Flower-filled woodlands and gardens at the Memphis Botanic Garden

(Last Updated On: July 6, 2020)

The landscaped grounds of the Memphis Botanic Garden feature an ever-changing array of greenery and colorful flowers to delight visitors throughout the year.

tall fountain with flowers in front and trees behind

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I visited the Memphis Botanic Garden for free as a guest of the garden and Memphis Travel. However, as always, all information and opinions provided here are entirely my own.

Garden history

Unlike many botanical gardens that trace their origin back to the Victorian garden craze, the botanic garden in Memphis didn’t get its start until 1953.

But the community has made sure that it’s continued to grow since then.

A garden for every taste

The Memphis Botanic Garden features 31 specialty gardens on 96 acres. A visitor center, a chapel-like pavilion, several working greenhouses (not open to the public), a concert stage, and a variety of event spaces are also located on the property.

Much of the garden’s property is wooded, with a pleasant mix of trees and flowering shrubs. This makes wandering through it a continual surprise, as wooded trails with natural landscaping connect to a variety of formal gardens. It also makes the garden a lovely spot to escape the heat of a Memphis summer!

woodland path with shrubs and trees

The Botanic Garden’s website includes a map with links to more information on many of the gardens.

The Rose Garden

Leaving the Visitor Center, visitors pass through an interesting little Sculpture Garden before arriving at the formal Rose Garden.

No longer just a rose garden, the gardens around the central fountain feature a mix of roses and perennials to ensure color throughout the growing season.

fountain in a garden

But don’t worry, there are plenty of roses too!

Not only are there plenty of roses, but the gardens serve as a visual guide to the history of rose cultivation. Visitors can see roses that range from some of the earliest varieties from Europe to the latest hybrids. In addition, there is at least one rose from more than 20 classes of roses, including china roes, hybrid teas, musk roses, and more.

You can find at least a few blossoms in the Rose Garden from the end of March through Thanksgiving.

Japanese gardens

On the other side the garden, a large Japanese-inspired landscape wraps around a lake. Perfect for strolling, the Japanese Garden of Tranquility (Seijaku-En), features rolling lawns along the lake, islands, bridges, Japanese lanterns and sculpture, and a variety of both Japanese and native plants.

large pond in a Japanese garden

stone Japanese lantern at the base of a tree

It’s also home to a lot of turtles, a flock of Canadian geese, a variety of ducks, and some hungry koi!

gold and white koi fish looking for food at the water's surface

Shade gardens of all types

The Memphis Botanic Garden has an impressive number of shady trails. They connect gardens featuring a variety of trees, flowering shrubs (particularly hydrangeas, camellias, dogwood, and azaleas), and woodland flowers with more traditional formal and demonstration gardens.

In the midst of all this greenery, the Blecken Pavilion rises like a magical remnant of a long-lost world.

open wooden building in a woodland

Be sure to keep an eye on the ground as well, since it’s easy to miss many of the beautiful woodland wildflowers.

Of course, there’s also an entire hosta glen in another shady part of the garden.

Color through the year at the Memphis Botanical Garden

Even the chill of winter doesn’t completely end the garden’s flowering. Besides the greenery and colorful berries that last through the winter’s chill, hardy hellebores (also known as Lenten Rose or Christmas Rose) beginning blooming during winter.

Early spring brings the first magnolias and cherry blossoms. But the display changes quickly, with azaleas, spring bulbs, and the first wildflowers briefly brightening the landscape before fading.

Daffodil Hill is usually at its best in March and April, but by the time I visited in the last days of April, spring was already moving on. The daffodils were gone, as were the spring ephemerals. In their place the first roses were opening and many perennials were beginning to bloom the sunny rose garden.

Meanwhile, some azaleas still bloomed (as others will throughout the growing season) in the Japanese Garden and along shady trails.

white azaleas around a stone Japanese lantern

But the real stars were the irises.

In formal plantings, the bearded irises showed off their often-flamboyant mix of colors.

close up of a gold and burgundy iris

And, over along the water’s edge, dainty Japanese irises created soft swaths of color.

blue Japanese irises

Had I arrived just a bit later in the season, the roses would have been in full-bloom, along with many more perennials.

Still later, as summer’s heat settles in, bold colored annuals will show off. They’ll be joined by cone flowers, rubeckias, and other native plants beloved by bees and butterflies. And, of course, the heat-loving waterlilies should also put on quite a show!

Fall brings colorful leaves to the woodlands along with its own mix of late season blossoms.

Plan your visit to the Memphis Botanic Garden

The botanic garden in Memphis, Tennessee, is located in East Memphis, about 8 miles from the heart of downtown.

The Memphis Botanic Garden is an event space as much as a garden. That makes it a great for a lot of purposes, but less enjoyable as a garden.

At 96 acres, there is quite a bit of space here, but it seemed smaller. That’s despite rather haphazard paths that required back-tracking and large, uninteresting lawns (used for various events) I generally tried to avoid. The formal gardens tend to be small and scattered throughout the site. There’s more here than it seems, but less than one might expect from the map.

When to visit

The Memphis Botanic garden is open year-round.

The best time to visit depends in part on what you are hoping to see in bloom.

Lodging in Memphis

There really aren’t a lot of hotels right around the Botanic Garden itself. The nearest ones are mostly along I-240 as it loops south and east of the garden.

But you probably aren’t going to Memphis just for the botanic garden anyway. I loved staying right in downtown Memphis where it was easy to walk or take the trolley to many of the city’s best museums, music, and restaurants.

pavilion in a woodland with text "Memphis Botanic Garden"I enjoyed my stay at the Hotel Napoleon, a historic office building that that has been transformed into a cozy hotel that neatly combines the warmth of old brick with a bit of an industrial vibe. You can take a look at it and book a room on TripAdvisor, Expedia, or Hotels.com.

But there are lots of other options too. See all your options are, check reviews, and book your room at TripAdvisor, Expedia, or Hotels.com.

Buy a photo of the Memphis Botanic Garden

More than Graceland: Great things to do in Memphis

Japanese garden and pond with text "Memphis Botanic Garden" pavilion in a woodland with text "Memphis Botanic Garden"

fountain surrounded by flowers with text "Memphis Botanic Garden"

4 thoughts on “Flower-filled woodlands and gardens at the Memphis Botanic Garden”

  1. SOUNDS LOVELY, CINDY! Maybe we will make it there someday but you have done a great job to whet our appetite. Thanks for ALL you postings.

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