Courtly Love

Spring really blooms in New Orleans

By: Cheré Coen

French Quarter
Many private courtyards in the
French Quarter will be open for
self-guided tours in April
Like most Southern cities, New Orleans explodes with color and fragrances in the spring. Azaleas appear in vibrant pinks and scarlets in March, followed by Louisiana irises, roses, hydrangeas, magnolias and crepe myrtles, to name only a few.

There are many formal gardens in the city, but the most romantic exist behind brick walls and cast-iron gates. These French Quarter courtyards are privately owned but can be accessed this time of year through Patio Planters, the garden club of the Vieux Carre that sponsors special courtyard tours about twice a year.

During this year’s French Quarter Festival a free event held April 11-13 throughout the Quarter that includes music, food and special events Patio Planters will offer self-guided tours through several private French Quarter courtyards. The tours will be offered from 2-4 p.m., April 11-12, and each day offers a new grouping of addresses, with 10 courtyards viewed over the two days.

La Monde Creole

Laura Locoul was a Louisiana Creole who wrote a journal of her family’s life in the French Quarter during the 19th century. Her writings have been preserved and used as the basis for the Laura Plantation tour upriver and La Monde Creole tours in the French Quarter, labeled the “best walking tour in the city, not to be missed,” by National Geographic Traveler.

La Monde Creole tours include some of the New Orleans residences of the Locoul family; the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum and its 19th-century medicinal garden; the Historic New Orleans Collection and its courtyard; the Hermann-Grima House Museum; and St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

“The tours take you off the streets, right into the private courtyards of the Quarter,” said Bill Coble, general manager.

The tours don’t focus on the flowers, Coble said, but rather, “the emphasis is on the history and culture” of Locoul’s time.

Tours are by reservation only (their Web site says “daily but that has changed post-Katrina), but more tours will be offered as the weather warms, Coble said. Special group discounts are available.

“The larger the group, the larger the discount,” he said.

City Park Botanical Gardens

The New Orleans Botanical Gardens in City Park began as a rose garden created by the Works Progress Administration in 1936 by three of the city’s greatest talents: New Orleans architect Richard Koch, landscape architect William Wiedorn and artist Enrique Alferez, whose sculptures around town are legendary.

The gardens were renamed in the 1980s and included more than 2,000 varieties of plants. Unfortunately, many of those plants were lost to Hurricane Katrina, but the gardens have reopened and are rebounding in large part due to volunteers and donors.

Today, the City Park gardens encompass the Conservatory of the Two Sisters, several theme gardens and the New Orleans Historic Train Garden. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $6 adults, $3 children ages 5 to 12 and free for children under 5.

Longue Vue House and Gardens

Just outside the city limits, sits the former elegant home of New Orleans cotton broker Edgar Bloom Stern and his wife, Edith, an heiress to the Sears-Roebuck fortune. The couple created the home filled with European and American antiques and decorative arts and today Longue Vue is open daily to the public.

Surrounding the National Historic Landmark home are extensive gardens where flowers bloom year-round. Visitors can view which plants are in bloom by visiting the calendar on the Longue Vue Web site.

Group rates for travel agents are $7.50 a person. For a tour plus an English tea, the price is $30 each for groups of 15 or more.

Art in Bloom

The New Orleans Museum of Art and the Garden Study Club of New Orleans will honor those who helped in the city’s recovery with a five-day event, Merci Bien: A Bouquet of Thanks. The event will feature around 100 exhibitors of floral designs, sculptures and artwork on April 2-6 at the Museum of Art in City Park.

A George Rodrigue “Blue Dog” painting will be auctioned; the proceeds will benefit educational projects of the museum, the Garden Study Club and other botanical and sculpture gardens in the budding Big Easy.


For a peek inside the secret courtyards of the French Quarter, try “Orleans Embrace” by T.J. Fisher. This stunning coffee-table book, which includes the reissuing of “The Secret Gardens of the Vieux Carre” by Roy F. Guste Jr., is published by Morgana Press, which is donating all profits to French Quarter preservation.