Private Gardens, Horticultural Hybridization, and a Visit with Dr. Mike Dirr!
Southeast Region - open to members and non-members
Thursday, Friday and Saturday
March 21-23, 2024
In and around Athens, Georgia
With accommodations already filling up in and around Athens, Georgia, we urge you to book your hotel early* for this amazing weekend field trip—featuring tours of four awesome private gardens in the Athens, Georgia area, including the personal home garden of world renowned Dr. Mike Dirr, as well as a private tour of the University of Georgia Horticulture Farm.
In no particular order; a specific schedule will be forthcoming
Dr. Mike Dirr’s Private Garden
Dr. Dirr is very pleased to host our Maple Society group for a tour of his home garden. Given all of the extensive articles and books he's written about trees and shrubs, it will be very interesting to see what his personal garden has in store... we're told it includes about 250 different plants.
Tom and Ram Gilberson's Garden
This two and one-half acre sloping lot in a subdivision has been completely transformed into an oasis featuring waterfalls, koi ponds, and a traditional Thai spirit house, with a huge collection of Japanese maples and rare and unusual plants.
One of the fascinating features is how the owners integrated a duck and separate chicken enclosure seamlessly to provide a marvelous supporting component of the design. As a Maple Society member commented “these are not just Chicken Coops”! Whet your appetite with this video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XpLeNb1rfY
Located just across the street from the Gilbertson's, this garden was recommended to us by Dr. Allen Armitage, the well-known author and perennial plant expert with the Georgia Horticulture program.
Dale Berrong's Garden
Dale is a previous president of the Maple Society who has planted and cultivated a large woodland garden near Athens for years, featuring many maple cultivars to support his broad interest in woody plants.
Several years ago, Dale bought the nursery stock from the estate of the late Willis Harden, who was a well-known wholesale grower of Japanese Maples and rhododendrons, and incorporated them into his ever expanding woodland garden. He has introduced at least one named maple cultivar.
Garden Design Maple Nursery
No garden tour of Maples is complete without a visit to at least one specialty maple nursery. We'll take a tour of Garden Design, where owner David Free has introduced maple varieties to trade—Radiant is one of his well-known introduced cultivars.
We also encourage you to do a little research and visit some of the other small specialty nurseries in the Athens area, which are likely a bi-product of the nationally renowned horticulture program at the University of Georgia.
University of Georgia Horticultural Farm
Dr. Donglin Zhang is a very outgoing and friendly enthusiast of woody plants who will be giving us a private tour through the University's Horticultural Farm, where a great deal of controlled plant hybridization is underway... this is your opportunity to see part of the future of horticulture.
As a rapidly rising star in the outstanding faculty of UGA’s horticulture program, Donglin is also on the faculty of a Chinese university and works closely with plant explorers in hybridizing their new discoveries. He is particularly interested in developing better tea plants (Camellia sinensis) for gardeners and facilitating the growth of the tea industry in Georgia; he has thousands of these in his trial plantings.
*Book Your Hotel Right Away
Hotels in the Athens area were either already booked or quite pricey for the weekend (there were no multiple rooms available at the inns in Athens). Thus, the central meeting point will be the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Commerce, Georgia, located at 133 Frontage Road (from I-85, take exit 149 at Hwy 441). We strongly recommend you book your rooms as soon as possible, either at this Holiday Inn, or one of the other hotels located at this same exit:
Baymont by Wyndham
Country Inn & Suites by Radisson
Fairfield Inn & Suites
Please register so we can have an accurate headcount for our tours. There is no cost for current Maple Society members; non-members pay just $15—OR—if you become a member by the end of the event (Saturday March 23), you can apply your $15 registration fee towards an annual membership, and take advantage of a wealth of member discounts and additional benefits all year long!
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Note to Non-Members: clicking the above button will bring up a window asking you to log in to your existing account—simply click on the "X" in the upper right corner to close the window, and proceed with your registration.