Friday, May 2, 2008

A tea sighting at Hills and Dales

Now yesterday was the kind of day that really, really makes me love my job. Our magazine's art director, Deberah, and I made a trip to Hills and Dales Estate in nearby LaGrange, Ga. to take the tour (and scout for photos) in advance of a day trip feature next spring. A freelancer wrote a great piece about Hills and Dales for us several years ago, but it's time for an update and this was a good time for us to enjoy a little field trip to Fuller Callaway's magnificent home and gardens. (These gardens are not to be confused with Callaway Gardens in neighboring Pine Mountain, which were founded by Fuller Callaway's son Cason.) For our tour of this Georgian Italian villa, we had a delightful tour guide named Sondra who was eager to answer our questions, and this former school teacher really brought the house alive. I was happy to hear a book is being written about Hills and Dales, and I can't wait to read it.

I won't go into the family history here because it's spelled out so beautifully here (and do watch the video if you have time), but I did want you to know that this visit was even more special to me because of one particular plant I'd heard grows there: Tea! In fact, the Hills and Dales web site notes that the plants "possibly provided tea for the Callaway table." A lovely thought! The flowers bloom in the fall, and a horticulturist told us that at that time of year, you can "hear" the plants before you see them; it seems the bees love those flowers.

The LaGrange woman who originally planted the gardens, Sarah Ferrell, spelled the word "GOD" in boxwood. Deberah and I had been walking amongst many boxwood hedges and wondered whether we'd ever find that spot, since hedges from the ground do not look like hedges from above, the angle of most photos of this spot I'd seen. Did we stop to consult our maps? No, of course not. Finally, I heard Deberah's excited voice call out, "Angela! I found God!" (Figures. Goody two shoes.) Later, I brushed right past another boxwood hedge only to have her point out it was in the shape of a cross. Faith played a large role in this family's history, and while you're not hit over the head with it at all, it's there, a quiet but visible reminder. Here you can see the "G" and the "O." In the photo above, look at the background, almost the center of the photo, and the hedge with the "dip" in the middle is the hedge of tea plants.

If you really want sensory overload, take a May Day trip and see and smell the lush roses, peonies, sweet peas, and even some greenhouse orchids.

Some of my other favorite spots were the Herb Garden, above, and the Ray Garden, below. If you live within day-trip range, or even if you don't, I highly, highly recommend a visit, and I look forward to going back one day. It's the one place on earth where we can say with confidence that tea is close to God!


  1. I visited Hills and Dales Estate in March 2007. The grounds were beautiful, as one can see by your pictures, and the main house was impressive. I would like to go again when the estate has the second and third floor open to the public. I can't believe that I missed the tea plants! I didn't know they were grown to produce tea (although on a very small scale) anywhere else besides Charleston Tea Plantation. Thanks for a lovely and informative post.

  2. Oh, you are a fortunate woman. I have wanted to visit Hills & Dales for years! I have yet to make the trip. I will for certain put it on my calender now. Just beautiful. Thanks again Angela- I will make sure to look for the tea plants- just beautiful!


Thanks so much for taking time to leave a comment! It makes my day to hear from readers!