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The Atlanta Botanical Garden has expanded, but not in Midtown. Just an hour and half north of the city, the first phase of the Gainesville outpost of ABG is now open to visitors.

Located on land donated by Charles and Lessie Smithgall, phase one is a little more than five acres, but will eventually grow to 168. The new garden is destined to be one of the largest and most diverse woodland gardens in the country, including the largest conservation nursery in the Southeast on the property.

Photo Jun 06, 14 50 49The Gainesville garden makes for a perfect day trip, or perhaps a stop on leisurely longer one to Lake Lanier or the mountains.

The garden is divided into sections, all easily accessible up gently rolling paved pathways. Just behind the sleek visitors center is the Forest Pond, where flowering water lilies and other aquatic plants float and surround the surface.

Also just beyond the visitors center is the Ivester Amphitheater, which will play host to concerts and events on a regular basis. Three of this year’s SunTrust in the Garden concerts are being held in Gainesville, including last month’s Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell show. The Temptations are July 11 and Scott McCreery is July 17. The curving, grassy terraces can seat 2,200 people with ample room to spread out a picnic.

Photo Jun 06, 15 04 02Head up the pathway into the Overlook Garden, which features perennials, shrubs and ornamental trees. Butterflies seemed to particularly enjoy this part of the garden. There’s also comfortable seating along the paths to rest and observe the flora and fauna.

Perhaps the most beautiful section is the Stream Garden, a woodland hillside with a dramatic, cascading waterfall surrounded by wildflowers and hydrangeas. The curving path and series of wooden bridges offer amply places to stop and snap photos.
Kids of all ages will love the Model Train Garden where two large – and impressive sounding trains – chug through tunnels and twist along their own garden. In the adjacent Glade Garden, a box of toy trains is available for kids to build their own adventures.

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For those who want a longer walk, the half-mile Sourwood Trail and Holly Ridge Trail take visitors into the woods surrounding the garden. Native hollies, rhododendrons, witch hazel and shade trees make for good scenery along the hilly terrain.

The Gainesville garden is also offering regular events such as wine tastings and activities for children. Visit atlantabg.org and click on Gainesville for more details and directions.

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