EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the sixth and final in a series of articles on the Audubon Pilgrimage.
The 45th annual Audubon Pilgrimage on Friday, Saturday and Sunday coincides with spring, and what better way to ring in the season than a tour of the antebellum gardens at Afton Villa, one of several on the tour.
The property was purchased in 1820 by Bartholomew Barrow, who married a widow from Kentucky and began construction in 1848 of a French Gothic-Victorian residence with intricate woodcarvings, stained-glass windows, Dresden china doorknobs, elaborate marble and plaster work, towers, turrets, galleries, balconies and cathedral windows, a news release said.
Incorporating the rustic eight-room original house, Afton Villa was named for the fondness Barrow’s granddaughter, Mary, had for the song, “Flow Gently, Sweet Afton.”
Bartholomew’s niece, Martha Barrow Turnbull, had begun the gardens at nearby Rosedown Plantation in the 1830s, and soon, the family at Afton Villa followed suit, hiring European landscape artists to sculpt the lawns in a series of seven terraces sweeping from the formal parterres close to the house, according to St. Francisville native and author Anne Butler.
The winding entrance avenue, overhung by ancient live oaks and underplanted by the famed Pride of Afton azaleas, remains one of the most magnificent in the South, Butler said.
When the house burned in 1963, the gardens languished until the property was purchased in 1972 by horticulturist Genevieve Munson Trimble and her late husband, Morrell.
“Their loving care and constant attentions have returned the landscape to its original glory, supplemented by imported classical marble statues and thousands of flowering bulbs, transforming a potentially sad site into an exultant and immensely enjoyable celebration of the hardiness of early plantings nurtured by the dedication of contemporary gardeners and preservationists,” Butler said.
“Afton Villa Gardens: The Birth and Rebirth of a 19th-Century Louisiana Garden” was written from Trimble’s garden journals and published by LSU Press. To celebrate Trimble and the legendary gardens, a book-signing party hosted by the Southern Garden Symposium and West Feliciana Historical Society will be from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at Afton Villa.
Refreshments will be served, and everyone is invited to attend. In case of rain, the event will be held inside Trimble’s Afton home.