Written by Carol Bareuther
April 2019

The signs of spring are all around, and warmer days are coaxing budding beauties out of their winter slumber. Brave little crocuses and cheerful daffodils lead the charge as the first to push through soggy soil and melting snow. Before long, landscapes will awaken with colorful displays and sweet aromas of the new season.

Whether you’re looking for creative ideas for your home garden or simply enjoy magnificent scenery and foliage, now is the time to visit the following seaside estates and their glamorous gardens.

Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum: Bristol, RI

More than 75,000 daffodils bloom from mid-April to early May at this 33-acre wonderland that was built as a coal industry magnet’s summer estate in the 1890s. Dozens of daffodil varieties along with native trout lilies and blue periwinkles create a picturesque English country woodland, which overlooks Narraganset Bay. “The best therapy after a long cold winter is the sight and scent of thousands of daffodils,” says Gail Read, horticulturist, gardens and greenhouse manager. “After the extravagant daffodil show, tulips planted among the perennials in the flower gardens bloom with early flowering avens, summer snowflakes and woodland phlox. June is a riot of color with flowering perennials, roses, and clematis in every garden.” The grounds are open year-round. (blithewold.org)

Where to Dock: Bristol Yacht Club

Rough Point Museum: Newport, RIRough Point Museum | Best of Lists | Spring's Arrival at Seaside Estates | Marinalife

Springtime at this Gilded Age mansion is when staff plant the kitchen garden, which once supplied ingredients such as spinach, eggplant, rosemary and thyme to the table of former owner and American tobacco heiress Doris Duke. In early June, peonies and nepata bloom in the formal gardens and offer a fantastic foreground for a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean beyond. A 30-minute guided tour from April to November displays the gardens seasonality as well as the sustainable horticulture practices for which Duke was known. “Visitors can take advantage of the $5 grounds-only pass to explore the gardens at their own pace for inspiration,” says Frank Amaral, grounds and gardens supervisor for the Newport Restoration Foundation, which now owns the property. “The gardens are surrounded by hedges to protect the plants from the elements, which makes it feel very private. Benches afford a relaxing place to sit and enjoy the plants while listening to the ocean crash along the Cliff Walk.” (newportrestoration.org/roughpoint)

Where to Dock: Newport Yachting Center

Eolia Mansion & Gardens at Harkness Memorial State Park: Waterford, CT

Sun-colored daffodils and scented narcissus along the original entrance are a sure sign of spring at this early 20th century summer mansion set on 230 seaside acres on Long Island Sound. The main gardens are divided into four sections: the Oriental garden, Italian garden, boxwood garden and alpine rock garden. All have quiet spots and seating designed for relaxation and contemplation. “Most popular each spring is our plant sale, which takes place the Saturday before Mother’s Day,” says Jeanne Shelburne, president of the Friends of Harkness Memorial State Park. “This sale features our antique strain of heliotrope, divisions of mature perennials from the Harkness gardens, and unusual plants from wholesalers and members gardens.” (harkness.org)

Where to Dock: Harbor Hill Marina

Oheka Castle Hotel & Estate: Huntington, NY

Castle | Best of Lists | Spring's Arrival at Seaside Estates | Marinalife

The magnificently manicured French gardens at the former residence of 20th century financier and philanthropist, Otto Kahn, is a bucket list location for brainstorming home gardeners. Features include multiple reflecting pools and fountains, classical statuary, a gazebo intertwined with wisteria that blooms in early spring, more than 2,000 boxwoods, stone stairways and balustrades, and two rows of London plane trees. The gardens are only open to guests staying in or dining at the hotel or visitors who booked a one-hour historic mansion tour. “In common with the French style, the formal gardens are designed to view from many angles,” says Nancy Melius, director of marketing and design. “That means they can be walked in 15 minutes or equally enjoyed for an hour or two.” (oheka.com)

Where to Dock: West Shore Marina

Old Westbury Gardens: Old Westbury, NY

Right from its start in 1903, foliage surrounding the 160-acre Westbury House estate focused on spring when owner, U.S. Steel heir John Schaffer Phipps, was in residence with his family. The two-acre walled garden is at its peak in April when the eye-popping cherry blossoms are in bloom, according to Maura McGoldrick- Brush, director of horticulture. “Spring visitors will see bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, hyacinth and fritillaria. In early May, lilacs bloom, followed by old-fashioned favorites such as delphinium and foxgloves. The first two weeks of June are among my favorites because the roses and clematis are in flower. Our collection is one of the best in the country as we have so many old-fashioned cultivars that have the old rose scent that is so rare in more modern species.” (oldwestburygardens.org)

Where to Dock: Safe Harbor Capri

Winterthur Mansion, Garden & Library: Winterthur, DE

The March Bank and Sundial Garden hold center stage in March and April at this early 20th century home of Henry Francis du Pont. The Bank, the oldest surviving part of the 77-acre gardens, comes alive with thousands of jewel-like snow drop, crocus and glory-of-the-snow. Fragrant white, pink and lavender flowers form concentric circles around the sundial. “You might expect that someone who was born in the late 1800s and who collected antiques would be stodgy; however, the garden is anything but,” says Chris Strand, director of gardens, “du Pont loved color, so the gardens from March through June is a celebration of the many varied hues of bulbs, perennials, shrubs and trees.” (winterthur.org)

Where to Dock: Summit North Marina

Eyre Hall: Cheriton, VA

April marks the arrival of more than 2,000 hybrid tulips and thousands of other spring bulbs at this beautifully preserved, 17th century colonial home and its gardens. It is set on the Chesapeake Bay and owned by the same family for 12 generations. The big daffodil bloom happens in mid-late March, the tulip bloom in mid-April, and the peony bloom is a Mother’s Day highlight. “Our gardens are a seamless blend of contemporary style set within a historic circa-1800 boxwood garden that is very easy for modern visitors to relate to. It’s the best of both worlds!” says gardener Laurie Klingel. Guests are welcomed to picnic, take photos, paint, draw, read, bird watch or just relax. (www.esgardentours.com/eyre-hall/)

Where to Dock: Cape Charles Yacht Center

Brookgreen Gardens: Murrells Inlet, SC

The signature Live Oak Allee, comprised of 18th century Spanish moss-covered trees on this 9,100-acre property, was formerly home to four rice plantations. Thousands of daffodils put on a spectacular show in early spring. In April, colorful azaleas flourish throughout the garden along with natives like yellow jessamine and Jamestown lilies. Tulips, poppies and snapdragons provide pops of bright color to compliment flowers. “Volunteers regularly label and display cuttings of what’s in bloom on a table in the welcome center,” says Page Kiniry, president and chief executive officer. You can explore 250 acres of garden rooms, sculptures, historical sites, a wildlife sanctuary and native animal exhibits. (brookgreen.org)

Where to Dock: Wacca Wache Marina

Edsel & Eleanor Ford House: Grosse Pointe Shores, MI

The most popular springtime walks at the 20th century home of the late Ford Motor Co. heir Edsel features a stretch of gravel path en route to the main house, which passes an area called Flower Lane. This spring, an additional 12,000 tulips will enhance Flower Lane’s bulb collection. Beyond this, one wonderful design element is the strategic use of wildflowers, according to Karl Koto, director of landscape and gardening. “The center of the spring wildflower display is the blue scilla, which spreads like a beautiful blue carpet. As the season progresses, there’s an impressive showing of spring ephemerals such as the more elusive winter aconite, Dutchman’s breeches and Toadshade trillium.” A series of events celebrating Eleanor Ford’s favorite flower, the rose, takes place from May-July. (fordhouse.org)

Where to Dock: Grosse Pointe Yacht Club

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens: Miami, FL

Hands down, this is the most extensive European-inspired garden in America. Plus, it’s the only one of its kind located in a warm tropical climate. Flowers bloom year-round, yet spring provides a bright sunshine experience without summer’s heat. “My particularly favorite spots are the intimate Orchidarium, a small garden on the north side of the main house that’s flanked with flowering orchids,” says Ian Simpkins, deputy director of horticulture and urban agriculture. “In the Garden Mound, you’re sheltered by a canopy of gnarled two-century-old live oak trees but have commanding views of the gardens. In the Secret Garden, a small enclosed space full of cacti and succulents with a viewing terrace, provides nice views of Biscayne Bay.” Orchids were among the favorites of James Deering, millionaire industrialist of International Harvester fame, who started building Vizcaya in 1914 as his winter estate. Deering raced in several Miami regattas. Blooms and boats were two of his longtime loves. (vizcaya.org)

Where to Dock: Sunset Harbour Yacht Club