Spring flings: Garden of delights for getting outside

Spring has finally sprung!

And yet here you still sit, wallowing in your wintry "whatever!"-ness, thinking it couldn't possibly be that easy getting to hang out in somebody else's garden. Without having to weed or prune a thing.

But it is. All you need do is show up and gawk at the bounty of bonsai at Smith-Gilbert Gardens in Kennesaw. Or goggle over the seeming gazillions of daffodils at Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground. Or marvel at the overflow of orchids at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Spring is the best time to be outside in metro Atlanta, when the humidity is low and everything from hyacinth and crocuses to dogwoods and cherry blossoms burst into colorful life as if by acclamation.

Not having a green thumb or a patch of earth to call your own is no excuse. Not when we’ve found a half-dozen “garden spots” for you to wander around.

Smith-Gilbert Gardens, Kennesaw

Lay of the land: Set on 16 acres around the circa-1880 Hiram Butler House, the gracefully rolling grounds are crisscrossed by walking paths ideal for viewing more than 3,000 species of plants and flowers, some 30-plus sculptures, a tea house and waterfall area, rose garden and more. Rainbow-hued koi swim in a pond near the bonsai exhibit, featuring some three dozen rare and unique plants and trees.

Don't-miss spring thing: Just past the Knowlton Meadow, a wooded trail leads to such hidden delights as an enormous tree that time and nature have bent over to form a "bench." The "Garden Birthplace" section includes five prayer flags that are believed to spread their inspirational messages to the wind as they age and tatter.

Dig deeper: Plots are still available for the spring/summer "Veggie Plots" program starting April 13. Along with a 4-foot-square raised bed, you get 10 weekly classes in vegetable gardening. The Third Annual Rose Garden Gala on April 27 is the biggest fundraiser for the public/private partnership that now owns the gardens.

All the dirt: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. Closed Mondays. $7 adults, $6 seniors and active military, $5 children 6 to 12. 2382 Pine Mountain Road, Kennesaw. 770-919-0248, www.smithgilbertgardens.com.

Gibbs Gardens, Ball Ground

Lay of the land: 220 landscaped acres featuring 16 different garden venues naturally situated along streams and woody hillsides. The 16 million blossom Daffodil Festival, running through April 14, kicks off a regular monthly schedule of festivals devoted to different blooms. Trams run along two routes every 15 to 20 minutes; there are also 126 benches scattered throughout the gardens.

Don't-miss spring thing: The Manor House, surrounded by hydrangeas, rhododendrons and a 100-foot-long rose arbor, and the aptly named Mountain Overlook. The 40-acre Japanese Garden's seven ponds, bridges, millions of ferns and other plants offer a calm oasis amid Gibbs' bustle of activity.

Dig deeper: Best-selling author Patti Callahan Henry discusses her new book, "And Then I Found You," outside the Arbor Cafe from noon to 2 p.m. April 17. Also coming soon are a series of "Music in the Garden" events, including some featuring strolling groups of performers, says marketing director Barbara Schneider.

All the dirt: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays through April 14; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays from April 17 through Dec. 15. $20 adults, $18 seniors and children 4 to 17. 1987 Gibbs Drive, Ball Ground. 770-893-1880 or 770-893-1881, www.gibbsgardens.com.

Atlanta Botanical Garden

Lay of the land: Located adjacent to Piedmont Park, 30 acres are crisscrossed by walkways on the ground and in the air (the dramatic Canopy Walk soars through the trees and over native azaleas, camellias, hydrangeas, perennials and seasonal bulbs). Joining popular permanent fixtures like the Storza Woods and waterfall-filled Cascades Garden this spring is "Atlanta Blooms." Running through the end of April, a quarter-million tulips, daffodils, crocuses and hyacinth burst into bloom on a staggered schedule.

Don't-miss spring thing: "Orchid Daze: Surreal Beauty," running through April 14. In addition to the Botanical Garden's renowned permanent orchid display, this special event intermingles colorful or rare orchids with images from the works of Dali, Magritte and other giants of the surrealist painting movement.

Dig deeper: A variety of classes (Practical Beekeeping, Basics of Jam Making, etc.) and culinary experiences in the Edible Garden Outdoor Kitchen are offered all spring.

All the dirt: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays through the end of March; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays from April to October (open until 10 p.m. Thursdays). $18.95 adults, $12.95 children 3 to 12. Free for members. 1345 Piedmont Ave., Atlanta. www.atlantabotanicalgarden.org, 404-876-5859.

Woodlands Garden, Decatur

Lay of the land: Seven acres of garden and native plant habitat on land purchased by a family in 1946, when Scott Boulevard was a nearby dirt road. In 2002, it became permanently protected green space in this bustling DeKalb County seat city. Most of the acreage is forest, although come spring, azaleas abound, as well as camellia, hydrangeas and rhododendron.

Don't-miss spring thing: More than 30 species of trees, including 100-year-old oaks and poplars, form a quiet canopy overhead, and the "floor" is covered with numerous types of ferns. Adding to the timeless, bucolic feel, visitors are encouraged to walk, bike or bus to the gardens.

Dig deeper: "Woodlands Midweek Gardeners," where volunteers can join in fighting "the war on invasive plants" and aid other restoration efforts, takes place from 9 to 11 a.m. every other Wednesday. Information: email ruby@woodlandsgarden.org or call 678-641-2966.

All the dirt: 2 to 4 p.m. March 31 and every Sunday in April, with music and docents on site. Special visits can be scheduled for groups. Plans call for Woodlands to be open seven days a week in the near future. Free (donations welcome). 932 Scott Blvd., Decatur. www.woodlandsgarden.org, 404-373-2222.

White Street Park, Suwanee

Lay of the land: Suwanee's newest park is on former farmland in the Old Town historic district. Harvest Farm, an organic community garden featuring 76 individual plots, offers up a colorful crazy-quilt pattern of spring flowers, leafy green vegetables and other plants, ladders and gardening tools all visible from a handsome red barn and benches overlooking it. The park spreading beyond the community garden features an arbor that is covered with fragrant star jasmine beginning in early spring.

Don't-miss spring thing: A library of gardening books and magazines inside the barn (which also includes restrooms and picnic tables), and the adorably rustic "amphitheater" that includes natural wood seats cut into a hillside.

Dig deeper: A half-mile walking trail loops around the park where spring plantings are just starting to shoot up and busy Buford Highway feels a world away.

All the dirt: Open daily from sunrise to sunset. Free. 752 White St., Suwanee. www.suwanee.com, 770-945-8996.

And one to grow on …

The Atlanta Beltline Arboretum Walking Tour officially launches on April 12. A collective effort of Trees Atlanta, the Atlanta Beltline and community members, the Atlanta Beltline Arboretum (ABA) will consist of trees, native grasses and wildflowers, art and more in a 22-mile continuous natural loop around the Beltline. Trees Atlanta has already planted more than 600 trees along the Beltline's Eastside Trail and over the next year, will plant nearly 8.5 acres of native grass and wildfire along the same portion. Led by expert docents, each walking tour of the Eastside Trail starts at 10 a.m. and lasts approximately 90 minutes. Register online at treesatlanta.org or contact kateb@treesatlanta.org for more information or inquiries about group accommodations.