When kids step into this new garden in Gainesville, they’ll enter a land of whimsy and wonder.
The adventure begins with a winding path to the top of a hill. Some of the route is sheltered by tunnels of shrubs, which serve as hiding places for friendly fairytale creatures.
A sleepy gray dragon lies near the entrance to the Fairy Forest — an enchanted grassy space with tree stumps, a castle, miniature towns and fairy rings.
Children can watch a tiny trolley move between two fairy villages guarded by the garden’s other dragon, who boasts vibrant scales and goes by the name Desmond. The fanciful homes are made of bark, pinecones, acorns and sticks.
Two giant frog plant sculptures sit on either side of a pond, with the smaller one spitting water at the other. Kids are welcome to chase one another around the stone labyrinth and climb on a play fort, which has two sections connected by a rope bridge.
The $2.1 million Ada Mae Pass Ivester Children’s Garden at the Atlanta Botanical Garden in Gainesville, which had a soft opening in early March, will reopen to the public on Tuesday, June 30. It is named for New Holland native and avid gardener Ada Mae Pass Ivester, mother of Doug Ivester, former Coca-Cola Co. CEO and philanthropist.
Mildred Fockele, director of the Gainesville garden, said the grand opening celebration set for March 21 was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. When it becomes safe for people to gather in large groups, Fockele said she plans to host a celebration for the new space.
Fockele said the children’s garden is located on the highest point of the property and invites kids to let loose and relish in the sights and smells of brightly colored and fragrant perennials and shrubs. Some of the plants include dwarf butterfly bushes of blue, pink and lavender hues, daylilies and gardenias.
“No. 1, we want kids to come and have fun in a beautiful place,” Fockele said. “I think by letting them have free play in areas like the play fort or chase maze, it’s a way for them to use their brains.”
To limit the spread of COVID-19, Fockele said the Gainesville garden’s staff clean the property’s bathrooms every hour and regularly wipe down the bars on the play fort. Hand sanitizer stations have also been placed around the garden, and visitors over the age of 2 are strongly encouraged to wear masks.
A build-a-fort attraction has been removed from the children’s garden as Fockele said the softwood used for the structures can’t easily be kept clean.
Once the Atlanta Botanical Garden in Gainesville begins to rebuild its volunteer group, she expects the discovery stations to start again. Kids will be able to complete craft projects and learn more about flowers, pollinators and other wildlife.
“Hopefully as children grow up, they’ll enjoy being in the outdoors and enjoy gardens and flowers,” Fockele said.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden in Gainesville is open for the summer. Its hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. A limited number of visitors will be admitted every 15 minutes.
People can purchase a ticket online for a specific time by visiting atlantabg.org/tickets. Members must also reserve their times. Entry is not guaranteed for those who purchase tickets at the gate.