Photos by Barbie Colvin, except as noted
Lockerly Arboretum was founded in 1965 as a horticultural facility to provide educational programs and access to plant collections. Over a period of 20 to 30 years, an impressive plant collection was assembled, which sought to evaluate the performance of a wide range of woody and herbaceous ornamentals in this region of the Southeastern United States. Plants are displayed in a 50 acre park-like setting that is open to the public year-round.
The centerpiece of the property is a Greek revival mansion known as Rose Hill. Built in 1852, Rose Hill provides an historical and cultural glimpse into Georgia’s rich antebellum past. Currently, the house is maintained as a museum, event venue, and classroom facility.
Rose Hill and the Arboretum can be reserved for weddings, receptions, parties and other special occasions, and photographers often use Lockerly for photo sessions. In 2015, Rose Hill was placed on the Georgia Register of Historic Houses.
Lockerly’s mission is to provide outstanding ecological, horticultural, and historical education, in order to promote preservation and stewardship of the environment by fostering an understanding of and an appreciation for the natural world. Lockerly Arboretum Foundation serves all audiences in our community by providing horticultural displays, educational programs, and recreational opportunities. The arboretum is open six days a week at no charge for self-guided tours of the grounds. Lockerly Arboretum is well known in the community as a popular destination for school field trips and home school groups. Lockerly’s educational programs provide lectures and workshops on a wide range of horticultural topics for children, college students, and adults, many at little or no cost. The number of registered guests and students visiting Lockerly in 2015 exceeded 5,500.
The arboretum grounds contain a diverse collection of plants from around the world as well as a large collection of plants native to Georgia and the Southeastern U.S. Lockerly’s largest plant collection is the conifer garden. The conifer collection at Lockerly Arboretum was started in the early 1980’s. The majority of it was planted between 1988 and 1992. In February of 2009, the arboretum received a gift-in-kind of over 100 conifers from Head-Lee Nursery in Seneca, South Carolina, and in 2011, the arboretum was awarded a grant from the ACS Southeast Region that provided an additional 90 conifers to enhance the collection. A second ACS grant for $3000 was awarded in 2013. In late December 2013 and January 2014, over 115 new plants were added to the Conifer Reference Garden as a result of this grant. The expansion added plants from 11 different genera and 44 different species or cultivars. Currently, the reference garden has over 547 specimens representing 23 genera, 45 species, and 151 different cultivars.
In addition to the conifer collection, Lockerly is home to a large Camellia collection and a Native Plant Collection. Another feature at Lockerly is a one half mile woodland nature trail that follows a stream traveling across the property. The nature trail is home to many mature hardwoods, ferns and wildflowers, including a Tall Stewartia (Stewartia monadelpha) that is a Georgia State Champion tree. The Education Director frequently uses this trail for school field trips and summer camps because of the significant plant diversity found in this woodland habitat. In addition to the Tall Stewartia, Lockerly has two other State Champion trees on site: a Cedar Elm and a Small-leaf Viburnum.
Visitors have the option of walking on trails or driving through the arboretum to explore the gardens. The arboretum has a one acre pond, a smaller koi pond, and a reflecting pool with a fountain. The two glass greenhouses were recently remodeled to accommodate plant propagation needs and a tropical plant and orchid collection. In 2015, a new plant collection data management project was started to improve documentation and labeling of plants in the gardens, with plans to include interactive features on our website. The Woods Museum, built in the early 1900’s as a tenant house, has been recently remodeled and reopened as a Visitor Center and Museum. The museum displays a huge 333 year old section of a bald cypress, botanical displays, and historical information about Rose Hill and the founder of Lockerly Arboretum, E.J. Grassmann. Mr. Grassmann was a visionary who valued plant diversity and educational opportunities to learn about horticulture. Photos, newsletters and other information about Lockerly Arboretum may be found at at the garden’s website, www.lockerly.org
Excerpt from the December 2016 Southeastern Conifer Quarterly. Gain access to archives of past newsletters and the National Conifer Quarterly by becoming a member of the American Conifer Society.