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
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.