If it’s springtime, it’s a Blooming Festival at Hamilton Gardens! Yes, Spring has finally arrived in all its splendor here in our little corner of the mountains and with springtime’s warm sunny days and cool comes the colorful and aromatic show of blooms from the plentiful rhododendrons and azaleas that blanket the area. There’s no better place to see this magnificent display of flowering trees and shrubs than at Hamilton Gardens. Just outside of Hiawassee, GA, Hamilton Gardens is located within the grounds of the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds. Covering more than 33 acres, this woodland garden paradise is the largest collection of rhododendrons in the Southeast. It is listed by the State of Georgia as a botanical garden and lives up to its name through the diversity of native wildflowers, plants, shrubs and trees scattered throughout the grounds. You’ll find wildflowers such as Trilliums, Shooting Stars, Wild Ginger, Trout Lilies, May apples and Solomon’s Seal tucked in and around the paths and walkways. The gardens are a truly unique venue to see and experience the best of southeastern flora. But what makes this garden really special are the more than 1,500 rhododendrons and native azaleas within its borders. There are as many as 400 varieties of rhododendrons in the garden—the show of blooms is amazing and quite memorable, coming in all sizes, shapes and colors.
Although the best time to visit the garden to view the springtime blooms is from mid-April to mid-May (depending on local weather conditions), the garden is open year-round and offers a wonderful opportunity for a quiet walk on well-groomed paths surrounded by nature. The trails wind through the garden, surrounded by the lush foliage and offering glimpses of Lake Chatuge and the nearby mountains (see if you can spot the tower atop Brasstown Bald!). Guided walking and golf-cart tours are available by appointment. If you visit during the spring season, be sure to stop by the greenhouse – you might just find that perfect plant to take home.
If you’re lucky enough to be in our little corner of the mountains in late May, be sure to take in the very special “Full Moon Concert” being held at the gardens on May 29th at 6:30pm in the Pavilion (rain or shine). Entertainment will be provided by musician Teddy Baker, known for his songs about the wonder of life, love, and stories from a life filled with passion, faith, listening to others and an undying love for writing music!
Hamilton Gardens is open year-round, from 8am until dusk. Admission to the gardens is free of charge most of the year with a small fee during the rhododendron blooming season. There is a donation box available for maintaining the gardens by the local Lions Club for year-round guests. No pets allowed.