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As an avid gardener, one of my greatest pleasures is to find fabulous new gardens to explore. Fortunately, I have gardening friends who are excellent planners, so last week, off we went, four of us on a 3 day garden adventure! (Our hubbies were equally excited that they did NOT have to join us :-))
Gibbs Gardens in mountains of north Georgia was the highlight of the trip. The house and gardens include 220 acres, making it one of the nation’s largest residential estate gardens. After 30 years in the making, it just opened to the public last year. The Gibbs still live there hosting hundreds of visitors each week.
We spent almost 6 hours exploring, taking pictures, and enjoying lunch at their outdoor café, homemade bread and chicken salad enjoyed at tables that overlooked a pond, gardens and a stream that meandered through the entire property. Gibbs Gardens boasts the largest Japanese garden in the country, but perhaps it was the variety of gardens and sheer magnitude of the place that was so amazing.
There were surprises everywhere – the alees of River birch and crape myrtles, the acres of hydrangeas and day lilies, and the mysterious and secluded fern dale. It was 200 acres of amazing color, water features, bridges, benches, perfectly manicured lawns, and outstanding design.
There were so many great ideas to take home, not the least of which were their coyote decoys to scare off the deer! It was worth every hour it took to get there and I would highly recommend adding it to your vacation plans. Read more at http://www.gibbsgardens.com/
The drive gave us time to reminisce about other memorable gardens. My friend Lee reminded me of a tour we did in Raleigh several years ago, “Do you remember the house with the wall behind it where that yellow shrub draped over the wall?” For the average person, this would have totally be a “so what?” question, but I knew immediately the place she was talking about. It had been one of those “Wow!” moments for us – the perfect placement of Deutzia ‘Chardonnay Pearls” glowing gold with panicles of white blooms cascading down a beautiful stone wall. As Tony Avent would say, “It was a hortgasm.” (This is why we need gardening friends because anyone else would know we are crazy.)
On the way home we stopped at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belton, NC south of Charlotte (http://www.dsbg.org/). Thankfully this was a gorgeous garden you could see in 2 hours, as we had to see it in spite of the intermittent bursts of rain. The garden is arranged in rooms defined by giant hedges with doorways that beckoned you to see what was beyond. There were breath-taking moments – the purple smoke bush, deep red lilies and the gorgeous “Tropicana” canna, all against a backdrop of yellow foliage, stunning. The orchid conservatory was truly amazing too. This indoor tropical garden had bromeliads, waterfalls, and many fascinating plants we could not begin to identify.
In Greensboro, we are so lucky that we don’t have to leave town to enjoy free public gardens! The City along with Greensboro Beautiful have created our Arboretum, the Bog Garden, the Tanger Bicentennial Garden, and now with perhaps the best design and great whimsy, the new Gateway Gardens on East Lee Street. Behind the Agricultural Extension Building on Burlington Road, the Master Gardener’s demonstration garden is always open to the public. In Kernersville, there is the new Paul J. Ceiner Botanical Garden, also free. These are all great places for shamelessly stealing ideas to use in your personal paradise at home. If you fall in love with a plant you don’t know, take a picture of it and show it to someone who can tell you what it is.
Gardens are magical places. They provide an escape from the ordinary, their beauty brings us joy, gives us a place to breathe, and reassures us of the abundance of the earth. Release your “inner gardener” – go out and play.