Next to swimming pools and ice cream, one of my favorite things about summer is watching flowers blooms this time of year. Local public gardens are full of life and color right now, offering kiddos and adults alike beautiful sensory destinations to visit. If you have a green thumb, these spots offer lots of inspiration for what you might want to grow next, and for kids, it’s a hands-on (and nose-on!) introduction into the wonders of earth science and gardening.
If you’ve followed my page for the last few months, you’ll notice a few of these were featured on the Discovery Center Secret Garden Tour in June. A month later, there is much more to see, plus more public access gardens in full bloom.
Pack the picnic basket and get ready for a colorful tour of some of our city’s best gardens!
315 John R. Rice Blvd., Murfreesboro
There are nine—yes, NINE-- demonstration gardens at Lane Agri-Park, showing a wide variety of types of gardens and plants: a butterfly garden, herb garden, vegetable garden, perennial garden, and composting, as well as many types of fruit plantings on display. It’s fabulous for seeing what grows well in this area. There is a geocache hidden in the garden for those that enjoy finding hidden treasures, and a garden scavenger hunt activity for children is available in the Garden Box at the entrance to the pavilion (it's also excellent for using in your own yard, so pick up an extra copy!)
The gardens are maintained by the Rutherford County Master Gardeners – volunteers of the UT/TSU Extension office who share their passion for horticulture and plants with the community. The gardens are open to the public during daylight hours. Just remember to be respectful of the gardens and leave the blooms and plants as they are so that others may enjoy them as well.
Busy kiddos? There’s lots to do here, including a fishing pond (open Monday-Saturday) as well as a playground towards the front of the property.
401 Volunteer Rd., Murfreesboro
Part of our visits to the Wilderness Station usually involve some serious consideration of “what’s growing now” around the bird feeders and trellises around the center, along with perusing the raised beds. We love seeing bunches of native honey suckle and Lantana and seeing veggies emerge from the box gardens. This is also a fun spot for getting inspiration on “extras” to include in your home garden, from feeders to painted stones. Afterwards, settle in for a picnic at the nearby tables, visit the station’s education animals (including the outdoor turtle habitat), and take a hike on the nearby trails.
900 N. Maney Ave., Murfreesboro
Imagine yourself back in time when everything you needed for meals needed to be on your property rather than in a store, and you’ll appreciate the beds of herbs, flowers and vegetables onsite at Oaklands! Tour the raised beds for fruits and vegetables at the front of the property and then walk behind the house to see the enchanting event space framed with creeping vines, flower beds and flowering herbs cultivated by Connor Moss and local green thumb enthusiasts the Garden Lovers. Get an extra dose of greenery by following the property’s arboretum signs, and wander down to the wetland trails by Murfree Spring.
1399 Sam Davis Rd., Smyrna.
Cultivated by the Smyrna Optimist Club, the pretty beds behind the Sam Davis Home feature local wildflowers and thick bushes of herbs. Check the time against the sun dial and pose for a picture at the trellis. Thanks to the many varieties of plants and trees on the property, this is also a wonderful spot for bird watching. Plan to sit a while, notice, and listen before taking a tour of the rest of the historic grounds. Ask the visitor center for a copy of the property’s arboretum map to see more of the native trees on the property.
624 N. Walnut St., Murfreesboro
Open to the public during business hours, this pretty, shaded spot in the heart of downtown invites guests to rest and re-center during their busy day. Find pots of colorful flowers next to the leafy vines and large-leaf plants, and small stones inviting you to pray and meditate on good things.
501 SE Broad St., Murfreesboro
Hear the hum coming of happy bees and bugs at the Discovery Center’s raised bed and flower gardens! Cultivated both for education and for the feeding of the center’s animals, the beds feature a rainbow garden, pizza garden, and a scratch-and-sniff garden alongside berry bushes and colorful indigenous flowers. Stay and play on the outdoor hammocks and playgrounds, and meander the wetlands to see hidden treasures like calla lilies in the water.
1875 W. College St., Murfreesboro
One of our favorite paths for biking and walking, this spot is also notable for its pretty roses and grasses surrounding the event center and along the fencing. It’s also a garden of artworks! We enjoy stopping by the Breezeway Weaving Loom for fresh art pieces and poetry lines as well as getting pictures at the yellow iris weaving on the fence. Don’t forget to pick up a new read at the Little Libraries and pause for a moment at the trail’s statement sculpture of interlocking rings. “Boundless” with its statements of "Imagine," "Home," “Progress," "Unite," "Community," and "Hope.”
8. Word Garden at Linebaugh Library and City Hall Courtyard
105 W. Vine St. Murfreesboro
Have you ever gone to the library just to walk OUTSIDE the library? My kiddos have enjoyed the fountains at City Hall Plaza from the time they were toddlers, but we’ll also go for a stroll through the gravel paths through the library courtyard’s cultivated hydrangeas and roses when they’re flushed out. Take time to notice the sculptures and word art through the walkways, and then yes, settle onto a bench for reading or let the littles run their hands through the fountains.
806 E. State St. Murfreesboro
This local plot behind Key United Methodist Church has been highlighted a lot this year for good reason! After eight years of steady supervision by Autumn and Aaron Schultz this garden is yielding amazing produce. The food and flowers grown here are tended by volunteers who believe in the power of community working with nature. Visitors can notice herbs, greens, berries, tomatoes and lots of wildflowers onsite, and on Saturdays, join in the good work of weeding and any care taking from 10am-12pm. Kids are welcome with a guardian!
How'd I do and what'd I miss? Share your favorite outdoor spot in the comments.
Laura Beth Payne is a writer mama and Murfreesboro native who lives in the Blackman community with her husband and two children. Follow her at @murfreesboromama on Facebook and Instagram. Got a column idea? Email her at email@example.com.