Garvan Woodland Gardens – Part 1

I have many places to check off my “Arkansas Bucket List”, and the list seems to always be growing.  After years of wishing and hoping that the opportunity would present itself, I finally decided to take the bull by the horns during Spring Break.

“Guys, we’re going to Garvan Woodland Gardens.”

Although my teenage daughter and son would have probably relished a little extra time sawing logs, perhaps their curiosity was peaked just a bit, because they agreed to join me without hesitation.

Garvan Woodland Gardens, a botanical garden owned and operated by the University of Arkansas, has a very interesting history.  The 210 acre area was clear cut in 1915, and in the 1920’s, was sold to Arthur B. Cook, an entrepreneur who owned several businesses, among them Malvern Brick and Tile Company.  His premature death brought his daughter, Verna Cook Garvan, back to Arkansas, where she assumed control of his companies.  In fact, she was one of the first female chief executive officers of a major manufacturing business in the south.

A self taught gardener, in 1956, she began to develop this land as both a garden and a future residence.  She was very hands on, carefully selecting each new plant and each location. She continued this process for the next forty years, accumulating a collection of thousands of specimens, including, but not limited to, Japanese Maples, magnolias, roses, dogwoods, azaleas…

and camellias.

Upon her death, she gave the property to the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Arkansas.  It was her desire that the gardens be a place that would serve Arkansas, providing a place of both education and repose.

After touring this magnificent area, nestled in the Ouachita Mountains and overlooking scenic Lake Hamilton, I am positive that those entrusted with its care have definitely carried out this mission!

Arriving around ten, we received a warm greeting from a resident peacock.

Since it was nearing the end of March, the daffodils were embarking on their last hurrah….but what a exquisite hurrah!


The stars of the show on the day we visited were the tulips.  Numerous varieties bordered the walkways of the 1.5 mile trail…..


a floral rainbow!


The Children’s Adventure Garden did not disappoint my inner child, with the cave, waterfall and the ornate cedar bridge.

We spent more than two hours there, and making our way back to the car, we noticed that the parking lots, which were practically empty when we got there, were nearing capacity.   I felt we made a wise decision by getting there early!

This is an attraction I could definitely return to over and over again.  A good reference that is on their website is the bloom calendar, which can be found here:   Garvan Bloom Calendar.



It’s always great to finally check a destination off the old Bucket List, but I really think Garvan Woodland Gardens will be one that never gets permanently deleted from said list. It is about one hundred miles from home, so it’s can easily turn into an all day outing, but it is definitely time well spent!


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