This delightful botanical garden, occupying 30 acres in Piedmont Park, includes the Fuqua Orchid Center, a children's garden, an education center, and the Dorothy Chapman Fuqua Conservatory. In the $4.8-million, 25,000-square-foot Fuqua Orchid Center, a collection of rare high-elevation orchids, which flourish on cool, wet mountains in South America, are being grown in the warm Southeast. Typically, one would have to go to San Francisco or Seattle to see such plants. There is beauty here year-round, but peak orchid-bloom season lasts through March.
The latest and greatest here is the Canopy Walk, offering a view from 40 feet above one of the city's last remaining urban forests. Along with the Edible Garden and Cascades Garden, the Canopy Walk marked the completion of a major expansion that nearly doubled the garden's size. The 600-foot walk is the only tree canopy-level walk of its kind in the country.
Nearby, the 16,000-square-foot, glass-walled Dorothy Chapman Fuqua Conservatory houses rare and endangered tropical and desert plants -- and a fascinating exhibit of poison dart frogs (more about them later). With acres of irreplaceable rainforest being bulldozed every minute, the plant species in the conservatory seem all the more special. Approached via an arbored promenade and fronted by a lily pond, the entrance to the conservatory has a revolving globe showing the many regions of the world where plant life is endangered.
The focal point of the conservatory is the misty Tropical Rotunda, housing fern collections, cycads (the most primitive seed-bearing plants known), epiphytes (plants that don't require soil to grow), gorgeous orchids, carnivorous plants, a wide variety of begonias, and towering tropical palms. It's a lush and humid jungle, with brightly hued tropical birds warbling overhead, a splashing waterfall, and winding pathways lined with fragrant hibiscus, ginger, and flowering jasmine vines. Of special interest is a double coconut palm from the Seychelles, growing from the largest and heaviest seed in the plant kingdom. Its first 12-foot leaves have already begun to grow, but it will be 100 years before the tree reaches its full height.
In the midst of all this is an intriguing exhibit of Central and South American poison dart frogs -- small, active ground dwellers in unbelievably bright colors (yellow, orange, lime green, cobalt blue) and vivid patterns. About 12 species are exhibited in three large terrariums filled with tropical rainforest plants and designed to simulate the climates in the frogs' native lands. This exhibit is a big hit with visiting children.
Another main section of the garden highlights plants that thrive in North Georgia's extended growing season. Displays in this area include a rock garden, a dwarf conifer garden, an English knot herb garden, a tranquil moon-gated Japanese garden, a rose garden, and annual and perennial displays. The delightful children's garden, with its wonderful climbing structures and whimsical sculptured fountains, has become a hot spot for young families.
Another section of the garden consists of two wooded areas. The 5-acre Upper Woodland features a paved path, a fern glade, camellia and hosta gardens, gurgling streams, beautiful statuary, and a habitat designed to show visitors how to attract wildlife to their own backyards. Still more rustic is Storza Woods, 15 acres of natural woodlands and one of the few remaining hardwood forests in the city. Even though its path is unpaved, it makes for an easy and interesting walk.
The arid Desert House displays Madagascan succulents, such as a unique family of spiny plants called Didieriaceae. Here, too, are "living stones" (desert succulents that nature designed to look like pebbles to protect them from predators), tree aloes, caudici-forms (with swollen stems and roots for storing water), and conifers from Africa. The building also houses an orangery of tropical mango, papaya, star-fruit, litchi, coffee, and citrus trees. An "Olympic" olive tree presented by Greece in honor of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta resides here as well.
There are flower shows throughout the year, along with lectures and other activities. Call to find out what's scheduled during your visit. The Café serves sandwiches, salads, and snacks, and it also has a children's menu. It's open Tuesday through Sunday, with outdoor seating available. A marvelous gift shop is on the premises; your purchases help support the garden.