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Apr. 19, 2018
1:40 pm


Gainesville garden bursting with blooms, programs

By Jane Harrison
The blossoms of spring are bursting open at Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Gainesville Garden. Sojourners who tread its paths seeking anything green and growing to brighten the near sunless winter will leap with glee at the colors on display at the garden as it nears its second anniversary.
The 168-acre off-shoot of the Midtown Atlanta garden has filled in beautifully since opening to the public in May 2015. Its five acre initial development, with sparse plantings along a soothing waterscape, has grown into a wonderland of plants, forest paths, and programs. Also known as Smithgall Woodland Legacy Garden, it grew from the dreams of Charles and Lessie Smithgall, who donated the land to the Atlanta garden to preserve as a natural oasis, nursery for native plants, and local attraction for homeowners and visitors from afar.
Last year more than 31,000 visitors walked the garden paths, hiked the woodland trails, and attended events at the garden, according to Mildred Fockele, Gainesville garden director and horticulture vice president for both gardens. She is excited about upcoming programs and exhibits, including “Ribbit the Exhibit” that hops in April 15 with 23 original frog sculptures and children’s activities.
This season’s offerings include a return of the popular Wine in the Woodlands, a once-a-month weeknight escape for wine-sipping in Gainesville’s Eden, and new programs for children, budding artists, home gardeners, and participants in the ancient Chinese exercise of Tai Chi.

The Woodland Ramble, which debuted as a fall craft festival last year, emerges with a spring edition May 6, setting more artisans among the flowers. Also in May, a Mother’s Day Brunch the Saturday before the special day invites families to a unique dining celebration.
Garden officials expect to soon announce the performers slated for three amphitheatre concerts in June, July and September.
Fockele seems almost as thrilled with the programs and activities as she is with what she’s been putting in the ground since the garden opened. The yellow and white blossoms of 22,000 daffodils planted last fall lingered until late March. Multi-colored petals of almost 20,000 tulips, also planted last fall, were opening up.
Fockele expects a “big spring bloom” moving into this month, as azaleas, perennials and annuals show their colors. The freeze last month that nipped buds that emerged early in Georgia barely touched the Gainesville garden. “Overall, the garden here survived very well,” she said.
Garden staff has also been digging along the wooded trails that skirt the curved paved walkways of the landscaped campus. A couple thousand woody plants – including oak leaf hydrangeas, azaleas, and dogwoods – went into the soil on the 1/2 mile Sourwood Trail, an original trail that runs along the perimeter. Visitors can merge onto the newer 1/2 mile Holly Ridge Loop and 1/3 mile Dogwood Trail for a longer hike. “The trails have been incredibly popular,” Fockele said. The easy to moderate paths attract daily walkers who enjoy a forest trek under the oaks, beech trees and maples.
Reflecting on the past two busy planting years, Fockele said she now has a brief chance to “catch her breath and see what works.” She remarked about the surprise popularity of the May-October Wine in the Woodlands that invites folks to enjoy wine, beer and appetizers in a relaxed garden party after work. She recalled a group of area educators who rendezvoused for a “teachers’ escape” in the tranquil setting where tree frogs near the pond terrace regularly serenade evening visitors.
She also mentioned the container garden workshops attended by participants who strive to plant their own versions of the artful arrangements in urns and pots at the garden. Her plans include bringing to Gainesville events that are highly attended at the Atlanta garden, including a Scarecrow in the Garden exhibit and Goblins in the Garden children’s party in the fall.
“I look forward to broadening our exposure … exploring, watching the garden grow and growing our attendance,” Fockele said.

‘Ribbit the Exhibit among events hopping into Gainesville Garden

Just as the tree frogs at the garden pond start peeping, a new whimsical exhibit is hopping into the Gainesville Garden. Ribbit the Exhibit leaps in April 15 with 19 hand-crafted copper sculptures by North Carolina artist Andy Cobb.
The artist hand drew each piece before cutting, hammering and folding it into a unique character. “Each frog has its own unique personality, and they all fit so well in a garden setting,” said Gainesville Garden Director Mildred Fockele. “We are thrilled to welcome Ribbit because it will be an exhibit that charms and delights all ages.”
Cobb left the corporate world after 21 years to focus on sculpting frogs, birds and fish. His handiwork shows copper frogs taking part in a variety of everyday activities in the garden – from painting pictures to bird watching to watering plants.
Ribbit the Exhibit, on display through July 15, will be accompanied by various frog-themed activities for children and families – from new Discovery stations to scavenger hunts. A special Dia del Nino (Day of the Child) is planned for April 30.
Joining the Ribbitfrogs will be two frogs from the Atlanta garden’s  2014 Mosaiculture exhibition, Imaginary Worlds. Their oversized metal topiary frames are stuffed with colorful, ornamental annuals that are manicured weekly to maintain the lifelike character of the frogs.
Other upcoming activities at the Gainesville Garden include:
  • Spring Woodland Ramble: Local nature themed and upcycled arts and crafts, food trucks, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. May 6.
  • Tai Chi: Learn ancient Chinese exercise form to improve balance and flexibility, mental focus and strength, 9:30-10:30 a.m. Tuesdays in May.
  • Life Drawing with Botanical Pastels: Learn pastel techniques to capture spring booms, 9:30-11 a.m. Wednesdays, May 3-24.
  • Watercolors Workshop: Focus on composition and creating images in the style of artist Georgia O’Keefe, known best for her flower paintings, 9 a.m.-noon May 5.
  • Propagation Methods & Techniques: Learn how to propagate woody plans from seeds and cuttings, 10 a.m.-noon May 6.
  • Colored Pencil Workshop: Capture whimsical images from the garden in the style of artist Henri Rosseau, 9 a.m.-noon May 20.
  • Summer Concerts: Performers to be announced soon for concerts in June, July & September.
  • Fall Fun: Scare crows and goblins visit the garden next fall. Details upcoming.

More info:, 404-888-4760; 404-888-4763 to register for classes.

Posted online 3/31/17
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