Green Expansion: Phase I

Updated November 6, 2009


The Green Expansion: Phase I has resulted in beautiful new gardens and amenities for visitors to enjoy for years to come. When Phase II is complete in 2010, the project will position Atlanta Botanical Garden at the forefront of botanical gardens around the world. Five key areas of human and environmental health have been emphasized during the construction phase: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

New construction deployed a sweeping array of energy-saving strategies with environmental sustainability considered in every aspect of the project. Trees removed as a result of construction were all recycled. More than 765 new trees were planted to rejuvenated the Garden canopy.

Executive Director Mary Pat Matheson notes, “These new projects are transformation for the Garden, which consistently ranks as one of the most popular destinations for Atlantans and tourists alike."

Community Foundation's Grants to Green Program

Grants to Green is a collaborative partnership between The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, Southface and Enterprise Community Partners. Launched earlier this year, Grants to Green provides knowledge and funding to nonprofits to help green their building structures and become more environmentally sustainable. By participating in Grants to Green, nonprofits can not only save more on operational expenses in the long term, but they can also dedicate those saved dollars to better meet their mission. More information can be found at, and

Hardin Visitor Center

The Hardin Visitor Center provides a beautiful and easy new entry experience for visitors and increased synergy with Piedmont Park. The Visitor Center is a dramatic, transparent structure filled with natural light. The LEED-certified design includes: insulated glass, wood certified to be from local sustainable sources, natural daylighting and a green roof overhead. Video programs are presented in the Turner Broadcasting Theater, while the Garden Gift Shop is doubled in size and includes botanical merchandise and certified fair trade items in its mix of environmentally-savvy gifts.

Green Roof

Green roofs, quite simply, are rooftops that are designed with a waterproof membrane and planted with drought and heat-tolerant plants such as grasses and sedums. Intensive green roofs have deep soil (as much as 18”) that allow for shrubs and perennials to grow and create a garden-like landscape. Extensive roofs are shallow, providing just enough soil mix for low growing plants like sedum and native grasses. The extensive roof is less expensive to build yet provides most of the benefits of the more intensive design. 

Plantings covering nearly 50% of the Visitor Center roof area provide natural cooling, sound insulation, additional garden area for visitors and even new wildlife habitat.  Five layers of materials provide waterproofing for the interior and growing medium lends support for the vegetation. Run off is elimated, as rainwater falling on the green roof is absorbed by the plants.

Pedestrian Path

Getting to the Garden is easier with the new Pedestrian Path, a 12-foot wide walkway that connects pedestrians from Piedmont Avenue to the Hardin Visitor Center and directly to Piedmont Park. The path provides safe access for people, strollers and wheelchairs, all of which are completely separated from cars.

Southern Seasons Garden

Garden curators and designers established goals-- expanding outdoor plant collections, identifying unique features of the site and drawing upon the characteristics of the southeastern region -- to create a stunning woodland garden that supports education and collections objectives. 

Both woodlands and continuous year-round blooms are iconic to gardening in the Southeast and, appropriately, the Southern Seasons Garden is the first display visitors will see. Envision hydrangeas, camellias, trillium, native orchids and ferns nestled under the cathedral of oaks, tulip poplars and beeches.

Water Conservation

A 100,000-gallon capacity cistern was installed underground in December 2007 to aid in water conservation. The cistern harvests storm water from a seven-acre watershed and provides irrigation for 40% of the new gardens. Rainfall of 1.2 inches is needed to fill it to capacity. 

In June, 2008, filters were installed and the cistern was undergoing testing and use on a limited basis.  This "underground lake"  was planned 5 years before the drought years of 2006-2007.

As of late June, refurbished wells at the Garden were providing water for the Cherokee garden, Great Lawn, Conifer Garden, Strickland garden, Robinson Gazebo, Japanese garden, Parterre garden and Rose garden.