There are plenty of greenhouses and garden centers throughout South County where you can view various plants and, potentially, buy a few to bring back to your home.
South Kingstown's Kinney Azalea Gardens is perhaps the most distinguished, however, thanks to its size, history, and the variety of flowers that you'll find there.
The garden is located in a residential area on Kingtown Road, just south of the University of Rhode Island. You'll have to look hard to find it because, unlike other nurseries, it's hidden behind a historic home.
As you approach, you'll wonder if you're in the right spot, but, rest assured, all you have to do is follow the driveway behind the house to see a massive expanse of flowers that are unmatched anywhere else in this area.
Here's what you should know about the Kinney Azalea Gardens, one of Rhode Island's best-kept secrets.
What is the Kinney Azalea Gardens?
The basic answer to this question is that the Kinney Azalea Gardens is a botanical garden and nursery that is about 16 acres in size and features over 500 varieties of rhododendrons and azaleas.
The garden is open throughout the summer, although May and June are the best times to visit because most of the flowers are in bloom.
The plot is incredibly scenic and relaxing, and you're sure to love every second you spend there, especially if you're into unique flowers and shrubs. This garden is a one-of-a-kind South County location, so make sure you check it out once you buy a home in the area.
The Gardens' History
The Kinney Azalea Garden dates back to the 1920s when the University of Rhode Island's botany professor, Lorenzo Kinney Sr., experimented by planting trees on his son's property. Although these trees were planted to research potential timber production methods, selective harvesting eventually created a series of micro-climates that were perfect for various species of flowers.
This property belonged to Lorenzo Kinney Jr., and he continued the family tradition by entering the horticulture profession. He took advantage of the micro-climates in his backyard by adding a variety of colorful flowers.
Kinney Jr. didn't stop there, however, as he would frequently travel the East Coast of the United States, looking for new varieties to bring back to Rhode Island. On one of his trips, he not only met the future Mrs. Kinney, but he also fell in love with azaleas, eventually bringing both his wife and the flower species back to his home.
Over the next few decades, Kinney Jr. experimented with all kinds of azalea varieties, including hybrids that would better stand-up to Rhode Island's climate.
After Mr. and Mrs. Kinney died in the early 1990s, the garden was passed on to their daughter, Elizabeth, and her husband, Tony. Tony and Elizabeth Faella still own the garden to this day, and their passion for it led to them expanding the property from six to 16 acres in size.
Today, Dr. Susan Gordon runs the garden and is the lead horticulturist, ensuring that it survives for further generations to enjoy.
Perhaps the best aspect of visiting the gardens is that it has free admission. You can spend as much time as you want, wandering through the gardens and enjoying the beauty of the flowers, without spending any money whatsoever.
There is a donation box set-up at the entrance, however, and the owners appreciate any money that you can spare. The owners also ask that professional photographers provide a minimum $25 donation to use the facility.
You can pay to rent the gardens for a special event, too, so if you want the perfect backdrop for your wedding photos or would like to hold a private party in a beautiful setting, contact the owners.
Some Plants are Available for Purchase
An often overlooked aspect of the Kinney Azalea Gardens is that you can purchase many of the plants to take home with you. As you wander through the venue, please take note of anything that you feel would look great in your yard, and speak with a staff member about buying them.
All plants that are purchased are dug and wrapped on-demand, so you can be confident that they're in the best possible shape for transport.
Selling these plants is one of the ways that the owners fund the operation, making it a great cause to support. If you're looking to add some vegetation to your property this summer, check out the Kinney Azalea Gardens before making your purchase.
A Day in the Gardens
There are many ways to reach the Kinney Azalea Gardens, depending on your point of origin. Kingstown Road, where the garden is located, starts in Narragansett and runs through Peace Dale, Kingston, Richmond, and all the way to the village of Wyoming, and getting onto the road is the easiest way to reach the property. When coming from the south, Point Judith Road intersects with Kingstown Road, as well.
There is limited parking at the Kinney Azalea Gardens, but you are encouraged to carpool when arriving as a group because these spaces tend to fill up quickly on weekends. Large groups are also encouraged to contact the property ahead of time to let them know they're coming.
The Kinney Azalea Gardens is an outstanding hidden gem in South Kingstown, so give them a visit if you're looking for some flowers this summer.