Mary Poppins, move over. In tiny, out-of-the-way Pine Mountain just anyone can jump into a dreamy watercolor landscape and walk along flower-draped paths.
About an hour from Atlanta, this garden resort is so lovely that you can almost believe in fairy tales. Visitors discover that for at least one man, dreams do come true.
The dream: to "hang the picture a little higher on the wall. . . ." The man: Cason Callaway, son of the founder of Callaway Mills, now part of Milliken Mills.
In 1930 Cason Callaway and his wife, Virginia, came "to the country" from their home in nearby LaGrange seeking a quiet spot for a family picnic. What they discovered was primarily a wasteland of abandoned farmhouses and red clay ravines, with only a few vestiges of the natural beauty of the unspoiled land.
One of these vestiges was a deep ravine that hid a lovely, gurgling spring overflowing with crystal-clear water. In the ravine giant trees, which the sawmiller had inexplicably left unscathed, protectively sheltered delicate wildflowers of the Appalachian mountain.
One of the wildflowers was the brilliant-red rhododendron prunifolium azalea, which unlike most other azaleas blooms in midsummer, and which grows only within a 100-mile radius of the Blue Springs.
This scarlet blossom provided the seed from which the 14,000-acre garden grew. The Callaways first bought the 3,000 acres surrounding Blue Springs, then built a log cabin and a lake for their own and their friends' enjoyment.
The story is told that during one family outing there Callaway spied another family picnicking by the lake. When he approached the trespassers to send them on their way he demanded, "What can I do for you, sir?"
The intruder replied pleasantly, "Well, you might get us some crackers for the baby," and Callaway obliged.
When he returned with the requested crackers, he kindly informed his "guests," however, "This place is just open to the public today, so have a good time with your picnic. Tomorrow it will be closed."
It would not be so for long, however, for in 1938 Callaway resigned from the mill and devoted the rest of his life to his dream. He acquired 30,000 acres surrounding the original 3,000 and began to create what he called "the prettiest garden that will ever be seen on Earth till Gabriel blows his horn."
Not only is the Mobil four-star and AAA four-diamond resort an attraction for golfers, groups and families, but the Sibley Horticultural Center draws flower lovers from all over the world.
Opened in 1984, the Sibley center was founded on two unusual design principles: first, an expansion of the traditional conservatory plantings to a broader concept of horticultural display, and second, an integration of the indoor and outdoor settings.
These two principles are carried out primarily through the use of 26 folding doors that can be opened or closed to create or stop an air flow around the plantings.
Concrete paths throughout the tropical section are lined with enough redwood benches to more than cover the length of three football fields. A total of 30,671 square feet of additional greenhouses stock the Horticultural Center and provide plantings for many areas throughout Callaway.
The 2,500-acre resort at Callaway Gardens offers four golf courses (63 holes), including the championship Mountain View Course, site of the 1979 PGA National Junior Championship.
Other facilities include 17 lighted tennis courts, two indoor air-conditioned racquetball courts, and the longest man-made white-sand beach in the world on a 65-acre lake.
Also within the resort is a 1,000-acre hunting preserve with skeet and trap ranges, horseback riding and swimming, fishing and boating in 13 lakes. Playgrounds and bike and jogging paths round out the recreational possibilities.
Accommodations include convention facilities, six restaurants, lounges, a 350-room inn and cottages and villas available for rental or sale. Prices range from $90 a day for two people in the inn to $480 a day for a four-bedroom cottage.
Relaxing and Entertaining
The Executive Lodge atop Pine Mountain provides an environment for executive meetings and entertaining. This luxurious lodge can accommodate up to 10 people in its five bedrooms. Other amenities of the lodge include living and dining rooms, a spacious conference area (audio-visual equipment available) and a game room with bar. Outdoors are terraces, a swimming pool and tennis court.
Cook, maid and butler services are available for an extra charge. The daily rate is $525 for up to 10 people; add $55 per person a day for full American plan.
Callaway provides an all-day children's program in summer at $25 per person a day or $130 per family. Attractions for children of all ages include river-boat rides, paddle-boats, miniature golf and a miniature train.
Summer also brings daily water-ski shows and performances by Florida State University's Flying High circus. For the history-minded, just moments away is the summer home of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, now a state park at Warm Springs. At Callaway one is enveloped with the warm cloak of serenity that Callaway sought when he came here. The focal point of the Elizabethan rose garden is the cupola from Virginia Callaway's childhood residence, and her vegetable garden serves as the setting for the PBS TV program "The Victory Garden South."
White-tailed deer and squirrels live in the forested areas, and a stone and stained-glass chapel sits alongside one of the lakes, a quiet spot for meditation, as well as a popular site for weddings and worship services.
Acres of naturalized woodland gardens overflow with azaleas, camellias and 450 varieties of holly. Few can resist the urge to stroll in this serene sanctuary.
As Callaway explained to a visitor, "What I'm trying to do here is hang the picture a little higher on the wall for the people of this region. Every child ought to see something beautiful before he's 6 years old, something he will remember all his life."
Virginia Callaway is still living at Blue Springs.
For further information write to: Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Ga. 31822; (404) 663-2281. Reservations: (800) 282-8181.