Visit Houmas House, a River Road Plantation

 We were able to sneak away last week for a day trip upriver to Plantation country. I had been wanting to visit the Houmas House to see the new expansion of gardens.

The gardens are alive with lush tropical plantings, seasonal flowers, ponds and fountains.  Seating venettes and statuary greet you around every turn as you stroll through  courtyards, inviting pathways,  and the lush green lawns of   the 32 acre estate. This is a very magical place. The centuries old live oaks, some over 450 years old , provide an escape from the sun and an ambiance that  brings you back to an era of long ago.. An era where sipping Mint Juleps in the soft glow of the filtered afternoon sun while  listening to the  sounds of the river traffic was the southern way of life.

Houmas House is one of the South’s oldest and grandest plantation estates. The Houmas Indians first settled the area in the 1600’s. Wade Hampton who held the greatest number of slaves in the entire South, also produced  the largest amount of sugar  in Louisiana, built the present mansion in the 1820’s. This was one the grandest mansions on the Mississippi River and one of the first to bear columns.  About 1858 , John Burnside purchased the property. Not too long after he began purchasing other sugar plantations. Soon he was to be  the largest sugar planter in America. He was called “The Sugar Prince of Louisiana” overlooking  300,000 acres of sweet gold!

Today the gardens are colored with  petunia’s, pansies and violas. Cherry red “Knock Out” roses bloom along side water lilies, day lilies and cobalt blue ruellia. Frilly ferns giant liriope and clumps of African irises add beauty to the gardens with different textures, shades of green and shapes.

Kevin Kelly purchased the plantation in 2003.  I recently read in article in Louisiana Homes and Gardens magazine that explained his reputation of gardening with excess. He has added many water gardens to accommodate  his passion for tropical plants and water lilies.  His goal is to also have his guests be consumed by seasonal aromas . He feels that it is just as important to smell the garden, as it is to see it.

This is a very magical place that you must visit. No wonder they call her the “Crown Jewel of Louisiana’s River Road”.

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