the shade by the parking area. That was because my sister brought her cat. My momma was in on the stow-a-way in the backseat, but I don’t think my daddy even knew that Ally Cat was in the car until we were too far from home to turn around and take him back.

So, the cat came along for the ride, but he couldn’t take the tour, for no animals are allowed in the gardens or in the home. We came back to check on Ally cat a couple of times but he was being a good kitty – safe, cool, and comfortable in the pet motel.

DW and I checked in about 9 o’clock at the entrance Building and booked our time for the home tour. Going left we started with the Asian-American Garden.  The gardens open at 8:30 a.m. and are filled with an army of busy beavers trimming, pulling weeds, mowing…tidying things up for the day. But that was okay, there are over four miles of walking trails and much to see to be too distracted by all the necessary gardening going on.

The path took us to a small lake where koi followed us around, past several oriental looking structures, over bridges to a garden of cypress knees. We continued left under gigantic blooming magnolias and began to see hydrangea in bloom along the way leading to the Gazebo Garden with more hydrangea plus beds full of blooming annuals and perennials.

We took the winding steps into the rockery, designed totally by Mrs. B who personally supervised the placement of the rocks and waterfall. And on to serene Mirror Lake, across the bridge and around the banks back towards the home, it was getting close to our tour time.

The home is beautifully comfortable with views from the sunroom of the Fowl River and the lush lower Alabama vegetation. And everything in the house is original, completely furnished with antiques collected by the couple. Dishes, everything. I loved seeing it all.

On to the boardwalk around the Southern Bayou for an educational walk with turtles, fish, heron, and thankfully no alligators or snakes. Back up to the gardens I could only imagine how lovely the Camellia Parterre would be in bloom, but the intensely hued hibiscus lining the great lawn took my breath, glowing in the bright coastal sunshine.

We entered the 1935 Conservatory which housed what must be the largest ponytail palm ever, then the piece -de-resistance came into view…the gorgeous rose garden filled with 2,000 plants, all in bloom, centered around a beautiful cast iron fountain. I could have stayed for hours more.

Mr. Bellingrath, Mobile’s first Coca-Cola bottler, bought this property to enjoy as a fish camp and Mrs. B right away began gardening, planting huge azaleas and camellias.

Soon they built their full time home here and the gardens continued to grow.  In 1934 her gardens were opened to the public. Having no children Mr. B. created a foundation to honor his wife’s love of gardening and their home “as a fitting and permanent memorial…” and it surely is. And you should see it, there’s so much more to explore and enjoy.  It’s the perfect side trip to a beach trip as you travel through LA.

Recipe of the Week

Shrimp Destin

ALWAYS bring fresh shrimp home from the beach!

2 pounds fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined

¼ cup chopped green onions, with tops

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 cup butter, melted

1 tablespoon white wine

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

teaspoon kosher salt

teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh dill (or 1 teaspoon dried)

1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

*Hot cooked white rice

Sauté green onions and garlic in butter until onions are tender. Add shrimp, wine, juice, salt and pepper; cook over medium heat about 4 – 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in dill and parsley.  Serve over rice or spoon over toasted French bread, split lengthwise.