Three gardens in the University Acres subdivision are being featured by the LSU Hilltop Arboretum in its Magic Moments Tour.

Scheduled from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 18, the tour will showcase the gardens of Julia Hawkins, Charlene and John Stovall, and Bunny and Bill Hines.

Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at lsu.edu/hilltop; at Hilltop, 11855 Highland Road, or by calling (225) 767-6916 or emailing hilltop@lsu.edu. Tickets also can be purchased — only by cash or check — on tour day at the three gardens.

All visitors must wear a face mask and maintain a six-foot distance while touring the gardens. Hand sanitizer stations will be available at all gardens. 

Hawkins, who is 104, inspired the name of this spring's tour. She has set several world records for running the 100- and 50-yard dashes and has been featured in Sports Illustrated and The Advocate. An avid gardener, Hawkins uses the term “magic moments” to describe uplifting moments from nature. She says “seeing something that is enchanting will take your breath away.”

Her garden, 6225 Boone Ave., grows on an acre she and her late husband, Murray "Buddy" Hawkins, purchased in 1948. He designed and built the home himself, while Julia Hawkins focused on turning the wooded lot into a paradise. The yard now boasts over 60 different trees (all labeled), a 70-year old wisteria vine as centerpiece of a walled brick courtyard and the meandering Buddy’s Bayou, which has four curved bridges, each one named after their grandchildren. The entire backyard is filled with native plants that bloom from spring through fall, an extensive collection of driftwood and a 50-year bonsai collection.

The Stovalls' property, 5757 Chandler Drive, was once heavily wooded, but hurricanes changed the landscape into the present garden. A sculpture garden includes original pieces created by John Stovall from repurposed materials along a pathway of azaleas and ground covers. The backyard patio with pool is adorned with colorful flower containers and perennial beds with a spectacular view of the middle garden, a serene space of mature trees, lawn, pathways and plantings and more sculptures. A wrought iron fence with a unique palmetto design leads to the Camellia Forest, and a pathway passes groves of mature cypress trees and ground cover of Chinese blood root and irises down to the floodplain of Bayou Duplantier.

The Hines purchased their property at 5720 Chandler Drive in 1985. Then, it was a largely bare lot. Bill Hines took an LSU Lagniappe studies course from gardener extraordinaire Neil Odenwald at LSU, and inspiration struck. Using a garden hose to define the shape of beds, countless bags of leaves from their wooded yard to amend the soil, pass-along plants from friends like the late Margie Jenkins and plants purchased from Hilltop and Forest Hill, the couple created a rich plant palette in a beautiful setting of mature trees.