Courtesy Southern Hotel
The Wisteria might be the most well-known bloom of the Southern Hotel’s garden treasures, but there’s more to the garden than the lilac-colored flower. A sheltered entry court, an old wellhead, a potting shed, and a grapevine-covered pergola are only a few of the delights you’ll find in the garden of the Southern Hotel. A winding path leads you through drifts of roses and lilies; the succession of blooms keeps the garden full of color and fragrance from spring through September.
Many couples who stay at the hotel sway on a swing beneath the pergola, particularly at night when lights twinkle through the garden, and they can gaze up through the leaves to see bunches of grapes in the moonlight. But you can visit the garden as well on your way to the Missouri-made gift shop in the hotel. The Southern Hotel’s garden is one of many such mini-paradises throughout Ste. Genevieve. Take your own informal garden tour by strolling the sidewalks and peeking into front and side gardens.
Another garden beauty surrounds the Old Louisiana Academy, available for touring by appointment or walk-up, as owner Frank Rolfe will give tours to anyone who’d like to see the house. Built and incorporated in 1808, the academy was the first officially recognized school west of the Mississippi River. According to present owner Frank, the building served its original purpose for only 20 out of its 203 years. The rest of the time, it’s been vacant or held as a private residence. Today, the house is surrounded by an orderly garden of roses. Its clean, simple planting design accents its rustic elegance without overwhelming it. An antique fountain adds structure, and a four-part kitchen garden growing herbs, vegetables, and even roses provides fresh material for Annette Rolfe, Frank’s wife, who uses her crop to create dishes from any one of her 500 cookbooks.
On Main Street rests another garden escape, Only Child Originals jewelry store. Owner Sam Conlon transformed an old butchery into a shop that would make Sinbad jealous. Then she did the same thing with her private backyard. There was nothing except patchy turf, clumps of tawny daylilies, and lamium. The plants were a far cry from the garden she’d left in San Francisco, where flowers bloom year-round. Today, Sam’s jewelry-shop garden is filled with fl owers, ornaments, and seating areas to take in the view.
Sam uses plants from across the globe, but she is especially fond of ones native to eastern Missouri. In August, the native phlox brings a thrill of pink and sweet perfume to the garden.
Sam’s garden offers one more thing: art you can sit on. Whimsical chairs abound and bring your eyesight down to plant level. Various artworks, some made by Sam, hint at modern times. A water garden, comprised of three uneven pools trickling down into one another, adds not only dimension but also a fertile environment for waterlilies, rushes, and taro to thrive. The pond plays host to a school of goldfish, which glint as though jewelry has escaped from inside the shop. If you buy enough jewelry, Sam might offer you a peek!