Past Places

New Smyrna Beach: Art & Artist Enclave (Fall 2016)

Charleston's Most Unique Low Country Dishes (Fall 2016)

Grab a Life Vest, Helmet, and a Paddle (Fall 2016)

Upcoming Exhibitions at the North Carolina Museum of Art (Fall 2016)

The Ultimate Staycay? A Homegrown Mediterranean Get-Away (Fall 2015)

Eight Uniquely Charlotte Experiences (Fall 2015)

Hitting the High Notes of Macon's Music Scene (Fall 2015)

Florida's North Peninsula (Fall 2015)

12 Reasons to Visit Huntsville, Alabama (Fall 2015)

Alabama's Captivating Capital (Fall 2014)

Exploring South Carolina Old 96 District (Spring 2014)

Weekend Getaway to Lake Charles, La. (Spring 2014)

Exploring Northwest Florida's Natural Side (Spring 2014)

Discovering the Lake Oconee Area (Fall 2013)

Cumberland Island National Seashore (Fall 2013)

The Best of Today's Waterpark Rides (Summer 2013)


Have a Southern Houseboat House Party (Spring 2013)

Take Flight: Yes, You CAN Get a Pilot’s License (Spring 2013)

Discovering Hollywood's Backlot (Fall 2012)

Color-Fall Tennessee (Fall 2012)

NASCAR 2012: Upcoming Events Around the South (Summer 2012)

RVacations (Summer 2012)

People Go Wild for Glamping (Summer 2012)

Best Beaches for Beach Bums (Summer 2012)

Heirloom Gardens (Spring 2012)

Unforgettable Experiences Await You at Select Registry Inns in the South (Winter 2011)

Golf with a Southern Drawl (Fall 2011)

Bring Rover on Over - Hotels That Want to Pamper Your Pooch (Fall 2011)

Cabana Mania! (Summer 2011)

Time to Plan for Summer Sleepaway Camps (Spring 2011)

He Said Golf, She Said Spa (Spring 2011)

Edu-Vacation Destination: Charleston, S.C. (Spring 2011)

Getting Your Adventure on in the Mountains (Spring 2011)

Freeze Action (Winter 2010)

No Ordinary Love (Winter 2010)

Spa Spectacular: The Natural Choice (Winter 2010)

Freestyle Mountain Adventures (Winter 2010)

Heirloom Gardens

It’s hard to resist a garden in the springtime, whether you’re planting your own, or visiting one of the beautiful public gardens around the South.

Heirloom gardens are becoming increasingly popular. If you haven’t heard of heirloom plants, they’re simply varieties that have been around for 50 years or more, earning them the nickname “living antiques.” They’re also open-pollinated, which means you can plant their seeds and get new plants that are almost identical to the parents. (You can’t do that with most modern hybrids.)

Heirlooms are the kind of flowers and vegetables that our ancestors grew, which makes them especially intriguing to history buffs. Gardeners are also growing them again because these antique flowers have rich perfumes, and heirloom foods offer delicious, old-fashioned flavor.  

Today’s hybrids have almost eclipsed heirloom plants, but you can still purchase their seeds and visit historic gardens to see them growing. Here are some of our favorite historic spots:

The Gardens at Monticello, in Charlottesville, Virginia. Thomas Jefferson’s magnificent estate was once a botanical showplace for vegetables, flowers, medicinal plants, and fruit trees from around the world. Jefferson’s flower gardens almost disappeared after his death in 1826, but they’ve been restored and are open to visitors. The Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants collects, preserves, and sells many of the heirloom varieties you’ll see here. 1-434-984-9822.

Colonial Williamsburg, in Williamsburg, Virginia. You’ll find restive green spaces and lush, 18th century plantings at this historic site. Don’t miss the formally designed Governor’s Palace Garden or the simple, authentic kitchen garden. Walking tours and gardening talks are offered in the spring. 1-800-HISTORY.

Mount Vernon House and Gardens, in Mount Vernon, Virginia. Did you know our first president had a green thumb? George Washington designed the gardens at his Mount Vernon home with many unusual 18th century flowers, and planted an orchard with pear, apple, and—you guessed it—cherry trees.

Where to buy heirloom seeds for your garden:

Seed Savers Exchange – This non-profit has preserved thousands of heirloom varieties, many of which are offered for sale. 1-563-382-5990.

Park Seed Company – Known primarily for its hybrid seeds, Parks, based in Greenwood, S.C., also sells many heirlooms. 1-888-768-3476.

Tomato Growers Supply Company – Located in Fort Myers, Florida, this seed seller has a large selection of heirloom tomato, pepper, and eggplant varieties. 1-888-768-3476.

Lynn Coulter is the author of Gardening with Heirloom Seeds (UNC Press). Visit her blog at