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Hills & Dales featured in new book

Staci Catron remembers exactly when she fell in love with Hills & Dales Estate.

As a graduate student in the late 1990s, she visited the Callaway family’s LaGrange home and historic garden during the latter years of Alice Callaway’s life.

“I was struck by her intense love of plants and the beauty of the site. It was magical to me. For days afterward, I dreamed about Hills & Dales,” she said.

Now director of the Cherokee Garden Library at the Atlanta History Center and a former president of the Southern Garden History Society, Catron will return to LaGrange on Oct. 22 for the Elms & Roses Garden Club Council’s 5th annual garden lecture. She and co-author Mary Ann Eaddy will speak on their new book, Seeking Eden: A Collection of Georgia’s Historic Gardens.

Co-sponsored by Hills & Dales Estate, the event will be held at Del’avant, 141 Main St., beginning at 5:30 p.m. with refreshments, book sales/signings and a plant sale by Jason Powell of Petals from the Past in Jemison, Alabama.

The lecture, featuring the nearly 30 gardens in the book and more than 90 slides, will follow at 6:30 p.m.

Carleton Wood, executive director of Hills & Dales, says Seeking Eden is the most important book about the gardens of Georgia since Garden History of Georgia, 1733-1933 was published in 1933.

“This book beautifully tells the stories of Georgia’s most important historic gardens. The stories are complemented by lovely photographs that bring each place to life. We are delighted it includes a generous chapter on Hills & Dales,” Wood said.

In a sense, Seeking Eden is a “sequel” to the 1933 work, which was published by the Peachtree Garden Club as part of Georgia’s bicentennial celebration.  In 2002, the Garden Club of Georgia established the Georgia Historic Landscape Initiative, in collaboration with the Cherokee Garden Library of the Atlanta History Center, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources-Historic Preservation Division and the National Park Service- Southeast Regional Office, with a goal of determining how the approximately 160 gardens in the earlier book had fared since 1933. Seeking Eden features 30 of those gardens in full-length chapters with beautiful photographs and an appendix with brief updates on all of the gardens.

Research conducted with help from garden club volunteers and college students determined that about one third of the original sites had been lost, another third were remnants and the rest survived. Some gardens that were private in 1933 are public gardens now, including Hills & Dales.  Co-authors Catron and Eaddy, retired manager of the technical services unit of the Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, spent the past five years researching and writing about a collection of the surviving gardens.

“We selected gardens to represent a range of styles, geographic locations and time periods,” Catron said. “Then we divided the list down the middle, each of us writing about half the gardens.”

Among the well-known gardens featured are Dunaway Gardens near Newnan, Barnsley Gardens in Adairsville, Swan House in Atlanta, the historic squares of Savannah and Founders Memorial Garden at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Catron knew from day one that she wanted to write the chapter about Hills & Dales.

Her research for the book brought her to LaGrange multiple times.

“I utilized the Troup County Archives and visited Hills & Dales several times. The staff there is remarkable, incredibly knowledgeable and very kind,” she said.