A sure sign of spring are the thousands of blooming daffodils and early wildflowers in Blithewold Mansion's gardens on the shores of Narragansett Bay. The grounds of the 1908 mansion in Bristol, R.I., are a melange of color and scents during the annual Daffodil Days April 12-May 4. Though the yellow-and-white flowers are the centerpieces of the festival, visitors can stroll the Great Lawn with its bay views or linger in gardens, both classic and more informal.
The 17th-century English country-styled manor, complete with gargoyles and crests, was built as the summer home of Augustus Van Wickle, a Brown University graduate who became a coal baron in Pennsylvania. The 45-room mansion anchors the grounds with its 33 acres of gardens and striking trees, such as a 90-foot giant sequoia, ginkgo, and weeping pagoda.
Afternoon teas with scones and assorted desserts are served in the mansion's dark oak-paneled dining room overlooking the water Wednesday through Friday at 2 and 3 o'clock. Special children's teas will be served at 2 o'clock on April 16-18. Don't miss the Butler's Pantry with its displays of china, silver, and crystal.
The mansion also houses such indoor exhibits as floral arrangements, paintings from nature by area artists, and the Colonial Dames of America's collection of Bessie McKee's (Van Wickle's widow) turn-of-the-20th-century hats. But during Daffodil Days, garden variety visitors want to be outside.
Admission for adults is $10, seniors and students $8, children under 17 free. Afternoon tea is $10 (plus admission). Grounds and gardens open daily 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.; self-guided tours of mansion and gardens Wednesday-Sunday 10-4.
Posted by Marty Basch, Globe Correspondent