Winter's grays are pushed aside by Spring's greens and delicate pastels. As the sun warms the earth and the flowers' sweet aroma is wafted by gentle breezes, man turns to the out-of-doors. It is at this time that the beauty of Callaway Gardens is at its zenith. Located at Pine Mountain, Georgia, eighty miles south of Atlanta, Callaway Gardens is a haven for people of all ages who seek beauty and enjoyment. The Gardens is unique in that one finds a combination of horticultural and recreational features to captivate the connoisseur of each.
In the late thirties Mr. Cason J. Callaway, textile magnate, came to seek rest and solitude here where an abundance of Southern Appalachian vegetation is found. As "Mr. Cason" set about preserving the many native plants and revitalizing areas devastated by poor farming and lumbering practices, he came to realize that he wanted all people to share the loveliness being created and preserved. The Gardens was opened to the public in 1952 as a living, growing memorial to his mother, Ida Cason Callaway. The major floral emphasis is the native plants and wildflowers in their natural surroundings. Certain areas within the Gardens are devoted to the introduced ornamentals or cultivated plants. Several thousand kinds of native, naturalized and exotic plants are arranged in a naturalistic manner throughout the Gardens.
The entire Gardens consist of a 2500-acre beautifully wooded area with 13 man-made lakes, clear mountain streams, greenhouses, chapel, walking trails, and seven and one-half acre demonstration vegetable garden, golf courses (63 holes), family-style cottages and summer recreational program, Holiday Inn with swimming pools, and facilities for tennis, fishing, hunting, skeet and trap range. and horseback riding. Robin Lake Beach is the center of summer recreation with boating, canoeing, skiing, swimming, miniature train rides, and tennis facilities plus the Ski Show and circus.
As one enters the Main Gate during April, a multiplicity of color and beauty greets each visitor. The Azalea Trail, including extensive collections of ornamental azaleas as well as the natives, winds through the woodland, lakeshore, hillsides, and grassy paths near the Gardens' entrance.
Kurumes, Indicas, Glenn Dale and Beltsville hybrids, and later-blooming Satsuki and Back Acre cultivars are included in this picturesque area. The Azalea Trail also traverses the collection of crabapples offering their best regalia in early spring and fall. The native wildflowers, trees and shrubs have priority along the Scenic Drive. Colorful native azaleas bloom in succession from early spring until fall. Complemented by numerous herbaceous and woody species, these plants blend naturally in the woodland landscape highlighting the beauty of the large pines and hardwoods. So that delicate color differences may be observed, the various species of azaleas are usually found in separate mass plantings. The Plumleaf Azalea, the Gardens' emblem, is a rare orange-red native blooming from July until early fall.
Laurel Springs Drive becomes a fairyland of color when the dogwood, Piedmont azaleas, bird-foot violets, bluets, and other wildflowers carpet the woodland. The rustic mountainous trail features mountain-laurel, bay magnolias, sourwood, and bubbling springs. Mountain Creek Lake Trail , a meandering wooded path overlooking the 175-acre Mountain Creek lake, has water fowl, wildlife, native plants, and exquisite scenery as its calling card.
Meadowlark Arboretum, where the majority of trails are located, offers beauty and pleasure at all seasons. In early spring the American Holly Trail is flooded with white and yellow waving daffodils. A large collection of native azaleas and other indigenous plants is located on the Azalea Wild-flower Trail. This well-labeled trail is a favorite for every member of the family for it winds over streams, skirts lakes, and waterfalls, and usually provides a glimpse of birds and other wildlife. The English Oriental Holly Trails come center stage during the fall and winter months.
Oriental magnolias and flowering quince adorn the Upper Meadowlark Area beginning in early March. This area is again unrivaled in late April and May when hybrids bloom on the Rhododendron Trail. These exquisite flowers are enhanced by a verdant woodland of interesting trees, shrubs and ground covers.
Other attractions off the Scenic Drives are the greenhouses and chapel. Colorful seasonal displays in the greenhouses begin with spring bulbs, vivid tuberous begonias and cyclamen. The informal outdoor garden features pansies, English daisies, and flowering bulbs in the spring.
The Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel stands quietly in a wooded cove overlooking Rocky Falls Creek Lake. The stained glass windows convey the beauty of the surroundings in ever changing seasons. The informal Sunday afternoon organ concerts are extremely popular.
Mr. Cason's Vegetable Garden, a demonstration garden, exhibits the bright flowers of fruit trees on the first terrace during the spring months. Cole crops and newly planted summer annual vegetables grow on the second terrace. The perennials such as asparagus, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and herbs are displayed on the third terrace.
Callaway Gardens is owned by the Ida Cason Callaway Foundation, a nonprofit educational, scientific, religious, and charitable corporation. It is operated either by the Foundation or by its wholly-owned subsidiary, Gardens Services, Incorporated. All revenue derived from the Gardens is used for maintenance and improvements toward furthering its purpose.
Much of the Gardens may be used as an outdoor laboratory. The plants in the Meadowlark and greenhouse areas are well labeled while Laurel Springs Trail has a self-guiding booklet. Guided nature walks are conducted weekly in the spring and fall and daily during the summer in conjunction with the FSU Circus Recreation Program. Special educational tours may be arranged for groups visiting the Gardens. Horticultural workshops, Nature Quests for Girl Scout leaders, and the summer student work program are other education endeavors of the Gardens.
Callaway Gardens is a "dream come true." Only through careful planning and hard work by those vitally involved in its growth and development has this been accomplished. Mrs. Cason J. Callaway, President of the Foundation, and a dedicated staff of trained horticulturists headed by Fred C. Galle, current President of the American Horticultural Society, are carrying out "Mr. Cason's" dream and preserving the natural heritage of beauty for all to appreciate.
Callaway Gardens along with the Mid Atlantic, the Azalea, and the Southern Chapters of the American Rhododendron Society will host the Society's annual meeting, Aril 20-23. Included in this meeting will be a tour of Mr. Cason's Blue Springs, situated in picturesque surroundings of rhododendrons, azaleas, and mountain laurel. The detailed program will follow in the January issue.