Do something different this year.  Get the $65 membership at the Atlanta Botanical Garden and hang out in one of the best spots in the ATL all year.  It’s for you if you:

Have any of five senses,

Love the exotic appeal of orchids,

Love getting dirty,

Abhor getting dirty,

Sometimes need solitude,

Sometimes need a party,

Always or occasionally live an environmentally sensitive lifestyle, or

Breathe oxygen.

If this describes you, you will probably love the Garden. As a happy volunteer with the Atlanta Botanical Garden, I discover something new and intriguing all the time . You might like digging your hands in the soil with a gardening class or you may prefer to enjoy the Garden’s cocktail parties, but go and you may rediscover your senses and you will probably know more when you leave than when you got there. It was instilled in me early that the more you know about something, the more intriguing it is and the more you will enjoy it (thanks, Mom). And everyone needs a little intrigue in their lives. I can guarantee you will continuously discover new ways to enjoy the Atlanta Botanical Garden and find a little intrigue for yourself.


Get your season on! Photo: Randy Savage

If you haven’t caught the spirit of the season yet, you may need a jumpstart by now.  After all, it is mid-December.  That’s okay because it has been an extra-stressful year.  But a visit to the Atlanta Botanical Garden “Garden Lights” extravaganza could give you the “snap out of it” you need to get  into the season before it’s too late.

As soon as you turn into the entrance to go park, the lights and colors will make your eyes pop out.  It’s a surreal experience walking through the air among massive tree trunks wrapped in bright blue, fuchsia and green on the Canopy Walk.  The Edible Garden is more whimsical with gigantic charged-up bees and butterflies and the St. Nick of the insect world, Santamantis.  The Great Lawn boasts a flock of gargantuan glowing Christmas tree ornaments performing to favorite holiday tunes.

The most intriguing thing is that all of this is set against the backdrop of the Midtown skyline, which lit up at night just adds another layer of magic.  Tip:  you can best experience this in the Parterre area.

There really aren’t words to describe the experience, so if all you can come up with are “Wow” and “OMG” and “Cool beans” that’s okay.  Just don’t miss it.  It’s one of the happiest holiday things to do in the ATL.

Some carnivorous bromeliads enjoying the chill in the High Elevation House.

Ahhh!  Have you found a favorite place to cool off in the ATL this summer?  There’s the pool, which, if you’re lucky the water’s only 85 degrees or so.  There’s the mall, a reliable source of free AC.   Then there’s something a little more intriguing:  the High Elevation House at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Located in the Fuqua Conservatory building, the High Elevation House is an escape from the heat at the Garden that insiders know well.  Step into the  Cloud Forest and feel a blast of cool dampness, almost like being in a cave, except with sunlight and lush foliage, and a few carnivorous bromeliads.  Then there are the intriguing tiny colorful orchids.  Scientists are not quite sure why the high Andes mountains have so many tiny flowers, but they no doubt serve some purpose for them in their habitat.

Recommended:  visit the Garden in the morning (it opens at 9 am), ending with the High Altitude House as the temperature outside heats up.  Then hit Metro Fresh for nice cool lunch with some chilly lemonade.  Perfectly cool.

Colbie Caillat's music is like a happy sunflower! Photo: Cindy Dyer, The Garden Muse

Are you more Colbie Caillat or more Los Lobos?  Since they are both performing in the ATL at the Atlanta Botanical Garden this summer, you can’t help but do some botanical comparisons with their music.  Here’s an exploration of their floral mates in the Garden:

Colbie Caillat, September 16 –When she opens with her animated super-happy tunes, you just know sunflowers are going to shoot up out of the lawn and bloom like crazy.  They might even rock back and forth to the beat of “Brighter than the Sun.”

Los Lobos, August 26 – Their long association with wolves is a little ominous, but the music is great and quite harmless. Los Lobos might bring to mind the tough-sounding Rattlesnake Master now blooming in the Garden’s bog.  In fact, they get the whole bog with the Venus Flytraps and all the carnivorous plants.

Steve Earle and the Dukes and Duchesses, July 15 – Seven wives,  a little addiction and some jail time have given Mr. Earle some solid-twangy musical material.  An all American country music survivor who has attracted every possible blight in life deserves a like-minded Garden mate:  a thorny American rose.

So, if you agree with their floral matches, are you more like Colbie in a field of sunflowers?  Or Los Lobos and the more menacing side of the plant world?  Maybe a little Earle-ish in the hard-knocks rose garden?

No pressure to choose.

Just ice water...for now.

This Thursday’s  Cocktails in the Garden series at the Atlanta Botanical Garden might be the most intriguing ever.  The theme “Moonflowers and Moonshine” sounds just magical, in a Southern backwoods kind of way.  Sort of like unicorns and shotguns.

Evidently July’s cocktail of the month will be Moonshine, available 6-10 pm on Thursday evenings along with groovin’ DJ sounds of Lethal Rhythms.   So, you can enjoy the intoxicating beauty of the Garden while swigging your jar of Moonshine (I’m not sure it will be served in a Mason jar, but wouldn’t that be lovely).   The Garden’s cocktail Thursdays are one of the most refreshing things to do in the ATL.   It is after all “the most beautiful cocktail party” in Atlanta.   There will be some suitable bites to soak up the hooch so you don’t lose your cookies in the hydrangeas.  Note from your mother:  imbibe in moderation and remember to leave the Garden for others to enjoy after you.

In actuality, I am certain the Moonshine will be a much more refined version of the Appalachian black market classic.  And I am doubly certain that the scenery will be even better.  Tip:  arrive just before dark to catch the sunset and evening cool-down.

Then flow with the moon, if you dare…

The Gnomes of Storza Woods

Last weekend I participated in a collaborative home-building effort at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

But not for people, for Gnomes.  I volunteered to help with Woodland Weekends at the Garden, which offers up fun and interesting children’s activities.  I reported for duty and was assigned the Gnome Home craft and handed a box of assorted sticks, leaves and pine cones.  My mission was to enlist kids visiting the Garden to build a home of natural materials suitable for the Gnomes of the Storza Woods.  Intriguing.

Fortunately these Gnomes were only a couple of inches tall, so verticality wasn’t an issue.  I did a pretty good job as Chief Architect, but it was inspiring to see (and remember) what kids can do with a stick and a couple of pieces of bark.   We quickly ran out of the supplies in the box and had to gather more building material from the woods (oops, I hope that was okay…).  Over the course of three hours, we had expanded a basic teepee structure to include a deck, garage and  sun room.

Enjoying the Sun Room

Quite a few guests – some of them international –  thought it was an intriguing photo-op, so I’m sure there are artful images of the Gnome Home on other blogs across the web.

The Gnomes seemed pleased.

What are we doing for Dad's Day?

You probably had him at “Beef,” but add Trains and Bluegrass  and surely you’ll have the way to Dad’s heart. 

If you don’t have plans for Dad’s Day yet (shame on you!), the Atlanta Botanical Garden has great day set up for the family.  First of all, Dad gets in for half-price admission.  You can grab the kids and grandkids and head straight to the grand lawn for the Ride-on Train.  Okay it’s not the real solid steel freight train Dad has always fantasized about commanding, but he’s got imagination, right?  This one will chug-chug Dad + kids around the lawn ($2/ride) and makes a great photo-op. Then there’s the Bluegrass Sound Band (all day) and Chetter Galloway (1 and 2 pm) performing, and fun activities like blowing giant bubbles in your sibling’s face. 

And if that’s not enough, there’s…Farmburger!  Yes, Farmburger, that bastion of beef “raised on the sweet grasses of the southeast,” will be in the Edible Garden with “tastes” (sorry, but if you’re at the Garden, you’re not that far from the actual restaurant, so go after).  Happy Dad’s Day!

Handsel Grady Morgan, circa 1936

The Atlanta Botanical Garden is full of natural mood enhancers.

One of many intriguing things about the Atlanta Botanical Garden is that you can always find a spot to fulfill your desired state of mind.  Besides being one of the most stress-reducing and energizing destinations in the ATL, the Garden is constantly changing and emerging with new plant-life, so each spot offers different moods at different times.  Here is a handy guide to coming down from the workday, inspiring a date or going for a complete overhaul at the Garden.

Work release – the Japanese Garden, a little off the beaten path often with private seating available.

Romance – the swing overlooking the Parterre with an unexpected view of the ATL midtown skyline (best shared).

Exploration – the Southern Garden with its winding trail and curious birds; also the Canopy Walk through the trees.

Smile-inducement – the Children’s Garden and Bullfrog Pond (note:  to enjoy the Children’s Garden without the children, go weekday afternoon/evenings).

Total attitude adjustment – all of the above plus the Orchid exhibit in the Fuqua Conservatory.  Ever wonder why there are societies of devoted orchid lovers?  They know:  negative thoughts stall out in the presence of these exquisite forms with their stunning colors and intoxicating fragrance. If that doesn’t swing your mood in the right direction, check out the yoga classes.   Beyond that you may have to consider a less natural route.

Adjust your attitude with some natural beauty.

If you live in the ATL, it’s likely you are always up for something fresh to do.

The usual exchange:  “let’s get together/great – where do you want to meet/ uhh I don’t know / I’ll text you.”  Most of the time we end up in a nice dark bar or restaurant, which is great, but a more refreshing option would be nice every now and then.

That’s why one of the most intriguing things to do in Atlanta is Cocktails in the Garden every Thursday evening 6-10 pm at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.  Imagine an al fresco setting all green and flowerful, with temporary bars set up here and there.  Some areas are made for mingling and others for exploring more privately. You have options:  you can mix, sit, or stroll.  And there’s not a low-hanging lamp or leather wing chair in sight. 

The musical ambiance is energizing, but not right in your face.  So if you want to chat, the only competing noise is from the birds cooing before roost-time.  Another plus is that it’s garden-casual:  guys wore nice shorts and loose cotton button-ups; girls were in chic sundresses with flat sandals.

Yes, it costs money to get in, but just buy a membership already.  Then you can go every week for free.  Yes, the cocktails are $7, but I can vouch that they are well-made.  The best part is that you can actually have an easy conversation and chill out in a refreshing, green setting.

You can always go back to the low-hanging lamp and leather wing chair this fall.


Sometimes getting back to basics just doesn’t cut it anymore. 

Today’s taste palette demands flavor-on-steroids, which puts some veggies at a little of a disadvantage. If you’re of that opinion, try thinking of the preparation as amplifying the vegetable’s natural flavor. Using just a few bold and strategic ingredients can bring out the true personality of the potato and the real charisma of that carrot. Beyond that, you’ll just have to learn how to appreciate the wonderful sweet and earthy flavors nature gives us.

Found in the Atlanta Botanical Garden‘s Edible Garden, here is a recipe that passed the “easy and tasty” test.