Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2018 - 58
Growing Beauty in the Georgia Foothills
The 292 acres in the shadow of Mt. Oglethorpe begin their
season with 20 million daffodils, and blooms then cascade
through the rest of the green season.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY CHERYL RODEWIG
Daffodils stand tall in front of the Waterlily Gardens.
A small town in the North Georgia foothills might not be the first place
you'd expect to find a world-class
garden, but for creator Jim Gibbs,
it was the perfect spot. Some 2,000
residents strong, Ball Ground
draws over 50 times its population
each year to the award-winning
Gibbs Gardens. Visitors come from
around the globe to see the millions
of blooms, from native azaleas and
mountain laurels to the showier
daffodils and daylilies. Gibbs calls it
a pleasure garden.
"You're able to see, smell, hear
and touch," he says, pointing out
the fuzzy, pale green lamb's ear
grown in clusters. "I wanted to build
a pleasure garden that delights the
senses and challenges the soul. And
I did. It's a peaceful place."
Even before the first flower was
planted, the 292-acre property
showed promise, he says. It had everything he was looking for: plenty
of water, a location convenient to yet
distant from Atlanta's growing metro
area and a mature forest of hickory,
dogwood and white oak-aged beauty you can't manufacture. And something else: a rolling topography.
"It makes a difference to have a
garden that has elevation changes," he explains. "If you're at Gibbs
Gardens and you look up, it's like a
floral arrangement, one on top of
Crowning it all, Mount Oglethorpe looms in the distance. Gardengoers can get a glimpse of the 3,300foot peak from a verandah built to
face the mountain. Its jagged peak
adds a touch of solemnity to the
brightly landscaped lawn below.
"I wanted to build a pleasure garden that
delights the senses and challenges the soul.
And I did. It's a peaceful place." -JIM GIBBS
While the land is distinctly Appalachian, the ornamental features are
diverse. Gibbs spent 15 years touring the world's gardens, bringing
the best of each back to the Georgia
foothills. The color design comes in
part from Canada's famous Butchart
Gardens: a rainbow of shrubs and
flowers in almost every shade. A
trip to Japan inspired Tsukiyama, a
meditative Japanese garden of over
40 acres, the largest in the U.S.
"One of the gardens that influenced me most was Bodnant in England," Gibbs recalls. "You're looking
out in the distance to the Sidonian
Hills. The minute I saw that garden I