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Garden & gun: Outdoors to explore in northern Georgia

CR Rae
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The Daily Herald

Take in the bright colors of spring flowers at Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground, Georgia, one hour north of Atlanta.

The gardens are open year-round. In the spring they’re filled with the brightness of daffodils, tulips, cherry blossoms and more.

Now through October the gardens display the Fern Dell Colorfest. Blooming action is abundant in May with the rhododendrons blooming early in the month and lasting for two to three weeks. Early May through November is the Rose Colorfest. Hydrangeas with their blues and purples add to the May colors and last through October. The water lilies burst out in mid-May and continue to do so through November.

The summer months are also filled with color as the daylilies begin blooming in June and do so through August, crape myrtle begins in early July through August, and assorted annuals and perennials peak throughout the summer.

The garden was the dream of Jim Gibbs. He traveled for 15 years throughout the world to view gardens of all kinds seeking what he wanted for the property in Georgia, for which he searched six years to find this perfect place. The property has mature trees, rolling hills and 292 acres for Gibbs’ gardens. On site are 24 ponds, 32 bridges and 19 waterfalls. The gardens were first planted in 1980 and today there is plenty to explore.

At this time the gardens are open, but all tickets must be purchased online. Tickets may be used any day the gardens are open. Visitors should allow 1.5 hours to tour the seasonal gardens and 1.5 hours to tour the display gardens such as Japanese, Monet Waterlily and Grandchildren’s Sculpture.

A downloadable calendar of blooms is offered at gibbsgardens.com. Check the website to make sure the gardens will be open due to possible changes because of the pandemic situation.

More natural beauty

Visitors to Kennesaw, Georgia, about 30 minutes north of Atlanta, like to take a stroll through a smaller but also beautiful botanical garden — the city’s Smith-Gilbert Gardens. These 17 acres of beauty offer 15 themed garden spaces.

Visitors will find native plants of Georgia and a gardening style that is normally not seen in the southeastern U.S. called crevice gardening. Perennials are plentiful and visitors will find hydrangeas, camellias, roses and more. The gardens also display a bonsai collection offering more than 70 specimens and 30 garden sculptures, which have been created by internationally and nationally known artists.

Besides the waterfall and koi ponds visitors will find places for children, with play structures located throughout.

Updated information can be found at smithgilbertgardens.com, including hours and special events.

Historic mountain

Also in Kennesaw is Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. For many the history is what brings them to the park; for others, it is the walking or running up the mountain and the wonderful views from the top.

The park offers 15 miles of trails. When adding the trails of Little Kennesaw Mountain, it affords hikers 20 miles of trails winding through grassy meadows and forests, alongside creeks and over mountaintops.

The park consists of 2,888 acres and includes the history of some of the Civil War’s heaviest fighting. From June 19 to July 2, 1864, more than 67,000 soldiers were killed, wounded and captured during what was called the Atlanta Campaign. Visitors can see the cannons, trenches where soldiers waited for the enemy, and monuments offering lessons in history. The name Kennesaw came from the Cherokee “gah-nee-sah,” which meant burial ground.

On weekdays visitors can drive to the top of the mountain and on weekends a shuttle bus is available. A drive to the main battlefield, Cheatham Hill, and then to Kolb Farm gives visitors a deeper sense of this mountain’s history. The visitors center offers maps and a 35-minute movie on the Atlanta Campaign and Battle of Kennesaw. There is also a museum at the center. Find out more at nps.gov/kemo.

Before any park visit, go to the website or call to see what is open and closed. Ensure that you follow CDC and state and local guidelines to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.