Spanish moss drops from the branches of Afton Villa Gardens’s 250 live oaks, brushing the shoulders of Apollo, Diana, and other faded statues of Greek gods. The vitality of the greenery stands in stark contrast to the remnants of past grandeur dotting the landscape. A Gothic Revival mansion stood in the center of Afton Villa Gardens 130 years ago, but crumbled in a 1963 fire. But signs of the estate remain: classical statues carved from Italian stone dot the 250 acres of fertile land, and the mansion’s brick foundation now supports English wallflowers, wild ferns, and exotic Post-it notes.
As the newest residents and caretakers, the Trimble family pays homage to the past not only by preserving the ruins, but by nurturing plants typical to 19th-century southern gardens and West Feliciana parish. Camellias and sweet olive border a formal boxwood parterre, and honeysuckle and silverbell compete for the affections of bumblebees beneath cherry trees. Visitors are welcome to tote along food and beverages to savor a picnic lunch on the idyllic grounds.