The State Botanical Garden of Georgia, located in Athens, is a 313-acre preserve set aside by the University of Georgia in 1968 for the study and enjoyment of plants and nature. The garden is a “living laboratory” serving teaching, research, public service, and outreach missions for the University of Georgia and the citizens of Georgia. The garden contains a wide variety of natural features and includes plant communities and habitats common to the Georgia Piedmont.
Gardens and Collections
A number of specialty gardens and collections have been established, and others will be added as the master plan for the garden is implemented. The theme gardens, collections, and display beds contain a diverse array of both native and exotic plant species. One recent addition, the Heritage Garden, contains plants of historic and socioeconomic interest to Georgia. Included are ornamentals, fruits, and row crops as well as a selection of native plants.
Located next to the Visitor Center, the International Garden explores the interrelationship of plants and people throughout civilization and is set in the context of three eras that have significantly affected the evolution of botanical gardens, a secondary theme. The Herb Garden, Physic Garden, and Bog Garden are located within the International Garden, which also contains representative species from the floras of the Mediterranean region, Latin America, China, and the southeastern United States.
The seven plazas of the Shade Garden represent the seven districts of the Garden Club of Georgia, whose members helped make the 1988 renovation possible. A wisteria-covered arbor on the main plaza provides a commanding view of this garden, which features shade-tolerant plants.
The Native Flora Garden adjoins the Shade Garden. Here visitors can find many species native to Georgia and the southeastern states, including rare, threatened, and endangered woodland species. Near the Native Flora Garden is the Rose Garden, which features an array of species and hybrids including the state flower of Georgia, the Cherokee rose.
The Annual and Perennial Garden, one of the most colorful areas in the entire garden, is located near the Rose Garden and includes the All-America Selections Display Garden. The Dahlia Garden and Trial Garden are nearby. Other collections of interest include native azaleas (in the Native Flora Garden) and hybrid rhododendrons (adjacent to the Orient and China section of the International Garden).
Trails and Natural Areas
Five miles of color-coded nature trails extend into the far reaches of the garden. The longest is the White Trail, which parallels the Middle Oconee River for several hundred yards and extends into the upland plateau areas of hardwood forest. The Red, Green, Blue, Purple, and Yellow Trails are shorter, interconnecting segments. The Orange Trail traverses the eastern section of the garden. It also parallels the river for several hundred yards.
The Callaway Building, constructed in 1975 with funds provided by the Callaway Foundation of LaGrange, serves as administrative headquarters for the garden. In addition to a library, laboratories, and offices, the building contains an auditorium, reception area, and conference and meeting facilities.
The Alice Hand Callaway Visitor Center and Conservatory was completed in 1984 and serves as a stunning focal point for the garden. The building contains offices, classrooms, a gift shop, the Garden Room Cafe, and a 10,000-square-foot conservatory featuring tropical plants of economic interest. Changing art exhibitions featuring botanical and horticultural themes are on display in the foyer.
The Day Chapel, completed in 1994, was the third major building constructed at the State Botanical Garden. Funding was provided by the family of Cecil B. Day Sr. in his memory. Modern in design, the chapel contains an eclectic combination of styles and details. Abundant doors and windows provide views into the surrounding hardwood forest.
The Garden Club of Georgia State Headquarters was completed in 1998, at which time the club moved its headquarters from the Founders Garden on the University of Georgia campus to the State Botanical Garden. The building, located on a high knoll between the Day Chapel and Visitor Center, is a house museum containing exceptional furnishings and decorative arts.