Despite opening in 2012, Gibbs Gardens is still a hidden treasure. Nestled in the rolling foothills of Cherokee County, Georgia, about an hour north of Atlanta, the Gardens are almost in my backyard; but I had never heard of them until a couple of British friends told me about them.
Based upon the Brits’ recommendation, I toured Gibbs Gardens today and was not disappointed.
The gardens are the creation of Jim Gibbs, CEO of Gibbs Landscaping Company, who spent 15 years searching for the perfect setting for his family’s estate and a public garden. He found about 300 acres in North Georgia in 1980 and he’s been developing his masterpiece ever since. The result is a lovely landscape to rival any of the glorious European gardens I’ve had the good fortune to tour.
Mr. Gibbs’ labor of love is divided into two large sections: the Manor House and its terraced garden and the Valley Gardens spread out below the house, a series of landscaped loveliness the crown jewel of which is the Japanese Gardens.
A walk from the Welcome Center to the Fern Dell, the far end of the Valley Gardens, is only about a 15-minute stroll, unless you stop to linger in the Japanese Gardens along the way.
The reproduction of Monet’s bridge and water lily garden is quite lovely — though I still prefer the luscious original.
A tram is on hand to cart you around the gardens, but walkers could spend all day exploring the myriad pathways featuring open vistas as well as 24 ponds, 32 bridge crossings and 19 waterfalls. I traversed the Valley Gardens on foot and rode the tram up to the Manor House.
The Gibbs’ actually reside in the home which is not open for tours. The house itself is a beautiful mixture of European architecture and includes some stunning French imports: a 14th century limestone fireplace, 17th century interior doors and 18th century beveled and leaded glass doors and windows.
The family kindly allows visitors to enjoy the scenery in shady sitting areas overlooking the terraced garden or to lounge by the swimming pool.
Whether you spend an entire day or just a couple of hours soaking up the picturesque views, Gibbs Gardens is a hidden treasure, a world-class public garden right in Atlanta’s backyard.