A Visit to Briarwood

I was delighted that the mountain laurel was in bloom at Briarwood.

I chanced upon Caroline Dormon’s writings  back in the 80’s – probably as a result of reading Elizabeth Lawrence’s gardening books.

Lawrence and Dormon were friends.  They corresponded frequently and worked together on a couple of books.

Their most notable collaboration was probably Gardens in Winter which was written by Lawrence and beautifully illustrated by Dormon.

From all accounts, Miss Caroline was a ball of fire.  She had definite opinions and she spoke her mind.   She was a Naturalist, the first female Forester in Louisiana, a Teacher, an Artist and a Writer.  She called her North Louisiana home Briarwood.

The Bay Garden's Louisiana iris were in bloom.

Miss Caroline passed in the early 1970’s and her friends took steps to insure that Briarwood was preserved.

Richard and Jessie Johnson were chosen as curators.  As a child, Richard was Miss Carrie’s neighbor.  He worked in her garden and became her friend.

Richard and Jessie live at Briarwood.

They spend their days maintaining the nature preserve and interacting with visitors.   For more information, check out this link to a recent news story about Briarwood.

I have enjoyed many visits to Briarwood and have always hoped to be there when the Louisiana iris were blooming in the Bay Garden.  Luckily for me, this was the year for that trip.

A lovely lavender Louisiana iris

'Dixie Deb'

I visited on April 20 and 21.  In spite of the drought, the Bay Garden was lush.  This is due to the fact that the site is on a seep.

I arrived late in the day and explored Briarwood with Jessie.  We strolled through the Bay Garden.  I had a great time taking tons of pictures.  I realized later that I should have been listening to Jessie and taking notes because she knows the name of every iris in the garden.

At the pond mountain laurel bloomed beneath a large buckwheat titi.

After we left the Bay Garden, Jessie took me to the pond where the mountain laurels were in full bloom.  We paused to admire Grandpappy, Miss Caroline’s 300 year old longleaf pine.

We proceeded to Miss Dormon’s cabin where more mountain laurels were cohabiting with the Florida yew (Torreya taxifolia).

Then we cruised through the woods to the wildflower meadow where the yellow baptisia (Baptisia nuttallii) was sporting a few lingering blooms.

Later that evening, Richard and I rode through the wooded trails that were populated with scattered clumps of white butterfly weed (Asclepias variegata). The luminescent blooms seemed to glow in the dusk.

Richard Johnson paused from trail repair to tell a story.

The stewartia blooms were a pleasant surprise.

Our destination was Briarwood’s newest land purchase.  We crossed a beautiful tea-colored sandy creek as Richard talked about his future plans for Briarwood.

Richard is a storyteller of the highest degree.   As we rode, he talked and I listened with a big grin on my face.

The next morning as I was leaving, Jessie said “Oh, the silky camellia (Stewartia malacodendron) might be in bloom.  Do you want to check?”

“Please”  I responded and we were off to find, of course, the desired plant in full bloom.  It was the perfect ending to a wonderful visit!

I highly recommend a visit to Briarwood.  For details and contact information, visit the Briarwood website.


 

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