Gorgeous Gardens at Callaway
by Bill Vanderford
One beautiful spring day during 1930, Cason J. Callaway, a LaGrange textile manufacturer, took his family for an outing at Blue Springs near Hamilton, Georgia. After their picnic lunch, Cason went for a walk in the nearby woods. His solitary ramble led him north over Pine Mountain ridge to a valley that was inundated with worn-out cotton fields. As he gazed over the area, he thought about how lovely this place must have been at one time, and his imagination began to run wild.
So, on his return jaunt, he began thinking about buying the entire section of the once fertile valley, and restoring it to its original state containing natural woodlands with native trees, plants and wildlife. The concept was enormous -- but Cason Callaway was a man of "bullish" ideas.
During that return walk, Mr. Callaway’s eyes were drawn to a spot of color amidst the green plants. Bright coral-red flowers with very long stamens adorned a large shrub that was growing wild in the woods. Unable to identify this beautiful plant, Callaway picked a blossom to take to his wife, Virginia. With her interest in wildflowers, he hoped she could tell him what he had discovered. Mrs. Callaway, however, did not recognize this specimen but upon further research, found it to be the nearly extinct, Prunifolia Azalea, which is native only to the area surrounding Pine Mountain. That discovery sealed their decision to buy the land, propagate the Prunifolia Azalea and other native flora, and create a garden.
For many years, restoring and improving the land was a labor of love, but as their dream became a reality, Cason and Virginia Callaway realized that they wanted to share their vision with others, especially children. So in 1952, the Ida Cason Callaway Foundation was created and the garden was opened to the public.
Today, Callaway Gardens is a 14,000-acre resort that attracts more than a million visitors each year. A choice of accommodations caters to families and romantics alike, including the 350 room inn, the 155 Callaway Country Cottages, the 50 Mountain Creek Villas, and a comprehensive spa and lodge of specialty spa suites.
This unique resort complex also includes four golf courses, 17 lighted tennis courts, two racquetball courts, the longest man-made white sand beach in the world, horseback riding and bike trails, playgrounds, swimming pools, and of course, the gardens; 2,500 acres of landscape with 13 lakes and a never-ending show of flora and fauna.
Favorite spots are the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, which is the largest, glass-enclosed, tropical conservatory for the display of living butterflies in North America; the John A. Sibley Horticultural Center, which is one of the most advanced garden greenhouse complexes in the world; and Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden, which is a model seven-and-one-half acre garden producing more than 400 varieties of vegetables, fruits and herbs.
There’s even a 1,000-acre reserve for rod and gun enthusiasts complete with skeet and trap ranges, as well as Mountain Creek Lake, which teems with fat bass, bluegill, shellcrackers, and redbreast sunfish. Fly fishing schools are also very popular at Callaway Gardens, and several of the smaller lakes offer excellent fly fishing opportunities.
Beautiful year round, a spring visit to Callaway Gardens is when the outdoor paradise is at its most colourful; and it’s a highlight start to the summer.
If You Go:
Callaway Gardens is located 70 miles south of Atlanta, 30 miles northeast of Columbus, and two miles south of Pine Mountain, Georgia. For accommodation reservations, call toll-free 800/225-5292 .
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