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Public gardens around Georgia

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Let's face it — an afternoon stroll through a quiet public garden will never be as popular as game day at Turner Field. Under-celebrated as they are, public gardens are an uncommon and simple pleasure of summer, and more enjoyable for the lack of crowds. Iced tea tastes better in the presence of fully blooming camellias. Sunshine seems more brilliant on the petals of a tulip. Instead of roaring fans, one can hear the breezy rustle of leaves. The careful selection and maintenance of flora at an arboretum can surprise and impress in the same manner as a well-curated museum. It's a path less traveled, and that makes "all the difference."

ATLANTA BOTANICAL GARDEN Displays of unusual regional flora and endangered plants from around the world in its Dorothy Chapman Fuqua Conservatory. Also has an interactive children's garden, year-round classes, exhibits and plant shows. $7-$12. Tues.-Sun., 9 a.m.-7 p.m. 1345 Piedmont Ave. 404-876-5859. www.atlantabotanicalgarden.org

ATLANTA HISTORY CENTER Sure, we knew about the Atlanta History Museum, the 1845 Tullie Smith Farm, the 1928 Swan House mansion, and the research archives and special libraries. But 33 acres of gardens, too? Nice. $10-$15. Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sun., noon-5:30 p.m. 130 W. Paces Ferry Road. 404-814-4000. www.atlantahistorycenter.org.

BAMBOO FARM AND COASTAL GARDENS A hidden gem in Savannah's coastal landscape, this 50-acre site boasts pick-your-own strawberry and blackberry farms as well as beautiful bamboo groves. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun., noon-5 p.m. 2 Canebrake Road, Savannah. 912-921-5460. www.bamboo.caes.uga.edu.

DUNAWAY GARDENS A historical site with show-biz history, these ornate gardens played host to famous performers and producers throughout the '20s, '30s and '40s. The grounds include spring-fed pools and waterfalls among the sublime fauna. $10. Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sun., noon-4 p.m. 3218 Roscoe Road/Ga. 70, Newnan. 678-423-4050. www.dunawaygardens.com.

LOCKERLY ARBORETUM Nestled in Flannery O'Connor's hometown of Milledgeville, this 50-acre living museum offers a bevy of instructional tours and educational programs. Free. Mon.-Fri., 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Sat., 1-5 p.m. 1534 Irwinton Road, Milledgeville. 478-452-2112. www.lockerly.org.

MASSEE LANE GARDENS The headquarters for the American Camellia Society includes collections of camellias, daylilies and roses. Tea ceremonies in the Japanese Garden are a must for ladies and gents. $5. Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Sun., 1-4:30 p.m. 100 Massee Lane, Fort Valley. 478-967-2358. www.camellias-acs.com.

PEBBLE HILL PLANTATION A 3,000-acre property dating back to 1825, this plantation offers plenty of space for exploration and wandering. Kids love the shrubbery maze. $5. Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun., 1-5 p.m. 1251 U.S. 319 South, Thomasville. 229-227-5387. www.pebblehill.com.

STATE BOTANICAL GARDENS OF GEORGIA A 313-acre preserve along the Middle Oconee River set aside by the University of Georgia with expertly tended gardens ranging in style from Japanese to English. There's also more than five miles of nature trails on the property, perfect for hiking, running or walking, and a scennic Garden Cafe. Daily, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. 2450 South Miledge Ave. 706-542-1244. www.uga.edu/botgarden/.

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