Five Must-Dos at the Atlanta Botanical Garden

See a wall of herbs, walk among the largest collection of orchids, get an up-close look at wild things that croak in the night, and hear a concert under the stars—all at one of the country’s premier botanical gardens.
Valerie Luesse

The Atlanta Botanical Garden just keeps getting better. Last year, a multimillion-dollar expansion almost doubled the size of the 30-acre oasis next to Piedmont Park in Midtown. But the Garden is not just another pretty space. It has brains, too, including two nationally recognized conservation programs aimed at saving native Georgia orchids and rare frogs from all over the world. Here are five ways visitors can best take advantage of its offerings.

1. Check Out the Edible Garden
The staff asks that you actually don’t eat anything as you wander through the plots of seasonal fruits and vegetables displayed in the new Edible Garden. You’ll be even more tempted to have a taste when you reach the outdoor kitchen, where chefs give cooking demos with fresh produce, and pass the vertical herb garden—a textured wall of green that visitors can’t resist touching. It is okay to chow down at breakfast or lunch once you reach the on-site cafe, Metro Fresh in the Garden.

2. See Rare Orchids 
The Garden’s permanent collection includes 2,000 species of orchids from around the world—the largest collection of its kind in the country, says orchid curator Becky Brinkman. In addition to showing off the world’s orchids, the Garden is helping save Georgia’s 60 native species. Working with research institutions, governmental agencies, and landowners around the Southeast, Jenny Cruse-Sanders, the Garden’s director of conservation and research, and orchid specialist Matt Richards search for the rare flowers, collect seeds without disturbing the plants, propagate the species in the lab, and then reintroduce them to the Southern landscape. (Never dig up a wild orchid, Jenny says.)

3. Learn About Frogs 
For a kid-wowing exhibit, check out the frog terrariums in the Garden Conservatory. The staff uses the terrariums, safe houses for confiscated frogs brought into this country illegally, to help visitors understand the work being done by the Garden’s Amphibian Conservation program. Because frogs absorb everything through their skin, they’re effective gauges of air and water pollution and other environmental changes, explains amphibian specialist Robert Hill. Robert travels to Columbia, working with Latin American researchers to collect endangered species and bring them back (legally!) to Atlanta’s “frog pod” lab. The frog man recalls hearing a formidable growl on his first nighttime jungle expedition to South America. He was relieved, at first, to learn it was just a frog. “But then,” Robert says, “I had to wonder what a frog that can make such a noise must look like.”

4. Enjoy an Outdoor Concert 
Bring a blanket or collapsible lawn chair (with legs 10 inches or shorter) to sit under the stars and hear some of the city’s best music. This summer the outdoor concert series has featured the likes of Emmylou Harris and the Indigo Girls. Los Lobos closes the series on August 26. You can even preorder a box supper from Metro Fresh for your dining pleasure (entrées range $17.50-$19.50).

5. Go on a Canopy Walk
Installed last year, this 12-foot-wide, 600-foot-long suspension bridge soars 40 feet above a patchwork of azaleas, camellias, and perennials. Held up by four large masts hidden behind towering hardwood trees, the bridge seems to float among the branches.

Visit the Atlanta Botanical Garden
For admission, event schedules, and other information, visit atlantabotanicalgarden.org or call 404/876-5859.

 

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