State Botanical Garden of Georgia
Athens, Georgia
June 2010

This 313-acre garden was founded in 1968 as the University of Georgia Botanical Garden. The garden is not located on the University’s main campus. It’s located a couple of miles south of the campus and feels like a separate entity. When you enter off the main road you drive quite a distance through field and forest before arriving at the visitor center.

The visitor center is a very modern looking structure with a beautiful entry fountain and plantings. During my visit there was a display of beautiful botanical illustrations gracing the walls. Behind the entry foyer is a small room showing a movie about the garden. I don’t always watch these sort of introductory movies, but I think they are a great amenity for visitors and appreciate gardens that offer them.

Attached is a two-level conservatory.

When you walk in on this upper level, you’re in a large open area suitable for gathering tour groups. The area is surrounded by beds of tropical and subtropical plants. The high glass ceiling makes it bright and airy. It’s a great space.

The lower level has a small but beautiful collection of economically important plants.

Everything is clean and well-maintained and there are very nice interpretive signs.

One of my favorite plants was this papaya showing both fruits and flowers.

Adjacent to the Conservatory is the International Garden. An interpretive sign describes how the areas of this garden are designed to represent the three major eras in the development of botanical gardens - the Middle Ages, the Age of Exploration and the Age of Conservation. This is a concept I’ve never seen before and it works really well, giving new context to garden types I’ve seen quite often.

The Herb Garden and Physic Garden represent the Middle Ages, when botanic gardens first appeared. Looking at them in this context is a great reminder of why almost every public garden has an herb garden today.

The Age of Exploration is represented by the Bartram Collection, displaying species collected in the southeastern United States by the Bartram family, and by the Ernest Wilson Collection, displaying species collected by Wilson in China. The plants and interpretive signs are a great reminder of how important plant collectors are to our gardens.

In addition to great interpretive signage, the gardens are also nicely laid out with beautiful trails meandering through woods.

The Age of Conservation, the present, is represented by gardens that focus on rare and endangered plants.

In addition to an interpretive sign that talks about the issue of endangered plants, the labels for individual species also indicate their status.

Next to the International Garden is the Heritage Garden which displays heirloom perennials and antique roses in a formal garden setting. It looks to be still underdevelopment but the entry and hardscaping are beautiful and I love the idea. I’m sure it will be a fantastic addition in a very few years.

The rest of the Botanic Garden is much less formal. The Shade Garden takes you on a short walk through a hillside of native hardwood forest. It’s a lovely walk featuring stone bridges over creeks, majestic trees and great interpretive signs.

Adjacent to the Shade Garden are a Native Flora Garden and an Azalea Study Collection. I can imagine both being spectacular in spring, but in late June there was little to see.

I was very impressed with the gardens around the conservatory and visitor center. The signage is excellent and I loved the slightly different approach they’ve taken in interpretation. A lot of this garden is woodland trails, which provide great opportunities for locals and are probably beautiful in spring and fall, but are not really my favorite garden feature. However, what I liked, I really liked, and I would love to go back in the spring and experience the woodland walks at their best.

To see more photos of the garden, click
here to visit the garden's website.

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