Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground, Ga.

By KATIE VanBRACKLE

katie@northsidewoman.com 

When Jim Gibbs began designing his 220-acre public garden in Ball Ground, Ga., he sought the advice and approval of his mother, Margaret, who would join him for long walks through the wooded property.

When she reached a particularly scenic spot, Margaret would stop and say, “This looks like a good place to sit for a spell,” and the two would pause to admire the view and listen to the sounds of water flowing through streams and birds singing in the treetops.

Gibbs later installed a bench in each of his mother’s favorite spots. Today, 126 benches dot the grounds of Gibbs Gardens, inviting visitors to pause and soak up the beauty of this delightful hidden gem, located less than an hour’s drive from the North Fulton area.

Gibbs Gardens is a labor of love for Jim Gibbs, retired president and founder of Gibbs Landscape Company and founding member of the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The gardens, which opened to the public one year ago, are the legacy he will leave behind for his children and grandchildren as well as people everywhere who share his love of the artistry of landscape design.

This is also his home. The Gibbs’ manor house sits atop a natural ridge overlooking the North Georgia mountains with beautiful terraced gardens leading down to the valley below. Flowing streams and rolling hills create a shady setting for 16 unique gardens, which can be explored leisurely on foot with trams available for convenience.

Beginning with a Daffodil Festival in March, the gardens remain open through December, with each month bringing new blossoms such as azaleas, dogwoods, roses, hydrangeas, rhododendron and daylilies, enhancing Mother Nature’s own displays of green woodland ferns, fall wildflowers and vivid autumn leaves.

Listen to the breeze rustle leaves in the treetops, watch sunlight dance through a waterfall, stroll through a tall allée of crape myrtles and inhale the delicate scent of roses, or even better, ultra fragrant, golden Edgeworthia blooms.

Gibbs spent years traveling the globe, studying landscape design in Asia and Europe. These international influences are most dramatically displayed in the 40-acre Japanese Garden, the largest in the nation, a beautiful, peaceful oasis at any time of year, but especially dramatic in the fall when Japanese maples display their brilliant reds and oranges.

In a Zen-like setting, seven spring-fed ponds reflect Japanese lanterns, pagodas and carefully pruned bonsai.

In the Monet Water Lily Gardens, 140 varieties of unique lilies bloom throughout the summer beneath an exact replica of the famous bridge which crosses Monet’s water lily pond in Giverny, France.

Always attentive to detail, Gibbs traveled to Giverny and actually waded in the water beneath Monet’s bridge with a tape measure and color swatches to make sure his replica was exact in every way.

Gibbs’ own personal touches can be seen everywhere you look.

His 11 grandchildren are honored with their own sculpture garden, depicting the children fishing, reading a book, playing with geese or riding atop a giant tortoise.

His favorite chicken salad, packed with grapes, apples and pecans, is served on freshly baked cranberry walnut bread in the Arbor Café where guests can linger over their meal on a large, tree-shaded patio, perhaps indulging in a thick slice of cream cheese pound cake for dessert.

And Gibbs himself is a very visible presence. He can often be found sitting on a stool inside the welcome center, personally greeting his guests and answering any questions they have.

He encourages visitors to take their time while experiencing his “garden rooms.” After all, this is not a place to rush through; it is a place to savor.

Listen to the breeze rustle leaves in the treetops, watch sunlight dance through a waterfall, stroll through a tall allée of crape myrtles and inhale the delicate scent of roses, or even better, ultra fragrant, golden Edgeworthia blooms.

And by all means, if your legs begin to tire, feel free to stop and “sit a spell.”

What to know before you go

  • The $20 admission fee to Gibbs Gardens can be applied toward a Four-Season Membership ($50), allowing unlimited garden visits and admission to special events held throughout the year such as the Music in the Gardens series, opening on Saturday, April 27 with toe-tapping mountain dulcimer music by the Hilltop Strummers.
  • Through April 14, Gibbs Gardens will be open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The gardens will be closed on Mondays for maintenance.
  • From April 17 through Dec. 15, the gardens will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. The last admission each day is at 4 p.m.

Gibbs Gardens

1987 Gibbs Drive, Ball Ground

770-893-1880

www.gibbsgardens.com

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