What is a Botanical Garden?
A botanical garden is a place of horticulture and education, where plants are cultivated for display, research, conservation, and pleasure. Since their grand opening in 1976, the Botanical Gardens in Atlanta have made their way onto multiple ‘best botanical gardens’ shortlists and won lots of awards.
Discover the Atlanta Botanical Gardens
The Atlanta Botanical Gardens are a 30-acre emerald jewel located just off Piedmont Park, in Midtown Atlanta. They are a constantly evolving sanctuary for over 4,000 plant species, and a place of learning for all who enter.
Alongside their extensive plant collection, the Gardens also feature a unique Canopy Walk over the Storza Woods, a Japanese Garden, magnificent displays and whimsical exhibits, a Skyline Garden, and an award-winning Children’s Garden. Each section is beautifully designed and meticulously maintained, offering visitors a glimpse into the world of horticulture and landscaping.
The Atlanta Botanical Gardens are truly an immersive experience allowing visitors to learn more about plant life and the important role plants play in sustaining our environment. But how did this garden come to be?
History of the Atlanta Botanical Gardens
The history of the Atlanta Botanical Gardens dates back to 1973, when a group of visionary Atlantans began petitioning for a botanical garden in the city. The group, which included local philanthropists, gardeners, and business leaders, triumphantly formed the non-profit Atlanta Botanical Garden, Inc. in 1976 with the goal of creating a world-class garden in the heart of Atlanta.
But the first hurdle was finding a suitable location. After much deliberation, the group settled on a 15-acre plot of land in the popular Piedmont Park. This inevitably meant that the pre-existing Dr. A. Leslie Stephens Memorial Bonsai Garden (now the Japanese Garden) would become subsumed into the new gardens.
By 1980 a 50-year lease of the land was negotiated with the city of Atlanta, marking a turning point in the Gardens’ history and securing the site for years to come. From here – fuelled by generous donations – the Atlanta Botanical Gardens were free to grow in size and scope, welcoming their 50,000th visitor by 1983!
Today, having transformed and expanded over the years into one of the city's most popular attractions, the Atlanta Botanical Gardens are a testament to the vision and hard work of the dedicated Atlantans who founded them almost 50 years ago.
What is there to see at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens?
The Atlanta Botanical Gardens are actually composed of several smaller gardens, each with their own themes and defining landscapes. These include:
- The Dorothy Chapman Fuqua Orchid Conservatory: The conservatory is a 16,000 square ft. glass space containing plants, birds, amphibians, and reptiles from tropical rainforests and deserts.
- The Fuqua Orchid Center: Adjoining the conservatory, the Fuqua Orchid Center has different rooms, each cleverly engineered to allow the largest collection of orchids in North America, to thrive. Preferences on elevation have been accounted for and a combination of heating and cooling systems allow a diverse range of orchids to fill the Center with beauty and fragrance.
- The Edible Garden: This area, formerly the Garden’s old car park, is dedicated to growing vegetables, fruits, and herbs. There’s an outdoor kitchen and it's a great place to learn about sustainable gardening practices, see how food is grown, and learn about healthy eating.
- The Japanese Garden: This serene and peaceful garden is an imitation of a traditional Japanese garden. It includes a pond, a tea house, and a variety of plants that are native to Japan.
- The Children's Garden: This is a fun and interactive garden designed specifically for children. It includes a splash pad, a treehouse, and a variety of other sculptures and activities to engage their senses, stimulate their imaginations and get them interested in plants.
- Canopy Walk: One of the highlights of the Atlanta Botanical Gardens is the Canopy Walk opened in 2010. The $55 million dollar attraction is a 600 ft skywalk that takes visitors through the treetops of the Garden's Storza Woods. The walkway is suspended 40 ft above the ground and offers stunning views of the gardens below.
Throughout the year, the Atlanta Botanical Gardens host a variety of special events and exhibitions that celebrate the beauty of plants and nature. One of the most popular events is the Garden Lights, Holiday Nights – a spectacular festive light show that illuminates the entire garden each December, transforming it into a winter wonderland. The garden also hosts a variety of concerts, lectures, and classes that are designed to educate and inspire visitors of all ages.
Expansion to the Atlanta BeltLine
This transformational project is aimed at creating a more walkable, bikeable and livable urban environment, with reduced reliance on automobiles as Atlanta’s population continues to grow.
After being awarded a $25 million dollar gift from the James M. Cox Foundation, the Atlanta Botanical Gardens will continue its expansion 7 acres along the Atlanta BeltLine. The project, which is estimated to be complete by 2026, will allow visitors to access the new gardens straight off the popular loop. This is another historical milestone for the Gardens, as they become the first cultural institution directly accessible from the BeltLine.
In conclusion, the Atlanta Botanical Gardens are a true gem of the Southeast. Its stunning displays of plants and flowers, as well as its commitment to environmental education and sustainability, make it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in nature and the outdoors. Whether you're a seasoned gardener or simply looking for a bit of respite from the bustling city, the Atlanta Botanical Gardens are the perfect destination.