Atlanta is never more beautiful than it is in the spring when everything is in bloom. And what better way to enjoy its natural beauty than on the 35th annual Gardens for Connoisseurs Tour presented Mother’s Day weekend by the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
The two-day, self-guided tour is a rare opportunity to peek behind the fabulous homes and privacy walls at some of Atlanta’s most lavish residential gardens. Some are maintained by the homeowners themselves, but others are “true estate gardens that are showstoppers,” says tour co-chair Liza O’Hare.
Having endured one of the rainiest winters in recent memory has been a challenge for some Atlanta gardeners, but not to worry, says O’Hare.
“People have different opinions, but I think the rain has made everything really pop,” she says. “Everything right now is so green.”
This year marks a return to the tour of the late Ryan Gainey’s private garden. Cofounder of the Gardens for Connoisseurs Tour, the renowned, self-taught garden designer’s exuberant, cottage-style garden in Decatur was traditionally a highlight of the tour until 2016 when a tree crushed the house and Gainey died soon after in a house fire near Athens.
A new home has been built on the old footprint and the garden is being restored by Gainey’s former neighbor and beneficiary, Teresa Parrish, who now lives in the home with her family.
“They have worked so hard to bring it back to life and to make it something Ryan would be so proud of,” said O’Hare. “People who haven’t seen it before are going to be in awe.”
Highlights of the Ryan Gainey garden include flowing stone paths, intimate garden rooms and banks of flowering Cherokee rose, the Georgia state flower. The restoration project is ongoing, but improvements made so far include replacing a greenhouse, removing some vines, cutting down a tree and replacing a rose arbor in the garden room called Diamonds.
“It is a huge responsibility,” Parrish says about the restoration. “We’ve really done our best. It might not be to other people’s taste, but we’ve kept it the way we think Ryan would have wanted it to be.
“He’d be mad about some things,” she added with a chuckle, acknowledging Gainey’s reputation for an opinionated and sometimes prickly nature. “But if Ryan were here, I think he would be happy with it overall. I’m proud for it to be back on the tour and for people to be able to see it again. That was very important to us.”
Other highlights of the 2019 Gardens for Connoisseurs Tour include:
• Michael von Grey’s intimate, urban garden located behind a 1913 house near Peachtree Street, featuring a lush edible garden, espaliered fruit trees, a swimming pool, cabana, sculptures and seasonal plantings.
• The Shelton House, featuring a back terrace that offers a grand view of a pool, guest houses and cozy garden rooms in a formal English-style garden. Highlights include a pond, Japanese maples and a copper tree fountain. The home and garden of Kristy and Michael Robison on Habersham Road in Buckhead was designed by architects Neel Reid and Philip Shutze.
• Stacked stone terraces, banks of Carolina jessamine and a formal boxwood parterre in an oasis of tranquility on the grounds of this Buckhead property owned by Jan and Dan Bradley on Little Nancy Creek. Stone paths lead visitors past fountains, statuary, hosta, hydrangeas and moss-covered driftwood.
• The home of Andrea and Mark Kauffman and its French provincial style of garden, featuring miniature Concord grape vines, a greenhouse, gravel walkways and a boxwood parterre. It was designed by Howard Design Studio.
Gardens for Connoisseurs Tour. Presented by Atlanta Botanical Garden. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 11-12. $28 advance, $35 day of event (cash or check only). 404-876-5859, www.atlantabg.org.
MORE GARDEN TOURS
Cobb Master Gardeners Tour.Visit six gardens in West Cobb, four maintained by Cobb County Master Gardener volunteers. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 11. $15 advance, $20 day of tour. 770-528-4070, www.cobbmastergardeners.com
Atlanta Pond & Garden Tour. The Atlanta Koi Club hosts a tour of gardens featuring koi ponds. 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. May 18. $15. www.atlantakoiclub.org
Midtown Garden Stroll. Explore at your own pace dozens of private gardens, ranging from formal to casual and everything in between. Noon-5 p.m. May 19. Free. Map available online one week prior to event or on the day of event at Garden Stroll headquarters, 826 Penn Ave. NE, Atlanta. www.midtownatlanta.org
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