Friday, May 11, 2012

Behind A Garden Wall: The Atlanta Botanical Garden

Atlanta Botanical Garden entrance

Conceived in 1973 by civic-minded Atlantans, the Atlanta Botanical Garden has grown from a temporary office in a double-wide trailer to a 30-acre oasis adjacent to Piedmont Park. Its mission is "to develop and maintain plant collections for display, education, research, conservation and enjoyment." But it's more than a big plant display. Nestled beneath the Atlanta skyline, and screened from traffic, the Atlanta Botanical Garden is a welcome retreat, a learning center, a place for reflection and celebration. Follow me to see what grows behind that garden wall.

Our last visit was in mid-summer, 2011. Julys in Atlanta can be brutal. From the new Hardin Visitor Center, we headed straight to the GardenHouse for a cold drink and snack.

Having battled Atlanta traffic, we needed to calm our minds. We found the perfect place within the walls of the nearby Japanese Garden. The Japanese Garden is probably the oldest part of the campus, begun in Piedmont Park in the 1960s. We felt more tranquil simply by entering the moon gate. Traditional Japanese architecture frames azaleas, conifers, irises and water features.

Atlanta Botanical Garden - Japanese Garden

We have strong interests in fruit and vegetable gardening, so we meandered to the Edible Garden. Along the way, this imaginative sculptured gate by Andrew Crawford delighted us. We also admired some fine specimen plants such as this sinuous Styrax japonica 'Emerald Pagoda'.

The Herb Wall is one of The Edible Garden's most interesting features. Imagine an ornamental wall of thyme, oregano, lavender, rosemary, chives, parsley growing where they can be easily reached. The site was the former parking lot for the Atlanta Botanical Garden. To turn asphalt into a green space for edibles was a stroke of genius. Are you inspired to construct your own? Your south-facing wall could be adorned and insulated with savory botanicals. Nice! (Oooh, oooh! I want one!) Well, the Edible Garden Project cost $2 million. The Herb Wall was only a fraction of the cost. An espaliered fruit tree should be far less expensive. I have created a few of them, myself.

Atlanta Botanical Garden - Fruit espalier

The Edible Garden also features an outdoor kitchen where chefs demonstrate recipes and cooking techniques, and guests can dine al fresco. In fact, the Garden is currently hosting "Gourmet in May", "a month-long smorgasbord of demonstrations, activities, classes and festivities in the Edible Garden and Outdoor Kitchen."

We passed the Conservation Center and entered The Dorothy Chapman Fuqua Conservatory through the side door. I've loved tropicals since I was a small child. I think I was first smitten while visiting my great-aunt's orchid house in Jacksonville, FL. This is that on a grand scale. The conservatory is divided into a few micro-climates to accommodate exotics from diverse habitats. Where ever you look, there are orchids, bromeliads, anthuriums, succulents, bold foliage displays and patterns, and intriguing scenes. Unusual birds may appear. You'll also find a frog collection. All this within a glass house protected from the real dangers in rainforests.

Leaving the Conservatory, we emerged at The Great Lawn. If you visit The Great Lawn at the right times, you can enjoy Concerts In The Garden and The Garden Of Eden Ball. Weddings and other celebrations are sometimes scheduled. Our visit was not at the right time. It was hotter than Hades. The Conservation Garden, Aquatic Plant Pond, Rock Garden and Rose Garden looked worse for the heat.

Atlanta Botanical Garden - Dale Chihuly glass sculpture

We strolled to the Levy Parterre. Then, the coolest thing appeared before us: Dale Chihuly's magnificent blue and white glass sculpture centered upon an Italian limestone fountain. I had to view it from more than one place. Seen from the Alston Overlook, the Chihuly glass beneath the Atlanta skyline was impressive. The Atlanta skyline would have been imposing without the summer haze.

While hurrying to find refreshment, we neglected a few wonderful Garden features near the entrance, such as the Pear Tree sculpture, a fine mixed border with ornamental grasses, and a spilling fountain. We went back for a look.

The Kendeda Canopy Walk is one of the botanical garden's newest attractions. Providing the sensation of floating above the forest floor, it's said to be the only tree-canopy level walk of its kind in the United States. But that day was too hot. We experienced the sensation of more sweaty walking, so returned to our vehicle.

The Atlanta Botanical Garden participates in the American Horticultural Society's Reciprocal Agreement Program. As of this writing, that permits free admission and parking.

Return to

1 comment:

A. Joseph Marshall said...

Fabulous article! I'm making a point to see it next time I'm in Atlanta.