Books

See Inside Some of Georgia’s Greatest Gardens

Seeking Eden, a new book and exhibit at the Atlanta History Center, highlights historic gardens throughout the Peach State

When James Edward Oglethorpe landed the Anne on Yamacraw Bluff in 1733, setting foot on what would become the colony of Georgia, gardening, oddly enough, was not far from his mind. Savannah, the city he founded, is famously built around verdant public squares, and its early settlers created the Trustee’s Garden to learn which crops the land would support.

From these early plant beds to the Atlanta suburbs sculpted in the mid-twentieth century, gardens are woven into the fabric of the Peach State. The new book, Seeking Eden: A Collection of Georgia’s Historic Gardens by Staci L. Catron and Mary Ann Eaddy, with photography by James R. Lockhart, and an accompanying exhibit of the same name at the Atlanta History Center, chronicles some of the state’s most significant plantations, parks, and properties by combining scholarly research with contemporary photographs to illustrate how Georgians have cultivated and loved the land.

The project spawned from Garden History of Georgia, 1733-1933, a register commissioned by the Peachtree Garden Club of Atlanta in 1933. “There were over 160 historic landscapes in that book, and we started out with the goal to see which gardens featured are still there,” Catron says. While many had fallen into disrepair, others have been preserved and are thriving in what she calls “the concrete twenty-first century.”

In all of the twenty-four gardens it inventories, Seeking Eden uses each property to tell the story of its people. “One of my favorites is the Hills and Dales Estate in LaGrange,” Catron says. This property, home to one of Georgia’s best-preserved antebellum gardens, features intricate terrace parterres that were first planted in the 1830s. “It was run by three different women who protected it and added their own personalities to it,” Catron says. “It’s so cool to know a garden has been loved and cared for for so many years.”

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Andrew Low House and Garden in Savannah.

photo: James R. Lockhart, courtesy of the University Press of Georgia

A wildflower meadow at Ashland Farm in Flintstone.

photo: James R. Lockhart, courtesy of the University Press of Georgia

A view of the main house at Barnsley Gardens in Adairsville.

photo: James R. Lockhart, courtesy of the University Press of Georgia

Oak Hill at Berry College outside of Rome.

photo: James R. Lockhart, courtesy of the University Press of Georgia

The rock garden at Cator Woolford Gardens in Atlanta.

photo: James R. Lockhart, courtesy of the University Press of Georgia

The Ray Garden at Hills and Dales Estate in LaGrange.

photo: James R. Lockhart, courtesy of the University Press of Georgia

The reflecting pool in the Palmetto Garden at Millpond Plantation near Thomasville.

photo: James R. Lockhart, courtesy of the University Press of Georgia

Ornamental fountain in the formal boxwood garden at Swan House in Atlanta.

photo: James R. Lockhart, courtesy of the University Press of Georgia

A parterre at Valley View near Cartersville.

photo: James R. Lockhart, courtesy of the University Press of Georgia

A pathway at Zahner-Slick Garden in Atlanta.

photo: James R. Lockhart, courtesy of the University Press of Georgia