« Carex oshimensis 'Everillo': A Golden Light in the Garden | Main | Cat Walk »

Hills and Dales Estate

Hills and Dales Estate in LaGrange, Georgia is a unique property whose history goes all the way back to 1832, when Nancy Ferrell planted a small formal garden. Her daughter Sarah began her own garden in 1841. From then until her death in 1903, she developed "Ferrell Gardens." It became one of the most famous gardens in the nation. Her husband, Judge Blount Ferrell, died in 1908, and three years later Fuller Calloway Sr. and his wife Ida Cason bought the estate. They built a magnificent Italian style villa on the site of the old Fuller home in 1916; and as they worked to restore the gardens, they diligently preserved Sarah Fuller's original garden plans. The leaflet I received describes Hills and Dales Estate as a "Southern treasure with 35 acres of rolling hills and shady dales." It is a good description!Today the estate remains in the Calloway family, though no one has lived in the house since 1998. The estate is now a house and garden museum, open to the public.

I recently visited with other garden lovers from the Birmingham area. No photos are allowed inside the home, but I can say the home is a wonderful complement to the fabulous gardens. One thing that truly impressed me, in a house full of impressive features, was the airy servant's room on the third floor, beautifully decorated and complete with a bathroom with all the finest features of the other bathrooms in the home. The room also featured a round window with the most magnificent view in the home, looking out over the loveliest part of the gardens. Lucky servant!

I will begin a very abbreviated photo tour of the gardens with a look at the exterior of the original garage, where southern magnolias are espaliered. The beautiful tree trunk in the foreground belongs to a crepe myrtle.

Not far from the garage is where, in 1950, Alice Calloway converted part of a large vegetable garden into the Ray Garden:

Next are three scenes within the herb garden:

Next to the herb garden is the greenhouse, where orchids, begonias, blooming tropicals, ferns, and succulents grow.

The tour guide shooed us out of the greenhouse long before I was finished looking at all the features inside. There was too much to see! Scenes inside the greenhouse:

I like this wreath made with succulents.

Near the herb garden is this ancient China fir, part of the original planting by Sarah Ferrell:

Sarah Ferrell also planted this venerable Ginkgo:

Sarah Ferrell was a devout Christian. Inspired by the the Genesis verse, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth," she planted the word GOD into boxwood at the original entrance to her garden. This may have saved the house during the Civil War when Sherman's troops came through the area, burning and pillaging. Legend reports that the officer in charge of the troops that approached Sarah's home was a religious man, and he spared the property when he saw GOD. My only criticism is that, while GOD remains, there is no elevated view from which visitors can take a photo!

Here are more views of the garden, including Sarah's famous boxwood parterres. You may identify GOD in the smaller shot on the upper left, taken from a side angle:

I have visited several great gardens this month, soaking up inspiration. Deep summer is here now, and with the sticky heat, there are few changes being made in my own garden; but I am just waiting for fall!



PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (22)

Hi Deb
Lovely garden and thanks for the history. Please don't be thinking about fall yet! I've been waiting and waiting for heat - and it's just getting here now. Enjoy!

June 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAstrid

Is that shading in the glasshouse? The entire is just...wow, totally magnificent!

June 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMark and Gaz

What a fantastic place, the garden and it's history is beautiful, love the Ray Garden, such a novel idea! Please don't wish the summer away, ours has only just started!

June 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPauline

Oh my this is tooooooooooooo lovely! You visited on a day so perfect for capturing its beauty, too.
I love that she created a GOD topiary section. In the beginning, indeed!
Wow! what a place.

June 23, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkaren mulhern

There are so many lovely gardens I would like to visit. It is lovely when a garden is maintained in the same way it was designed; it doesn't happen that often.

June 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Thanks for the posting. Such a beautiful place. Jack

June 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJack

If it has to be sticky and hot, at least you can enjoy the beauty around you. This is a lovely garden. thanks for sharing your pictures - and the history.

June 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKris P

Visiting beautiful gardens, to me it seems the perfect way to pass summer.

June 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

Three photos were missing when I visited today. I'll check back later to see if they appear. I'm surprised you even want to visit other's gardens in this heat. I sure don't want to be tromping around outside after about 11 a.m. Sarah Ferrell must have had great vision. You did a fine job on the photos.

June 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Jones

Deb - I came back and all the photos are there now.

June 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Jones

Gorge-ous! I would love to see this one. And, I love, love boxwood anything. Thanks for sharing.

June 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJeannine

You mentioned that GOD was not seen from an elevated view or at least where you could take a photo. Could it not have been seen from the house upper stories? I do this often on estate design, where something special is only fully seen from a special upper floor space. This estate has so much essence of the South. I love box and think I could almost be right at home in a Southern garden. Well, I still need the snow....

June 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

Hello, everyone! Thanks for all of your comments. I read each one, and each one means a lot to me. Donna, I did not see GOD from the house. It is quite a way from the house, and a lot of trees are in the way. Even if there was a view of that group of boxwoods, we were not allowed to take photos from within the house. I think that they could accommodate visitors wanting to take photos by removing some of the boxwoods from the edge of a nearby terrace. You are right that this house has so much essence of the South; that was my thought exactly. Deb

June 23, 2014 | Registered CommenterDeborah Elliott

Your photos of the grounds are amazing, it would be really interesting to see the inside of the house; your description makes it sound quite special.

Devout Christian gardener created another Garden of Eden - without snakes? The venerable Gingko is my fave pic.

June 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercatmint

I think you have the right approach to gardening in the hottest months of the year. Tour instead of weeding! While I am not generally one for elaborate pruning, I rather liked the southern magnolias that were pruned and espaliered. Someone took great care to create and maintain those magnolias. I love the God topiary story. It's nice to think God had a hand in saving the house and garden.

June 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

Wow, great stories! Especially the one about the Boxwood topiaty and the soldiers! It's hard to believe that one scene is a vegetable garden because it's so tidy! Love the Magnolia espalier!

June 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBeth @ PlantPostings

What a great garden! Everything looks so neat and tidy. I'm glad the estate was saved. Very interesting history. :)

June 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCasa Mariposa

Definitely a garden worth visiting! Thanks for telling us the history behind this awesome place.

June 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

Beautiful! That is an impressive greenhouse! And what an awesome Gingko tree! I've never seen a Magnolia espaliered before. So great that a historic place like that was preserved.

June 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterIndie

Deb this is a beautiful garden and I love the story of the GOD shrub and Sherman's troops. As our summer is not so oppressive just yet, I hope to get out and find my garden again. I look forward to seeing more of your garden visits.

June 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDonna@Gardens Eye View

It's a beautiful garden, and I loved your description of visiting gardens to soak up inspiration -- something I intend to do more of now that I'm retired.

June 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJean

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>