Gems of Gardens Just a Short Drive Away

I happened to visit a wonderful public garden that I didn’t even know existed until just a week ago.  I delighted in seeing so many varieties of camellias, Japanese maples, and hydrangeas.  It inspired me to write about some of the public gardens nearby that might not be as well known as the Atlanta Botanical Garden or Fernbank.  Maybe you already know about these gardens, especially the Swan House.  Maybe you knew about them all once and have just forgotten.  The point is that all these are close enough to the Atlanta metro area to make for a good daytrip getaway.

A view of the Swan House at the Atlanta History Center from the expansive lawn.

A view of the Swan House at the Atlanta History Center from the expansive lawn. (Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org.)

Atlanta History Center in Buckhead features a wide variety of gardens.  The native plants garden features 600 species of plants native to Georgia, many of which are rare or endangered, a pond, and a bog.   The 19th century farmhouse garden is planted with both cropping and ornamental plants that were typically planted in rural Georgia gardens.  The gardens on the grounds of the Swan House range from romantic to formal, enhancing the stately home from the exterior, while providing visions of a personal paradise from within.  There are also a rhododendron and azalea garden, woodland trails, and an Asian-American fusion garden, where Asian and American species co-exist, revealing startling similarities.

The Smith-Gilbert Gardens in Kennesaw occupy 16 acres surrounding the circa 1880 Hiram Butler Home.  The gardens started to take shape in the early 1970’s, after Richard Smith and Robert Gilbert bought and restored the property.  The garden today includes over 3000 species of plants, many of which are not usually found in home gardens in this country.  There is a network of walking paths that lead to woodland gardens, water gardens, a camellia garden, a rose garden, and a bonsai garden.  There is also a children’s garden and a vegetable garden on the property.

The Bigleaf Magnolia, found along a woodland trail at Smith-Gilbert Gardens, has the largest simple leaf and flower of any plant in North America.

The Bigleaf Magnolia, found along a woodland trail at Smith-Gilbert Gardens, has the largest simple leaf and flower of any plant in North America.

Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground, which opened in the spring of 2012, is one of the country’s largest residential gardens at 220 acres.  The designer and creator of these gardens is Jim Gibbs, who retired from the landscaping firm he founded, Gibbs Landscape Company, to build his dream garden.  Gibbs Gardens features what Southern Living described as the “most stunning daffodil garden ever”, with five million daffodils spread over 50 acres.  There is a 40 acre Japanese garden, and a water gardens with over 140 varieties of water lilies.  A manor garden surrounds the Gibbs residence.  Gardens with 1000 plants each feature native and non-native azaleas, daylilies, roses, rhododendrons, and 150 varieties of hydrangeas.  There are also over 500 crepe myrtles planted throughout the property.  And as if all this isn’t already overwhelming, there’s a wildflower meadow.

The Gardens of the Carter Presidential Center encompass 35 acres, featuring walking trails, a Japanese garden designed by Japanese Master Gardener Kinsaku Nakane, a native oak forest, flowering cherry trees, flower gardens, and sculptures.   A small pond with a waterfall into a small lake provide the focal point of the Japanese garden.  In the flower garden, bulbs, annuals, and perennials are all container grown, with the plants being switched out seasonally as appropriate.

The websites below provide more details about the gardens, some more than others.  Check out the hours of operation and fees, if any, to visit these gardens.  We are truly lucky to have so many wonderful gardens to explore in such close proximity.  I’ll write about other public gardens in Georgia in another post.







(Featured photo of the view from the lower lake in the Japanese Garden at the Carter Presidential Center courtesy of www.cartercenter.org.)


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