Reflections from Hamilton Gardens

Written By: Visitors Bureau

Hamilton Gardens is approaching its 40th birthday; a good time to look back at how and when it came to be.

Hazel and Fred Hamilton lived in Atlanta, where he was an executive with Sears, Roebuck and Company. They had a second home in Towns County. The Hamilton’s loved native azaleas and rhododendrons and collected specimens from locations around the globe and propagated many varieties in their greenhouse. A number of those were eventually planted on their two properties and now reside in Hamilton Gardens. Mr. Hamilton was an active member of the American Rhododendron Society for many years.

The Hamilton’s knew the day would come when they could no longer manage the huge gardens they had so lovingly created. In an effort to preserve the plants and save them from eventually being destroyed by a bulldozer, their vision was to give their entire collection of native azaleas and rhododendrons to the citizens of Towns County, if they could find a suitable location. Mr. Hamilton discovered the perfect home on the slopes of Lake Chatuge atop the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds campus, and GMF and the county welcomed this gift for the newly created Towns County Park. 

Hamilton Gardens at Lake Chatuge is the largest rhododendron garden in the southeast and houses specimen plants that grow only in this location. There are approximately 1,500 plants and perhaps as many as 300 hundred varieties of native azaleas and rhododendrons. It was designated a state botanical garden by the Georgia legislature in 2003, a distinction earned by the diversity of its flora and unique ecosystem. This legacy gift to Towns County is to be treasured and preserved for future generations.

“Let us leave a splendid legacy for our children. Let us turn to them and say, ‘this you inherit: guard it well, for it is far more precious than money; and once destroyed, nature’s beauty cannot be repurchased at any price.”

— Ansel Adams

The Gardens remains open daily for walking: CDC social distancing rules are in place, bathrooms are closed. Visit the Gardens and introduce your children to this magical place that is now blooming.

For more information call 706 970-0011.

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