Purple Passion Camellia

Georgia's Camellia Trail

Visit 30 public gardens in Georgia to see an intriguing variety of camellias

The camellia has been a part of the Southern landscape since the establishment of the original 13 colonies. Today, the camellia continues to grace gardens and grounds throughout Georgia from historic landscapes to contemporary specialty gardens.

Travel the state, and you will find a wide variety of camellia gardens showcasing the beautiful spectrum from Camellia japonicas to Camellia sasanquas. Explore Georgia's intriguing camellia gardens, including the garden at the Governor’s Mansion in Atlanta, which features three camellias named for First Ladies of Georgia: Sandra Deal, Rosalynn Carter and Betty Foy Sanders.

Atlanta Metro

The Georgia Governor's Mansion and Gardens, Atlanta

The Governor's Mansion is the official home of Georgia's Governor. The Mansion, a three-floor, 30-room, Greek revival-style home built in 1967, stands on approximately 18 acres in north Atlanta. It was designed by Georgia architect Thomas Bradbury and officially opened on Jan. 1, 1968, by Governor Lester Maddox.

A new feature in the garden is a planting of Camellia japonicas named for First Ladies Betty Foy Sanders, Rosalynn Carter and Sandra Deal.  

Garden Hours: Tuesday – Thursday 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.

Smith-Gilbert Gardens, Kennesaw

Smith-Gilbert Gardens is a 16-acre garden with 13 acres open to the public. The quarter-acre Paladino Camellia Garden features Camellia japonicas and C. sasanquas, plus a variety of hybrids – all complemented by unusual and rare shade-tolerant understory plants. Visitors enjoy an extended bloom period from late fall through early winter. Camellia connoisseurs will not be disappointed any time of the year!

Garden Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Woodlands Garden, Decatur

Woodlands Garden is an eight-acre garden and native plant habitat near downtown Decatur. Visitors can explore a winding network of mulched trails that meander through the diverse plant world of the Georgia Piedmont. In the Heritage Garden, visitors will find the historical Morse family camellia collection, ornamental Japanese maples and the all-ages Children's Natural Play Area.

Garden Hours: Dawn to Dusk

Eastern Georgia

First Ladies of Georgia Camellia Garden at Augusta University

Opened in March 2022, this garden pays tribute to the First Ladies of Georgia with a collection of camellias named in their honor. In addition, numerous varieties of camellias can be found spread across Augusta University’s historic Summerville campus. Many of these camellias, as well as the First Ladies of Georgia Camellia Garden, are located along the scenic History Walk that encircles the inner campus. Take a self-guided walk around campus and bask in the beauty of these blooms!

City of Thomson

Thomson, the Camellia City, features a number of camellia plantings, including Camellia Park created in 2008 featuring more than 50 camellia shrubs. The City of Thomson introduced the “Camellia City Festival” in 2016 on the first Saturday in December.

The Robert Toombs House Historic Site, Washington

A legend in his own time, Robert Toombs was a successful planter and lawyer who led a turbulent career as state legislator, U.S. Congressman, Senator, Confederate Secretary of State and Confederate general. The Toombs House garden features approximately a dozen Camellia japonicas, some of which are heritage cultivars. There are original grape hyacinths that date to the 18th century and ivy that dates to the 1850s.  

Garden Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Coastal Georgia

Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah

Though not Savannah’s oldest cemetery, Bonaventure is certainly its most famous and hauntingly beautiful. Quintessentially Southern Gothic, it has captured the imaginations of writers, poets, naturalists, photographers and filmmakers for more than 150 years. More than 150 plants from old camellia gardens in Savannah have been air layered in an experiment to replace camellias that have died along the avenues within the cemetery. Throughout the cemetery, there are several hundred camellias in individual lots, and they are at their best in December through early March.

Garden Hours: Monday – Sunday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens, Savannah

Located near Savannah and Interstate 95 in southwest Chatham County is an expanding botanical garden that was once an old USDA plant introduction station. The Judge Arthur Solomon Camellia Trail comprises over 35 different camellia species and is reputed as being the most diverse collection outside of China. Over 1,000 camellia plants are nestled below pines and Japanese evergreen oaks and share space with woodland.

Garden Hours: Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. / Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. / Sunday 12:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation, Brunswick

This beautiful plantation represents the history and culture of Georgia's rice coast. In the early 1800s, William Brailsford of Charleston carved a rice plantation from marshes along the Altamaha River. The family was friends of Clermont Huger Lee, one of the first women licensed as a Landscape Architect in Georgia. She was responsible for creating and working on many of the private gardens and squares in Savannah. 

Garden Hours: Wednesday – Sunday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Central Georgia

Massee Lane Gardens, Fort Valley

Massee Lane Gardens is an International Camellia Society "Garden of Excellence." One of the world's finest collections of camellias fills a nine-acre area at Massee Lane. Brick walkways surround the camellia trees for easy viewing. The Formal Garden features hundreds of Camellia japonicasC. sasanquas, hybrids and various other camellia species. The Species Garden houses hundreds of wild type camellias not commonly cultivated. 

Massee Lane had its beginnings as the private garden of David C. Strother in the 1930s. Mr. Strother donated this land to the American Camellia Society for its headquarters in 1966. The American Camellia Society is a national membership organization dedicated to fostering appreciation for and knowledge of plants of the genus Camellia. Founded in 1945, the Society is headquartered at Massee Lane Gardens near Fort Valley in central Georgia.

Garden Hours: Monday – Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. / Sunday 1:00 – 4:30 p.m.

Lockerly Arboretum, Milledgeville

The grounds at Lockerly Arboretum contain a diverse collection of plants from around the world as well as a large collection of plants native to Georgia and the Southeastern U.S. Plants are displayed in a 50-acre park-like setting that is open to the public year-round. The arboretum is open six days a week at no charge for self-guided tours of the grounds. Two of the largest collections are conifers and camellias; the camellia collection has more than 100 specimens of Camellia japonica and C. sasanqua

Garden Hours: Monday – Friday, Sunday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. / Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Old Governor's Mansion, Milledgeville

Georgia's Old Governor’s Mansion was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973 and is an accredited museum of the American Alliance of Museums. Completed in 1839, it is one of the finest examples of High Greek Revival architecture in the nation. The Mansion grounds feature more than 20 cultivars of Camellia japonica and C. sasanqua that were established in 2005 when the gardens were restored.

Garden Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. / Sunday 2:00 – 4:00 p.m., except holidays, the week before Thanksgiving and the week after Christmas

State Botanical Garden of Georgia, Athens

The 313-acre State Botanical Garden of Georgia is home to numerous themed display gardens, including the Flower Garden, the International Garden and the Heritage Garden. The Shade Garden contains local varieties of camellias in one of seven section, mirroring the seven districts of the Garden Club of Georgia. Visitors can enjoy viewing the camellias while strolling along the wandering paths, or while resting and birdwatching in the district’s plaza.

Garden Hours: Monday – Sunday 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Waddell Barnes Botanical Gardens, Macon

Named for a former chair of the Macon State College Foundation Board of Trustees, the 167-acre Waddell Barnes Botanical Gardens feature hundreds of varieties of regional flora on the campus of Middle Georgia State University. Of the 16 distinct themed gardens, the Fall Garden, the Heritage Garden and the Winter Garden display local varieties of Camellia sasanqua.

Dr. William Green Lee Camellia Garden, Macon

The Dr. William Green Lee Camellia Garden is a five-acre public camellia garden administered by the Parks & Beautification Department of Macon-Bibb County. The garden celebrates one of the founders of the American Camellia society, and includes a large collection of both Camellia japonica and C. sasanqua varietals planted by Dr. Lee. An additional section contains a trail with access to Jackson Springs Park from the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail and provides views of the many camellias in the privately held portion of the original 12.5-acre garden.

Northwest Georgia

Oak Hill & The Martha Berry Museum, Rome

Oak Hill – located on the Berry College campus in Rome – is the Greek revival home of Martha Berry, founder of Berry College. Visitors receive a guided tour of the dwelling led by Berry College students. Guests may also tour the home's three outbuildings, as well as Oak Hill's gardens. The gardens were designed by landscape architect Robert Cridland circa 1930. Both Camellia japonicas and C. sasanquasare planted in the gardens.

Garden Hours: Monday – Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., excluding holiday weekends

South Georgia

Ashley-Slater House, Douglas

The Ashley-Slater House is a turn of the century Italianate mansion that serves as office space for the Douglas Visitor Information Center, City of Douglas Public Information Department and Main Street. Built in 1914 by Mr. John Marshall Ashley as a wedding present for his wife, the Ashley-Slater House is complete with moldings, beautiful woodwork, and an original mural. The grounds feature heritage camellia plants that are more than 60 years old and were planted by Mrs. Ashley.

Garden Hours: Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Botanic Garden at Georgia Southern University, Statesboro

Located in Statesboro, the Botanic Garden at Georgia Southern University features approximately 75 varieties of Camellia japonica and C. sasanqua. Additionally, the garden features more than 11 acres of gardens on the early 20th century farmstead of Dan and Catharine Bland. The garden offers woodland trails, a landscape garden of coastal plain natives, a native azalea collection, an arboretum, a children’s garden, a complex of early 20th century farm buildings, the Rural Life Museum, the Whelchel Camellia Garden, heritage gardens, a bog and sandhill, and the Kennedy Outdoor Classroom.

Guido Gardens, Metter

Guido Gardens is a tranquil and meditative garden with sparkling waterfalls, babbling brooks, inspiring music and a beautiful Prayer Chapel featuring trees, azaleas, and both Camellia japonicas and C. sasanquas. It also has a wide array of blooming flowers, a gazebo and a tea house. It is located at the production home of The Sower's telecasts. If you need some time to reflect or just get back into balance, you can stroll through the gardens on the one mile of sidewalks or take some meditative time in the Chapel in the Pines. In December, the gardens are decorated with nearly 2 million Christmas lights, attracting an average nightly crowd of about 1,000 people.

Garden Hours: The garden and chapel are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Free admission.

Southwest Georgia

Camellia Garden, Coastal Plain Research Arboretum, University of Georgia - Tifton Campus

Planted as a test garden in the early 1950s, the collection includes historical and antique varieties. UGA professor of horticulture Dr. W.T. Brightwell, well-known for blueberry research, collaborated with other camellia enthusiasts, David Strother of Fort Valley and Arthur Solomon of Savannah, to build the collection at the Coastal Plain Experiment Station. Under Brightwell’s leadership, more than 400 varieties of camellias were planted in a two-acre space. The sasanquas start their flower show in October, and the japonicas take the show through March.

Eccentric Garden, Tifton

The half-acre Eccentric Garden is the creation of Richard Rose. Hidden from the road by an array of trees, shrubs, maples and crepe myrtles, the garden celebrates the arrival of winter with thousands of camellia blooms – Camellia sasanquaC. japonica and a brilliant medley of hybrids – mostly newer ones – during January and February. Eccentric Garden features 150 named varieties and a total of approximately 400 camellias.

Garden Hours: January – February, please call ahead

Eccentric Garden: Richard and Brenda Rose, 2610 Emory Dr., Tifton, Georgia 31794. (229) 848-4405

Fulwood Garden Center, Tifton

At one time, there were 125 camellias and 200 roses surrounding this home, creating such a stunning garden that the passing train would often stop and allow passengers to tour the gardens adjacent to the railroad track. Many of the original plantings are still evident today, including both named and unnamed Camellia japonica and C. sasanqua. A new addition coming to the Fulwood Garden Center is a garden featuring camellias named for and commemorating women of the 20th and 21st Century, who have been influential in regional, national and international affairs.

Garden Hours: Monday – Friday 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Pebble Hill, Thomasville

Pebble Hill's stately architectural beauty stands proudly amid the magnolias and long leaf pines of southwest Georgia. The Main House is framed with more than 100 camellia species and many dogwoods, magnolias, azaleas, tea olives and Cherokee roses.

Garden Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. / Sunday 12:00 – 5:00 p.m.

City of Quitman

Quitman, the Camellia City, is the home of Betty Sheffield, who lived in the city for most of her life. While living in Quitman, her work with Camellia japonicas resulted in more than 40 varieties named after her. A stop in Quitman allows visitors the chance to tour four separate gardens. The gardens are open to the public during daylight hours.

  • Brooks County Court House Camellia Garden
  • Quitman - Brooks County Historical Museum and Cultural Center: The museum features a bronze statue of Betty Sheffield and two Rena Campbell camellias within the garden. Rena, a local black woman is credited with introducing Betty to the genus Camellia in the early part of the 20th century.
  • West End Cemetery: The cemetery features over 20 historical Camellia japonica varieties.
  • East – West Screven Street Medians: Originally designed and planted by Betty Sheffield in the mid-20th century while she served as Parks and Beautification Director for the City of Quitman, the medians feature many camellia varieties including old favorites.
  • North Court Street Medians: Originally designed and planted by Betty Sheffield in the 1940s while she served as Director of Parks and Beautification for the City of Quitman, the medians feature more than 50 camellia varieties, including some heritage cultivars. A drive down Court Street will reveal many camellias in private gardens, which are visible from the street.

Sara Oliver Memorial Camellia Garden - Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta

Dedicated in 2014, the Sara Oliver Memorial Camellia Garden features many camellia varieties including cultivars developed by the late Hulyn Smith, a camellia enthusiast well known in Georgia and north Florida.

Whitehead Camellia Trail, Valdosta

Located in the northwest corner of the Valdosta State University main campus, this paved trail winds 1,400 feet (926 meters) through a towering stand of longleaf pines. Planted along the trail are more than 400 camellias, including some of the most prized varieties, such as Alba Plena, Elegans, Pink Perfection, and Ville de Nantes. A self-guided video tour about the history and horticultural significance of the trail will be launched during the 2017 bloom season.

Wisenbaker-Roberts House, Valdosta

The Wisenbaker-Roberts House is believed to be the oldest house in Valdosta, surrounded by an 1800s pecan grove and an early 20th-century garden developed by members of the J.T. Roberts family. The garden features many early named and unnamed Camellia japonica varieties.

The Roberts House: 206 Wells Street, Fairview Historic District, Valdosta, Georgia 31061

West Georgia

Hills & Dales Estate, LaGrange

Hills & Dales Estate encompasses the house and garden of textile magnate Fuller E. Callaway and his wife Ida Cason Callaway. Its centerpiece is a stunning Italian villa designed by renowned architects Neel Reid and Hal Hentz. House and garden admission includes access to the grounds, home and historic gardens. Visitors can explore European-styled gardens of boxwood topiary, mottos and parterres filled with heirloom specimens of magnolias, azaleas, ginkgo and more.

Garden Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

City of Marshallville

Marshallville is a small rural agrarian town with a big reputation for camellias. Located just down the road on Highway 49 about four miles from the headquarters of the American Camellia Society at Massee Lane Gardens, the town was the inspiration for the camellia gardens created by David C. Strother of Fort Valley, who had admired the camellias in Marshallville when he first acquired the land and started his gardens. There are still many camellias planted in the tree lawn along the east and west Main Street Historic Districts of Marshallville and around some of the historic homes.

Sam Wellborn Camellia Garden - Columbus Botanical Garden, Columbus

Created in 1999 on 22 acres of donated land, the Garden is the first botanical garden in Columbus. The first "garden within the garden" was created in 2012 as a three-acre site that became “The Sam M. Wellborn Camellia Garden." Currently, the camellia garden consists of 500 different varieties with a goal of exceeding 750 as future phases are completed.

Garden Hours: Monday – Sunday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Published: April 2022
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