Public Garden Visit – Gibbs Garden

What a month it has been, I can not believe how fast March went by. Around this time of the year, the garden takes over my life as seedlings get planted outside and weeds are pulled, plant shipments arrive and many of the great public gardens in Atlanta hold their first plant sales of the season.

This year we also found the time for a weekend getaway to the North Georgia Mountains. It is one of our favorite places to go, relaxing and plenty of fishing for my other half. We made a stop at Gibbs Garden this year in the hopes to catch the back end of the daffodils, but missed it. I am certain that they are stunning when in bloom, but as our guide put it, there is not much worse then a giant field of spent daffodils. Some late blooming varieties were still there, but spread out over several acres, it leaves little impression.


The true passion of the garden owner, Jim Gibbs, must be the Japanese Garden, beautifully designed and build. It has lots of mature specimens and wonderful stone features. Although it was early in the season, and the mature trees and shrubs had not leafed out yet, the conifer and pond setting was peaceful and relaxing.  There were some wonderful Cedar Trees with bright red bark from the rain the night before and Crape Myrtle almost gleaming gold. The conifers were showing some spectacular blues and greens and it was very well composed. I truly enjoyed that part of the garden. I do wish they would provide plant markers, or a specimen map if they do not want to clutter the peaceful setting, to provide the more curious gardener with some detailed plant information.

The third part of the garden is the owners mansion. Which left me puzzled. I almost felt, it was a tongue-in-cheek version of a botanical garden. Jim Gibbs owns one of the largest commercial planting companies in Georgia – you know those beds in front of large office buildings, with either a crape myrtle or pampas grass in the middle, neatly framed by rows of seasonal bloom, currently pansies. This is how the rest of the garden felt.

The map proudly proclaims a rose garden – which is entirely filled with Knock-out roses. The Azalea Garden is mostly encore azalea with a few points of interest in between. The winter beds filled with rows and rows of individually planted pansies. Not a perennial in sight – no hellebore, no snow drops or any of the other great winter bloomers. As a rose gardener especially, the knock-out garden was a blow,  utterly dismissing the centuries of rose gardening around the world. It was disheartening. In the wonderful mountain setting, I would have expected to see so much more –  native azaleas and woodland gardens, the great tree varieties we have, buckeyes and rhododendron. It was disappointing and somehow I could not stop feeling like someone was pulling a practical joke.

I admit it is simply not my style of garden, highly curated and stylized. I enjoy a more natural setting, which is what the Japanese Garden displayed. If you are in the area and have time to spare, certainly go. Save yourself the money for the tram ticket, if you are capable of walking, you can easily maneuver the garden without it. I enjoyed our visit, but can’t say I would go again.


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