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Before the Civil War, the South was dominated by large plantations. One family, who owned 46-acres of land, was gifted a few clumps of Japanese timber bamboo from their neighbor. In just 20 years, the bamboo had grown almost 60 feet. An employee on the farm wanted to protect the plant from being destroyed by future owners of the property, so he petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The land was eventually used by the USDA as an introductory research station for “economically important agricultural plants for the Southeast.” A much longer story short, the farm, accompanying bamboo grove and surrounding land are now called the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens, operated by the University of Georgia’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Science.
The property contains 51 acres of plants and gardens. Of course, there’s plenty of bamboo. The Barbour Lathrop Bamboo Collection includes shoots from China that date back as far as 1920. Some of these species were the first to grow in America! There’s also a four-acre Bamboo Maze, although it’s still in the developmental stages; eventually, there will be varying heights for small children, an intermediate level and a challenging one for the daredevils. For the romantics, a beautiful Rose Garden flowers from April to December.
A nod to the South comes in the form of their Dwarf Palmetto and Palm Collections. In fact, the garden’s habitat is the largest outdoor palm collection north of Florida! Another interesting collection here (and these aren’t even close to all of the species that grow at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Garden) is the Historic Georgia Trustees Garden Replica. First designed by James Oglethorpe in 1734, the botanical garden’s miniature contains all the historically accurate plants that were first used by the colonists settling in Georgia.
Did we mention that they also have Pick-Your-Own-Berry Fields? Although the harvest season depends on the weather, you can pick strawberries from early April through May, and blackberries from late May to July 1. Berry picking is a great way to spend a summer day with the family! Throughout the year, the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens hosts a handful of events. Their famous “December Nights & Holiday Lights” festivity runs on select evenings from late November through December. Enjoy a walking tour illuminated by 1,000,000 lights, sit with Santa Claus and indulge at Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen (filled with yummy hot chocolate and other sweet treats). Another favorite is the Autumn Gardenfest: learn more about the art of gardening by participating in seminars or chatting with the festival’s vendors. They also host education events, such as Gazing in the Garden, a partnered event with the Oglethorpe Astronomical Association. Free and open to the public, this event lets visitors sprawl out on the Great Lawn, gaze at the sky through telescopes, and learn about the galaxy.
When you’re planning your trip to Savannah, or you’re already here and driving around, take a few hours and wander around the grounds of this beautiful garden!