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Explore Nature

Mother and child exploring hummingbirds at Smith-Gilbert Gardens

Smith-Gilbert Gardens offers year-round experiences for families.

By Cory Sekine-Pettite

Did you know that there are plenty of opportunities in Cobb County for family fun, outdoor recreation, and engaging educational programs? One of those places — Smith-Gilbert Gardens — was recently named in the top three of the best places in Atlanta to take your kids by kidsoutandabout.com. The Gardens, located at 2382 Pine Mountain Road in Kennesaw, house more than 4,000 species of plants on 17 acres. United by woodland paths, Smith-Gilbert includes a Bonsai Exhibit, Paladino Camellia Garden, the largest crevice garden in Georgia, and the Rose Garden and American Conifer Society Reference Garden. So, there’s plenty to explore while practicing safe social distancing.

“The world has really changed, but one thing remains constant — families want a safe place to take their children,” notes Ann Parsons, executive director. “We’ve worked very hard over the past several years to offer innovative and creative ways for children to explore nature at the Gardens, and we are so pleased to see more families visiting now!”

At the center of Smith-Gilbert Gardens is the historic Hiram Butler House, dating back more than 150 years. The house was once owned by Mr. Butler, a Confederate railroad man, who worked the lines most of his life and was present during the “Great Locomotive Chase,” a Civil War battle in April 1862 along the rail lines between Atlanta and Chattanooga.

In 1970, Mr. Richard Smith and Dr. Robert Gilbert bought the Hiram Butler House and surrounding acreage in Kennesaw. They spent the next 35 years developing the house and grounds into the gardens we know today — with an emphasis on unique plantings and thoughtfully positioned sculpture.

In total, there are 15 themed garden spaces containing thousands of curated plants. The award-winning “Garden with Wings” butterfly house is open seasonally every summer. Blending horticulture and art, the bonsai collection includes more than 70 trees, diligently trained during monthly work sessions that are open to garden visitors. Thirty-one remarkable garden sculptures by nationally and internationally known artists add drama to the landscape. Koi ponds, a waterfall, and child-friendly play structures throughout the property round out the experience.


Smith-Gilbert's Rose Garden

In addition to its work in educating visitors, sharing a knowledge and passion for nature, and inspiring participants to be conservation-minded, Smith-Gilbert Gardens’ mission is evident throughout the development. A minimal-toxicity ethic means that it curtails the use of chemical treatments in garden maintenance. Through best practices in collection management and collaborations with Georgia Power, State Botanical Garden of Georgia, and Atlanta Botanical Garden, it works to preserve global plant biodiversity and improve local habitat.

The small price for admission (just $10, minus discounts for students, kids and military personnel) get visitors access to all of this natural bounty. Plus, there are new programs scheduled throughout the year to keep guests coming back. For example, some upcoming exhibits you may want to check out include the Wedding Venue Showcase (Fall), the Great Georgia Pollinator Census (Fall), and the Great Backyard Bird Count (Winter).

Smith-Gilbert Gardens is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Get ticket information and learn more about upcoming events at smithgilbertgardens.com

Take Part in the Garden Gallop
On October 31, lace up your running shoes for the annual Garden Gallop, which is part of the KGP Race Series. Proceeds from the Garden Gallop will benefit Smith-Gilbert Gardens. And the best part is that you can run the race in your favorite Halloween costume! More info: kennesawgrandprix.com


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