On my very first trip to Athens, Georgia five and a half years ago, my best friend took my kids and I to the UGA State Botanical Gardens. It was early October and still very warm. Unlike all the gardens in Indiana, this one was teeming with vibrant colors and a plethora of thriving trees, bushes, flowers and herbs. We spent a good portion of the afternoon picnicking near the fountain in front of the greenhouse and then strolling through various gardens, marveling at the beauty of it.
My kids loved walking over the little bridge that led up to the Japanese garden. They laughed as they found tiny lizards running among the flowers in the planters on the bridge. They loved seeing all the butterflies flitting around the gorgeous flowers. They marveled at the giant flowers and leaves in the greenhouse. And, they nearly lost their minds when they found the giant stone ball floating on top of a spout of water that they could make turn with just a push of their hands. I’m not sure how long my best friend and I stood staring out over the gardens while they took turns pushing that ball around.
Although it was quite warm outside, the gardens were so lovely, that I hardly minded. They are, without a doubt, the most lovely spot I visited, not only on that trip but on any of my subsequent trips.
I wasn’t exactly expecting much as the gardens are tucked away behind hay fields and cow pastures. In fact, if not for a rather dull looking sign announcing their presence, I would have had no idea that anythings so beautiful could exist along that stretch of road.
Because the botanical garden is a great way to get not only myself but my kids outside and working off some energy (and some calories from all that great food), we try to visit on every trip. Sometimes we do not have stellar luck. On our second visit, which was in March, five years ago, it was unseasonably cold. I’m not sure the temperature got above 60 the entire time we were there and most mornings it was so cold that when my kids and I tried to go on a walk, we could actually see our own breath. Before we got halfway around the circle my best friend lives on, we had to turn back because my ears were frozen. So, when we visited the gardens, even though we’d picked one of the warmer days and the sun was shinning, there were hardly any flowers to look at.
Although we did a bit of walking out to the trails, we spent most of our time in the greenhouse. Thankfully it is very lovely, very warm and has a fantastic collection of orchids, which I am fascinated by. Ever since I read The Orchid Thief and then watched Adaptation as part of a wonderful book to movie club my friends had back in our mid-20’s, I’ve found orchids captivating. Because their scent is one thing the book focuses on, I always get as close to orchids as possible, hoping to catch one of the oddly scented ones. I love the variety of orchids the greenhouse has on display.
On this trip, we picked a warmer, sunnier day to visit. While it could have been warmer for my tastes, it was just over 70 and spring was clearly in the air. There were tons of volunteers all around the gardens weeding, planting and generally tending to everything surrounding us. We all had a blast wandering all over the gardens because almost everything was in bloom. There were beautiful trees bursting with lovely purple, pink and white flowers. There were row upon row of tulips in colors ranging from pale yellow all the way to a red so dark I thought it might actually be black. The herbs in the physic garden were blooming and a slight rub of the leaves released wonderful scents.
We made it so far down the trails that we found some really awesome statues and art displays that my kids really liked. Not only did I have my camera out snapping pictures like a mad woman, but my best friend had purchased a Polaroid for my kids to use. They had the best time taking pictures of the flowers, the art and each other. My daughter struggled a bit to remember that it was not a digital camera, so she couldn’t take quite as many pictures as she wanted. Nor could she just erase them, but eventually she figured it out. The photo albums my BFF bought my kids are filled with pictures from our trip to the botanical gardens.
My only regret about our visits is that I haven’t gotten to see it in May, when my BFF says it is actually just exploding with color. Maybe one day I’ll get there during true spring. But for now, I’m pretty happy with the time we’ve gotten to spend there and I know that our next trip (which won’t be until October), we’ll be up for another run around the grounds.