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Featured Events


A Garden Affair

Set outside amongst the museum's idyllic location in the heart of the bluegrass horse... more

Central Bank Thursday Night Live

Beverages, food from local restaurants and great music by live bands! Every Thursday... more

Keeneland Race Course Thoroughbred Racing

 Spring race meet. No racing on Mondays, Tuesdays or Easter.... more

Man o' War at 100

The International Museum of the Horse is celebrating Man o’ War’s 100th... more

Rolex Three Day Event

The only Four Star three-day equestrian event in the Western Hemisphere.... more

Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour

Join in the fun of a music show taped live and broadcast around the world. Audience... more

Big Band & Jazz 2017

One of Lexington's longest running and most beloved concert series, features great jazz... more

Red Barn Radio

Cheer on the fine musicians who keep alive the Traditional Music of Kentucky! ... more

The Fox On The Fairway

A tribute from Ken Ludwig (Lend me a Tenor, Moon Over Buffalo) to the great English... more

Derby Day Breakfast

This special, elegant Derby menu is a Kentucky exclusive and will be offered in the... more

Kentucky Derby Party

Festivities include live music, pony rides, food and wagering! Known as the largest Derby... more

LexBrunch 2017

This free concert series is hosted every other Sunday. The series features a different... more

Evening Tea Tuesday at Waveland

Delicious tea and food served by period dressed interpreters on fine china. Once finished... more

Mayfest Arts Fair 2017

Mayfest is a juried art fair with a focus on casual, family-friendly atmosphere. ... more

Southland Street Fair

The whole family is invited out to one of Lexington's hottest and most eclectic... more

Vintage Baseball Game at Waveland

Come enjoy a wonderful day of history, food and of course, the good old American pastime,... more

LexArts Gallery Hop

Thousands of locals and visitors alike converge on downtown Lexington to celebrate art... more

High Hope Steeplechase

Head out to the Kentucky Horse Park for the 49th running of the High Hope Steeplechase! A... more

LexBrunch 2017

This free concert series is hosted every other Sunday. The series features a different... more

Annual Kentucky High School Invitational Rodeo

 The best high school athletes in the region compete over three days.... more

Tunes in the Vines

A bottle of wine, good friends and great music are the perfect blend for Sunday... more

Great American Brass Band Festival

World-class bands come together in what has been called "the most prominent and... more

LexBrunch 2017

This free concert series is hosted every other Sunday. The series features a different... more

Vintage Baseball Game at Waveland

Come enjoy a wonderful day of history, food and of course, the good old American pastime,... more

Festival of the Bluegrass

This annual jamboree features the best Bluegrass bands in Kentucky and top national... more

LexBrunch 2017

This free concert series is hosted every other Sunday. The series features a different... more

Vintage Baseball Game at Waveland

Come enjoy a wonderful day of history, food and of course, the good old American pastime,... more
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Garden Tours

Gorgeous Gardens Await in Lexington and the Bluegrass

Early Kentucky settlers thought the entire Bluegrass region was a garden spot. "We felt ourselves as passengers through a PDF Boxwilderness just arrived at the fields of Elysium, or at a garden where there was no forbidden fruit," gushed Daniel Boone's companion Felix Walker, in the late 1700s.

As cabins began to dot the wilderness, so did gardens. Writings from the early 1800s described Kentucky cabins adorned with climbing roses. By the 1830s, a visitor noted that the elegant mansions of the Bluegrass were "surrounded by gardens and pleasure grounds, adorned with trees and shrubs, tastefully disposed."

The gardening traditions in Lexington and the surrounding area continue to delight visitors today. Garden enthusiasts can enjoy spots ranging from formal gardens to sweeping expanses of wildflowers.

Bluegrass Note: The fertile soil of the Bluegrass has been legendary since the earliest settlers arrived. "Plant a nail at night and it'll come up a spike by morning," boasted a Kentuckian to a visitor in the early 1800s.


Formal Traditions

At Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate, beautiful iron gates lead into a traditional English parterre garden. The six parterres, or sections, feature a wide variety of trees, shrubs, perennials, herbs, roses and annuals. Benches and chairs provide delightful spots in which to rest and admire, paint, or read the free garden brochure available from the estate visitor center.

Formal gardens have been a part of the estate since the days of Clay himself. The famous 19th-century statesman collected landscaping ideas while on trips of state to England. The current half-acre garden, designed to reflect the style of a formal garden of Clay's era, was begun in 1950 and is maintained by the Garden Club of Lexington. The Ashland Garden is open seasonally Tuesday through Sunday at 10:00 a.m. The gates are locked at 5:00 p.m.; admission is free. (There's a charge to tour the house.) 120 Sycamore Road. (859) 266-8581.

Memorial -and Memorable

garden-toursThe Lexington Cemetery is the final resting place of famous Lexingtonians, but many visitors come to see its living attractions- the trees, shrubs, plants and flower beds that have gained it a national reputation as one of America's most beautiful cemeteries and arboretums. The cemetery includes more than 200 species of trees, from flowering dogwoods and magnolias to an historic American linden that was growing when the U.S. Constitution was adopted in 1787. Lovely flower gardens and three lakes add to the park-like setting. The summer begonias and some of the other plants are grown in the cemetery's own greenhouse. Pick up a free self-guided tree tour in the office between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Saturdays. The cemetery gates are locked at 5 p.m. 833 West Main Street. (859) 255-5522.

Bluegrass Note: The formal garden at the Lexington Cemetery was inspired by the famed Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia.

A State-ly Park

A 2.2 mile horticultural "Walk Across Kentucky" is just one of the attractions at The Arboretum on the University of Kentucky campus. In 1995, more than 1,000 trees and shrubs gathered from Kentucky's seven geophysical regions were planted. The arboretum also includes herb, rose, water and butterfly gardens, and an All-American Trials vegetable garden. Numerous special events are held throughout the year, including a plant exchange in May, Halloween activities and special Arbor Day celebrations in April. There is a special Kentucky Children's Garden that is open March through October.

The arboretum is open daily, dawn to dusk. It is located at 500 Alumni Drive between Nicholasville and Tates Creek roads. Admission is free. (859) 257-6955.

Other Growing Attractions

Several of the historic homes open for tour in Lexington include small period gardens. There's no admission charge just to visit the gardens.

Herb and flower gardens at Waveland State Historic Site, 225 Waveland Museum Road, include plants appropriate to the antebellum era. (859) 272-3611.

Behind the wrought iron fence at the Hunt-Morgan House, 201 North Mill Street, you'll find a small "city garden" with a gazebo. (859) 253-0362.

A formal 19th-century herb and perennial garden, charming and compact, graces the backyard of the Mary Todd Lincoln House, 578 West Main St. (859) 233-9999.

While not a "garden" in the traditional sense, Raven Run Nature Sanctuary, is a great place to view Kentucky wildflowers spring through fall. More than 300 different varieties of wildflowers, including blue-eyed Mary and other rare varieties, can be found at Raven Run. Trails open daily, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.. Guided nature walks are given monthly. 5888 Jacks Creek Pike. (859) 272-6105.

Garden enthusiasts might also like to take a driving tour through some scenic Lexington neighborhoods. The Chevy Chase/Ashland Park neighborhoods (streets around and east of Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate); and the Kenwick neighborhood (Mentelle Park, Victory and other streets off Richmond Road east of downtown), are beautifully in bloom, spring through fall.

Green Neighbors
Visit the pictureque greenhouses at Michler's Florist and Greenhouses to see an extensive garden plant selection. The first of seven large greenhouses on this spot was built in 1907 by Charlie Michler, and the operation has stayed in the family all these years, thriving right in the middle of the historic Aylesford neighborhood. Catch current owner John Michler and pick his brain about native Kentucky plants. His encyclopedic knowledge will impress you. While you are there, stop in at his Kentucky Native Cafe for a sandwhich, salad or locally crafted beer. It's open seasonally. (859) 254-0383.

Garden Clubs Galore
Lexington is so enthusiastic about our gardening traditions that it has six garden clubs that meet regularly under the umbrella of The Lexington Council Garden Clubs. The Council sponsors several major events each year. If you are visiting in June, do not miss the annual Open Gates to Bluegrass Living Garden Tour. The tour showcases at least nine diverse gardens, in both suburban and rural settings. Whether you're a hands-on gardener or just enjoy beauty and tranquility, this is a unique opportunity to visit some of Lexington's most inspiring private gardens. (859) 223-0955 or (859) 317-0424.

Bluegrass Note: Celebrated garden designer, author and lecturer Jon Carloftis maintains a home (and garden!) in Lexington. His creations have been featured in Southern Living, BMW Magazine and Country Home. Locally, he designed the rooftop gardens at L.V. Harkness and Dudley's on Short. Check out this colorful brochure endorsed by Jon on Gardens and Architecture in Lexington.

Nearby & Noteworthy

Frankfort Florals

When Margaretta Mason Brown came as a bride to Frankfort, Kentucky, in 1801, from New York, she brought rose cuttings with her. The descendants of some of her roses bloomed until the 1960's  in the three-acre garden at Liberty Hall, 218 Wilkinson Street.

With its boxwood hedges, exotic gingko trees and exuberant flower beds, the garden is maintained in the Colonial Revival-style in which Margaretta's granddaughter kept it in the early 1900s. The garden is included in the book "Grandmother's Garden: The Old-Fashioned American Garden 1865-1915," by May Brawley Hill.

There's no charge to tour the garden, Liberty Hall or the adjacent Orlando Brown House. The houses are closed Sundays. (502) 227-2560.

Kentucky's most unusual garden is found on the grounds of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort. The Floral Clock is made up of 13,000 plants. The face of the clock is 34 feet across, and a special mechanism enables the quarter-ton hands to move. The whole blooming thing sits in a 100-ton planter above a reflecting pool. Open daily dawn to dusk. Free admission. (502) 564-3449. Frankfort is 27 miles west of Lexington via I-64 or US 60.

Bluegrass Note: They are poisonous when raw, but early settlers roasted the seeds of the Kentucky Coffeetree to make a coffee substitute. Black, leathery pods filled with bean-like seeds hang from branches which are bare most of the year. The Coffeetree was the official Kentucky State Tree until 1994, when the Legislature bumped it for the more "popular" Tulip Poplar, a member of the magnolia family.

Parisian Plot

About 100 varieties of trees - including many varieties of flowering dogwoods -- numerous flowering plants, a rose garden and a fish pool are found in the five-acre Nannine Clay Wallis Arboretum, 616 Pleasant Street in Paris. The arboretum is the "back yard" of the headquarters of the Garden Club of Kentucky. View the gardens daily, sunrise to sunset, unless a special event is taking place. Admission is free. (859) 987-6158. Paris is 18 miles north of Lexington via US 27/68.

Seeds of Shaker Life

Although the main attractions at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill are the beautifully restored buildings, garden enthusiasts will also enjoy the outdoor views at America's largest restored Shaker community. There are herb and vegetable gardens at the village, planted and tended as they might have been when this was a thriving 19th-century Shaker community. Shaker Village is about 25 miles southwest of Lexington via US 68. It's open daily; admission charged. (859) 734-5411 or toll-free, (800) 734-5611.

A Country Retreat

On the way to Shaker Village, avid gardeners will want to stop at Springhouse Gardens, just south of Lexington on US 68 across from The Golf Club of the Bluegrass (formerly Widow's Watch Golf Course). A natural spring, dry-laid limestone fences and towering sycamores lend a rustic feel to this Central Kentucky garden center. Owner Richard Weber has incorporated many artifacts found on the property, formerly part of a tobacco farm, into its design. Even a child's old red wagon discovered in the barn found new life hauling plants. More than just a nursery, a variety of permanent display gardens including water gardens and beautifully constructed shade pavilions make Springhouse a year round destination. You are welcome to wander the 6 1/2 acres. Hours vary from season to season. 185 West Catnip Hill Road. Call (859) 224-1417.

Hands Across the Ocean

A joint project between Georgetown's sister city, Tahara, Japan, and local garden enthusiasts, Yuko-En on the Elkhorn flourishes on the banks of Elkhorn Creek. It is the Official Kentucky-Japan Friendship garden and one of the largest Japanese gardens in America. Complete with waterfalls, arched bridges and a Zen rock garden, you can let your mind escape to another place. Take the short drive to Georgetown and see native Japanese maples, irises and other flora. Open daily from dawn until dusk. 700 Cincinnati Pike, Georgetown. (502) 316-4554.

Bluegrass Note: Kentuckians have also made their mark in vegetable gardening. Bibb lettuce, also known as limestone lettuce, was developed by amateur horticulturist John B. Bibb in his backyard garden in Frankfort, Kentucky, sometime around 1865. You can walk by the Bibb-Burnley House on Wapping Street in Frankfort.

Living History

Floracliff, a 287 acre nature preserve in southern Fayette County, has an astounding number of ancient trees. one tree, known affectionatelly as "The One," is a Chinkapin oak dating to 1611. Twelve other trees pre-date Daniel Boone and James Harrod. Floracliff's uplands and gorges are one of the best places to view wildflowers in the Bluegrass Region.The sanctuary is open by appointment only, but offers a variety of walks, events, and hands-on workshops to interested individuals and groups. (859) 351-7770.

Farther Afield

A bit farther from Lexington but still within easy driving distance are several other fascinating gardens:

The 14,000 public acres at Bernheim  Forest, includes a 600-acre landscape arboretum with more than 1,800 labeled varieties of plants, a visitor center and three lakes. Bernheim Arboretum includes the largest collection of American hollies in North America. The arboretum includes herb gardens, a butterfly garden, water gardens and other perennial and annual plantings. Bernheim is open year-round, daily except Christmas Day and New Year's Day, from 7:00 a.m. until sunset. It's located on Ky. 245 off I-65 near Clermont, Kentucky, about 58 miles from Lexington. Admission free during the week; there's a $5 per-vehicle charge on weekends and holidays ($10 for vans and RVs). (502) 955-8512.

Gardener-to-gardener inspiration and idea-sharing were what Mary Ellen Pesek and her husband Mark Lawhorn had in mind when they decided to open their six acres of gardens to the public. The couple's Big Bone Gardens, across from Big Bone Lick State Park, includes seven water gardens, herb gardens, a Gnome garden and other theme gardens, with an emphasis on naturalistic landscaping and organic care. It's open to the public Saturdays and Sundays from mid-April through mid-July. Hours are 12 p.m.- 5 p.m. Big Bone Lick is about 72 miles from Lexington off I-75. Free. (859) 869-1315.

We've found the many people who are interested in our Gardens Ideo Guide article are also interested in our article on Agritourism.

For more information contact VisitLEX, the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau, at (800) 845-3959.

By Teresa Day, a freelance travel writer based in Georgetown, KY.
Edited and updated by Lu Ann Pelle March 2016.

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