story by Tricia Dewey | photos courtesy of Memphis Botanic Garden
Memphis is lucky to have a number of places within city limits to wander in beautiful, green surroundings and the Memphis Botanic Garden (MBG) is one of the best. Located almost in the center of Memphis, The Gardens contain 96 acres and 28 specialty gardens that are a mix of formal and more casual environments with the appropriate mix of plants, herbs, flowers, shrubs, and trees.
The Gardens began as an offshoot of Audubon Park, which was designated in 1947. A donation of 2,500 iris rhizomes in 1953 from the garden of Mrs. Morgan Ketchum and the 1957 establishment of the W.C. Paul Arboretum led to the development of the area as a botanical garden. More plant donations and ideas followed culminating in 1964 with construction of the Goldsmith Building and the creation in 1965 of the Japanese Garden. In 1966, the Commercial Appeal reported that The Gardens officially received the name of Memphis Botanic Garden.
Today, The Gardens are home to something for everyone. In 2018 approximately 230,000 guests visited The Gardens. Walking onto the Great Lawn from the Goldsmith building, there are a range of visuals and options that are ripe for adventure. The well-known and visually stunning Japanese Garden area uses native plants in a formal Japanese design. According to The Gardens website, “The Delta Heritage Garden was created to tell the story of The Mississippi Delta through a living museum of plants.” Like any good garden MBG continues to add plants and to upgrade, bringing some 35 new iris rhizome varieties to the iris garden in 2018. In its 18th season, the Live at the Garden series is a popular Memphis summer evening outing, and annual events like Mother’s Day Brunch and Summer Symphony come up in May.
Throughout the year, MBG is visited by 40,000 school- aged children who get to hike around the beautiful grounds and experience hands-on learning from Garden staff about plant life, ecosystems, and even visual art, like calligraphy. Kids can also enjoy My Big Backyard and its whimsical playhouse-type structures, as well as the recently added The Recycled Ruins, a castle play space.
Spring in Memphis is a ‘catch-as-catch-can’ season when temperatures can range wildly and rain prevails, but it is worth the effort in these cooler days of spring to plan a trip to wander all corners of the gardens. And while the rows of cherry trees along Cherry Road have leafed out, there are many flowerings and greenings still to come. Hint: most of the irises are still to come. From the formal sculpture areas, the several fountains and lakes, it’s a stunning season to discover whatever happens to be blooming.
Summer/Spring/Fall: 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Seniors (62+) $8
Children (2-12) $5
Children (< 2) FREE