Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mid-week at Callaway Gardens - Wednesday

Since the weather was supposed to stay mild and sunny last week we decided to visit Callaway Gardens near the town of Pine Mountain, Georgia, about 2 hours south of our home.  We had not been there since our daughters were quite small and, in addition, they advertized free entrance on week days for the months of January and February.  So we arrived at the Callaway Gardens Lodge at noon last Wednesday, 23 January, 2013.  Before entering the gardens we went to have lunch at the Country Kitchen Restaurant, down the road about a mile south.  First we stood and admired the panoramic view from the little park across the restaurant, almost on top of Pine Mountain, under the US and Georgia flags.
I took several pictures with my usual cameras, my Nikon D40 and Panasonic Lumix, but I also wanted to test a small new camera, an Olympus VG-120 that I recently acquired.  Unfortunately I forgot to remove the date stamped on the front of the pictures. (Click on collage twice to see the pictures better.)
It was a clear and lovely day - the temperature went up to 70 degrees F (21 C.) that day.  When it gets this warm tornadoes often arise if the weather cools down rapidly.  This is what happened yesterday morning, Wednesday 30th, as I was downloading these pictures.  The tornado sirens sounded and I had to go and take shelter downstairs.  The tornado touched down just north of us, a few miles away in Adairsville, did severe damage and people were hurt with one fatality.  However, a week ago last Wednesday it was nice and sunny.  Our server in the restaurant placed us at a table in front of the large window.  I selected the "Fried Green Tomato Sandwich" fried green tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, Swiss cheese, and muscadine mayonnaise served on a Texas toast ($7.95.)  My husband chose the "Pastrami Ruben" hearty sandwich grilled with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and creamy Thousand Island dressing on a caraway rye bread and peppered pastrami ($9.50.)  The sandwiches were served with a choice of French fries, glazed apples or a side salad.
We went by the gift shop before we left.  As you can see by the empty space in the photo below I purchased a bottle of muscadine syrup.  Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia) is a southeastern US native species of grape.
We then drove back to the gardens.  Callaway Gardens was begun in the 1930s by Cason Callaway (1894-1961.)  Cason, pictured below, was born and raised in this west central Georgia area.  His wife Virginia and he purchased 13,000 acres of depleted cotton farm land (20.31 sq miles or 53 km2) where they rebuilt the soil, planted trees and flowers.  The park also has a 2,500 acre nature preserve which can be seen via guided tours.  They built the largest man-made white-sand beach in the world and added 13 lakes, trails, cottages, tennis courts, two challenging golf courses and more to the gardens.  It took decades to make an enchanting garden out of the land that had been stripped of nutrients by intensive farming.  The gardens were opened to the public in 1952 and draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
But on that day in January, there were few visitors.  We drove around the golf course and stopped at the Pioneer Log Cabin and then walked to the smokehouse in back.
This cabin was built in the 1830s of hand hewn yellow pine.  It was occupied by a family of 15 people until the 1930s then, in 1959, it was relocated to Callaway Gardens.  We looked inside the cabin.
There are more than seven miles of nature rails and ten miles of biking trails in the park.  We did not follow Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail but walked toward the camellia trail where numerous evergreen Japanese camellias ranging from white to lush pink to bright red were in full bloom.
A camellia plant was imported to America from England in the late 18th century where they started growing them in hothouses.  Here in the South camellias grow naturally outdoors.  These plants were very popular in the antebellum south and old cultivars can be admired in many ancient plantations and houses when they flower in winter.  Some of the blooms were rose-like and some like fluffy peonies.
I stopped to look down at some compact short camellia plants and then also had to look up at others as tall as trees.
But this little white camellia with long yellow stamens stole my heart - isn't she lovely?

Winter is an excellent time to come to Callaway Gardens as most of the crowds come in spring and summer.  The park is large - for example from the entrance to the Discovery Center, our next stop, is a distance of 2.5 miles (4 kms.)  As we drove around we rarely saw any cars or bicycles.
In front of the Virginia Hand Callaway Discovery Center is a sculpture of Virginia Callaway (1900-1995) Callaway Gardens co-founder and wife of Cason Callaway.  Virginia was passionate about connecting man and nature.  She is shown with her faithful dog, a Great Dane named Rex Muddynose.  There are not many flowers in January but Callaway Gardens show a variety of ornamental kale - some were around the center as shown below.
The Discovery Center is a large rustic but modern building in front of Mountain Creek Lake.  There is a museum/exhibit hall, a cafe (closed when we were there though,) an auditorium, a gift shop, a staffed information desk, an education wing and a theatre where a video on the story of Callaway Gardens plays continuously.  It's a beautiful building with an open-design and great views of the lake.  I liked the inviting rocking chairs.
My husband went outdoors to take a closer look at the ducks in the lake

while I stopped and took pictures of vivid red Winterberry Holly.

There are many sculptures inside and outside of the Discovery Center.  I especially like the one below called "Swept Away."
As we drove toward the exit we had to stop and take in the view of the meadows - large open space with not a soul in sight.
We parked by Lake View Golf Course and I was surprised to see a white azalea plant in bloom.  A tree nearby had pink blossoms... in January!
The sun was coming down fast - it was time to go.  But tomorrow we would be back.


39 comments:

Elaine said...

What beautiful gardens! I enjoyed seeing the camellias. When I was a teenager we had several large bushes growing in our yard in Eureka, California and they were lovely. I really like the sunset collage! Gorgeous!

Pierre BOYER said...

A great visit...
Thanks a lot,
Best regards from Paris,

Pierre

Scriptor Senex said...

What a super journey round the gardens. Thank you for taking us with you.

It looks to me like the Olympus passed the test but my favourite collage is the one below the words 'As we drove around we rarely saw any cars or bicycles.' I think that's beautiful.

Sorry to hear about the loss of life in the tornado and glad you escaped it.

bayou said...

That would have been my type of stroll, Vagabonde. Lovely blue sky, yummee food, only few visitors. But THREE cameras! I also have a Nikon and a Lumix but never take them out both at the same time, too lazy for it. Just then, I also blogged about Camellias. What a surprise to find already a Magnolia in bloom! Thank you for sharing, it is as if I had been with you.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

What a FANTASTIC place...Incredible, really! And your pictures, as always, are Superb! You find the most wonderful places to visit---and I find it so heartwarming that so very many private people have devoted their love of nature into such gorgeous places that the public can share with them...
And your favorite flower picture is mine, too!

Nadezda said...

Thank you for sharing your trip to this wonderful garden! I love camellias in this place, the blossoming azalea, is awesome in January. Also it's interesting to see the wooden houses, with wooden furniture and old dishes.

Thérèse said...

It looks like it covers a huge area...
Marvelous pics showing the beauties of the place.
You wrote everything so that my wish is to go there one day...

The Broad said...

What a beautiful way to spend a January day. I just love the camellias -- what amazing varieties -- and to think they were at their peak in January.

Also, I just love the way you are able to display your pictures. You told me once that it was a program you were given by your daughter and also that it was no longer available -- which is a pity as it really does bring your blog to life.

And many thanks for once again sharing your wonderful journey!

Patricia said...

What lovely gardens I really enjoyed walking around with you. Your photos are wonderful and I love the collages, different to my ones. Do you find you take different photos on a particular camera? You said you have a Panasonic Lumix and a Nikon. I too have a new Lumix and also have a Canon but don't take them out together. Which do you prefer?
Patricia x

Jeanie said...

Calloway Gardens has always been one of my favorite spots to visit in Georgia. I have a marvelous photo of a magnolia (I think!) that I took which hangs in our cottage. My visit was all too short and I can tell from your post that there are many places I have missed. Time for another visit!

rosaria williams said...

We never did visit these gardens though we knew about them when we lived in Florida. Very impressive!

CrazyCris said...

Gorgeous flowers! In fact those gardens are simply beautiful! Fabulous place for a visit... how much is the entry fee when it's not free? Fascinating...

Vagabonde said...

Elaine, Pierre Boyer, Scriptor Senex, bayou, Lady of the Hills, Nadezda, Therese, Jeanie, Rosaria Williams – thanks for your visit. I am pleased your enjoyed Callaway Gardens and there will be more to come.

The Broad – yes my collages are from a program my daughter has on a disk and installed on my computer. She got it in 2006 or 07 and it’s no longer available on the web. Thanks for your comment.

Patricia – I used all three cameras sometime at the same time. For example when I took pictures of the ducks I used all three cameras then posted the best photos and they were from all three. I find that my Lumix takes better photos from a distance. I also have a Sony and a small Canon and take photos from them as well. I rather use several cameras than change lenses and I don’t use special effects. Thanks for visiting.

Crazy Cris – The Day pass admission to Callaway Gardens is $18 for adult, $15 for seniors, $9 for children 5 to 9 and free for children under 5. They also have higher admissions for special events and cheaper admissions for groups. I think we will go back in the spring as I read that they have 700 varieties of azaleas. Thanks for commenting.

Vicki Lane said...

Oh, those camellias! And I love the sculpture of the herons and your capture of that amazing sunset!

Kay said...

What a wonderful place. I do love the camellias. Your photos are all so beautiful!

CrazyCris said...

Not cheap, but if you plan on spending a whole day in there it's not so bad...
If you go back in the Spring I'm sure you'll share your fabulous photos with us! ;o)

Honest Abe said...

I have often thought about a trip down there but never made it. Now I have just seen what I have missed. Sad. I liked the idea of taking two or three cameras. I just got the new Lumix to replace the last one that finally gave up the ghost -- sensor went bad. But I like the Panasonic Lumix and plan to use it to take some photos at the Super Bowl.

Miss_Yves said...

It's a great pleasure to discover such a beautiful garden, with flowers...in winter!

Riet said...

What a beautiful park with so many interesting and beautiful things. That sculpure is a beauty

Dee said...

Dear Vagabonde, once again you have captured my interest and delight with words and photographs. Thank you. I always venture forth with you in one of your postings, knowing that I will soon explore new places that I will probably never see except through your curious and appreciative eyes.

That final sculpture lifted my heart. Peace.

Une Angevine said...

oh j'adore l'intérieur et ce mobilier en bois

Marianne said...

Great photos. I loved the log cabin. My grandfather was something of a pioneer and had a farm in Saskatuan, where my mother was born.
Merci pour votre visite a moi!

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

Thank you for sharing you lovely photos. I have never been to the gardens but my parents went and always said how beautiful the gardens were.

Pondside said...

There are so many beautiful day-trips to be made in your part of the world. I'd like to visit these gardens, if only to see the camellias. I like the rose-like ones best of all.
Any place that can combine a long walk, beautiful scenery and plants with a good lunch and some history wins my attention!

Reader Wil said...

Quei beau jardin! C' était bon que le temps faisait beau. Nous avons eu neige , soleil mais aussi pluie aujourd'hui. Le temps n'est .pas stable.
Merci de votre visite! Bonne journée!

Fennie said...

Gardens are beautiful and this one especially so. But I am more interested in the tornado. After all we have gardens here, if on a smaller scale, but we don't have tornadoes - at least not proper tornadoes and tornado warnings. They must be rather worrying: one minute you are going about your business and the next you are blown away, literally. The log cabin is interesting too. Such skill. I would never be able to build a log cabin - even with helpers. I would end up with a tent or living in a cave. What makes people build cabins, I wonder? At least with a tent you can move around and with fifteen people to accommodate. Still perhaps you would be safer from the tornadoes.

Fripouille said...

I'm so sorry I didn't see this post earlier. I'll have to check that I am, as I believed I was, subscribed to your posts.

You sure do take lovely photographs, as crystal clear as the light they illustrate.

What strikes me most of all is the realisation that whereas where you are is beginning to emerge from winter, there are precious few blooms here at this time.

Still, patience is a virtue and I'm very much looking forward to seeing similarly brightly coloured sights in the countryside over here in France in about a month or so.

.•♫•. Nancy .•♫•. said...

•✰ •✰ •✰ •✰ •✰ •✰ •
MERCI pour ces magnifiques photos Chère Vagabonde !!!
C'est super de voyager via cette publication !!!
J'adore les photos des fleurs ! C'est magique !!!!
✰✰✰
je t'embrasse très fort
bon dimanche !!!!
•✰ •✰ •✰ •✰ •✰ •✰ •

Friko said...

A very good place to spend a day or two, even in winter. Lovely views and plenty of space, altogether an enchanting garden.

Al said...

Looks like lovely places, nice photos. Tornadoes are scary, we get a couple of warnings out here each summer, although there are no sirens. I'm glad you're okay!

Richard Moisan said...

Impressionnant et très intéressant.
Merci!

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

Beautiful gardens and it would seem that is a good time to see them, I do not like crowds of any sort! Maybe tornadoes though I would prefer to miss!!
The white Camellia is stunning as is the sculpture of the birds. Gorgeous skies as well in that last photo. Bonne semaine. Diane

¨¨*:•♥•: FRANCE*¨¨*:•♥ said...

Bonjour et bien il ne manque pas de belles fleurs chez toi
quel bonheur pour mes petits yeux
je pourrai m'en faire de superbes bouquets
et tes paysages aussi un grand moment de détente
le ciel est beau il suffit de le regarder et de partir rêver
Passe une belle journée bisou

Ginnie said...

Every year when we spend time in Jackson, GA, with our friends Bob and Peggy, I tell them I want to go back to Callaway Gardens. We took my mom and dad there years ago and I've always wanted to go back. What I most remember was the butterfly pavillion. Did you go in there, I wonder? Maybe that will be your next post. :)

If I lived there now, I'd definitely take advantage of the free entrance fee in January and February! :)

Olga said...

Beautiful post. Lovely photos, and lots of interesting details.

Margaret said...

The photo of the cabin interior fascinated me. Simple beauty. I think I have a camellia tree in my backyard, a pink one and I always love that it blooms as early as late December! I had a garden one year in Michigan and I planted ornamental kale along one edge. I loved it. I will have to try and find the photos I took of it. Thanks for reminding me. The sunset photo at the end with the grass silhouetted is beautiful.

Edward Callaway said...

I read the log of your trip to Callaway Gardens with joy. You captured the essence of Callaway Gardens well. Thank you, and please come back often.

Perpetua said...

Another wonderful trip with you both, Vagabonde. From the blue skies and lovely flowers it doesn't look like you're having any winter this year in Georgia! The little log cabin makes me realise how hard life must have been for those early pioneers - building their own homes from the forest around them and living in such a tiny and simple space.

Emm in London said...

How nice if them to offer free entry! Now that is great marketing and will surely get people in.

I love your photos of the sunset!!