The HGTVGardens Crew recently toured the Atlanta Botanical Garden where we soaked in the garden’s triple threat virtues: lush grounds in the heart of a busy city; a temporary sculpture exhibition of some heavy-hitters in the international art world and the astoundingly atmospheric Dorothy Chapman Fuqua Conservatory, a steamy, tropical hot house filled with exotic plant specimens that feels like walking onto the Jurassic Park set.
There are Cissus plants whose tendriled root structures hang in the air like a Sixties beaded curtain and clusters of Nepenthes offering their combination malevolent and whimsical looks. Garden text helpfully instructs that the cups of Nepenthes are sometimes used to tote water or cook rice. In this living laboratory it is easy to come away both more educated about some new plant or display possibility, but also restored in a more fundamental sense, by this contact high with nature. A family of quail live in the conservatory too, so you never know when one of the delicate creatures will quickly dart across your path. Between the trilling bird chirps and the market umbrella-sized palm fronds, you feel utterly transported to some distant land. With such a diversity of plants in such close proximity the insane variety of nature is on clear display: the comical, Disney-esque structures of succulents; brazen, sultry hibiscus; and the hand-painted look of Ctenanthe Burle-Marxii leaves.
Danny Flanders, a blogger at HGTVGardens and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens’ PR manager, was our guide for the day, schooling us on the conservation efforts of the garden, which is particularly avid to save endangered orchids and tropical frogs from the ravages of the modern world. A collection of absurdly colorful yellow and neon green frogs with glossy skin like patent leather live in world-in-a-box terrariums, a major attraction for child-visitors to the garden.
Another initiative of the garden is the growth of their Edible Garden, which took over a former parking lot (when does that ever happen in the modern world: parking lots replaced by greenery) when the garden completed its 2010 expansion. A shaded nook with a long bar in the midst of the Edible Garden is the perfect place for visiting chefs to hold court, offering tutorials on how to cook with the garden bounty. The garden’s pomegranate trees were heavy with fruit, and the garden also devotes space to asparagus, peppers, sunflowers and an ever-changing array of herbs and vegetables. Any food not used in chef demos is donated to local charities.
Though Atlanta is generally known more for its much-traveled airport, anyone stopping in the city would be strongly advised to check out this local treasure, a must-see for any gardenphile.
Cost: Adults $18.95; Children 3-12 $12.95; Children under 3 free; Garden members free.
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday April-October 9 a.m.- 7 p.m.; Thursdays, May-October, 9 a.m. – 10 p.m.; November-March 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Location: 1345 Piedmont Avenue, NE Atlanta, Georgia 30309