By Caleb Talley
Take a trip through Hot Springs’ Garvan Woodland Gardens.
There are few places across the state that come alive quite like Garvan Woodland Gardens. The botanical paradise, a division of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas, is nestled in the Ouachita Mountains in Hot Springs.
There’s much to behold at this 210-acre outdoor paradise. From the waterfall on Lake Hamilton to the Spring Tulip Extravaganza, to the Millsap Canopy Bridge to the Perry Wildflower Overlook, the gardens offer more places for peaceful pleasure than one could ever day dream.
This summer, Garvan Woodland Gardens grew even more whimsical with the opening of the Bob and Sunny Evans Tree House inside the Evans Children’s Adventure Garden.
Mysterious. Organic. Floating. Nestled amongst the trees, reconnecting the user with nature. Those were all ways in which Becca Ohman, gardens director, describes their newest addition, which stands four-stories high and spans 630 square-feet. “The tree house beckons the user to engage their natural environment, one of the hallmarks of both the tree house and the Children’s Garden,” she says.
Don’t confuse the tree house for a children’s attraction, either. According to Ohman, the tree house was created for all guests. “The incredible moments where architecture and nature intersect provide a breathtaking setting for play, exploration and learning,” she says. “Since its completion, we’ve loved watching the spaces come to life through the magic of play.
“Sunny and her late husband, Bob Evans dreamed of a tree house nestled amongst the trees of the Evans Children’s Adventure Garden,” Ohman adds. “The tree house represents the culmination of their dream through an incredible collaborative design process by Modus Studios, the University of Arkansas E. Fay Jones School of Architecture + Design and Garvan Woodland Gardens.”
She continues, “Soaring views, inviting nooks and climbing walls encourage guests to explore and uncover the joys found in the woodland setting, especially amongst the canopy of trees. Additionally, interpretive learning elements, such as the constructed Root Plaza and future Pollination Sculpture encourage intuitive, tactile learning experiences that communicate the relationship between the user, the forest and the architecture.”
The tree house, which took just under a year to complete, was designed by Fayetteville-based architects at Modus Studios and constructed by CDI. Additional interpretive learning elements will be added in the fall, thanks to grants from the Oaklawn Foundation.
Visitors would be remiss if they came away from Garvan Woodland Gardens without also taking in the entire 210-acre garden property and architectural gems, such as the Anthony Chapel and the Garvan Pavilion, designed by E. Fay Jones.
“The fifth ranked Japanese Garden and associated koi pond and boardwalk offer an inspiring stroll through a beautifully manicured space,” says Ohman. “The Perry Wildflower Overlook contrasts the formality of the Japanese Garden with a wide variety of blooming wildflowers and perennials. Beautiful rock outcroppings and water features make nearly every corner of the garden a retreat.”
Coming later this year, Garvan Woodland Gardens will be dressed in the fall’s best accessories – mums and pumpkins, says Ohman. “Assorted harvest displays will be incorporated into the last of the summer’s blooms to celebrate the changing seasons.”
Garvan Woodland Gardens will host their annual Celebrate Fall event on Oct. 27, a day that will be filled with costumes, a train and trail and numerous activities for children. The event will also feature food trucks and craft beer tents.
The annual Holiday Lights festivities begin Nov. 17, and are sure to be a big hit for visitors of all ages.
To learn more about the gardens and its mission to preserve and enhance its Ouachita environment or to plan your next trip, visit garvangardens.org. Hours of admission through Nov. 16 are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., daily.
Read about the new Garvan Woodland Gardens’ Tree House here »