Hit the Road

July 20, 2019

Summer is upon us and area gardeners might enjoy a break from weeding. Let’s explore some opportunities for quick getaways, day trips that refresh not exhaust or exasperate.


The Huntsville Botanical Garden makes a fabulous one-day destination. We went there a few years ago and returned inspired to make something of our backyard wilderness. This is still a work in progress, but a first step is essential to every journey.


Opened in 1985, the Huntsville garden expanded to 112 acres in 1990 with tremendous community support. Visitors may wander through paved and unpaved paths to explore a children’s garden, a butterfly house, a huge and varied herb garden and a Master Gardener Volunteer demonstration garden, among other areas.


Located at 4747 Bob Wallace Ave. SW, the garden’s summer hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission for adults is $14, children 3 to 18 years of age $9. Seniors, military members, and students are $12. There are picnic areas in the gardens. If you do not pack a lunch, a lunch counter selling salads and sandwiches is located near the giftshop.

 The Aquarium butterfly garden


Closer to home, Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center sits at the foot of Lookout Mountain. From I-24, take the Brown’s Ferry Road Exit 174 and travel Old Wauhatchie Pike (TN 318) to Garden Road. It is open Tuesday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Weekend hours are 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $7 per child.


Fourteen miles of trails allow visitors to wander the 317 acres and even connect with trails on the slope of the mountain. My husband and grandson hiked to Point Park and rode the Incline down to St. Elmo where I met them with the car. Reflection Riding has been a certified arboretum since 2000. The many garden areas feature native plants, a huge treehouse and the wheelchair-accessible Blue Heron Boardwalk. The Nature Center houses native critters, some of which are being rehabilitated for return to the wild. Snake Tail Alley might be of particular interest to some visitors.   


Located at 900 N. Sanctuary Road in East Brainerd, Audubon Acres is another area arboretum. Five miles of trails lead visitors to forest, meadow, hilltop and wetland environments in the 130-acre park. There is access to South Chickamauga Creek for paddling or swimming. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and teens and $3 for children 3 to 12. Hours are Monday to Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.


If you are exploring downtown Chattanooga, there are two free gardens to visit. Hamilton County Master Gardener Volunteers maintain a butterfly garden on a hill between the aquarium buildings. There is a secret garden in the IMAX lobby. Just walk in and turn left. This whimsical garden was designed by Christine Hunt, lead horticulturalist at the Aquarium. It features an interesting stainless-steel arbor and pond and many colorful perennial flowers.


Summer can be a great time to explore the outdoors in our own backyard so let’s hit the road.


Master gardener Ann Bartlett spends some of her summer roving far and freely, exploring the horticultural ideas of others and storing them up for the betterment of the ornamental beds surrounding her home. Email Ann at arose56@hamilton.net. 

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