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" into one of the most famous gardens in the nation. Her husband, Judge Blount Ferrell, died in 1908, and three years later the estate was sold to Fuller Calloway Sr. and his wife Ida Cason. To reflect the beauty of the gardens, 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. Today the estate remains in the Calloway family, though no one has lived in the house since 1998, when Alice Calloway passed away, following her husband, Fuller Calloway, Jr., who died in 1992. According to their wishes, 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 will say that 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!
We will begin our (very abbreviated) 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 we look at 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:
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 estate during the Civil War when Sherman's troops came through the area, burning and pillaging. According to legend, the officer in charge of the troops that approached Sarah's home was a religious man who 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!