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Gibbs Garden shows signs of spring as daffodil season starts ahead of schedule
I-Gibbs Garden pic 1
Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground has 100,000 daffodils across 50 acres of the 300-acre property in Cherokee County. The mid-season and late fragrant daffodils are blooming now because of the mild winter. - photo by For the Dawson County News

Daffodils are one of the first signs of spring and Gibbs Gardens has mid-season and late fragrant blooms indicating spring is just around the corner.

While spring doesn't officially start until Monday, the daffodil season started early at the gardens in Ball Ground when the yellow flowers started blooming in mid-February. Typically Gibbs Gardens opens for daffodil season March 1. This year, however, it opened Feb. 18.

"This year everything's about two weeks ahead because of the (mild) winter," Gibbs Gardens owner Jim Gibbs said.

The 74-year-old man bought the Ball Ground property in 1980 to establish Gibbs Gardens, with the hope of creating a world-class garden for the public. He then planted and cultivated the landscape, adding 5,000 daffodils to the Cherokee County property in 1985.

Gibbs fortunately had the know-how to do it. He founded Gibbs Landscape Company in Atlanta after graduating from the University of Georgia in 1965.

In 2012, Gibbs opened his massive garden to the public.

Erica Glasener, a horticulturist at the gardens, said Gibbs spent 32 years developing the landscape before opening. He also designed the garden so every three weeks something different is blooming.

"The idea was to have an ever-changing show," Glasener said.

Throughout the years, he has increased the number of new daffodils he plants, which now total no more than 100,000 per year. This number is in addition to the already planted daffodils multiplying.

Fortunately, daffodils are easy to care for, Gibbs said. They're fertilized in winter and need lots of sun and well-drained soil to flourish.

Three different variations are planted in patches and cover 50 acres of the 300-acre garden. Each of the three variations - early, mid and late - daffodils bloom for two weeks, establishing a six-week daffodil season. The late-bloomers are the fragrant variety.

Gibbs said the daffodils are a popular draw, pointing out attendance increases every year. Signs sprinkled across Hall County direct motorists to the gardens, which is about an hour's drive from downtown Gainesville.

"The nice thing is, once you get inside the garden, (Gibbs) laid it out so the pathways are generous and there are benches throughout," Glasener said. "Even on a busy day, it won't be crowded once you get in the gardens, because there's so much land that's spread out."

Gibbs' love of daffodils runs in the family.

"I come from a long family line of daffodil-lovers," he said. "My mother's mother and even my great-grandmother planted daffodils at Roseland Plantation in Virginia."

Roseland Plantation was his grandmother's family's plantation.

The love of daffodils carried on through the generations, and Gibbs decided to add daffodils to his public garden.

While daffodils are blooming early this year, other plants are not. Glasener said the dogwoods and azaleas aren't blooming yet. She also noted no daffodils were lost to the recent freezing temperatures.

While the garden is mostly for plant-lovers, it hosts concerts and festivals throughout the year. It closes each December.

Gibbs Gardens is also known for its Japanese garden, which is one of the largest in the country, Glasener said. The gardens have a replica of the bridge painted in Claude Monet's famous painting "The Water Lily Pond" and host a water lily festival in the fall.

"You don't have to be a gardener to enjoy the garden," Glasener said. "It's for anybody who likes nature, anybody that wants to visit a beautiful garden."