My Reminiscences of events, old and new, and travels, far and near
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.