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Arkansas philanthropist Verna Cook Garvan had a vision when she donated her 200+ acre peninsula on Lake Hamilton to the University of Arkansas with instructions to continue her decades of work. The university accepted the task and since then, Garvan Woodland Gardens has become a world-class botanical garden with an array of rare trees and shrubs, as well as thousands of flowering plants. Highlights include interesting bridges and architectural structures, plus a holiday lights display second to none.
The signature Full Moon Bridge in the Japanese Garden of the Pine Wind at Garvan Woodland Gardens frames a view as an important element of garden design. Framing doesn't require a major structure; something as simple as two attractive shrubs emphasizing a particularly beautiful tree or piece of art in your garden works equally well. Even well-placed containers can draw attention to something you love about your garden.
A waterfall can be the centerpiece of a garden, illustrated by the Gardens’ 12-foot waterfall on the shores of Lake Hamilton. It provides a relaxing sound and adds a cooling effect to the surrounding atmosphere. Or, if space and budget are a factor, install a ready-made fountain in your garden to enjoy its relaxing sounds.
Your garden will exist in harmony with nature if you use natural materials for landscaping elements. The beautiful Sunrise Bridge at Garvan Woodland Gardens uses natural stone, rustic logs, and natural wood railing to echo and perfectly complement the lush forest that surrounds it.
Garvan Woodland Gardens boasts hundreds of azaleas, which attract a host of butterflies and other beneficial insects. Savvy gardeners plan to attract beneficial insects -- ladybugs, lacewings, ground beetles, and other insects that feed on pests -- with smart plantings. Don’t forget, favorite plants such as butterfly weed and dill are important food sources for the caterpillars that will transform into these fluttering beauties.
Garvan Woodland Gardens hosts the annual Tulip Extravaganza, which showcases a kaleidoscope of color in masses and waves throughout the wooded grounds. While one single tulip would get lost in this woodland landscape, Garvan’s mass plantings of over 125,000 tulip bulbs allows each variety to work together for maximum impact. More than just a repetition of the same plant, they knit together as one large visual unit of color and texture.
Garvan Woodland Gardens is designed so that there are stunning blooms on display each season. Daylilies, such as this spectacular peach variety, are rugged, adaptable, vigorous perennials that endure in a garden for many years with little or no care. Daylilies adapt to a wide range of soil and light conditions. They establish quickly, grow vigorously, and survive winters with little or no injury.
Using all levels of your landscape and planning for the view from all angles will make your garden an exploration space. The Millsap Canopy Bridge at Garvan Woodland Gardens soars over the Singing Springs Gorge with waterfalls below, offering a spectacular view from underneath. The designers used natural materials, cascades, waterfalls, and lush plantings to maximize the effect of the 80-foot drop from the top of the gorge to the bottom.
Flowers are not the only way to have dramatic color in your garden. Shade-loving caladiums offer dazzling foliage in environments such as the lush forests of Garvan Woodland Gardens. With their large, pointed arrow-shape leaves splashed with shades of fuchsia, pale pink, white, and green, caladiums and other showy foliage plants, such as coleus, are garden winners.
Garvan Woodland Gardens might not be located in the tropics, but its summer climate allows for tropical style. Banana plants have big leaves that make the most of sunlight in the shaded forest, and they provide a bold accent with texture between the low flowering borders and the towering tops of the trees in the background. When it comes to lush looks in the garden, those from the tropics are obvious choices. But, even if you live in a cooler area, you can still achieve this effect by using plants such as canna or pawpaw, which have similar features.
Naturalizing is planting masses of bulbs in such a way that they look like they grew there on their own. During Daffodil Days at Garvan Woodland Gardens, visitors can see the beautiful results of choosing the right varieties and planting in such a manner that the end effect looks as effortless as if Mother Nature herself had done the planting.
Without a flower in sight, this lovely shade garden shines as the perfect place for an intimate outdoor wedding. Shade affords great lighting for photography, as well as the opportunity to grow shade-loving plants. Adding water features heightens the coolness and appeal of this lovely setting. Garvan Woodland Gardens hosts nearly 200 romantic garden weddings annually in settings such as this.
With its floor-to-ceiling glass walls presenting picturesque views of the surrounding woodlands, the Anthony Chapel at Garvan Woodland Gardens is a natural selection for couples who want their wedding day celebration to include the earthy beauty of the outdoors -- all while enjoying the comfort of an indoor setting. The stately, six-story tall structure is considered one of the most beautiful wedding venues in the state.