Is it just me, or do the leaves of the Sweet Gum tree (above) look like stars? I snapped this photo at Longwood Gardens, the day after Thanksgiving. It was the start of their grand Christmas show but the day was mild, the sky was blue and the trees -- well, the trees were putting on their OWN show without any need for garlands or tinsel. I know that usually when we hear 'Winter Wonderland" we expect white frosting on evergreen trees and icicles twinkling off the branches of deciduous ones.
But I found that the shapes of the trees that day were wonderland enough -- no need for snow! It wasn't just the Sweet Gums pictured above; the Carolina Silverbells looked like strands of golden bells (below). I'm not sure who named them. I think, actually, the silver bell name refers to the way the flowers look. But I thought their winter shape and color looked like bells as well.
I have visited Longwood Gardens at least 30 times. I have never noticed two trees on the walk to the Italian Garden called "Trifoliate Orange." But once the chill and winds of autumn have stripped off most of the leaves the oranges themselves (not so sweet you'd want to eat them, but birds will snack on them) look like Christmas ornaments (below).
Personally I am usually leery of young botanical gardens and arboretums. Trees take a long time to grow into their mature shapes!!!! But Jim Gibbs, who owns the largest landscape company in Georgia as well as Gibbs Garden, was at work creating the manicured landscape long before he opend the garden gate to the public six years ago. He started working on his private 300 acre estate in 1980. So it is 'young' in terms of being open to the public but benefits from 30+ years of being manicured.
If you love daffodils this would be the place to come in March -- there are over FOUR MILLION daffodil bulbs underground just waiting for Spring. Fifty acres of daffodils! You can check on their website for more up to date info on when things will bloom, but in general they expect the daffodils to be in bloom in early March through mid-April. Cherries will be in blossom the last two weeks of March and dogwoods in early April. They have festivals celebrating ferns, azaleas, rhododendrons, roses and hydrangeas. The hydrangeas make their splash starting in late May. And there are eight acres of wildflowers!
But if you are reading this website it is because you love TREES, so let me tell you that there are more than 2,000 Japanese maples. There are 150 varieties of Japanese Maples, most concentrated in the 40-acre Japanese Maple section, so there are different varieties coming into their peak fall colors throughout the season. As if the trees themselves aren't enough to bathe your eyes in beauty -- there are also reflecting ponds, decorative bridges and pieces of artwork and statues scattered throughout the area.
This beautiful 220 acre garden will be closed on December 10 and will not reopen until the first of March. It is located outside a tiny town (Ball Ground) about an hour north of Atlanta. Lots of free parking. Admission for adults is $20 for one day, annual passes cost $50. There is a cafe with prepackaged sandwiches (the chicken salad is quite good) and beverages. Seating is only available outside. Be forewarned the garden is always closed on Mondays, and for most of the year is also closed on Tuesdays.
The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is frequently cited in the "Top Ten" lists of Botanical Gardens in the USA. I definitely agree with this distinction for the Richmond, VA destination. Although the garden is very proud of its very large greenhouse (with a collection of orchids) and Japanese Garden (not its strongest suit in my opinion) when I asked the docent at the front desk where the big specimen trees were she was able to rattle off several beauties and mark them on the map. (Some botanical gardens and arboretum already have this info on their pre-printed maps, but Lewis Ginter does not, so I recommend asking.)
They have the largest Gingko Biloba tree I have personally ever laid eyes on. I've seen several, but none more than about 16" in diameter (trunk). I didn't measure this one, but its deeply textured trunk was massive (photo below).
Next to the Gingko Biloba was a beautifully colored red maple. Crepe myrtles and several other unidentified trees were in the same area.
They provide a large Children's Garden area. This area has many baskets available with collections of tools, suggestions, hints, activities, etc. Within this area you will also find a gigantic, sprawling mulberry tree that is over 100 years old (pictured below) and a persimmon trees. The persimmon fruit looked like a cross of an apple with the peachy glow coloration of an apricot. Lots of school groups were visiting -- how lovely!
If you are a member of another botanical garden it is worth checking to see if it has reciprocity with Lewis Ginter. Mine does, so I got in free. I even got a discount in its excellent gift shop when I bought a Christmas gift for my husband and a pair of tree earrings for myself.
Ruthie photographs trees because she loves them.
1 - 3pm
A Walk in the Woods
423 N. Main St.
Photographer and editor Ruthie Rosauer will be on hand to autograph copies of her book, THESE TREES. The book, a compilation of 140 trees photos paired with poems, has been described as "A gorgeous book, a heart-opening photo collection."