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August 17th, 2017 08:11 a.m.

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Garden opening realizes a dream a decade in the making

All was quiet in the garden, except for the croak of frogs following an afternoon rain shower. A man in a wide-brimmed hat planted flowers in a container near a pond.

Garden director has storied career with Atlanta Botanical

Mildred Fockele spent her early childhood gardening with her grandmother, perhaps an early predictor of her affinity for dirt.

The Smithgalls' legacy of generosity

The land for creating the new Gainesville location of the Atlanta Botanical Garden was a gift from two of Georgia’s most revered and benevolent residents.

Volunteers are key part of garden’s success

Gardening requires a lot of weeding. And a botanical garden requires much more — from weeding and planting to educating and assisting visitors.

Hundreds of hydrangeas offer beautiful variety at garden

The first hydrangea bloom signals the arrival of summer, much like that first daffodil heralds the start of spring. Also like daffodils, hydrangeas offer hundreds of different varieties to choose from.

Conservation nursery serves as a refuge for endangered plants

Nestled in a corner of the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Gainesville location, out of public view, is a unique area devoted to the preservation of some of the most threatened and endangered plants in the Southeast.

Garden features many plants cultivated at the nursery from seeds

Many don’t think about growing plants, especially trees, from seed, but that’s something the staff does every day at the garden nursery at the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Gainesville location.

What is a botanical garden?

While a botanical garden offers the obvious visual and physical benefits of being outdoors, this space is unique. What distinguishes it from a park or nature center is its commitment to five purposes — display, enjoyment, conservation, research and education.

Atlanta Botanical Garden, Gainesville | A Smithgall Woodland Legacy


Five acres of gardens, including:
• 1,200 different kinds of plants, 400 of which were grown on site in the garden’s nursery
• Two half-mile walking trails
• Ivester Amphitheater seating 2,000
• Visitor center including classroom space and gift shop

Grand opening

• When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 2-3
• Where: 1911 Sweetbay Drive, off-site parking at intersection of Cleveland Highway and Limestone Parkway
• How much: $8 adult, $5 children 3-12

Upcoming events

• Wine in the Woodland, evenings each last Thursday of the month May-October
• Concerts in Garden, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, June 13; The Temptations, July 11; Scott McCreery, July 17
• Nature Connects, art with Lego bricks exhibit in the fall.

Private rentals

Spaces are available for weddings and parties. Contact the Private Events team for more information at 404-591-1585 or

A timeline of events

• 2001: Charles and Lessie Smithgall donate their 168-acre property north of Gainesville to the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The gift preserves the acreage as green space and assists in achieving the Vision 2030 goal of establishing Hall County as possessing the largest amount of green space per capita in Georgia.
• 2002: EDAW (now AECOM), one of the world’s leading landscape architecture, urban design and environmental planners, is contracted to create a conceptual master plan that maximizes the community use of the land while preserving its natural beauty.
• 2004: A 5,000-square-foot greenhouse and 4-acre nursery are built to begin propagating and growing plants used in the garden.
• 2005: First volunteers begin work in greenhouses. Initial land conservation efforts begin, including removal of invasive species.
• 2009: Maple collection of both gardens named part of multisite National Maple Collection of North American Plant Collections Consortium.
• 2010: Atlanta Botanical Garden moves its native plant conservation nursery to the Gainesville garden.
• 2011: Magnolia collection of both gardens named part of a multisite National Magnolia Collection of the North American Plant Collections Consortium.
• 2013: Ground broken on initial $21M phase of the garden.
• 2015: The garden opens to the public on May 2. Programs and events throughout the year to include outdoor concerts, Wine in the Woodlands and Nature Connects, art with Lego bricks by Sean Kenney.

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