Published on 06/11/09

UGA Trial Gardens open house July 11

By April Sorrow
University of Georgia

What began as a vacant lot of land and one man’s dream has blossomed into a world-renowned research garden, where materials from plant breeders across the world are tested and displayed each year.

The public can get a first-hand look at the University of Georgia Trial Gardens at its annual open house July 11 from 8 a.m. until noon. The gardens are located in Athens, Ga., between Snelling Dining Hall and the R. C. Wilson Pharmacy Building. Parking is available in the South Campus Parking Deck.

The gardens are always open to visitors, free of charge. During the annual open house, however, tours will be led by UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences horticulture professor Allan Armitage and his students.

A well-known writer, speaker, researcher and teacher, Armitage spearheaded the garden’s creation in 1982.

The recipient of many awards, he has introduced several plants to the ornamental industry. His work with heat- and humidity-tolerant crops resulted in the national marketing program Athens Select. Approximately 30 plants have been introduced under the label, including Princess Pennisetum, Ragin Cajin Ruellia and Bonita Shea Begonia.

The author of 13 books, Armitage will have signed copies available at the open house.

Advanced and novice gardeners visit the gardens throughout the year to gather ideas for their own gardens and to view the latest plant releases.

Gail Eilers from Jacksonville, Fla., describes the garden as an “unnecessarily beautiful” place.

“The rose-covered gazebo is breathtaking,” she said. “Walking around, I learned the names of plants. I saw a student putting in a bunch of flats of annuals. It’s hard to find gardens like that.”

A frequent visitor of public gardens, Eilers praised the university staff that maintains the site.

“Seeing a place like that makes you feel good about the whole institution,” she said. “The garden has so many beautiful examples. What really amazed me was how healthy and in what great shape all the plants are in.”

In addition to being a popular site for gardeners, CAES faculty and staff use it for research and teaching. The gardens are also a resource for breeders, retailers, growers, landscapers and consumers.

A plant sale featuring interesting and hard-to-find plants is a new feature of this year’s open house. Rain barrels and garden art from a local artist will be available for purchase. The event will be held rain or shine and a donation of $5 is requested. For more information or for directions, visit the Web site

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

April R. Sorrow is a science writer with the University of Georgia Public Affairs Office.