About Gardens Visitor

Sandra Friend with a hydrangea
Discovering hydrangea blooming next to a museum in Cascade Locks, Oregon

Hi, I’m Sandra Friend, and I have an obsession with visiting public gardens. That seed was planted a generation ago by my parents.

My earliest memories are those of walking in beauty through parks and gardens to enjoy seasonal blooms.

Thanks to this lifelong love of gardens, I’ve collected information about them ever since I started writing travel articles in the early 1990s.

Since 1998, I’ve written over 40 books, many of them winning state and national awards. Only one has been about gardens. I dedicated it to my parents.

In 2010, I took my mother to Charleston, two months after Dad died. We had the pleasure of a stay in the writer’s cottage at Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, and spent a week finding solace in nature’s beauty after losing Dad.

In 2011, we expanded on that. We planned an epic journey we called “Gracious Gardens of the South” to chase the azalea blooms from our home in Florida north to the annual North Carolina Azalea Festival.

We spent a month walking through gardens, reconnecting with each other and finding out how compatible we were as travel companions. But before I could start writing much about our experience, or even plan another trip, Mom was stricken with cancer. She died in 2016.

The only book I completed in time for her to see was a custom photo book for her that helped her remember the journey. A version of that is the EBook you can download from this website.

The core of this website is formed around the gardens my parents and I visited over the decades. It continues to grow broader and deeper as my husband John Keatley and I visit more gardens as we travel.

I hope our discoveries and photos lead you to explore more public gardens and enjoy the comfort that being in nature brings.

Learn more about why gardens mean a lot to me.