10 Best Gardens in the South: Cheekwood

by | Jun 26, 2020 | Design, Featured Slider, Landscape Architecture, Latest, Plants

If spring of 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that outdoor spaces are a saving grace. Public gardens are an especially wonderful escape, not only for visitors but professionals as well. With travel restrictions lifting, public gardens are reopening across the South, so you can take along the kids while finding some inspiration for your own landscaping and design projects. Don’t miss Cheekwood, nestled in the rolling hills of Nashville, Tennessee!

Nashville’s Beautiful Cheekwood Celebrates 60 Years

At the beginning of 2020, Cheekwood Estate & Gardens was expecting to celebrate its 60th anniversary with loads of fanfare. Plans included unveiling a two-acre children’s garden, improvements to its International Sculpture Trail as well as a fabulous new sculpture installation by none other than Dale Chihuly.

Then COVID-19 came along. 

“One of the hardest parts was seeing our gardening team work so hard to get everything ready for spring, including single-handedly placing 150,000 bulbs in the ground in the fall, only to not be able to share the fruits of their labor,” says Caroline Jeronimus, senior communications manager at Cheekwood.

Cheekwood in full bloom

But Jeronimus and her team did figure out how to share the beauty—virtually. They posted images of their gardens online and on social media even while the park was closed.

“We got so many calls and comments from people really grateful that we could bring the garden to them in some way,” says Jeronimus. “One assisted living facility even played our images on their monitors in the hallway.” 

Then on May 22, Cheekwood reopened its doors—with safety precautions in place. The children’s garden is officially open, and the Chihuly exhibit will now run from July 18, 2020 to January 10, 2021. 

“I really credit our full-time gardening team, including our plant collection manager, horticulture manager, and dozens of gardeners who continued to come in and meticulously maintain the 55-acre property. They kept everything moving.”

Children’s Garden Opens at Cheekwood

Cheekwood Unveils Its New Children’s Garden ©Cheekwood

The Bracken Foundation Children’s Garden was designed by Tres Fromme in collaboration with Nashville landscape architecture firm HDLA.

“It’s classy, but whimsical, and really an extension of Cheekwood,” says Jeronimus. “The design, landscaping and stonework is seamless with the rest of the property and really ties into the original vision of architect Bryant Fleming from the 1920s.” 

A highlight for children so far has been the turtle pond, featuring rescued and rehabilitated turtles from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, as well as interactive educational opportunities.

Exploring Cheekwood’s Gardens 

Cheekwood offers something for everyone, with more than a dozen gardens on property, from the Sigourney Cheek Literary Garden and an Herb Study Garden to the Turner Seasons Garden, Martin Boxwood Gardens and The Ann & Monroe Carell, Jr. Family Sculpture Trail.

The Howe Garden features azaleas, trilliums, trout-lilies, Virginia bluebells, a variety of ferns, and a small colony of paw-paw trees as well as the endangered stinking cedar (Torreya taxifoia).

The Bradford Robertson Color Garden features crepe myrtles and colorful annuals, perennials, and tropical plants as well as flowering vines.

The Carell Dogwood Garden displays a Nationally Certified Collection® of Cornus which bloom in spring. In the fall, hostas, astilbes, native ginger, daffodil, ferns, hydrangeas and hellebores are planted at ground level.

Created by David Harris Engel, the Blevins Japanese Garden connects Eastern garden design with the native Tennessee landscape. Visitors stroll through the roji, a narrow path in a typical tea garden with steppingstones intentionally placed unevenly so that visitors focus on their footing and must leave the outside world behind. Other highlights include a bamboo forest, yellow-groove Phyllostachys and a bed of raked gravel and large rock formations, implying calm water.

Wills Perennial Garden includes asters, salvias, perennial sunflowers, rudbeckias and ornamental grasses.

Burr Terrace Garden is reminiscent of a garden in Padua, Italy, featuring three levels of colorful annual plantings, an armillary bed and a fountain. Spring violas make way for phlox and purple coneflower in the summer.

The Nashville Rose Society built the Rose Study Garden in 2016. The garden contains over 70 roses of all types and colors, including Earth Kind (no spray) roses, hybrid teas, grandifloras, miniatures, climbers, shrubs and Old Garden roses.

The Robinson Family Water Garden includes ferns, hellebores, hostas and heucheras on the beds of a rocky stream.

Chihuly Exhibit Opens at Cheekwood July 18

Dale Chihuly at Cheekwood in Nashville
Dale Chihuly ; Blue Fiddleheads and Neodymium Reeds, 2010; Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art, Nashville 

Chihuly at Cheekwood will feature large-scale installations by the world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly. His work will be featured in the gardens of the historic estate as well in the art galleries. Outdoor installations will include two pieces on the newly-accessible Ann & Monroe Carell, Jr. Family Sculpture Trail, as well as two new, site-specific works created for this exhibition. 

“Our team very intentionally designed the garden beds to complement each of the 15 sculptures,” says Jeronimus. “It’s really going to be incredible to see the works during the day with the gardens, as well as all lit up at night.” 

Top 10 Gardens in the South

Don’t miss the others on our list of Top 10 Gardens in the South, including Bellingrath Gardens & Home in Alabama, Bok Tower Gardens in Florida, and Crystal Bridges in Arkansas. Stay tuned throughout the summer to see who’s next!

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