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Hidden Gem: A Zen Garden in the heart of Dothan Botanical Gardens

Updated: Oct 7, 2022

To describe Dothan Botanical Area Gardens in one blog post would be a severe discredit to everything that they have to offer! Reading reviews online, it's easy to discern that they have a little taste of everything tucked back on the property. 25+ unique garden sites to be exact. Just your standard plant-person paradise if you ask me!

Now I love a good botanical garden, and I try to frequent them whenever possible. The organization of the different plant families, in addition to getting to experience each display in its natural element...that speaks to me! The organization is a pattern I follow in my own space, and I thoroughly enjoy experiencing a landscape that has been set up with that sort of intentionality behind it. I could go on... But let's there is just something to be said for creating a "moment" with landscaping. So anytime you get the chance to see 25+ of those "moments" laid out in one plant's a great day!

It was only very recently that I discovered the botanical garden in Dothan, Alabama. So needless to say, as soon as the opportunity presented itself, we were on our way!

Because the experience was so rich, I think it would be wise to start sharing the spot in the gardens where I found my DIY inspiration. Where did it inspiration turn into action and art?

So that being said, after discovering some Zen in the Mullen Asian Garden, I decided to bring a taste of that same Zen back into my home in a creative way. It was the one piece of the garden that I wanted to carry around with me in any way that I could. These projects are a work in progress, the risk of sounding cliché, practice makes perfect. Check out my blog post or my Pinterest for more details about my DIY Zen Succulent Terrariums! Or follow my Instagram to see my plant travels and other projects come to life!

To provide some context with the setting, the reason we are starting with the spot where I found inspiration is because, as I said, this garden site is number ten on a list of 25 intertwined garden sites. Imagine my excitement! Additionally, I have been shifting to a more holistic lifestyle. Meditation has been key, acting as a tool to help me carry the positive energy I find in the garden with me anywhere I go. And in order to meditate, you have to find a piece of that #Zen, which this garden exuded with ease. The Universe always provides what we need most if we are open, and this garden was truly that for me. Surely I am not the first, nor the last to have an experience like this. But I can only hope that I do it justice and impart what a lasting impression it made!

To start off, when you enter you are met with a picturesque cascading water feature that instantly brings that much needed dose of tranquility and calm into your life. I have been reading a lot about healing gardens recently. In fact, in a twist of fate, one of the magazines I picked up at the Little Free Library stationed in front of the botanical garden was, "Tauton's Fine Gardening: At Home in the Garden." The November/December 2005 issue had a great article inside by Barbara Blossom Ashmun that spoke to exactly that - the sound of the water impacting your mood and mental health. And its true, there is something so serene about hearing the sound of water making it's way over, under, or through. Living by the coast, I can attest to that. And even when I am traveling or wandering from home, finding a creek, ocean, stream, waterfall, etc. is a must. It's a comfort that knows no bounds, and a slice of serenity if you so choose to access it. Barbara Blossom Ashmun knew what she was talking about, and how funny that her words found me all these years later in that Little Free Library! How relevant and timely....that message in itself appears to be a #HiddenGem.

But enough about me. Back to the star of the show! As you approach the Mullens Asian Garden, you will notice a vibrant red bridge and other accent pieces sprinkled throughout the scape. Words can't quite describe the contrast that the deep red color provides against the green leaves, brown rock, and occasional bright orange koi fish that turn up in the pond on a bright, sunny day. But I will leave it to you to experience that for yourself! The balance is fine-tuned and well-crafted to say the least.

Now in my own personal collection, I have yet to dive into the art of the bonsai tree. But if that is your thing...look no further! There is a curated section, just as one would expect. But then in my favorite organic way, there are also like-specimen sprinkled in the greenery too. If nothing else, I love a biodiverse landscape. One that is rich with texture, variety and meaning. So seeing these touches added in spoke to that passion beautifully.

And as if that's not can tell that the curators have thought about this scape from all angles. After crossing the bridge over the running water and through the shrubbery, you will walk into a clearing of trees. Behind you, you can see the garden from a new brand new vantage point, in a more natural and raw perspective. Because of the downward slope of the terrain, when you enter this clearing, its almost as though you are looking back up at everything you've walked through. But you can see that scape in a whole new light. And trust me when I say, it is beautiful!

To provide some context, there is a stunning stone labyrinth not too far from the clearing. Basically calling my name. But it hadn't even caught my attention because I was awe inspired, viewing a garden that looks so curated in a form that I can only describe as natural and inspired. Pictures won't do it justice, but I did need some redirection to get to the next gardenscape on the agenda. Because #10 really hit the experience home for me!

I could go on and on about the Mullens Asian Garden, but knowing that is only stop 1 of 25 at Dothan Botanical Gardens...I will spare you the spoiler alert, spread the love and let you experience this #hiddengem for yourself!

I will write more about our other favorite experiences there, such as the Coleman Tropical House, the Butterfly Garden, the Herb Garden, the Gregory Meditation Garden, and more! But in the meantime, I highly recommend making a day of it!

Plant-person or not, this makes such a fun trip for anyone looking to get outside, unplug, or get some fresh air! To walk through all 25 of the gardens settings, it costs $5 for adult entry. Children 15 and under enter for free! The non-profit site is handicap accessible, pet-friendly, and fun for all ages, and I could talk it up all day.

But if you are in the Dothan area, check it out for yourself! You won't want to miss this #HiddenGem!

Stay tuned for the above mentioned, because there is much more where this came from..."the gardens that keep on giving!"


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