With Avery Island’s location in southern Louisiana the main agricultural business is sugar cane.
With the year round warm, wet weather it is the perfect climate for nature to grow. In the late 1800s the son of the founder of Tabasco sauce, Edward Avery McIlhenny, created the botanical gardens known as Jungle Gardens.
The gardens cover 170 acres of Avery Island.
There isn’t a large number of different plants, flowers and trees, but the gardens are well laid out, and immaculately kept up.
As with most of Louisiana, water is always nearby.
Including this nice pond, with a warning sign to not feed the alligators (which seems like anyone would know that).
We did NOT feed this alligator.
The turtles were safely out of harms way.
A few buildings remain from the early days of Tabasco pepper growing.
This drive is appropriately named Wisteria Lane, as you make your way under the Wisteria arch.
The highlight however is Bird City. In 1895 Edward raised eight egrets in captivity, releasing them in the fall for their migration. The next year they returned with more egrets.
Ever since then thousands of egrets return to Avery Island in the spring and reside there until late summer.
When we arrived for the Tabasco tour we were one of the few who opted to purchase combination tickets for the factory tour and the gardens. It was money well spent!
City Park in New Orleans is a perfect place to escape the hustle of the city and relax. It is larger than Central Park in New York, with a number of attractions throughout, including the New Orleans Botanical Garden.
There is an impressive piazza just across the street.
The street itself is lined with Live Oaks, complete with Spanish Moss.
The Arrival Garden is colorful, with the flowers growing up the wall.
There is a nearby sculpture garden, as well as sculptures scattered throughout the gardens themselves.
The walkway was in full bloom.
Most of the gardens were destroyed by the flood waters from Hurricane Katrina, but with donations and volunteers from all over the country it has recovered nicely.
The Train Garden is designed to represent New Orleans in the early 1900s. It has over 1300′ of track, and on weekends they run the trains.
The Yakumo Nihon Teien Japanese Garden was completed by the Japanese Garden Society of New Orleans.
Throughout the gardens are well placed sculptures to accent the flowers and plants.
City Park is home to more Live Oaks than any other urban space in the country.
A view inside the Conservatory of the Two Sisters.
A final look back towards the gardens.
And the Arrival Garden becomes our Departure Garden.
As a spectacular bonus just across the street is the Casino Building, which is being restored. Just outside on this beautiful day was the Cafe du Monde beignet truck!
No need to fight the crowd in the French Quarter, we had wonderful, warm, powdery beignets in the relative calm (along with 30 4th graders on a field trip!) of the park.
The Gulf Coast Gator Ranch is located in the swamps of southern Mississippi, near the town of Moss Point. They specialize in raising alligators for commercial use, but they also retrieve ‘nuisance’ alligators from golf courses, etc.
Their ranch is surrounded by a levee and fence to keep the wild alligators away from their alligators. Because their gators get lots to eat they grow to impressive sizes.
They lurk about in the ponds and nearby grasses.
You can buy ‘gator chow’ and throw them over the fence to the gators.
They are everywhere!
Some just hang out on land enjoying the warm Mississippi sun.
Our host, and boat captain – Captain ‘Frog’ – brought out a baby alligator for us to hold.
It was time for part 2 of our morning – an airboat ride!
Just outside their ranch we found this guy keeping an eye on us.
Fortunately he was just hanging around for a snack as well – marshmallows.
As we headed out into the swamp we passed by even more gators.
The black waters of the bayous were beautiful. Captain Frog was very knowledgeable about the plants and flowers of the swamp, and the traditional uses, as he grew up in the swamps of Louisiana. He had the perfect Louisiana accent to go with it.
We would ride for a while then stop and check out the wildlife and surroundings.
At times Captain Frog would pick up speed as we went sailing through the grasses with ease.
There is an amazing amount of beauty in the swamp.
This might look like a pile of brush, but it is an alligator nest, where the female gators place their eggs.
For good measure we passed a couple more gators on the way back to the dock.
It was great to ride along with Captain Frog – we learned about the swamp, saw lots of gators, and had a good time blasting around in the air boat.
Gulf Coast Gator Ranch is a highly recommended stop if you are in the area.
The Birmingham Botanical Gardens is located at the base of a large hill in the southern part of the city. Since it’s opening to this day there is no admission charge to the gardens, it is there for the pleasure of the residents (and visitors).
There are a few sculptures throughout the gardens.
By mid May the flowers in Alabama are in full bloom.
There are 30 different gardens on the 67 acres. The most interesting was the Asian gardens.
The Birmingham Botanical Gardens is a nice place to spend a couple of hours in the cool of a May Alabama morning.
The Washington National Cathedral is the second largest church in the country, and serves as the church for many state funerals, among other activities.
Because of Washington’s unique building height restrictions it is the 4th tallest building in the city, despite only being 300′ high.
The day we visited they were having the annual Flower Mart. As part of this event there were a number of group performing, including the choir from the nearby St Alban’s School.
The main section rises to the aforementioned 300′, with a length of nearly 500′ making it an impressive space.
State flags line the cathedral. Despite the name it receives no money from the government.
There is a significant amount of carvings throughout.
The organ was built by Ernest Skinner & Son Organ Company. It was completed and installed in 1938, with over 10,000 pipes.
A closeup of some of the carvings.
The church suffered significant damage in a 2011 earthquake, and they have been raising money ever since to complete repairs. By selling Lego bricks at $2 each, they hope to raise the final $19 million to finish the repairs. The bricks are to build an exact replica of the cathedral.
A statue of George Washington was sculpted in 1947 and placed in the church. It is said to represent Washington not as a soldier, or president, but ‘just a man’.
As noted previously the Flower Mart was occurring on this day. As part of this celebration the country of Ecuador flew in fresh roses and was giving each lady a rose, presented by a representative of the embassy.
Many countries had floral displays, none more unusual that Switzerland’s rose cow.
Many lined the nave, with the stained glass windows providing backdrops.
The arrangements were very well done.
The Washington Cathedral is a stunning building, and the Flower Mart display added to the experience.
The United States National Arboretum is located a couple of miles away from the Capitol building in the northeastern section of the District of Columbia.
It is located on 446 acres of land, with numerous focus areas throughout.
One of the highlights however has nothing to do with trees, plants or flowers. It is instead the National Capitol Columns.
In 1958 an addition was made to the Capitol building, and the columns, which had been installed in 1828, were no longer required. For decades they sat unused, until in the 1980s they were relocated here.
The caps were retained as well, and show the great detail.
They surround the stone foundation, complete with a pool.
We moved on to the Herb Garden – which has a view of the columns in the distance.
The herb garden is well landscaped.
Numerous workers were hard at it, keeping the place looking good.
The previous evenings thunderstorm gave the entire area a fresh look.
The herb garden had numerous sections focusing on various uses including a section on dyes, such as these flowers.
The nearby visitor center had a mid century modern vibe to the design.
The azalea section lead up a hill, to a supposed view of the Capitol building
No view was found, but plenty of colorful bushes.
The Dogwood section was next…
The sunny morning highlighted the flowers and leaves.
The gardens were a perfect place for romance.
Our last stop for the morning was in the Asian Gardens.
These tall thin sculptures are made out of bamboo.
The Garden make a great stop away from the touristy areas of the city.