There’s been an undeniable hint of spring in the Connecticut air lately, and despite some frigid nights on the shoreline and brief bursts of snow further north, intrepid green shoots are poking up from the earth as if they can read a calendar. I must admit that spring is not my favorite season (hurry up, summer!) but there is one thing I absolutely love about it: the flowers. There’s just something about seeing them emerge, in all their happy colors, that gives me hope after a long bleak winter. So I thought I’d put together a list of my favorite places to see spring flowers in Connecticut.
Elizabeth Park, Hartford & West Hartford
The historic greenhouses at Elizabeth Park (where these photos were taken) are closed to the public for most of the year. But for a short time in mid-March, the doors open and anyone in need of some color can come in for the popular Spring Greenhouse Show and associated special events. (It’s happening from now until March 13, 2020.) Flowers in the park’s other gardens begin to bloom soon after, with April’s daffodils and tulips followed by perennials and irises in May.
Colorblends House & Spring Garden, Bridgeport
Every spring, the grounds of this pretty yellow 1903 colonial home in Bridgeport’s Stratfield Historic District explode into a stunning floral display. Beginning on April 1, 2020, visitors can wander up and down rows of blooming bulbs in every color of the rainbow. The tulips, daffodils, and other spring flowers at the Colorblends House & Spring Garden are presented by a local bulb company and an acclaimed garden designer, but the experience feels like you’re casually dropping by to see a friend’s garden – which just happens to be the best one in the city.
Wickham Park, Manchester
Wickham Park, which opens for the 2020 season the first week in April, is a must for anyone who loves exploring gardens; there are ten of them here, each with a distinct theme. From the neat English Garden to the peaceful Lotus Garden, from the statues of the Oriental Garden to the boardwalks of the Wetlands Garden, each is a self-contained little world, ensconced within the 280-acre park grounds. In the spring, flowers all over the park – including lilacs, azaleas, rhododendrons, tulips, and daffodils – begin to bloom.
Note: Park entry is $7 per vehicle on weekdays and $9 per vehicle on weekends and holidays. (That seems like a lot considering that Connecticut has so many lovely free parks, but you can easily spend half a day or more exploring the different areas and facilities of Wickham Park.) Be aware that because this is also an event venue, certain sections are occasionally closed to set up for private parties.
Laurel Ridge Narcissus Plantings, Litchfield
Daffodils may not seem like the most exciting flower, but there’s something spectacular about seeing many tens of thousands of them in one place. The Laurel Ridge Narcissus Plantings – aka the Litchfield Daffodils – consists of countless numbers of these sturdy spring flowers, shaded in various hues of yellow, orange, and white, stretching across a ruggedly pastoral landscape. The annual event, which happens from early April through May, began in the 1940s as one family’s attempt to brighten up some unused farmland; today, a private foundation manages the plantings, which draw appreciative onlookers from far beyond this rural area.
Denison Homestead, Mystic
Another ideal setting for daffodils is the Denison Homestead, a 1717 manor house set high on a rocky hill. The historic house museum’s annual Daffodil Festival is scheduled for April 18, 2020, from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., but the seasonal blooms will be visible on the property in the weeks before and after.
Note: The fee to attend the festival, which includes tours and family-friendly activities, is $5 for non-members, but there’s no fee to pass by and view the grounds at other times.
Wooster Square Park, New Haven
Home to what is probably Connecticut’s best-known display of cherry blossoms, Wooster Square Park is also the center of one of New Haven’s prettiest neighborhoods. In the spring, the cherry trees around the park come to life, and the sidewalks are briefly blanketed in pale pink. This year’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival, featuring live music, food, a children’s area, and more, is scheduled for April 19, 2020 from 12:00 p.m. to 4:40 p.m. To take in the trees in a calmer environment, use the festival date as a guideline and visit on a day just before or after, when the pastel petals should be at their best.
Connecticut College Arboretum, New London
New Haven isn’t the only place to find cherry blossoms in the Nutmeg State; my personal favorite cherry tree is hiding in a secluded corner of the Connecticut College Arboretum. And the arboretum as a whole is the perfect place to surround yourself with the colors of spring beginning in mid- to late-April. By May, the trails and gardens of this 750-acre open space are lush and green, and thousands of the native plants and flowering trees in the arboretum’s collections are in full bloom.
Hollister House Garden, Washington
The phrase “hidden gem” has been so overused as to become practically meaningless these days, but there is no more accurate way to describe this exquisite, park-like garden concealed behind a charming 18th-century home in the Litchfield Hills. Its design is based on classic English gardens, but part of its appeal is its very New England setting; the garden, divided into sections linked by hedges and walkways, seems to tumble gracefully down the property’s gentle slope. And of course, there are flowers, among them daffodils (of course) in April, and tulips and forget-me-nots in May. The Hollister House Garden opens for the 2020 season on April 24.
Note: There is a $5 suggested donation to visit the garden.
All parks and events are free unless noted above.
Always call or check individual websites for updated hours and fees – as well as emergency or weather-related closures if applicable – before you go.