Smith-Gilbert Gardens

With its 16 acres of natural botanical beauty, Smith-Gilbert Gardens, nestled close to downtown Kennesaw, is a garden lover’s paradise. Even better, it’s a garden kids will enjoy, too. Recently my daughter Gracie, 9, and I spent a couple of hours at the gardens, and we didn’t want to leave. Here are the best things to love about Smith-Gilbert Gardens.

Serene Garden Getaway

Depending on the season, enjoy classic perennials like daffodils, daylilies, zinnias, sunflowers, bearded irises, hydrangeas, asters and camellias. The rose garden is in bloom from May through summer, and don’t miss a collection donated by the Georgia Hosta Society. Check out unusual plant varieties like larch, a deciduous conifer that loses its needles in the fall and has fleshy green pine cones. Birders will appreciate the bird baths, feeders and plantings that attract their feathered friends.

While the garden is a sanctuary for adults, it can also be intriguing for kids. View insects with handheld magnifying glasses, sit in a “lawn chair” made of sod or check out the voodoo lily, a perennial with an unusual smell that is pollinated by flies — just the right amount of grossness to appeal to kids!

Plenty of Playscapes for Kids

The garden’s newest exhibit, “Play. . .in Nature!,” was created to get kids outside. The exhibit features a series of interactive play structures throughout the gardens that entice kids. Kids can pretend they are birds and sit on eggs (bean bag chairs) in a human-sized birdhouse, build and race sail boats, play hide-in-seek on a wooden play set, visit “Fairyland,” greet a garden gnome and see an ogre topiary. Adults will enjoy breathtaking views of more than 3,000 species of plants. The exhibition runs through Labor Day.

Southern Living Pollinator Garden

Donated by Southern Living, the annuals, perennials and flowering shrubs are a perfect match for the butterflies, honey bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators that flock to them. While adults can focus on watching pollinators, kids can enjoy playful learning paths nearby that lead to a dirt pile, a bubble basin with oversized wands and chime arbors.

Bonsai Exhibit

This collection of 75 dwarfed trees is the only one of its kind displayed publicly in the state of Georgia. Carefully cultivated by experts, the collection contains a cypress that is thought to be 300 years old.

Sculpture Collection and Walking Trails

Peaceful walking trails lead to 31 contemporary sculptures located throughout the garden and created by nationally recognized artists. Reflect on art and enjoy the respite of the trails lined with mulberry, conifers and over 30 varieties of Japanese Maples. Surrounded by this quiet beauty, it’s easy to understand why the gardens are an Audubon Society Certified Wildlife Habitat.

Crevice Garden and Waterfall

Gracie’s favorite part of our visit was the waterfall. Nearby is the crevice garden, the first of its kind in Georgia. In crevice gardens, small plants grow among vertical stone slabs. The stones at Smith-Gilbert were re-purposed concrete slabs that kept materials out of waste streams.

Fun Photo Ops

Snap a photo of your child sticking their face in a cutout board of a butterfly or bee, strike a pose behind a standing golden frame in the garden or capture friends or family next to a topiary or sculpture. At every bend of the garden, there is an opportunity to take whimsical or memory-making photos.

Year-Round Events

The Smith-Gilbert Gardens are open year-round, and feature events such as its Rose Garden Gala in spring, Hummingbird Banding in September and regular activities like Guided Bird Walk and Bonsai Study Group. For ages 2-6, Garden Stories and Garden Books for Kids are monthly events.

Know Before You Go:
The historic Hiram-Butler House is on site and has a gift shop that features souvenirs, local honey, Georgia crafted items, artisan soaps, children’s items and gift items.
Wear comfortable shoes for trails.
Bring a water bottle and bug spray.
Allow at least two hours to see everything.
No pets allowed except for service animals

-Janeen Lewis

The Details:
Smith-Gilbert Gardens
2382 Pine Mountain Road
Kennesaw, (770) 919-0248
Admission: General admission, $10; Seniors (age 65+) $8; Military and University Student, $5; Youth ages 3-17 (with family) $5; Children ages 2 and younger (with family), free. Guided Tours available Fridays and Saturdays at 11 a.m. for an additional $3. Private guided tours available for groups of 10 by appointment, booked two weeks in advance, $13 a person.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tues.-Sat., last entry at 3:15 p.m. Closed Sun.-Mon.

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