DARROW, La. – If you’ve dreamed of visiting the beautiful gardens portrayed in the works of French impressionist Claude Monet, but can’t make it to Normandy, France right now, you’re in luck. The Houmas House, named for the Houmas Indians who once lived in this region, is a gorgeous plantation with 18 acres of gardens, including a scene that looks just like it was lifted from Monet’s gardens in Giverny.
“When I break into a new garden, I will bring out a palette of plants and then paint the garden,” says head gardener, Craig Black.
Craig — who is in charge of about a million plantings per year — has lived at Houmas House and created his own version of paradise for 43 years. He says there are no blueprints, and his favorite part of the garden is whatever corner he’s currently working in.
“There are so many things that can affect the garden. You can lose half of a crop in two days and you have to be ready to change everything overnight.”
Folk art, fountains and dragonflies are all part of this sugar baron plantation along River Road. It dubs itself the “crown jewel” of the River Road plantations, and one visit will likely have you convinced.
Kevin Kelly bought the estate in 2003, after searching extensively for a place to host big events near New Orleans. There was too much red tape to purchase something in the city, but once he discovered that Houmas House was for sale, he knew he had discovered the ideal location.
“I came and saw it, and bought it the very next day,” says Kelly, who has an obsession with dragonflies.
You’ll find them flying all around the property — as well as featured in outdoor and indoor artwork. Kelly says he caught one when he was about five years old, but it died, and ever since he’s been a fan. There are even bushes sculpted in the shape of a giant dragonfly.
“What most people tell me when they step foot on the property is that they forget the rest of the world exists. And in the world we have today, it’s nice to be able to escape, even if only for an hour or two,” smiles Kelly.
Travel Girl Tip: Be sure to have a mint julep inside the incredible Turtle Bar. It’s a unique place filled with antiques, oddities and an intimate bar. Also… be sure to check out what’s hanging inside the men’s restroom at the Turtle Bar. (You can tell them Travel Girl told you to ask, even the ladies!)