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  • Writer's pictureHistoric Columbus

Garden History of Georgia (Part 3): Modern Columbus Gardens

SOURCE: Garden History of Georgia, 1733 - 1933. Edited by Hattie C. Rainwater and compiled by Loraine M. Cooney. 1933 by the Peachtree Garden Club.


The Bradley home stands at the top of a hill, facing west. A magnificent view from the wide terrace, of the sun going down behind the far Alabama hills, has given it the name Sunset Terrace. More than twenty years ago Mr. B. S. Miller, the former owner of these fifteen acres, built the house and made the formal garden (the home is pictured above in 1914). Nine years ago, an informal garden was added, designed by the Olmstead Brothers of Philadelphia for the present owners.

Aside from the terraced rose gardens, there are three features of interest at Sunset Terrace, the fishpond, the swimming pool, and the ravine. The fishpond gets its water supply from a spring on the hillside which, summer and winter, continuously pours forth over thirty thousand gallons a day. Between the spring and the fishpond are ten little cascades twinkling over huge water-washed boulders brought from an old dam on the Chattahoochee River and each cascade empties into a pool set about with large rocks and surrounded by woodland flowers, ferns, and shrubs. The swimming pool in the glade is bordered with hundreds of flowering shrubs and Japanese iris and shaded by pine trees. The most interesting offering here is the walk from the pool which winds among tall pines and is bordered on either side by thickets of dogwood, azaleas, camellias, Japanese yew, viburnum, and pittosporum, with a ground cover of ivy.

In the ravine, the water is piped from the spring to a grotto on the hillside. There it gushes forth from under the big rocks as though from a natural spring and winds its way down the valley. On its way to the fishpond at the bottom of the hill the stream is overhung by water oaks, sweet gum, sycamore, and dogwood trees, and in their shade grow camellias, euonymous, ligustrum, nandina, abelia, and gallberry. Forget-me-nots and many sorts of wildflowers grow along the water's edge with clumps of liriope and native ferns.


In 1905, after a long day of quail hunting along the rich bottom lands of the old General Benning plantation, the late G. Gunby Jordan stopped to rest at Uncle Tom Narramore's cabin, on a ridge top on the River Road. The November sunset colored an unbroken view northward to Pine Mountain Ridge and the distant hills of Alabama. In the foreground shone Green Island, set in the tumbling waters of the Chattahoochee. The site and the view were so beautiful that Mr. Jordan shortly afterward bought this property for his future home. The former owner was Uncle Tom Narramore, who had been overseer during and after the Civil War for General H. L. Benning — for whom Fort Benning is named (now Fort Moore). The enthusiastic new owner completed in 1907 a comfortable country home of English half-timber design, its lower story of massive Georgia granite. (The 1907 home is pictured above.)

The house faces northward to the view and is surrounded by extensive well-planned gardens. The obstinate hillside has been converted into terraces for the numerous garden plots and the stiff red Georgia clay has been "tamed" by hundreds of loads of loam and sand. The gardens, formal in design, are located on three terraces parallel to the house. A wide sweep of lawn with the original oak trees separates the house from the gardens and stepping stones lead from the terrace porch along an ivy-covered wall to the central walk and a small fountain. Other walks lead from this center through the three terraces to circular plots in which tall urns holding clinging vines are placed. Each of the terraces is divided by clipped privet hedges into three parts, the western and middle portions devoted to annuals, and the eastern section to roses. The lower terrace, given over to native and other kinds of shrubbery, blends naturally into the hillside.

Green Island Ranch, now the home of Mr. R. C. Jordan, a son of the original owner and builder, is located six miles north of Columbus on the River Road.


The Alsobrook - McKinnon home (1417 Hilton Avenue) is surrounded by colorful gardens. A walk leading to the entrance is bordered with tulips and Spanish iris, fringed with vari-colored pansies and forget-me-nots, which later on are replaced by green foliage plants, marguerites, and ageratum. The lawns and gardens are all hedged about with groups of evergreens and other shrubs. Azaleas, red, pink, lavender, and white, lend brilliant color to the foliage background in spring, while in summer red dahlias are massed against the shrubbery. For fragrance, there are banana shrubs, sweet shrubs, tea olive, and trees of lemon verbena. Against the house, the plantings of shrubbery are edged with bright blue pansies, which bloom in great profusion among pink and white azaleas.

To the south lies the sunny garden, its beds all bordered with blue pansies. Here are several rose-covered trellises, and in the center a sundial rests on an old millstone. From this garden, a tiny path leads under tall ligustrums to the rear of the house and a secluded outdoor living room. This shady garden holds a mirror lily pool set in the grass among cool shadows, a quiet spot walled in by evergreen shrubbery, beneath which grow many shade-loving plants and early flowering bulbs.

The pathway to the right leads to a delightful small formal garden, with grass walks and beds aglow with color. A crystal globe centrally placed reflects the varied pictures as the seasons come and go.


A thick growth of live oaks like a small evergreen forest covers the slope of the hill on which the house and gardens of Mr. and Mrs. J.W. Woodruff are built. On the shaded level hilltop, an English house looks out on spreading lawns and groves of fine native trees.

The gardens at Woodcrest are reached from the terrace of the house by way of a broad paved walk that curves past a tremendous old pear tree, its branches sweeping the lawn, laden each spring. time with a snowdrift of bloom. Close by the picturesque old tree of a generation ago are great camellia bushes in all their shiny beauty, their colorful blossoms waning as the pear tree reaches its flowering zenith.

The limestone walk shortly loses its trim formality as it leaves the open lawn to enter the shady area of the rock garden. Here under deep hanging live oaks are plantations of many native wildflowers combined with woodland shrubs and ferns; and moss-covered stones bind the pools of a tiny wandering stream where water poppies, forget-me-nots, and little bog flowers thrive.

Further on, past the swimming pool, a panel of grass between two rows of square clipped columns of laurel, leads to the entrance of the formal garden. In front of the lines of laurel are deep curving borders of choice iris and perennials, and flanking the path are rounded specimens of boxwood. A soft green hedge of sheared Spirea thunbergii bounds three sides of the garden while silvery gray junipers mark the openings onto the wide grass paths. Around a circle of turf, box-bordered flower beds are designed in a simple and charming geometrical pattern, the soft color of spring bulbs and perennials skillfully replaced by masses of brilliant annuals for summer.

Set in the spirea hedge on one side is a rose-hung gate, with a roof of English tile, which opens into a long paneled rose garden. Roses of lovely quality are coaxed into nearly ten months of bloom at Woodcrest.

The formal garden and the rose garden are both fortunate in their backgrounds of mimosas, tamarix, live oaks, ailanthus, native pines, and red cedars. About the grounds, many specimen shrubs preserved from an earlier garden of the Woodruff family are still flourishing and lend their dignity of age. And here is also an aged scuppernong arbor of surpassing vigor and size, an old-time adjunct of delight added to the charms of these beautifully cared for modern gardens.

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