Atlanta has amassed an army of attractions that grows with each calendar year. The boundary of expansion is not only relegated to downtown, but has seeped its way to the suburbs of metro Atlanta.
Nestled between the outer rim of traffic woes and the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains, in the city of Ball Ground, lies the world-class botanical treasure of Gibbs Gardens.
Along a country-like road in northeastern Cherokee County, Gibbs Gardens appears as an unexpected oasis. Except for the sign heralding you down a gravel road, one has no indication of the 220 acres of overwhelming serenity and visual adventures that await.
First-time visitors reflect it best in an often uttered phrase, “I just had no idea!” Fittingly, there is little to no cell service, freeing your phone’s power to focus on the many photo-worthy sights of this 4-season garden.
Monet Bridge at the Waterlily Gardens — Photo courtesy of Gibbs Gardens
A canopy of Red Sunset Maples serve as your guide, leading you to ample free parking. Crossing the pedestrian bridge to the Welcome Center, you are greeted by the sound of cascading water and planters bursting with the perfect pairing of color and height.
Your journey through the gardens begins with a familiarization session with one of the knowledgeable greeters who acclimate and inform you of the various areas and fauna that await. Here you can choose to set out on foot or utilize the tram and its multiple stops along the property. Open March through December, the gardens are strategically designed in such a way that repeat visitors can frequent every 3 weeks and see something different happening on the grounds.
Sixteen defined garden areas, including three feature gardens, are connected by relatively smooth, granite-covered trails wandering over bridges, paralleling natural creeks and ascending to the owner’s residence, known as the Manor House. Perched atop one of the highest crests in the surrounding area, the Manor House offers views of the mountains that can be enjoyed from the back patio rocking chairs.
March daffodils, early in the morning — Photo courtesy of David Akoubian/Gibbs Gardens
Starting as a vision in 1980, the gardens have only been open to the public since 2012. Spring brings over 20 million daffodils, making it the largest daffodil display in the nation. The 40-acre Japanese Gardens, complete with 40 handcrafted lanterns, are the largest in the nation as well.
Included in the admission price, Gibbs Gardens hosts annual festivals centered around their seasonal stars – Daffodil Festival in the spring, Waterlily Festival and Japanese Maple Festival in the fall. Special “Twilight in the Gardens” evenings offer extended hours and live music. Monthly garden talks with horticultural superstars such as Erica Glasener, author and 14-year host of the former HGTV series A Gardener’s Diary, add to the world-class offerings of this property.
Southern hospitality and personal touches imbibe charm in ways that institutional botanical gardens cannot match. Sculptures, representing Mr. Gibbs’ eleven grandchildren, can be found dotting the sculpture garden landscape. Residing on property are plants grown from cuttings passed down through the generations of his family.
Notable graciousness is extended to visitors as Mr. Gibbs invites you to explore the grounds immediately surrounding his personal house. Iced water bottles can often be found for purchase, on the honor system, to enjoy as one rocks on the back patio overlooking the Manor House Gardens, or while swinging the day away on the poolside patio by the summer house.
Torii gate in Fall — Photo courtesy of Gibbs Gardens
Choosing to be regarded as a pleasure garden, instead of botanical, hundreds of benches and chairs are scattered across the property inviting visitors to take in the symphony of Mother Nature.
Jim Gibbs, the horticultural sculptor and mastermind behind this outdoor attraction, is known to exclaim, “Nature can't be duplicated!” His passion for nature has created environments where flowers and plants are elevated to ethereal awe, much like Walt Disney did with fairy tales and children’s stories.