The scent of camellias. The crunch underfoot of tiny, gray gravel. The rhythmic swish of a water fountain. There’s nothing quite like a stroll through a garden to engage the senses and let the world melt away. 

Atl Botanical Gardens Chihuly glass sculpture Parterre

In fact, research has shown levels of depression and stress decrease when immersed in nature.

Atlantans are lucky to live in a gardening zone that gives life to a wide range of trees, shrubs, and flowers. Local gardens change with the seasons as azaleas and rhododendrons emerge in the spring, ferns and flowers explode in the summer, and, come fall, trees show new colors across the north Georgia mountains.  

Here are some nearby gardens to visit.

Metro Atlanta

Atl Botanical Gardens volunteer Sally Wright trims around Turmeric, a flowering plant

Atlanta Botanical Gardens

Atlanta Botanical Gardens in Midtown Atlanta is displaying large-scale origami pieces throughout the garden until mid-October when the landscape will transform into a spooky Halloween treat. The origami installation features nearly 70 museum-quality metal sculptures inspired by the Japanese art of folding paper by Santa Fe artists Kevin and Jennifer Box, Te Jui Fu, Beth Johnson, Michael G. LaFosse, and Robert L. Lang. Visitors can enjoy cocktails in the garden with live music from Tuesday to Sunday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

Address: 1345 Piedmont Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30309

Contact: 404-876-5859 or www.atlantabg.org

Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. from May to October. Check the website for hours outside of these months. 

Cost: Entry fees range from $25 to $50. Flex tickets cost more but allow for flexibility due to weather or unforeseen circumstances. Parking rates vary.  

Atl Botanical Gardens volunteer Sally Wright with Aloe Aristata Torch Plant

Cator Woolford Garden

Cator Woolford Garden is best known as an event venue. On 39 acres of old-growth forest, visitors will find landscapes fit for a family photo or hour of exploration. In the intown neighborhood of Lake Claire, this hidden gem is frequently enjoyed by neighbors. 

Address: 1815 S. Ponce de Leon Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30307

Contact: 404-377-3836 or www.catorwoolfordgardens.org

Hours: Daily, sunrise to sunset, unless an event is being held.

Cost: Free.

Georgia State University Perimeter College Native Plant Botanical Garden

GSU Fern Garden path leads

Georgia State University Perimeter College Native Plant Botanical Garden is located near the southeast corner of I-285 and I-20. In 1990, botany professor George Sanko established the garden. Over the years it has become known for indigenous plants including azaleas, magnolias, viburnums, pitcher plants, sundews, carnivorous plants, wildflowers, and ferns. 

Address: 3251 Panthersville Road, Decatur, GA, 30034

Contact: 678-891-2668 or www.sites.gsu.edu/pcnativegarden

Hours: Daily from dawn to dusk. 

Cost: Free. Visitors may park in Lot 5 for GPC staff and students.

Smith-Gilbert Gardens

Smith-Gilbert Gardens in Kennesaw is a family-friendly property with events and classes. Visitors can learn about a wide range of topics from Native American Cherokee plants and agriculture to ecosystems. Must see: the bonsai collection, an award-winning butterfly exhibit, and hummingbirds. 

Address: 2382 Pine Mountain Road, Kennesaw, GA 30152

Contact: 770-919-0248 or www.smithgilbertgardens.com

Hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  

Cost: Tickets are timed. Free for children under 3, $5 for ages 3-17 and military/students, $10 for adults, and $8 for seniors over 65. 

Swan House

Swan House is poised on West Paces Ferry Road, one of the poshest stretches of road in Atlanta. Located behind the Atlanta History Center, Swan House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The home was occupied by the original family until 1966 when the Atlanta Historical Society established its headquarters there. Goizueta Gardens has 33 acres of woodland gardens and trails steeped in local history. 

Address: 130 West Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta, GA 30305

Contact: 404-814-4000 or www.atlantahistorycenter.com/buildings-and-grounds/swan-house/

Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; historic homes open at 11 a.m. 

Cost: Tickets are free for age 4 and under, $10 for ages 4-12, $20 for students and seniors, and $24 for adults. Parking is free. 

Woodlands Gardens

Woodlands Gardens is an urban sanctuary about a mile from downtown Decatur. Piedmont native gardens feature iris, camellias, and pollinators with occasional spotting of wild mushrooms (not for foraging). Note: Dogs are best left at home. 

Address: 932 Scott Boulevard, Decatur, GA, 30030

Contact: 404-373-2222 or www.woodlandsgarden.org 

Hours: Daily from dawn to dusk. 

Cost: Free. Parking is limited, so Woodlands encourages carpooling or biking.  

Further Afield

Atlanta Botanical Gardens in Gainesville

Atlanta Botanical Gardens in Gainesville has just as much to offer as its older sibling in midtown Atlanta. Tai chi, storybook time, and birding classes are all on the docket this month. On the first Saturday of the month through October, attend cocktails in the garden until 8 p.m. Ada Mae Pass Ivester Children’s Garden is open for little explorers who love fairies, dragons, and magic.  

Address: 1911 Sweetbay Drive, Gainesville, GA 30501

Contact: 404-888-4760 or www.atlantabg.org/gainesville-garden

Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from March 1 to Oct. 31. Check the website for the remainder of the year.  

Cost: Timed tickets are required for non-members. Children under 3 years old are free; children ages 3 to 12 are $12.95, and adults are $14.95. Onsite parking is free. 

Barnsley Gardens

Barnsley Gardens is better known as part of the resort and spa in Adairsville, but the gardens are spectacular. Wander in and about Woodlands, the manor house ruins at Barnsley Gardens, and feel the grandeur of Godfrey Barnsley’s creation. Built for Barnsley’s wife, Julia, what is left of the Italianate-style villa is romantic and peaceful, covered in wild greenery. 

Address: 597 Barnsley Gardens Road, Adairsville, GA 30103

Contact: 770-773-7480 or www.barnsleyresort.com

Hours: Daily from sunrise to sunset, unless it is booked for an event.  

Cost: Free. 

Ball Ground Botanical Garden

Ball Ground Botanical Garden’s Roslyn Carter Butterfly Trail is a popular part of this property. In the shape of a swallowtail butterfly, the trail boasts pollinator plants like butterfly bush, milkweed, sedum, yarrow, and more. Along the way, posters and signs provide education about butterflies. 

Address: 215 Valley Street, Ball Ground, GA 30107

Contact: www.ballgroundgardenclub.com/ball-ground-botanical-garden free 

Hours: Daily from dawn to dusk. 

Cost: Free. 

The Freedom Braille Trail

The Freedom Braille Trail is located within Dellinger Park. The Braille trail is designed for a range of abilities. Visually impaired and physically challenged visitors should feel welcome on this hard-packed trail, which is lined with navigation ropes and Braille displays. 

 Address: 100 Pine Grove Road, Cartersville, GA 30120

Contact: 770-387-5626

Hours: Open daily from sunrise to sunset. 

Cost: Free. 

Gibbs Gardens

Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground may be best known for its spring explosion of daffodils and tulips, but there’s a lot more to this property. Rhododendrons, azaleas, roses, hydrangeas, and daylilies capture visitors in spring and summer, but the fall encore of azaleas is also a stunner.  

Address: 1987 Gibbs Drive, Ball Ground, GA 30107

Contact: 770-893-1880 or www.gibbsgardens.com

Hours: Wednesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Cost: Free for children under 3, ages 3-17 cost $10, seniors cost $18 and adults ages 18-64 cost $20. 

Fred Hamilton Rhododendron Gardens

Fred Hamilton Rhododendron Gardens claims to be the largest collection of rhododendrons and native azaleas in the southeast. Check out dogwoods, rare forest perennials, trillium, ferns, and more than 400 varieties of rhododendron. The property features 30 acres of woodlands, including short hikes. 

Address: 1311 Music Hall Road, Hiawassee, GA 30546

Contact: 706-896-4191 or www.georgiamountainfairgrounds.com/localevents/hamilton

Hours: Daily from 8 a.m. to dusk. 

Cost: Free.  

Paradise Garden

Paradise Garden is a tribute to one of Georgia’s most well-known self-taught folk artists, Howard Finster. Today his work can be found in the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Library of Congress, Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, and beyond. In a surprising and quirky landscape, Paradise Garden provides year-round art education, programs, tours, and camps. It’s a Georgia bucket list destination. 

Address: 200 N. Lewis Street, Summerville, GA 30747

Contact: 706-808-0800 or www.howardfinster.com

Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cost: Children under 12 are free, over 12 and students cost $12, seniors cost $10 and adults cost $15. 

Rock City Gardens

Rock City Gardens is accessible all year by the Enchanted Trail woodland path and magical Fairyland Caverns. Sure, it’s touristy, but a waterfall, spectacular views, and 400 different species of plants, trees, and shrubs make up for it. Visitors love to witness fall colors across the mountain vista. 

Address: 1400 Patten Road, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750

Contact: www.seerockcity.com

Hours: Daily from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Cost: Tickets are timed, and cost between $15-28 depending on the day. Parking is free. 

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia is on the campus of the University of Georgia. Guided tours ensure visitors see it all: the conservatory, heritage gardens, and international gardens. An edible garden, a children’s garden, flower gardens and walking trails along the Middle Oconee River are popular. 

Address: 2450 South Milledge Avenue, Athens, GA 30602

Contact: 706-542-1244 or www.botgarden.uga.edu

Hours: Check the website. 

Cost: Free for individuals, group tours can be arranged for a small fee. Donations are welcome.  

Thompson Mills Forest

Thompson Mills Forest, 330 acres of land designated to provide public education and research opportunities, was deeded to the University of Georgia in 1980. Visit the granite outcropping and self-guided trails for a peaceful walk.

Address: 8755 Highway 53, Braselton, GA 30517

Contact: 706-654-2666

Hours: Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

Cost: Free. 

Logan C. Ritchie

Logan C. Ritchie is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.