Distance: 45 miles, one-hour drive

Less than an hour’s drive north of Atlanta, nestled in the foothills of the North Georgia mountains in the tiny town of Ball Ground, sits 220 acres of landscaped gardens, 24 reflecting ponds, 32 bridge crossings, 19 waterfalls, thousands of plants and flowers and millions of bulbs in 16 different gardens.

Now open to the public, Gibbs Gardens is a 300-acre estate that also includes the largest Japanese Garden in the nation, the country’s largest display of water lilies in a natural environment, and seven flowering terraces covering 150 feet change of elevation from the Manor House to the valley gardens.

Jim Gibbs spent 15 years traveling the world, exploring gardens of every style, before deciding to embark on his own adventure closer to home. Armed with a degree in horticulture and a minor in landscape architecture from the University of Georgia, as well as his own successful landscape company, Gibbs spent six years searching for the perfect location for his own world-class garden. The Gibbs family developed more than 220 acres of gardens, which includes their 25-year-old manor house that overlooks the mountains and gardens – making Gibbs Gardens one of the nation’s largest residential estate gardens.

Part of Gibbs’ location requirements included a strong natural water source, mature trees and a rolling topography, and Gibbs Gardens has each of these in spades. A beautiful stream with hundreds of intersecting springs flows through the valley, surrounded by naturalized ferns and native azaleas, dogwoods and mountain laurels. The 16 unique gardens, including three feature gardens – Manor House, Japanese and Waterlily Gardens – are planted with hundreds of varieties of plants and are carved into pockets surrounded by acres of towering trees.

Gibbs Gardens offers year-round color (in 220 acres, how could something NOT be blooming?), but is possibly most famous for its annual Daffodil Colorfest. Recognized as an American Daffodil Display Garden (one of only 25), Gibbs Gardens showcases over 20 million daffodils (including 100 varieties) across 50 acres. The festival – what Southern Living calls “the most spectacular display of blooms this side of Holland” –  runs March 1 through April 19.

Other springtime events at the gardens include the Cherry Blossom Colorfest (mid-March), Dogwood Colorfest (early April) and Arts on the Great Lawn (May 19-20). (Colorfest dates are specific to blooming seasons; check for more information.)

Don’t miss the famous Daffodil Colorfest, March 1 – April 19!