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10 Gardens Where the Arts Are Growing

Nurture your love of the arts surrounded by nature


By Barbara and Jim Twardowski

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An artist paints on the grounds of the Dixon Gallery & Gardens in Memphis, Tenn.

Credit: Photo by Jim Twardowski

America's public gardens are embracing the arts in relaxed, natural settings. Whether it is a large botanic garden or a small green space, these respites from the hustle and bustle of modern life are filled with opportunities to engage with the arts from now through September.

You can explore the gardens in your community or while traveling. Use the American Horticultural Society’s online directory to locate a garden. Review the garden’s website to find concerts, performances, movies, author readings, chef demonstrations, floral design instruction, plays, photography lessons, art classes and more.

Here’s a sampling of gardens where the arts thrive.

1. Memphis Botanic Garden

Credit: Barbara and Jim Twardowski

Memphis Botanic Garden
Memphis, Tenn.

“Live at the Garden” brings some of the hottest touring bands to the South. The summer music concert series began in 2001. This year's lineup includes: Little Big Town, Boston, Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors, Seal and the Steve Miller Band. Purchase tickets to join 2,500 fans at white linen covered tables or picnic on the grounds with 4,500 attendees. The first performance is June 23 and the last is September 15.

2. Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden

Credit: Barbara and Jim Twardowski

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden
Dallas

More than 100 Zimbabwean hand-carved stone sculptures are on display through July 31. A contemporary exhibit, “ZimSculpt”, has some pieces that are as much as seven feet tall and can weigh tons. You can watch artists on the premises carving statues daily and purchase their work at the Pecan Grove Market Place.

3. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Credit: Photo Courtesy of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Sarasota, Fla.

Aspiring photographers and professionals appreciate "Tripod Tuesdays" when attendees are given access before hours to the Tropical Conservatory during the Marc Chagall exhibition. Class members receive special permission to use their tripods for snapping thousands of orchids among the lush tropical foliage.

4. Desert Botanical Garden

Credit: Rosalie OConnor Photography

Desert Botanical Garden
Phoenix

Choreographed by Ib Andersen, Ballet Arizona’s final performance of Topia — An Evening at Desert Botanical Garden is June 10. The nighttime performance with the desert as a backdrop creates a unique experience with movement, sound and multimedia on stage.

5. Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Credit: Adam Rose

Tower Hill Botanic Garden
Boylston, Mass.

Tower Hill Botanic Garden has concerts, art exhibits, floral design, cooking demos, art lessons and its first Botanic Tattoo Weekend. On July 8 and 9, visitors will watch tattoo demos, have the opportunity to draw botanical images, listen to live music, sample food truck fare and shop. A pop-up art exhibit features photos of botanical tattoos created by artists from around the world. You can even get a temporary (henna) botanical tattoo.

6. New Orleans Botanical Garden

Credit: Barbara and Jim Twardowski

New Orleans Botanical Garden
New Orleans

Traditional jazz, rhythm and blues and a variety of musical styles are performed weekly during the Thursdays at Twilight concerts. Sip a mint julep or a glass of wine inside the Pavilion of the Two Sisters. Seating is limited to 480 people and tickets are $10. Performances are held every month except December. Another art appreciation experience is the Helis Foundation Enrique Alférez Sculpture Garden featuring 14 pieces by the artist.

7. Chicago Botanic Garden

Credit: JR P/Flickr

Chicago Botanic Garden
Chicago

Summer evenings are filled with music at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Monday’s Carillon Concerts beside Evening Island includes a light show. Come early for a pre-show tour and demonstration. Tuesday’s Music on the Esplanade is an assortment of music from bluegrass to big band. Wednesday’s Dancin’ Sprouts entertainment caters to kids. Thursday’s high-energy music will get your toes tapping. Professional dance instructors lead mini-lessons which correspond to the musical genre. These free seasonal events begin June 3 and end September 4.

8. Missouri Botanical Garden

Credit: Climatron®

Missouri Botanical Garden
St. Louis

Thirty larger-than-life fused glass flowers by Craig Mitchell Smith are on display at the Missouri Botanical Garden until August 12. Most of the “Garden of Glass” exhibit will be shown in the tropical geodisc dome — Climatron ®. The flowers are best viewed at night (Thursday through Saturday) and are illuminated with custom lighting. After the show ends, Smith’s pieces will be available for sale.

9. Longwood Gardens

Credit: Photo Courtesy of Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens
Kennett Square, Pa.

After a two-year renovation, the Main Fountain Garden’s celebratory reopening includes fountain shows, concerts and special events. Touted as the “most significant fountain collection in North America,” the enhanced fountain now has spiraling and spinning water and propelling jets shooting streams up to 175 feet high. “Summer of Spectacle” tickets run May 27 through September 30. Located 30 miles west of Philadelphia, there are more than 1,000 acres of meadows, woodlands and gardens to explore.

10. Cheekwood Estate & Gardens

Credit: Carnival Films

Cheekwood Estate & Gardens
Nashville

Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times brings 36 period costumes from the hit British drama, PBS' Downton Abbey, to Nashville. The Downton Abbey award-winning fashion includes riding outfits, servants’ attire, beaded and embroidered gowns, WWI uniforms and afternoon dresses. Additional events during the June 17 to September 10 showing include traditional English teas, Thursday night jazz in the garden and Downton-inspired family activities. Formerly a 1930s family estate, the 55 acres of Cheekwood have a botanic garden, contemporary sculpture trail and an art museum.

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By Barbara and Jim Twardowski
Barbara and Jim Twardowski write about travel, lifestyle and boomer topics from the New Orleans area.

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