Botanical Garden of the Ozarks – Fayetteville, Arkansas

Balloon Flowers

I grew up and earned my Landscape Architecture degree in Northwest Arkansas, so spending a cool summer morning looking at familiar, much-loved plants with my sister and her oldest son was a treat.

 The Botanical Garden of the Ozarks looked like a small garden online, but we three plant geeks had to rush off after an hour and a half to meet people for lunch. The garden was cleaning up from a fundraiser the evening before. Even though tents coming down limited taking overall photos, it did not affect strolling the series of twelve themed backyard gardens set around an accessible circular path. In the center was a lawn that focused on a pavilion/stage. This created a sunny center surrounded by mostly shaded display gardens, which was welcome on a summer morning.

 We were able to see many plants and take many photos in the gardens around the building and parking lot before we even entered, so by the time we entered and paid our fee, we were already in the experience. Kudos to the responsible rain garden between bays of parking too.

Once in the garden you could look at the map given to you when you paid the affordable admission and decide where you wanted to spend your time. These gardens seemed small when I saw them on a map, but we spent a full 20 minutes in each garden that most interested us: the Ozark Native Garden, the Sensory Garden, and the Rock and Water Garden. The butterfly house was beautiful, filled with plants that thrived in Zone 7 gardens, and had an abundance of informative signage. Most of the others we were able to move a little faster, and each had its charm. A couple we just weren’t interested in that day. That is perfect – providing something for everyone without trying to be all things to all people. Kids can enjoy the butterfly house, children’s garden and soft great lawn; someone wanting time in nature can find a bench in a display garden to read or sketch. Each display garden was very different, most linked with the Streamside Trail through the trees. I thought there was a great balance of accessible walkways through intensely planted display gardens with natural woodland paths with beautiful large stones serving as footbridges.

 Plant people and photographers would love the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks. There are many well-signed interesting tree and shrub specimens and large drifts of perennials that sing when they are in bloom (and, I can imagine, when they are showing off fall color).

Visited:  Saturday, June 22, 2019

Location:  4703 N. Crossover Road, Fayetteville, AR  2017 YouTube video

Accessibility:  Great hierarchy of paths on a pretty level site lets a wheelchair or stroller around and into the gardens. Short distance from parking to entrance.

Gift shop:  Small, same room as where you buy tickets, includes local crafts and signature items.

Note:  Started in 1990s. Only butterfly house in Arkansas. Approx. 80,000 visitors/year. Free admission with the AHS Reciprocal Admissions Program

Coolest (to me): Umbrella magnolias in the woods near the Shade Garden, massive plantings of lilies in bloom everywhere, dragonflies abundant around water garden.

Nearby: Northwest Arkansas is a beautiful area with great small town downtown shopping/ restaurants and hiking in natural areas. Fayetteville, Bentonville and Rogers downtowns are very much alive. Nearby Eureka Springs and Crystal Bridges Museum are both well worth the drive.


Pretty good movie but – oh my! – that iconic garden!

 Note: This is an edited reprint of a newspaper article I wrote in Nov. 2006, shortly after this movie was released. 

Landscape history can be seen on the big screen

My husband and I went to see “Marie Antoinette” last weekend. The movie had exquisite costumes and an engaging story but also was rich in period landscapes – or at least one landscape: Versailles. I have not been to Versailles, but I have read quite a bit about the iconic gardens. I thought I’d share some of the trivia that makes watching this movie (and these beautiful gardens) more interesting. Most of the garden scenes are in the last part of the movie.

In 1661, France’s financial secretary held a lavish celebration at his chateau and gardens at Vaux-le-Vicomte. Among the guests enjoying feasts, a play, fireworks and music was 23-year-old King Louis XIV. At this time, gardens were seen as pleasure grounds and places to entertain guests. One garden historian also said this was when “garden design in France discovered a style of its own.” This formal French garden design consisted of strong geometry, elaborate parterres of pruned hedges, broad walkways, statues, elaborate fountains and woodlands. The story goes that Louis was furious that an ostentatious finance minister upstaged him with a chateau and gardens better than anything he had. Records state that the minister was arrested within three weeks and stayed imprisoned for the rest of his life.

The king then had the designer of the gardens, Andre LeNotre, start work on transforming the grounds of his modest hunting lodge at Versailles into the elaborate gardens shown in “Marie Antoinette”. This project took six years to design and the remaining five decades of LeNotre’s life to fine-tune.

One of LeNotre’s interests was hydraulics. It may seem the fountains are just turned each morning, but remember the electric pump had not been invented. First, waterwheels and pumps brought water uphill from the River Seine to aqueducts, then into tanks and reservoirs miles away. Water was released, run through pipes by gravity, then constricted into smaller pipes to create pressure. The shape of the spout determined the direction and effects of water displays. Thirty-two of Versailles’ pools include hydraulic effects. When the King was coming down the road, fountain guards would whistle so servants could release the water and get the fountains running. The French, who lived in relatively flat terrain, had to work hard to create great fountains. Nobody could have them run all day, every day. So the fountains were also designed as great sculptural elements that looked good even when the water wasn’t running.

When the fountains did run, Louis XIV wanted drama. The Neptune fountain has 58 spouts. Much of the water ended up in a cross-shaped canal, one mile long and two-thirds of a mile wide. To the visitor it appeared endless, a symbol of the immense power of Louis XIV.

Louis XIV was so involved in the gardens that he wrote a guidebook on how they should be viewed. And viewed they were: From 3,000 to 10,000 people may have been in Versailles on any day. Although photos of Versailles usually show one huge chateau behind dramatic gardens, it actually was a city in itself, with quarters for guests, staff and horses, plus areas to raise food to feed everyone. Hunts would take place in the surrounding woods of the 15,000-acre estate.

After Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette are crowned in the film (after 59 years of Louis XV’s reign), they walk outside, where wooden ships fire cannons in a mock battle. No, the French Royal Navy has not sailed in to help celebrate; these ships are in the canal for the sole purpose of creating amusing mock battles. A 1710 illustration in one of my books shows four sailing ships. Talk about a pricey water feature.

Note: When I watched this again in 2020, I remembered this sketch that I had seen in the Richard Russell Library on the UGA Campus. Marie Antoinette wears this or a similar headpiece in the movie. 

Another scene shows Louis XVI with an elephant. The Menagerie was started in one of the earliest stages of Versailles’ redevelopment, perhaps as early as 1662. It was a working farm that provided butter, etc., designed to also serve as a place to view country life and animals. At first it contained mainly farm animals, with some fish and exotic birds. A central plaza was lined with gates into several animal enclosures. When the Grand Canal was created a few years later, boat rides to the Menagerie became popular with guests. Exotic animals, such as an elephant and rhinoceros, were added in the early 18th century.

In the 1780s Louis XVI did build a “little” getaway for Marie Antoinette, a bucolic lakeside village in a Normandy style that previewed a future landscape style mimicking romantic country scenes.

It’s hard to imagine the magnitude of these gardens and life under the reign of people who ruled nations in their early 20s. We have a better supply of food, indoor plumbing, air conditioning, lots more books and much more comfortable clothing. I think I’d rather stay in this century.

Four reasons knitters grow lavender in their garden

1- To repel pests from the yarn stash.
2- To make charming homemade sachets that add to a hand-knit gift and make it smell so wonderful when it is opened.
3- To add to lemonade served to friends when they come over to knit.
4- Because it is so lovely growing in the garden – even for people like me, who actually see old licence plates as decor.
The trick to growing lavender in the humidity and clay soils of Georgia is to find a variety that does well here, keep it pretty dry and provide sun, excellent drainage and air circulation. A raised bed or container would work well for lavender; just combine it with plants that also can take it dry, like lantana, verbena, sedum and daylilies. In the ground, add gravel and maybe a little lime to provide the conditions it prefers. It will not fare well with our humid summers planted in a crowded, irrigated flower border. Provence and Spanish lavender are two that seem to do well in this area.

Georgia Asters are blooming!

GA Aster in GA Gardening mag 2014 001

Oakleaf Hydrangeas are Proving Themselves

Once again, the promise of rain (60%) was an empty one. I let the hydrangeas droop, sure that Mother Nature would give them much needed water, but she did not. The look sad, weeping and drooping, except for my oakleaf hydrangeas, native to the Southeast. They have been untouched by drought and deer. As good as they look now, they will look even better when donned with red foliage this fall, then showing off peeling bark this winter.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Years! I hope there will be more time for you in your garden in 2014. Not just on your knees weeding, but cutting flowers for your home, harvesting herbs and veggies, noticing a bright planter greeting you when you drive up, watching birds enjoying the feeders and berries, and inviting friends to enjoy the pool or a meal outside (maybe when it warms up!)
As the year begins, may I suggest a garden journal? It could be a pretty journal, a spiral notebook, or one of those planning calendars on sale now that has a section for notes in back. You can note when you planted and pruned, dreams for the future, plant wish lists, garden tips, seed orders, notes from garden talks, photos of your garden throughout the seasons, and more. If you are using a garden calendar, then note when garden chores should be done and the reminder will be there waiting for you.
A garden journal can be a very useful tool and record for you.

Large Containers

Hey! – I wrote a guest blog on the Gardeners Confidence website about container gardening.

Freshen and Protect your Plantings with Mulch

I’m so lucky to have a long asphalt drive under mature pines, because whenever the pine needles fall I can run out with my rake, scoop up fresh mulch and remulch the front beds. Extra mulch is piled up for later use (and becomes the favorite cat napping spot).

Weeding the ground and mulching your plants for winter has oh-so-many benefits. First, just the action of getting beside each plant long enough to weed (and it doesn’t take that much time) gives you the opportunity to notice what is going on with your plants. Are they ready to divide? In Georgia, now would be a fine time to divide perennials. Would cutting off the spent flowers make it more attractive? Would moving this plant to a different spot be wise?

Second, it looks good – really good. If you want your home looking great for a party or the holidays or, even more important, to make you happy, then a fresh layer of mulch is a quick fix. It unifies the landscape, makes a clear definition between lawn and beds and freshens the whole garden. That and a couple flats of annuals can work wonders.

But mulch can also keep your garden healthy. It’s like putting down the winter blanket for your plants, keeping soil temperatures constant for plant roots (which grow year-round in Georgia). Mulch also stops rain from splashing soil onto the plants, eroding soil, or creating that hard crust that can form on top of soil. It discourages weeds from growing and makes them easier to pull when they do grow.


UGA Trial Gardens Plant Sale – June 25th

The UGA Trial Gardens is hosting a Public Open House on Saturday, June 25, 2011 from 8 a.m.- 3 p.m. The garden will be featuring guided tours with Dr. Allan Armitage, a plant sale, heirloom tomato tasting, and a book sale/signing. A $5 donation is requested upon entry (make checks payable to “The Gardens”). For more information visit: or email

I’ve been to many open houses here and it is well worth a drive. If you are going, here is my list of essentials to pack:

Hat, water, and sunscreen. There are many wonderful things in this garden, but not a lot of shade.

Totes. Who can resist a plant sale? So, since you know you are getting plants, come prepared. Clear out your trunk and bring a wagon or a couple totes to carry the plants. I love the bright plastic, round totes with handles that you can smoosh together to carry in one hand.

Camera. Oh my, if you love taking pictures you will love this garden!

Paper and pencil or a smart phone to take notes.

Stamina. Yes this is a great open house, but Athens is full of wonderful restaurants, specialty nurseries and gardens. Do a little research and plan a whole day.

I have put plants in an ice chest (without the ice) to keep them out of the sun and a little insulated on the drive home. Beware of leaving plants in a sunny, closed car while you walk into an air conditioned restaurant. The temperature can soar in just a few minutes. Leave the windows open a bit and look for a shaded parking spot (or eat really, really fast).

We Could Lose Part of our Garden History.

I first heard about the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin during a talk decades ago. My father and I took off in his pickup and traveled from NW Arkansas to visit my brother in Atlanta – of course we timed it so we would be in Atlanta during the Southeastern Flower Show. I don’t remember who the speaker was, just that I was so mesmerized by the charm of this publication that was talked about that I had to buy a copy of Elizabeth Lawrence’s Market Bulletins: Gardening for Love. Her book, her last of many garden manuscripts before her death in 1985, documents the friendships Lawrence made through correspondence initiated by ads in the Market Bulletin. She found out about them from Eudora Welty, who subscribed to market bulletins from several Southern states.

This little newspaper, started in 1917 and distributed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, is composed of free ads from people throughout the state – ads for home-made items, farm equipment, livestock, fresh eggs, seeds and plants, and more, plus a few articles. As I read the ads I can almost picture the person who wrote it, the one who crocheted the dishcloth, raised the chicks, used the farm equipment no longer needed, or is looking for a position as a farm hand. There’s a country charm that comes through the words.

A couple years ago my husband could not resist that charm when he found an antique butter churn. “Look at the photos they emailed me. It’s just like the one my grandmother used to make butter”. As if that wasn’t enough, he added “I need to find someone with fresh Jersey milk”. Oh dear, we already had set up a chicken coop in the back yard, but churning our own butter? That Saturday we drove an hour, MapQuest printout in hand, to pick up our blue antique butter churn. We ended up chatting with the couple for a solid hour before we even saw the churn in their garage. They were lovely people. I can see why the Market Bulletin opened doors of friendship to Elizabeth Lawrence. It is filled with real people, much richer and more interesting than those in tabloid magazines.

This publication has been a free service, mailed to anyone who requested a copy and I have enjoyed it for years. Unfortunately, the state budget no longer can allow that and so the Bulletin now will be charging $10 for 26 issues mailed to your home. I’m sending in my check today. The subscription information below was copied directly from an article on the Georgia Master Gardeners blog. To read that article:

Subscriptions are available to Georgia residents at a cost of only $10 per year (26 issues); out-of-state-subscriptions are available for $20 per year. Out-of-state subscriptions must be within the United States or its territories.

To start or renew a subscription, send a check or money order payable to Market Bulletin, along with your name, complete mailing address and daytime phone number (in the event the Market Bulletin office needs to contact you concerning your subscription) to the following address: Market Bulletin, Georgia Department of Agriculture, 19 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SW, Atlanta, GA 30334-4250. New subscribers may also pay online with a credit card at Please note there is a $1 convenience fee added for online subscriptions.