GEORGIA Gardens By Connie Cottingham Nature nurtures Public gardens are havens in confusing times A A place for health and wellness Although the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens closed its classrooms in mid-March 2020, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at UGA was allowed to stay open. CONNIE COTTINGHAM Above: Almost all of the outside display and theme gardens at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens are accessible to wheelchairs and motorized scooters. A paved path leading to a river overlook was recently added. Above: The State Botanical Garden of Georgia Herb Garden's brick paths and its clear signage support visitor safety. Right: Capacity at the Atlanta Botanical Garden has been limited, and visitors and staff are required to wear masks. 38 Georgia Magazine March 2021 COURTESY ATLANTA BOTANICAL GARDEN CONNIE COTTINGHAM s our world shifted last year, things we took for granted-such as well-stocked grocery stores, hospitals and hugs-became more deeply appreciated. Add gardens to that list-our own and Georgia's public gardens. Many who once merely drove past public gardens on the way to meetings, appointments or after-school practice now feel a new affection for them. " Public gardens truly provide an invaluable community resource in these difficult times, " says Ann Parsons, executive director of Smith-Gilbert Gardens in Kennesaw. One of the wonderful things about a garden is that it changes daily, always providing a new discovery or perspective. The outdoors is also a safer place for adults to converse or children to play amid a pandemic.