Sunday, April 28, 2013

Azaleas at Callaway Gardens

In January 2013 we visited Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia.  I wrote two posts on that visit and explained the history of the gardens.  Click here to read Mid-week at Callaway Gardens and here for A Thursday at Callaway Gardens.  At that time we found out that the gardens have more than 20,000 native and cultivated azalea plants - 700 varieties.  We planned to come back in April when the azaleas are in bloom.  The day after visiting Wild Animal Safari, Tuesday 9 April, we returned to Callaway Gardens.  As soon as we entered the gardens azaleas were welcoming us along the Scenic Drive.

We drove to the Overlook Gardens and walked up and down the paths of the Azalea Trail.  Some of the azalea bushes were much taller than me - and what a great array of colors, from white, pale pink, mauve, yellow, coral, deep pink to reds.  I had taken two cameras (my Nikon and Lumix) and kept stopping to take photos.  I took 340 photos that day but I had to cut them way down for this post.  (Click on collage twice to embiggen.)

We arrived at the gardens early and there were very few visitors.  It was so peaceful, beautiful and quiet - just the song of the birds and buzzing of insects.

We walked down toward one of the lakes.

When we went back up the trail, I was pleased to find a bench surrounded by pink azaleas.

Our pink azalea shrub at home is very similar to the shrubs around the bench above but I do not know which variety it is.  Azaleas are members of the Ericaceae family (which includes blueberries and mountain laurel.)  All azaleas are rhododendrons - they are both in the genus Rhododendron even though, usually the term "rhododendron" is used for the plants with large, evergreen foliage and the term "azalea" for plants with thinner and smaller leaves.  The Southeastern U.S. has native azaleas that can be found growing along creeks and forests.  There are 17 species native to North America at least.  Plant size can vary from 3 feet to more than 20 feet, and in a variety of colors.

After seeing so many beautiful azalea bushes I can understand why the azalea is Georgia's official state wild flower - the state flower is the Cherokee Rose.

Below the Overlook Gardens was a little creek.

A path along the creek brought us to a wooden bridge and a small bed of bright tulips.

Then we walked back across the bridge and up the path to our car.

As we were driving away we saw some vivid red tulips close to a split rail fence, so we stopped to take a look.

We drove along another lake to reach our next stop, the Azalea Bowl.  It was the beginning of April and trees were showing lovely spring colors.

Yellow azalea bushes could be seen along the road.

The gardens contain many of these yellow azalea plants.  They are the "Florida Azalea" (R. austrinum) and have a sweet lemony-honeysuckle type fragrance.

Before arriving to the Azalea Bowl we passed a Lady Banks Rose shrub covered with a myriad of tiny yellow roses.

The entrance looked quite pretty too with more tulips and pansies.

A Japanese style pavilion was at the entrance of the park.  Tulips, pansies and other flowers were planted in borders in front of the azalea bushes.  There were wind chimes hanging from the four corners of the roof and gently swaying in the wind creating soft melodious sounds.

Inside the cool shade of the pavilion were information panels on the Callaway Brothers who funded this azalea garden and a map of the garden.  Planters around the pavilion were covered with pretty flowers.  It was so restful to sit on a bench listening to the chimes while looking at the luxurious colors of all the flowers surrounding us.

The Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl was funded with a donation of $3 million by Ely Callaway, Jr., and opened in 1999.  It was named in honor of brothers Ely Reeves Callaway and Fuller Earle Callaway, his ancestors.  It covers 40 acres and contains more than 3,400 hybrid azaleas and an additional 2000 other blooming shrubs and plants.  In addition to the Japanese pavilion, it also includes a gazebo, a stream, a lake with an arched bridge and numerous walking paths.  We took the path toward the lake while stopping often to admire azalea bushes and other plants.

Along the paths were informative panels about azaleas and their culture.

Then we arrived at a terrace overlooking the lake and the rainbow display of all the azaleas around us.

The lake in front of us, covered in part with pollen, and the mass of exploding azaleas around it were magical - just a dream apparition.

We walked along the lake to the arched bridge.

We crossed the bridge.  A turtle was going up a trunk; another one was swimming near a snake.

We stayed in the wonderful Azalea Bowl garden for a long time - stopping by azalea bushes, walking around blooming trees, and just being dazzled by all this beauty.

Eventually we left and drove toward Callaway Gardens exit.  But, we did stop when we passed some pretty lakes.

The last lake we saw had azalea bushes reflecting in the greenish water - just like watercolor paintings.  I am keeping all this breathtaking beauty, the explosive as well as soft colors, in my mind's eye but also on this post so I can revisit them often.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Wild Animals in Pine Mountain, Georgia

This is a continuation of our stay in Pine Mountain, Georgia, where we rented a small cabin in F. D. Roosevelt State Park.  It was still sunny on Monday 8 April, so we decided to visit an animal park outside of town.

We arrived at Wild Animal Safari in the morning.  We decided to visit this park as we had visited another drive-through park in West Palm Beach, Florida in March 2010 called Lion Country Safari and enjoyed it - click here to see my post on that park. Below is a picture of a giraffe I photographed in Florida.

In Pine Mountain Wild Animal Safari in March, one can drive their own vehicle in the park or a Zebra Minivan can be rented with slats instead of windows.  We drove our car and bought some animal food pellets then we started the 3-mile Serengeti Adventure drive in the park.  We were following a van filled with children and could hear their peel of laughter when animals approached their vehicle.  This is a wonderful place for kids.  The animals are used to be fed by visitors and step up to your window.  I had the window partly opened and one large cow came and licked the window then another slobbered on the glass.  It was not easy to take their photos as they were so close to my nose and the window glass was dirty. (Click on collage twice to embiggen.)

The animals come toward the vehicles but if the windows are closed they wait for the next car or walk away - they are used to all this.  The giraffe looked into our window as you can see by my top picture.  I did not need a telephoto lens!

A big mama sow with her 3 piglets walked toward us.  The piglets were adorable.

There were many cows, antelopes, deer, ostriches, lamas, zebras, buffalo, etc.

The camel was behind a fence but you could place food into his mouth.  I did not because I knew that camels can bite, so I just threw the pellets on the ground.

The animals have lots of room to roam around as there are hundreds of acres in the park.

Coming to the side of the road the animals look at you with expectation - I wonder if the park feeds them little to ensure that the animals will wait for food pellets given to them from vehicles.

Then we drove by a lake turned red with Georgia clay.

Colony of turtles thought it was just fine.

Some animals are behind fences but their area is large.  I understand that many of these animals were rescued and would not have been able to survive in the wild anyway.

After the ride we went on to the "Walk-About" which is more like a zoo with a reptile enclosure and more animals on display.

Some cuddly baby bears were sleeping and looked so sweet!

There was also a petting zoo and I wished we had our little grandsons with us, but we followed a family with 3 small children and they were having a fun time.

An animal I had not seen before, with beautiful eyes, is called a Patagonian Cavy - found in South America from Peru to Northern Argentina

An Alpaca with some of its hair sticking up was reminiscent of a unicorn.

I took about 280 photos but cannot show them all here.  I'll finish with a pretty peacock in all its splendor that looked at us then jumped on its house and gazed the other way.

We went back to our car and left.  It was after 2 o'clock by then so we hoped we could find some lunch in Pine Mountain.  We drove to the center of town.

We went into the "Bakery and Cafe at Rose Cottage" - a bakery and antique store combined I think since there were articles for sale.  My husband had the "grilled hot smoked ham, sauerkraut and horse radish cream on flaxseed bread" at $8.75 and I had "roast sweet peppers and onions layered in toasted flaxseed wheat with hummus" at $7.50 and it was delicious. They came with a choice of salad or soup.  I chose the fresh squeezed lemonade with ginger and that had a nice interesting taste.

After lunch we walked around a bit.  There is a marker explaining that a railroad used to come through town.  I wish it still were an active railroad.  The tracks area has been covered up and grass grows there now.

We looked at the flowers around the fountain, which turned out to be more like rhubarb to my untrained eyes, then we sat on some inviting benches to feel the atmosphere.  Several cars went by, but not much else happened.  One thing did bug me - the name of a store.  I can understand that it is chic to use foreign words, but they should be used correctly.  In French, adjectives and nouns must agree with the gender - feminine or masculine.  For example "voyage" is masculine so you say "Bon Voyage" bon (good) being in its masculine form.  But "Cuisine" is feminine, so you'd say "bonne cuisine."  This store advertized "Bon Cuisine" it would be the same if you went into a French town and a store was called "The 2 Womans" instead of women - it hurts the eyes.

There were several interesting shops in town.  The Pine Mountain Trading Post contained antiques, vintage and collectible whatnot and a Book Nook with a variety of new and old books.

The Emporium had a good selection of antiques.  In a small area, on the side of the store, The Cup and Chaucer had many second-hand books and coffee.  We were tempted by several books but restrained ourselves since a quantity of unread books are waiting at home.

It was still early afternoon so we had plenty of time to drive on Highway 190, admire the view, then go back to F. D. Roosevelt State Park, and that's what we did.  But I still stopped along the way to take pictures of a stunning old-fashioned wisteria bush - a great display of strong vines with lovely mauve romantic flowers.

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