A life’s work can be measured in many ways.
For James H. “Jim” Gibbs, it’s measured in acres.
Two-hundred and twenty acres to be exact, filled with cherry trees, crape myrtles, dogwoods, daffodils, azalea, hydrangeas, rhododendron, roses, day lilies, water lilies, ferns, wildflowers and 800 Japanese maples. Add 24 ponds, 32 bridge crossings and 19 waterfalls and you have Gibbs Gardens, a natural and landscaped world-class wonder, owned and designed by Jim Gibbs and located in Cherokee county.
Gibbs, 69, is the founder of Atlanta’s award-winning Gibbs Landscape Company and a founding member and lifetime trustee of the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. There’s a generous amount of gardening genes in Gibbs family tree. His mother was a blue-ribbon flower arranger, his grandmothers and aunts energetic and talented gardeners whose enthusiasm influenced him as young child.
Gibbs Gardens, which opened to the public March 1, is the fruit from the seed of an idea the Atlanta businessman started nurturing 40 years ago. His dream of a large and encompassing garden estate, one that displayed the natural beauty of Georgia and offered peaceful enclaves, meadows of spectacular blooming flowers and a variety of trees to showcase fall splendor planted itself in his mind in the late 1970s. At that point, Gibbs had travelled the world and spent time enjoying gardens in different countries. He then started searching the Southern landscape for the ideal location to make his dream reality.
He knew just what he wanted – rolling topography, plentiful natural water and proximity to the city of Atlanta.
After six years of combing the state, he found and purchased property in Ball Ground. In 1980 the gardens literally took root and started to grow in Cherokee County.
“It’s his life’s work,” said Barbara Schneider, marketing manager of Gibbs Gardens. “The site on the property where the manor house is located is the highest ridge in Cherokee County. The view of the north Georgia mountains is beautiful and it’s an easy drive from Atlanta.”
Growing and planning world-class gardens takes talent, time and the blessing of Mother Nature. The gardens the public will view this spring were 30 years in the making. The lush and varied landscape has elements of the local (dogwood, azalea, mountain laurels) the exotic (Japanese gardens on 40 acres), the romantic (a Monet water-lily garden, recreating the famous painter’s Garden at Giverny and featuring 140 varieties of water lilies) and the historical (boxwood grown from cuttings from Gibb’s grandmother’s Appomattox, Virginia estate, a property kept in his family for 340 years and where Ulysses S. Grant set up headquarters on the front lawn during the Civil War).
Gibbs’ long – held dream is now reality and it was always meant to be shared.
“I am feeling great now that my 40-year dream to open my gardens to the public is coming true. Every year has brought new seasons of fun and excitement and I will continue to design and develop new gardens that compliment nature," said Gibbs. “A gardener’s garden is never complete."
Every month has something to delight the senses at Gibbs Gardens.
March - The Daffodil Festival runs March 1- April 15th, with over 3,000,000 daffodils in bloom. The Cherry Blossom Festival signifies the start of spring in Georgia, with 500 cherry trees in full flower.
April – Dogwood trees will be in full bloom for a few weeks (weather permitting) on 292 acres. The Azalea Festival also begins and continues all summer, featuring over 1,000 native and exotic varieties.
May – Over 150 kinds of rhododendron will be blooming for 2-3 weeks. The heady scent of hundreds of roses in bloom starts the first week of May and continues into the fall. More than 1400 hydrangeas will flower this month and last until October. Water lilies bloom May-November.
June – Warm weather brings the daylilies into the spotlight for 2 months with 500 varieties and over 1,000 lilies featured in the gardens.
July – Crape myrtles dress up hot summer days with over 1,000 trees in bloom in shades of pink, white, red and lavender.
September – Wildflowers are the late-summer stars as the Wildflower Festival starts this month and goes until November. Twenty acres of rolling landscape include Golden Rod, Asters, Sumac and ornamental grasses.
October – Octoberfest means vivid fall color from thousands of trees on hundreds of acres, including more than 75 varieties of Japanese Maple.
Want to go?
For maximum enjoyment, bring a camera, wear comfortable shoes and allow yourself at least 2.5 hours of time on the property.
The gardens are located on Gibbs Drive in Ball Ground, Ga., 30107
Open to the public from March 1 – November 30. (Closed on Thanksgiving)
Open Thursday through Sunday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (last admittance at 4 p.m.)
Wednesdays are reserved for bus tours and groups of 10 or more.
Adults (18-64 years) $20
Seniors (65+) and children (4-17 years) $18
Children 3 and under admitted free.
Group rates and season passes available.
Parking is free.
There is a gift shop and caf? for visitors.
Trams are available to take visitors to and from some areas of the property.
Tram tickets are $5 per person.
Information, updates and detailed driving directions at www.gibbsgardens.com
To schedule a group e-mail email@example.com