Serenity and space exploration in Huntsville

LYSA ALLMAN-BALDWIN | 6/7/2012, 4:22 p.m.
Serenity and space exploration in Huntsville


Serenity and space exploration in Huntsville

One of the things that make Huntsville, Ala., such a great travel destination is that it offers a wealth of historic sites and attractions for all tastes and generations. Among the city's noteworthy attractions is an urban oasis offering beauty, serenity and bursts of color at every turn--the Huntsville Botanical Garden.

One of the most comprehensive botanical gardens in the country, the Huntsville Botanical Garden encompasses about a dozen themed gardens, displays, trails and walkways where one can lose oneself for hours in the beauty and wonder of nature.

The largest attraction here is the 9,000-square-foot Nature Center (open May through September), home of the largest open-air butterfly house in the United States. Here, visitors can enjoy a wealth of multihued butterflies that live amongst the flowering plants, lush vegetation, awe-inspiring waterfall, soothing streams, beautiful ponds and variety of creatures including turtles, frogs, quails and more.

Connecting each area of the botanical garden is a series of wide, inviting and picturesque trails and pathways. The Dogwood Garden encompasses a plethora of dogwood tress--one over 100 years old--in addition to camellias, azaleas, hostas and other plants in an upland forest rim ecosystem environment. The Nature Trail represents a network of footpaths brimming with verdant plants, ferns and numerous southeastern lowland forest tree species.

The two-acre Children's Garden was designed with the wee ones in mind, focusing on fun and fantasy with a maze, Storybook Garden, dinosaur fossil patch, water rocket clock, tree-house overlook, labyrinth, wading pool and international garden.

One of the most poignant gardens and one of my faves is the Garden of Hope. The plant life here is stunning in itself--butterfly bushes, azaleas, Chinese witch hazel, Persian lilacs, cherry laurel and hydrangeas, just to name a few--but the real beauty here is the focus on cancer patients and survivors, whose individual stories of hope, strength and faith are shared on artistic bronze-toned signage set amidst stunning plants, flowers, trees and a meandering stream. Just reading each of their stories with the backdrop of the beautiful garden setting allows the patients, their families and visitors who may not know them the opportunity to reflect upon our personal values and how to live life to its fullest in every moment.

Among the other lively gardens dotted around the property are the five-acre Central Corridor Garden, Demonstration Vegetable Garden, 800-cultivar Daylily Garden, G-scale Garden Railway, Washio Ishii Bonsai Display Garden, 170-specie Fern Glade and the Herb Garden with 14 themed areas.

Be sure to make at least a quick stop at their inviting gift shop and for a nosh at their bistro, Clementine's at the Garden. We are celebrating "the Year of Alabama Food" in this feature series after all, and I highly recommend any of their chicken salads (southwestern, pedestrian, spring garden, fruity or artichoke or a combo chicken salad plate) and definitely the pimento cheese--amazing!

Our visit here was definitely one of the highlights of the trip and a must for flora and fauna lovers.