On a recent beautiful spring day I traveled to Nashville to visit Cheekwood Botanical Garden, one of my favorite destinations. It is special every season, but spring is exceptionally lovely there.
Thousands of visitors from near and far are expected to flock to Cheekwood to experience the beauty of spring during Cheekwood in Bloom. The annual festival, running March 18-April 23, features more than 150,000 blooming bulbs throughout the gardens and six weekends of entertainment, special programming and natural inspiration for guests of all ages.
“Cheekwood in Bloom is one of the most magical times to be at Cheekwood as tulips, daffodils and flowering trees spread color throughout the gardens,” said Meagan Rust, public programs manager. “With family-friendly weekend programming and the addition of the Beer Garden, there is no better place to be to celebrate spring’s arrival.”
Over 150,000 bulbs were planted last fall in preparation for this year’s color explosion including:
103,100 Tulips, including 3,000 tulips in downtown Nashville’s Riverview Gardens
20,745 Violas & Pansies
20,150 Daffodils, including 10,000 planted in the Mustard Meadow
107 Cultivars of Tulips
According to Caroline Jeronimus, Communications Manager of Cheekwood, “some of the most asked about plants by visitors at Cheekwood are the following: Rising Sun Eastern redbud, Piedmont azaleas, pawpaw, flowering dogwood, baptisia “Carolina Moonlight,” trillium and fothergilla.
A Conversation with Caroline Jeronimus, Communications Manager at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens
VIP: Why is spring at Cheekwood so special?
CAROLINE JERONIMUS (CJ): The celebration of the arrival of spring in Nashville is a really exciting time at Cheekwood. There is so much anticipation of spring as people have gone through the long winter with dreary and gray days of January and February. To me, Cheekwood in Bloom starts a new season. Daylight Saving Time allows for more daylight in the evening and the gardens are incredibly visual, vibrant and colorful. We have family-friendly activities throughout the Cheekwood in Bloom festival and something to appeal to all ages. Music is offered, our picnic tables are brought out, and we have strung lights near a new beer garden.
In addition this year we will offer seasonal craft beers and craft cocktails and other weekend activities. There is something to appeal to everyone.
VIP: Why is Cheekwood in Bloom special?
CJ: Cheekwood in Bloom is truly a sight to behold! The Bradford Robertson Color Garden is the hub of our activities. I direct people there. Much thought goes into the way the colors are planted and the color contrasts. The Color Garden is located next to the Visitors Services building. Cheekwood in Bloom starts in March and goes through April 23. Our blooms are about 3 weeks early because of the warm weather we experienced in February.
VIP: What’s new this year at Cheekwood?
CJ: Firs the time we will have a Beer Garden with live jazz music on the weekends, six weekends of family activities, Summer Camp (open to anyone; registration opened February 1), and Dressing Downton will be open to the public on June 17 in the gallery of the mansion on the top floor.
We will have several events with a 1930s theme including antique cars in the Frist Learning Center, afternoon teas and speakeasy style cocktails on Thursday nights during the summer.
Another new event will take place on April 23 when visitors may bring their dogs out to be photographed. We will host a donation drive for the Nashville Humane Association.
VIP: What is the status of the Cheekwood mansion restoration? Is it closed to the public at present?
CJ: The mansion officially closed on January 3 as we began an historic restoration. It is set to re-open to the public on June 17 in tandem with our Downton Abbey Exhibit, which will take place June 17-September 10.
VIP: What will visitors find in the newly restored Cheekwood mansion?
CJ: Each room will be restored in the way it was when the family resided in the home. We have photos of every room in the house. We are scraping down to the original layers of paint put on the walls in the 1930s. We are restoring original paint colors on the walls and tracking down period furniture. The mansion will re-open to the public on June 17.
VIP: What’s new in your Gift Shop?
CJ: We have new spring merchandise. The shop manager rotates the merchandise seasonally. At present it is springy and fun with tulip bulbs, hyacinth bulbs, books, Nashville-specific gifts for out-of-town visitors, gardening accessories, and children’s books among other items.
VIP: If you were advising a first-time visitor coming to Cheekwood to see the glorious spring blooms, what are the must-see attractions?
CJ: I would definitely visit our Color Garden. It’s a beautiful place to walk around with a lot of contrasting colors popping through there. The arches are gorgeous and be sure to walk down to the Triple Ponds that flow into each other. There are benches and picnic tables where visitors may sit by the water and see turtles and wildlife. The sound of the water, seeing the mansion and the wisteria arbor—it’s a lovely place to spend some time outdoors.
Cheekwood is a 55-acre botanical garden and art museum located on the historic Cheek estate. Its mission is to preserve Cheekwood as an historical landmark where beauty and excellence in art and horticulture stimulate the mind and nurture the spirit. Cheekwood presents world-class art exhibitions, showcases breathtaking gardens, and offers educational programs and seasonal festivals to school children and families as well as to the citizens of Nashville and its visitors.
Besides the Color Garden, other Cheekwood features include a Sculpture Trail, Public Programs & Special Events, and the Pineapple Room Restaurant, a longtime favorite eatery. (I love their fried green tomato salad, quesadillas, and their decadent dulce de leche cake.) The Pineapple Room is open Tuesday-Sunday for lunch from 11 am-2 pm. Reservations are encouraged by calling (615) 352-4859. Box lunches may be purchased and picnic tables are located near the Water Garden.
HISTORY OF CHEEKWOOD
The history and origin of Cheekwood are intimately interwoven with the growth of Nashville, the Maxwell House coffee brand, and the Cheeks, one of the city’s early entrepreneurial families.
The Cheeks bought 100 acres of what was then woodland in West Nashville for a country estate. To design and build the house and grounds, they hired New York residential and landscape architect, Bryant Fleming, and gave him control over every detail—from landscaping to interior furnishings. The result was a limestone mansion and extensive formal gardens inspired by the grand English houses of the 18th century. Fleming’s masterpiece, Cheekwood, was completed in 1932.
Huldah Cheek Sharp and her husband, Walter, lived at Cheekwood until the 1950s when they offered the 30,000-square-foot Georgian-style mansion as a site for a botanical garden and art museum. The development of the property was spearheaded by the Exchange Club of Nashville, the Horticultural Society of Middle Tennessee, and many other civic groups. The Nashville Museum of Art donated its permanent collections and proceeds from the sale of its building to the effort. The new Cheekwood opened to the public in 1960.
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT CHEEKWOOD
Address: 1200 Forest Park Drive/Nashville, TN 37205
Phone: (615) 356-8000 or (877) 356-8150
Visiting Hours: Open Tuesday-Saturday: 9:30 am-4:30 pm, Sunday: 11:00 am-4:30 pm
Closed Monday except for Memorial Day and Labor Day. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Spring Art Hop
National Arbor Day Celebration
Dogs and Dogwoods Day
Family Studio Drop-in ‘ART’ivities with a special theme every weekend
Garden demonstrations and tours
Children’s story time at 10:30 am and 11:00 am in the Sigourney Cheek Literary Garden
Beer Garden from 11 am-4 pm
Music in the Beer Garden provided by Nashville Jazz Workshop from 11 am-2 pm
Live Bunnies & Friends: Pet & Learn with Clover Patch Sanctuary: 11 am-1 pm
Sketch & Sip: Drop-in drawing activity with cash bar from 12 pm-3 pm
Beer Garden from 11 am-4 pm
Music in the Beer Garden provided by Nashville Jazz Workshops from 11 am-2 pm
Yoga in the Garden at 1 pm
Summer Camp: June 5-August 4 from 9 am-4 pm.
Dressing Downton: Changing Fashions for Changing Times: June 17-Sept. 10. Experience a costume chronicle based on the wildly popular Downton Abbey PBS series.
For more information and a full schedule of events, visit www.cheekwood.org.