Friday, September 24, 2010

John A. Sibley Horticultural Center at Callaway Gardens, GA


Gardens are places that distance us from the chaotic pace of life and give us a chance to relax and organize our thoughts. For many of us they are refuge from the stress of life and allow us to express ourselves. Nature provides the chance for us to use our creative skills in formulating patterns with the colors that flowers provide. They have inspired artists, poets, and opened the doors of our imaginations.

The John A. Sibley Horticultural Center at Callaway Gardens takes the art of gardening to new heights. On the expansive 5 acres, the experimental gardens grow native and exotic plants. The Mediterranean and tropical gardens provide a suitable growing climate with the use of computers. The indoor displays are changed throughout the year to compliment the changing seasons.

Horticultural Center: 

IMG_6458 IMG_6466

When it came time for the construction of the unique Horticultural Center, Callaway hired the landscape designer Robert Marvin who was well known for his environmental designing abilities that promoted energy conservation. One of the unique characteristics of the center is the use of 26 folding glass doors which can be opened and closed manually to provide ventilation in the summer and make use of solar heat in the winter. The glass doors are an astounding 24-feet heat weighing 1,600 pounds each!

IMG_6457 IMG_6459

The Horticultural Center provides a tranquil setting for wedding ceremonies and events. The facility’s 22-foot indoor waterfall is a great background for photographs.

IMG_6463 silver-spotted skipper

The glass greenhouse has a variety of interesting species from desert plants to tropical bananas. The outdoor gardens are equally thrilling. Hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies all busy themselves as they strive to gather their share of nectar. During our visit, a vivid green hummingbird flew inside the greenhouse and sat gracefully perched on a branch. The Horticultural Center shows Callaway’s efforts in sustaining a harmonious relationship between man and nature while providing for the needs of both.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden at Callaway Gardens


Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden is a welcoming site with its seven and a half acres flowing with juicy vegetables, blossoming wildflowers, soothing herbs, and mouthwatering fruit. Particularly alluring is the southern feel that overcomes visitors upon entering the garden. This atmosphere is what provided the setting for the popular television show, The Victory Garden, that aired on PBS. What a thrill to enter a famous garden!

Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden was one of the last major projects developed by Cason J. Callaway before his passing. The garden was named in his memory and now lives on in the mind of all who enter. The gardens demonstrate scientific, educational, and practical applications for growing fruits and vegetables. The test plots might even inspire visitors to try new methods in their own garden.

Learn more at their website:

IMG_6349 corn

The vegetable garden hosts more than 400 varieties of crops. The crops grown include some of the traditional as well as southern favorites. The varieties chosen are selected for their visual appeal, quality, and succulent flavor. The vigorous plants are cared for by Callaway employees and the best produce is selected to be sold in the Callaway store and restaurant. There is nothing better than fresh fruits and vegetables grown with care and love!


I found the tomato plot especially interesting. Wooden polls and wire was used to host up the bushy tomatoes. This provided support and guidance to keep plants from trailing along the grounds. 


Muscadine grapes were beginning to develop fruit when we arrived in July. Grapes are ready to pick in the fall for use as jellies, sauces, pies, and wine that is after competition with birds! This variety is native to the south and thrives in regions with mild winters. It grows in the wild and benefits from a supportive trellis.

Victory Garden southIMG_6341

Our last stop was to the Victory Garden South. The shed within the garden doubles as the Vegetable Garden Shop in the summer and at intervals during the spring and fall.


Vegetable scraps and organic matter is recycled into nutritious compost. This is truly inspirational to all fellow organic gardens or those who inspire to in the future. Compost feeds the roots therefore producing healthy plants and produce. Never underestimate the power of compost in the garden. Plus its free!

Elizabeth’s Traveling Tips: I suggest bringing sunscreen, sunglasses, shade hat or an umbrella during the summer.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cecil B. Day Butterfly Conservatory at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia


The 13,000-acre Callaway Gardens showcases multiple attractions and features a resort complex which are all tucked away in Pine Mountain, Georgia. Callaway was opened on May 21, 1952 after being founded by Cason J. and Virginia Hand Callaway as part of the non-profit Ida Cason Callaway Foundation. Their mission is to connect man and nature in a way that benefits both. The project became successful with the creation of Callaway Gardens which now houses several attractions including the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Garden Center, Virginia Callaway Discovery Center, John A. Sibley Horticultural Center, Birds of Prey, and Robin Lake Beach. Callaway Gardens is a community with its own restaurants, shops, resort, golfing, and multiple trails for bikers and hikers.

IMG_6281 IMG_6283

The Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center is one of the largest glass enclosed conservatories in North America. It has over 50 different species that flutter about the climate controlled exhibit. Visitors can experience the thrill of hatching butterflies at the transformation window. Visitors can also watch the award-winning video, On Wings of Wonder which plays continuously.


Watch my You Tube video below for a virtual tour of the butterfly conservatory as well as exquisite butterfly photographs.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Agricultural Museum in Palm Coast, Florida


The Florida Agricultural Museum is located 17 miles south of St. Augustine, Florida in Palm Coast. Guided farm tours are available Wednesday through Sunday. The tour attractions include a fully stored pioneer homestead from the 1890s, a dry goods store from the turn-of-the-century, a dairy barn, and restored buildings from a 1930s citrus business. To make the transport comfortable, visitors can ride on tractor-pulled trailers to each exhibit. It is a bit bumpy, but is nicely shaded from the harsh sun. 


Our first stop was at a homestead from the 1890s which would have been used by the Florida Crackers. This shelter is one of the typical homes that would have been built by Florida and Georgia settlers. The wide porch and slanted roof provided protection from the sun and kept the house cool since there was no air conditioners in those days.

Indoor Tour



IMG_6176 IMG_6177

The kitchen was a separate room from the house. This kept excess heat out of the living area and was an extra precaution in case a fire started.

IMG_6178 IMG_6175

Pumpkins, corn, and other food crops were grown right outside the house in the garden. The picture to the right show the chicken coop that would have been used at the time. Muscadine grape vine are grown up the wire to keep the coop cooler. The vines benefit from the chicken droppings and the chickens are rewarded with fallen grapes. Cracker cattle & horses, donkeys, and mules are also raised on the farm. The museum raises the rare Cracker cattle and horses to conserve the heritage of these livestock breeds.

Sugar Cane Production


Sugar cane was a major crop of Cracker farmers.
It was mashed in this grinder above to begin the
syrup extraction process.

IMG_6184 fire  

To collect the syrup, it was heated above a fire in a large round basin. A compartment on the side held fire wood to start the fire. Sugar cane was a treat for the settlers to use in candy and as a condiment. It took 7 to 10 gallons of raw cane juice boiled down to get 1 gallon of thick syrup.

General Store

IMG_6187 IMG_6195

The 1890s general store is a peek into the past for those who rely on modern grocery stores for merchandise. The general store had everything from an antique cash register to the old fashioned checkers game. Antiques lined the wall and on the counter were old catalogs that would have been used for ordering items back in the day.  We can be thankful that all we have to do is drive to the nearest Wal-mart and almost everything is before us including several brands to choose from!

Elizabeth’s Traveling Tips: To see more attractions and activities, visit during a festival.