Atlanta Botanical Garden
Atlanta, Georgia
June 2010

Entry

This 30-acre garden was founded in 1976. Half of the garden is devoted to a remnant, mature hardwood forest that is maintained in its natural state with a trail through it. The other 15 acres are developed into thematic gardens. The garden is active in conservation work and is a participating institution of the national organization, the Center for Plant Conservation. A conservation emphasis for the garden is carnivorous plants, which are displayed in a manmade bog.

I was most eager to see the newest exhibit, a Canopy Walk. I’d read a lot about it and it sounded fantastic. You pass right under it as you drive along the entry road and it’s a striking visual so I made a beeline for it from the parking lot. There’s a great interpretive panel to introduce the Canopy Walk and the walkway itself is amazing, putting you right in the canopy. I must admit that I was a little disappointed that it is such a massive structure. Somehow in my mind I envisioned it more as a narrow, swinging walkway like you might see in an Indiana Jones movie. Rationally I know that’s impossible. Safety regulations and common sense would prevent such a flimsy structure, but I can’t help wishing the walkway wasn’t quite so ‘safe’ for visitors. Still, the experience of being up in the canopy is a great one.

Canopy Walk

Another highlight the garden is known for is the Dorothy Chapman Fuqua Conservatory which opened in 1989. It displays more than 6,000 plant species from arid and tropical regions around the world. The conservatory building is a dominant feature in the garden with a Great Lawn at its entry.

Fuqua Conservatory

Inside, the tropical conservatory is one of the most interesting I’ve visited. The sights and sounds are lush and exotic, with birds and frogs calling and skittering through the undergrowth. It’s a really immersive experience. The plant collection is very interesting, including plants from a range of habitats. One section included plants from high-elevation tropics, like these Heliamphora (pitcher plants from Venezuela),

Heliamphora minor

and numerous orchids from Ecuador. The high-elevation tropics are generally poorly represented in gardens so it was a pleasure to see these displays. I love to see gardens trying to conserve and display plant groups that are uncommon in cultivation.

Other areas of the conservatory felt like dense tropical jungle. Here you can see aerial roots hanging from the overstory. They’re such a prominent feature that I was pleased to see a small interpretive sign telling what they are. I was a bit disappointed in the arid plants area. It contained an interesting selection of plants, mostly from Madagascar, with plenty of conservation value so it is certainly worthwhile. Maybe I was so enthralled with the rest of the conservatory that this was bound to be a let-down.

conservatory scene

The Canopy Walk and the Conservatory may be the two most prominent features of the garden, but there are lots of other wonderful things to see.

There’s a great Children’s Garden with lots of interactive activities, colorful sculpture and educational opportunities.

Tunnel in Childrens Garden

There’s a large vegetable garden, growing a wide array of edibles in a variety of containers and beds with lots of excellent interpretation.

Vegetable Garden

There’s a small but elegant Japanese Garden,

Japanese Garden

and beautiful shade gardens featuring great collections of Hosta and Hydrangea.

Hosta Garden DSC00799

Everywhere you look there are beautiful gardens. It’s easy to forget you’re in the middle of a booming metropolis, until suddenly a vista opens and you see skyscrapers just out of reach. I love the idea of a beautiful public garden in the inner city. As our world becomes more urban, gardens have a unique experience to offer, and what better place to offer it than in the city itself.

city view from garden

I liked Atlanta Botanical Garden a lot. It could use more interpretive signage and it is woefully short of plant labels, but the experience is fantastic so any criticisms I can offer are mere nitpicking.


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