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Governors & gardenias
Fleur de Lis Garden Club tours mansion with Georgias first lady Sandra Deal
Members of Gainesville's Fleur de Lis Garden Club pose with first lady Sandra Deal outside of the Georgia Governor's Mansion. The club recently toured the gardens at the mansion as part of a club trip.

Gainesville's Fleur de Lis Garden Club may not know how Mary's garden grows, but they sure know a thing or two about the one at the Georgia Governor's Mansion.

Members of the club were recently treated to a personal tour of the mansion's gardens and its grounds by Georgia's first lady, Sandra Deal, wife of Gov. Nathan Deal.

"Quite a few of the ladies in our garden club go to First Baptist Church in Gainesville, which is the Deal's church when they are in town, so they know them quite well. They invited us as a group to come for a tour," said Pat Kirves, garden club member.

"Everything was very healthy and vibrant. They had just about every flower that grows well in Georgia. There were all kinds of azaleas and multicolor irises.

"It was very beautiful."

The mansion on West Paces Ferry Road in Atlanta is situated on 18-acres of property. The lawn, trees and flowers are looked after by the mansion gardener.

"He has been there for years and years. He let us ask questions and gave us advice," Kirves said.

"He also told us about some of the issues they've had in the past with the mansion gardens and what they did to correct it."

While in Atlanta, the group also got the opportunity to view the mansion itself. That tour was also lead by Deal.

The mansion became the official living quarters of Georgia governors in 1968 when then Gov. Lester Maddox moved in.

The three-story mansion has 30 rooms, which are spread across 24,000 square feet. The first-floor of the Greek Revival-style mansion is used for official entertaining. The second floor is the Deals' personal living quarters.

"Usually you only get to see the main floor, but we got to tour all of it," Kirves said.

"I loved the entrance room. It had portraits of the former governors and other famous politicians and some really pretty urns.

"There were lots of antiques and fresh flowers in beautiful vases."

The mansion's antiques were acquired by its fine arts committee while the home was being built in the late 1960s.

They are a permanent collection and don't change with administrations. The antiques, some of which date back to the 1700s, are said to be of museum quality.

"It was a great tour. We enjoyed the whole thing," Kirves said.

"The gardens were magnificent and the mansion was beautifully furnished. It was a great trip for the garden club ladies."