Published on 06/29/06

'Gardens at UGA' open house set July 8 in Athens

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

A "hey, how are you?" shot across the garden as B.J. Garrett reached through green foliage to check a plant's name tag. Her answer -- "crazy" -- fit the day as she, University of Georgia horticulture professor Allan Armitage and several others put in the final touches for an open house.

For two weeks in June, Garrett spent nine hours a day in the Gardens at UGA. For her, it was worth it. After all, she got to play with plants. On July 8, she'll be sharing a few of her babies (for a price) with anyone who comes by.

The Gardens at UGA, formerly known as the UGA Trial Gardens, will have an open house from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 8. Visitors will be treated to Armitage-led tours and can buy trial garden plants, books and, according to Armitage, "other assorted goodies."

"The open house is important because we want people to know what's here," Armitage said. "It's a fabulous place."

It isn't a typical garden. Seeds and plugs (small, newly sprouted plants) come from companies who have chosen the Gardens at UGA as a testing ground for new plant varieties. Many of the plants grown there aren't available for retail sale.

"Our plants range from the usual to the very unusual that you'll never see anywhere else," Armitage said. "You get to see the future here, see what will be out in five years."

As head Master Gardener and volunteer coordinator at the trial garden, Garrett sees it as her way of giving back to the community. "We want to get it to where people know that the garden's here," she said.

She knelt in front of another plant. Of all the carefully organized perennials and annuals there, the ones she favors most are "the ones you don't have to deadhead," she said, which involves trimming the spent blossoms off of flowers.

She's been gardening most of her life -- "since I was a teen. My mom enjoyed flowers so we worked together in her garden."

The Gardens at UGA were started in 1982. "It was a blank piece of property," Armitage said. "And now it's green space, according to the university."

Athens-area Master Gardeners maintain the garden and recently helped beautify it by building some trellises at the garden's entryway, Garrett said.

The open house is in its fourth year and will be held rain or shine. The entry fee is $5, and all money collected will go toward the trial gardens.

"It's a great place to meet friends, see plants and socialize," Armitage said.

For more information or directions to the open house, visit

(Stephanie Schupska is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Stephanie Schupska is the communications coordinator with the University of Georgia Honors College.