Fuller & Ida Cason Callaway’s Hills and Dales Estate is one of the great landscape and architectural treasures of Georgia, not to be missed. Ferrell Gardens, from which the property evolved, was established in the 1840s and developed and nurtured over decades. Owned by Judge Blount Coleman Ferrell (January 1816-19 September 1908) and his wife (and double first cousin) Sarah Coleman Ferrell (October 1817-7 December 1903), the gardens were the creation and domain of “Miss Sarah”, as Mrs. Ferrell was affectionately known. They are characterized by boxwood parterres formally set into a gently sloping terrain.
During the time of the Ferrells, the gardens were open to the public and were nationally known. They were even the setting of a novel, Vesta, written by Sarah’s sister, Florida P. Reed, in 1894.
It is considered one of the best preserved 19th century gardens in the United States and is a masterwork of landscape architecture.
Fuller Callaway, who spent time in the gardens with “Miss Sarah” as a boy, purchased the property in 1912 from the Ferrell estate and commissioned Neel Reid and Hal Hentz of the firm of Hentz, Reid, and Adler to design a home that would be worthy of the surrounding landscape.
The end result was this 13,000-square-foot mansion, inspired by the work of Charles Adams Platt and designed to complement the gardens. The Callaways named the estate Hills and Dales, for its sunny hills and shady dales.
Dwarf English Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’) is the signature plant in Ferrell Gardens.
Other species include American Boxwood, Tree Boxwood, Spanish Boxwood, and Curly Leaf Boxwood.
There are over 2 1/2 acres of boxwood parterres on the grounds.
A few other iconic species present include: China Fir, Tea Plant, Southern Magnolia, Gingko, Camellia, Banana Shrub, and Tea Olive.
This hedge spells out the word GOD.
In addition to the boxwood parterres, flowering plants can be found in season scattered around the estate.
The gardens have brought much joy in their nearly two centuries of existence and show no signs of slowing down.
Ida Cason Callaway and her daughter-in-law Alice Hand Callaway would be very proud of the legacy they have left behind.
Upon Ida’s death in 1936, her son Fuller Jr. and his wife, Alice Hand Callaway, moved into the home and raised their family here.
After Fuller Jr.’s death in 1992, Alice spent much of her time restoring the house and maintaining the gardens.
It was their wish that the property, while remaining in the family, would be open to the public, and since Alice’s death in 1998, that vision has become reality.
Thanks are due to Mark McDonald of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, Hills and Dales Executive Director Carleton B. Wood, and all the wonderful staff, for making my visit such a memorable experience. If you haven’t been to Hills and Dales, you should seriously consider a visit. There’s nothing else like it in Georgia.
Vernon Road Historic District, National Register of Historic Places