A VISIT TO GARVAN WOODLAND GARDENS IN HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS

By Rita Lynn

Your Cedar Valley Arboretum membership automatically enrolls you in the American Horticultural Society Reciprocal Program.  Ever wonder how far that program reaches?  A friend, on hearing that I would be vacationing in Hot Springs, Arkansas, highly recommended that we visit the Garvan Woodland Gardens there.   That visit was put on our “must-see” list and was our first destination.  The entrance fee at Garvan is $15 per person, and, on seeing my AHS card, the greeter happily honored it and waived the entire fee.  So began a wonderful day!

Garvan Woodland Gardens occupy 210 acres of woodland landscape and 4½ miles of shoreline on Hamilton Lake, in view of the Ouachita Mountains.  The land was initially owned by Verna Cook Garvan, heiress of family fortunes earned in a brick and tile business, and in a lumber company.  Purchased in about 1915 after a timber clear-cut, commercial timber cutting was never again allowed there.  In about 1956, Mrs. Garvan began to develop the land as a garden and for a future residence.  Seeing how other structures around the lake disturbed the beauty of the wilderness, she eventually opted not to build the residence.  She proceeded to dedicate herself to laying out paths, designating which trees were to be removed, and choosing thousands of plants and their locations as she developed her garden.  Nationally acclaimed architects were then enlisted to design the Garvan Pavilion in the center of the original plantings.

On Mrs. Garvan’s death in 1993, the property was bequeathed to the Department of Landscape Architecture through the University of Arkansas Foundation.  The gardens are now an independent department of the University’s Fay Jones School of Architecture.  In addition, Garvan Gardens enjoys the support of the Arkansas Legislature, Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council, Arkansas Economic Development Commission, many private donors, and more than 3,500 members.

The mission of the Gardens is to preserve and enhance that unique part of the Ouachita Mountain environment; to provide a place of learning, research, cultural enrichment, and serenity; to develop and sustain the gardens, the landscaping and structures with exceptional aesthetics, design and construction; and to partner with and serve the surrounding communities.

As we wandered the gardens, places of natural beauty met us at every turn and on every path we followed.  Stately trees formed the backdrop for bushes and cultivated garden beds.  Streams, ponds, waterfalls and picturesque bridges abounded.  Although they looked as if they had been there for millennia, each water feature was intentionally designed and built, including placing boulders to make the hillsides look like a natural mountain terrain.  It looked as if natural springs flowed over these many features, but water is actually pumped throughout the gardens from the adjacent Lake Hamilton.  Displays change with the seasons, with special exhibitions throughout the year.  One of the highlights is a holiday light festival, featuring colorful lights throughout the gardens.  We arrived in time to enjoy the end of the azalea and hydrangea blooms and the beginning of summer plantings.

Garvan Gardens offers a wide variety of educational opportunities ranging from such topics as bonsai lectures to fly fishing demonstrations.  Day camps for children take place during summer months, and docent training occurs throughout the year.  The Gardens offer accessibility to visitors using wheelchairs and families with children in strollers.  Dogs on leashes are welcome, although they too are charged an entry fee.  Spectacular, architecturally significant venues – the Pavilion, an amphitheater, and the Visitors’ Center, as well as an incredible chapel complex – offer places for special events booked throughout the year.  Visitors can enjoy a fairy garden, a model railroad display, a koi pond, a children’s garden, the resident peacock and peahen, and a wildflower slope.  And a variety of foods are available at the Chipmunk Café.  Under construction now is a huge tree house structure designed by architects at the university to provide children of all abilities the opportunity to directly experience the woodland environment.

Garvan Woodland Gardens is amazing showplace, the result of harmony between natural beauty, landscape design, and architectural marvels.  It is an award-winning prime attraction in the Hot Springs area, and I will remember my visit there with awe in the years to come.  To ensure you don’t miss experiences like this, remember to take your AHS card when you travel.  Look for gardens and arboretums en route or at your destination.  A list of benefits can be found at <ahsgardening.org/gardening-programs/rap/find/statebystate>

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A History Rewritten 2001

By Paul Kammerdiner

2001

We have landed in the first year of the new century and once again let’s take a look.

2001-1

The entrance road and service road are more defined by now. We can see the green building, which is the Head House about in the middle of the photo. Notice the line of White Spruce along the North, behind it, are becoming more established.

To the South is the Ethnic Garden (the round one) seen in 1999 and farther on, closer to the road we can see a line of what are lilac bushes. I only know that because they are still there today. Looking East across the path from the Ethnic Garden on the Southside we can see the Green Scene Gardens. Present day there are trees in this spot.

The major activity is still going on to the East of the Head House, we can see the Nursery and then what looks like tilled ground and in the middle of that the new Rose Garden. (see the white crescent and short path)

We can see the greenhouse for the Enabling Garden beyond that.

Notice especially that there are no trees yet right next to the service road as it turns West from the entrance down towards the Head House.

Notice also the path South of the Head House where it turns East toward tower hill, this is where the Arrival Garden will be, in front of the Green Scene Gardens.

PLANNING

Again, this year I am without any photos or documents that talk about the annual retreat. That doesn’t mean no planning took place in the Winter, I am sure it did. I have one document that suggests that plans for the Children’s Garden are in full swing. This document is evidence of a huge fund-raising campaign.

2001-2

EVENTS

I had to search diligently to find something for this year. I finally came across something in a copy of the View. Notice at the bottom where it says 2001 CVABG Highlights

2001-3 

We had a class put on by Jean Durbin, an Ice cream social, and the Fall Festival

 

PROJECTS

  • Rose Garden

There were actually two rose gardens called out in the master plan: a formal rose garden and a shrub rose garden. Our rose garden started out as a vision from two of our volunteers, Arnold Webster and Craig Gibleon. Because of Arnold’s association with one of the most famous of rose hybridizers, Griffen Buck, our rose garden was to be a tribute to him and planted primarily with Buck Roses: see the quote from a document written by Arnold Webster;

“It should be no great surprise that one of the first formal collections at the Cedar Valley Arboretum would be those in the garden of Buck Roses. Every rose aficionado knows the story of  Dr. Griffith Buck (1915-1991) and the eighty-plus roses that are attributed to his brilliant work as a hybridizer.”

Furthermore, Mr. Webster was a former roommate in college with Griffith Buck who become a professor of horticulture at Iowa State.

This garden began during the growing season of 2001 but sadly in December of that year, Mr. Webster passed away. However; under the expertise of Craig Gibleon the Rose Garden continued to take shape. Early plant lists in our archive show 30 different cultivars of Buck Roses in this space.

2001-4

Arnold Webster

Let’s take a look at what the Master Plan had to say on this topic

First, the Formal Rose Garden: “the rose, more than any other ornamental plant embodies a long and enduring history of ornamental horticulture in Western civilization” it goes on to say:

“The plan for the Formal Rose Garden represents traditional European design with a classically shaped fountain at the lowest grade in the garden. Around this central feature, the proposed beds offer an opportunity to display hybrid tea roses by type, category, history, and color.” The red dot on the image below that says Formal Garden shows the location for the Formal Rose Garden

2001-5

I am going to speculate that this is not the type of garden Arnold and Craig had in mind.

The other mentioned rose garden was the Shrub Rose Garden, it is the green dot on the plan above. Quoting from the Master Plan: “shrub roses are gaining popularity owing to their long blooming periods and disease resistance.”

Let’s say that this is closer to what Arnold and Craig were looking at doing, although we know for sure from the documents that their idea was all about Buck Roses, which are shrub roses. In any event, our Rose Garden started out as a showcase for Buck Roses and was located much farther West, on tower hill between the Head House and the Community Gardens.

2001-6

The Rose Garden

2001-7

The Rose Garden

 

GARDENS

Nothing in the way of individual photos of gardens. This is all I have

2001-8

We can see the Community Gardens and a glimpse of the Herb Garden

2001-9

In the foreground of this one is the new Rose Garden, in the background to the left is some of the Enabling Garden

TREES

My computer disk only shows 4 Hackberry and 10 Techny Arborvitae planted this year. However, there is the following record of at least one more tree.

2001-10

This is the Federated Garden Club planting a Kentucky Coffee, they are calling the freedom tree to commemorate 9/11.

VOLUNTEERS

I must always stop and pay tribute to that most special group of people that make everything happen.

Every aspect of this place is touched by them and happens because of them. If I had 50 photos of volunteers from 2001 I would post them, but I only found 2.

2001-11

Bob Frenchick and Scott Dimburg

One of the unique things about our folks is that we have fun while we work.

2001-12

Linda Shulte, Jan Guthrie, Sara Jansen, Maurine Crisp

As we bid farewell to 2001, one last look at tower hill

2001-13

Time to go, another year awaits!