The Hart County Botanical Garden, located in Hartwell at 1277 Elberton Hwy, is a seven-acre treasure featuring 17 specialty gardens, two tall wooden arbors, a large covered pavilion, an open air amphitheater, and a fun children’s play structure. In addition to abundant shade, a reliable breeze, constant bird song and bevies of butterflies, there are paths, benches, bridges and overlooks. The garden is also a Poke Stop for Pokeman Go players, an official geocache site currently offering two caches, and a destination for kids of all ages to leave and pick up painted rocks. Open seven days a week, the garden is free to visit and pets are allowed on leash.
A trip through the garden begins under the arbors with the Sun Perennial Garden. One of the oldest and well-established areas in the garden, bright colors abound year-round. The adjacent Butterfly and Herb Gardens offer an abundant habitat to many kinds of butterflies, bees and other pollinators. The Commemorative Garden, also in that area, is an ongoing project featuring bricks donated in memory of loved ones.
The paved path to the pavilion, a popular place for birthday parties, yoga classes, picnics, meetings and other gatherings, leads by the Stairway and Rain Gardens. A large metal parrot and a “perpetual motion” sculpture accent those colorful areas.
Down the hill from the main entrance and the pavilion is the Anne King Garden, dedicated to the woman who, along with long time Hart County Extension Agent and local volunteer, Gary Cobb, is credited with making the dream of a local botanical garden come true back in 2003. A fountain, bench and chairs beckon one to sit and simply enjoy the sights and sounds of the garden for a while before continuing on.
Mamaw’s House and the Heritage Garden/Bird Sanctuary are adjacent to the Anne King Garden. The one-room house complete with a porch and two rockers was built in memory of Hart County farmers Herschel and Ovis Kesler using funds donated by the Kesler family. Garden president Luanne Burgess, a granddaughter of “Mamaw” Kesler said the family wanted to provide a place for visitors to “sit and visit a spell” while enjoying plants “we all remember from our grandparents or great-grandparent’s yards.”
Follow the path through the Asian Woodland Garden to arrive at the Moon House, one of the most unique features in the garden. Meticulously built by garden volunteers, this large ornate structure featuring “yin-yang” tilework, a delicate metal sculpture and Asian pottery, is a perfect place to meditate, do yoga, chat or simply enjoy the beauty of the surrounding nature.
From the Moon House, the path leads past the Bartram Trail, Native Plant and Fern Gardens, ending at the amphitheater, which is used for scout meetings, concerts and gatherings. It can also be rented for weddings, memorial services and other events.
Heading back up the hill towards the main entrance, there is the Children’s Garden featuring educational displays and a large play structure, donated by the local Kiwanis Club. Next are the Shade and Rhododendron Gardens and the wood path to the Bog Garden overlook.
The most recent addition to the garden and last stop on a trip through the garden is the Rotary Native Tree Exhibit. A joint project with the Hartwell Rotary Club, the exhibit features 15 young trees chosen for their “showy blooms, interesting leaves or bark and general hardiness” according to garden board member Robert Meaders, who selected the trees.
“The garden’s come a long way since it was started by a group of local NE GA Master Gardeners back in 2003,” board president Burgess said. “We have a great group of dedicated, enthusiastic and skilled volunteers and the support of local service groups. We are always ready to welcome new ‘Friends of the Garden.’”
“Friends of the Garden” volunteers maintain the garden, which is funded by donations and proceeds from the annual three-day plant sale in April.
In addition to enjoying the beauty and liveliness of nature, visitors come to the garden to exercise, unwind, picnic, play, take photos and have scenic photoshoots, spend time with friends, walk dogs and simply be.
“The garden can be whatever we want it to be…joyful or soulful, serene or humming with the activity only nature can provide,” board member Gretchen Torrence said. “With so many more visitors coming into the garden, every day now someone experiences the magic that a serene and beautiful space, a protected and cherished place provides – right here in our backyard. I can’t imagine my life without it.”
The Hart County Botanical Garden (HCBG) is a 501 (c ) non-profit organization. For more information, to donate, volunteer or to become a “Friend of the Garden” go to hartcogardens.org, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 706-436-1557.