Callaway Gardens
Pine Mountain, Georgia
June 2010

Callaway Gardens is a remarkable place. It is a 14,000 acre resort set into the hills and forest of Eastern Georgia. There are lakes, golf courses, restaurants, shops and miles of hiking trails. Visiting for just a couple of hours barely allows time to sample the highlights. Callaway markets itself as a place to come to escape everyday life and get back to nature. With opportunities for biking, boating, hiking, golfing and more, it would be a great place to spend a week long vacation.

The Visitor Center is located in the middle of the site, so it’s a long drive through forest to get to it. It’s a lovely, rustic-feeling structure set in the woods on the edge of a lake. Just wandering around the building gives you a feel for what the rest of the place is like.


Discovery Center

Nature trails lead out from the Visitor Center into the surrounding forest. The trails are well-maintained, there is good directional signage to keep you from getting lost and there are lots of large, handsome trees. Sadly, there is little interpretation and few identification labels so I didn’t find it as interesting as I’d hoped.

Nature Trail

But there are beautiful things to see along the trails. There are numerous natural water features, like this waterfall, as well as wooden bridges over streams and small ponds. Callaway is known for azaleas so in spring the woods are probably beautiful with azaleas and wildflowers.

Callaway Waterfall

The trail leads you to another highlight of Callaway, the Butterfly House. It is a nice looking conservatory and there are plenty of beautiful butterflies inside. My favorite part was glass case in which many pupa were hanging, waiting to transform into butterflies. Seeing a fully formed butterfly emerge from a jewel-like chrysalis is an amazing thing. Lots of gardens have butterfly houses and I find most of them slightly disappointing. They are almost always about beautiful butterflies rather than about the connection of butterflies and plants. To me this one suffered the same problem. There was some interpretive signage about pollination but the plants were given a very secondary role. Gardens should do a better job of including the plants in the story.

Callaway Butterfly House

The next major feature is the Vegetable Garden. As everywhere at Callaway, the directional signage is impressive.

Callaway Vegetable Garden Sign

It’s a nice, big vegetable garden with lots of beautiful crops being grown. There was very little interpretation though so it felt kind of like a visit to any farm - a great escape from the city but not terribly interesting. There were some All-America Selection test plots with good interpretation so maybe I’m being too harsh.

Callaway Vegetable Garden

Our final stop, the Sibley Horticultural Center, turned out to be a real treat. With greenhouses, plant displays and formal gardens, this is much more what I consider a garden.

Sibley Horticultural Center

The succulent house has one of the nicest displays I’ve seen. I love the canyon effect they’ve achieved by placing the pavers on edge and planting in the crevices. Again I was disappointed by the lack of signage, but as a strictly aesthetic display it works very well. The plants looked healthy and at home.

Succulent House

The tropical house is also beautiful. Not as striking as the succulent house but with a lovely collection of thriving plants. I especially liked these big screwpines.

Greenhouse

Outside the greenhouse are lovely flowerbeds with flower-inspired sculpture in most of the beds. It’s all very colorful, well-maintained and delightful.

Callaway Gardens

As I said in opening, Callaway Gardens markets itself as a resort. I can imagine it being a great place to vacation, but as a garden it left me unimpressed. When the azaleas are in bloom it is probably spectacular, but a beautiful walk in the woods is not enough for me to love a garden. Visit Callaway if you want to escape from the pressures of everyday life, but if a beautiful botanic garden is what you want, there are other options I’d recommend.

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here to visit the official website of Callaway Gardens.

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