Walk with me thru Cheekwood Gardens

Cheekwood Gardens is located in Nashville TN. I first learned about this garden while watching episodes of Antiques Roadshow on PBS. On a lovely but warm morning the husband and I set out to find and explore this wonderful garden. Setting the GPS we go forth with great confidence and ultimately end up on lovely winding roads surrounded by tree lined streets with gorgeous dappled sunlight.

Cheekwood was the vision of Leslie Cheek and Mabel Wood. Built later in their marriage Leslie had invested well in Maxwell House Coffee. In 1929 after a family trip to England with their Architect and Landscape designer Bryant Fleming, they gained insight and inspiration for what would become Cheekwood Estates and Gardens. They started to amass a collection of architectural elements, sculptures and other pieces of art from British Estates that had fallen into hard times. Upon their return the plans for Cheekwood were set into motion. The 30,000 s/f home was completed in 1932. Currently resting on 55 acres the home is normally open for public viewing. However the one weekend we are in town the house was closed! They were preparing for a special event. We decided it would be worth it to just do a walk about in the gardens. No cars on the grounds that day. We had to park outside the very impressive gates which I neglected to take a picture of!

After paying the price of admission our first stop was the gift shop for hats! We had both forgotten hats and with the sun beating down so early in the morning we knew we would regret this if we didn’t have them.

Loved these benches. Every time you felt like you needed a break there was a place for you to rest. So thoughtful.

Setting off with great enthusiasm we begin to explore. As you enter thru the gate you get just a peak of the house and as the grounds meander you begin to get a sense of how vast and lovely these gardens will be. I have been to several Botanical Gardens now and this garden was a bit different. It wasn’t the formal garden you would expect for such a grand house. Although meticulously planned it felt like a home.

Interesting piece of Modern Art punctuating the front lawn of the house

Natural, and inviting, nothing too strict. Places where you can envision the grand children playing hide and seek. Well, you could certainly loose your besty for several hours if you really wanted to! But a place where you can spread out a blanket and have a picnic, or climb a tree and read a book, how about croquet on the front lawn.

Opened to the public in 1960 it was clear to me that this was truly a public garden for the community. Lot’s of children, baby strollers, singles with their cameras, old women being pushed in their wheelchair. Beloved and a place for everyone. At no time did we feel crowded even though there were tons of people.

Just follow the path! It will lead you to a magical place. This is obviously a new structure to the garden but it holds a secret.

This is the children’s place where they can run through the tunnel and pop their head through the porthole. Run up the stairs and run down.

These darling fountains are just outside inviting the kids to do water painting with a slate canvas. Paint brushes at the ready. An every changing composition of doodles!

Right next to this area is a quiet respite where parents can relax while their young artists play in the water and run thru the tunnel.

As we begin to make our way uphill towards the house we pass the “garage” which has now been repurposed as a cafe where you can grab a cup of coffee and a muffin or a bottle of water. Outside in the “driveway” there are umbrella tables where you can cop a squat if you need one! A lovely sunny spot. We opted for inside!

Dualing Turtles
Approaching the house built of Tennessee Limestone
Notice the fountains in the background

And then I had a sense of “what’s this” I wasn’t supposed to go up there but I played my tourist card. What you don’t know won’t hurt you right.

I was standing by that finial in the background taking a photo when I spotted this area.
Looking out over this magical Loggia I finally saw Swan Lake. The swans are sculptures. Can’t you just imagine and orchestra set up to play down there.

I determined in my fantasy world this would become our space. A place for morning coffee and evening catch up on the day conversations. Though the stone elements were there, there was no furniture which allowed my imagination to run wild. Oh what I could do with this space.

The views were spectacular up there.

One thing that was very important to Mable in planning the gardens was water. She told Bryant Fleming that she wanted to hear the sounds of water from everywhere in the garden. It’s a trickle not a shout but oh so lovely. This babbling brook meanders thru the front lawn creating a delight for the senses. A shady spot just when you need one. A rock wall or bench to rest on. A Japanese Maple to punctuate all the greens and browns.

Following the brook you eventually make your way to an awesome place to sit in front of a pond. It is wooded and private, a nice shady cool spot. A place where My Ladies Daughter could sneak a kiss from her present beau! After a couple of minutes we are off and find ourselves in the Japanese garden with beautiful vistas.

This must be where they have a light show over the water.
This was a dry bed with stone creating undulating lines in the rock.

A lot of the Cedar Trees in Tennessee have died from Cedar Rust but even in their rusty naked form they create a certain beauty in the landscape. There was so much more to see but I was out of gas so we called it a day.

I highly recommend a visit to Cheekwood Gardens and as a bonus Belle Meade is right next door. That home too looks spectacular and I wished we’d of had time to do it. Lot’s to discover in Nashville. We didn’t even tip the iceberg.

Thanks for stopping