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
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
“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
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
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.