On the eastern shore of Lake Hamilton is this attraction, Garvan Woodland Gardens. It was left to the care of the University of Arkansas department of Architecture by the Garvan family, who held it as a private garden until just a couple of years ago. They've got two or three miles of trails, most of them accessible to both wheelchairs and golf carts. For your seven bucks adult admission you get all the peace and quiet, fresh air and exercise of a round of golf without all the profanity. Guided tours and chaufferred golf carts cost extra.

There's not much to write about with GWG. What you see is what you get, and you get what you pay for. Either you like gardens and pools and fountains and flowers and exotic shrubs and Disneyfied landscaping or you'd rather be at a honky tonk. Spaces in the gardens can be rented for events, weddings, company picnics. The gardens are accessible by boat at their dock on the Lake Hamilton frontage, or you can drive south from Hot Springs on Malvern Avenue, right on Carpenter Dam Road, right again on Arkridge Road. The only really remarkable thing about GWG is the fact that with the exceptions of the Asian Garden, the Rose Garden and the Flowering Border Garden, all the other gardens (nine of them) are built into the preexisting landscape. The usual thing would be to mow down whatever is there and replace it with the gardener's new vision, a la Star Trek: Wrath of Khan.

The Garvan Woodland Gardens are weaved in and amongst and around the natural pine forest landscape of the Ouachita Mountain understory. Quite unlike the Versailles style formal gardens, GWG is very organic and free-flowing and natural. Nature guided rather than tamed, befriended rather than subjugated. They work with the land, not on it.

Here's a link to their website. Phone is 501-262-9300. Open daily except Xmas, NYD, &TG.


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