Occupying about 30 acres, the Atlanta Botanical Garden is just 3 miles from downtown. It features an array of attractions, including world-class hydrangea, pitcher plant, and maple collections; an orchid center; a dwarf conifer garden; fields of summer-blooming bulbs; a formal herb garden; and more. Be sure to check out the new edible garden, 45-foot-fall suspension bridge through the forest canopy, and cascade waterfall garden; they open the first weekend in May.
You may not have room for a fountain as large as this, but even a small water feature makes a big impact in the garden. Use a barrel planted with a lotus or water lily as a focal point. Or put a fountain on your deck or patio to enjoy its relaxing sounds.
Include structural plants in your landscape. These boxwood hedges, for example, are attractive year-round and make a great foil for the colorful plants. If you don't like the hedge look, consider shrubs or small trees with interesting shapes (such as contorted white pine) or interesting bark (amur cherry, for instance).
Make your garden shine even after the sun goes down using clever landscape lighting. Go simple, such as a solar lantern, or bold, such as low-voltage uplighting accenting a favorite tree or shrub.
Plant a variety in your yard for a show in all seasons. With careful selection, you give your garden different color themes. For example, use red, orange, and yellow tulips and daffodils for spring; transition to pink, lavender, and purple peonies, lavender, lilies, and daylilies for summer; then white mums, asters, and anemones for fall.
Fresh flowers are a sure way to brighten someone's day, so be sure to add some blooms for sharing with friends, neighbors, coworkers -- or even to decorate your desk at work. Zinnias are some of the best for arrangements because of their bright colors and long bloom season.
Make your garden friendly for wildlife by including plants that are beautiful and rich in nectar or pollen. This golden coneflower, for example, thrives in Atlanta's climate and attracts bees and butterflies by the dozens.
One common misperception among gardeners is that it's difficult to grow things in shade. But there is plenty of proof to the contrary at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The entrance to the Trustee's Garden, for example, includes colorful coleus and impatiens.
Not sure what your garden style is? One of the great things about botanical gardens is that they usually offer a large number of displays. This lovely Japanese-style area, for example, provides design elements and plant selections so you can get the look in your yard.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden has an amazing conservatory where they grow an array of tropical plants. If you like the look, pick one or two favorites and grow them in pots. Treat them as annuals, bring them inside as houseplants for the winter, or see if a local greenhouse will store them for the cold months.
Flowers are beautiful to view, but give your garden extra dimension by including varieties with pleasant scent. While roses may be the first that come to mind, there's actually a wide array. And remember that some plants, such as many herbs, have foliage that releases a fragrance when you touch it.
Public gardens usually feature a number of outdoor living areas where families can gather for a picnic or sit and chat while the kids play. Include such areas in your yard on a smaller scale. Shrink this amazing gazebo, for example, and tuck it in a corner of your landscape for a place to enjoy eating or gathering under the stars.
One great lesson you'll learn from visiting the Atlanta Botanical Garden is that you can use foliage to make as much of an impact as flowers. In this section of their garden, several varieties of sun-tolerant coleus mix with boxwood, begonia, and elephant's ear for a presentation that looks stunning from spring to fall.
Take a trip to a botanical garden and you're sure to see plant varieties you've never heard of that will thrive in your yard. For instance, you may be familiar with southern magnolia, a landscape staple of the Southeast, but consider these selections: Baby Grand (which grows 10 feet tall and wide), Alta (which has a columnar habit), 'Variegata' (which has variegated foliage), or 'Satin Leaf' (which has extra-large flowers).
The Atlanta Botanical Garden has an amazing collection of orchids -- more than 2,000 species, including this stunning Paraphalaenopsis laycockii. The orchid collection is in its prime from January to May.