Published Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Oak Grove Plantation gardens tour Saturday


The gardens and grounds of Oak Grove Plantation on U.S. 29 North just south of Palmetto will be open for tours Saturday.

The fall garden tour event, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., is a benefit for the ongoing restoration of the Arnold family cemetery on the property by current owners George and Liz Tedder. Admission for the tour is a donation of $10, with children under 12 admitted free. Attendees receive a free plant with each contribution.

The 1830s plantation at 4537 North U.S. 29 is complete with outbuildings and farm animals. Guests are invited to bring the family and a picnic lunch and enjoy the day among the five acres of gardens and grounds that the Tedders have been tending and creating over the last 29 years. The gardens are an interpretive restoration of what a 19th century plantation owner’s wife might have done, Liz Tedder explained.

Right now, in the early fall, the sasanquas have begun to bloom, and the hydrangeas and roses are still making a show.

In all, there are more than 25 garden areas to view, from shade gardens to semi-shade and full sun. There is an herb garden, formal garden, rose garden, secret garden, sunken garden with koi pond, playhouse garden ... the list goes on.

Much of what Liz Tedder has put in her gardens has been grown from small plants and cuttings, and she has tried many varieties over the years.The sasanquas started at one foot tall and now after almost 30 years are 10 feet tall. She grows both heirloom plants and recent introductions and says the gardens are a good demonstration of what grows well in the Coweta County area. There will be extra plants from the gardens for sale to benefit the cemetery restoration project.

Recently the Tedders, along with those responsible for the Mary Ray School restoration in Raymond, were honorees at the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society 2012 preservation awards. The Tedders were recognized for their efforts on upkeep and restoration of the Arnold cemetery. For the more than 20 years of spring and fall garden tours at their home and grounds they have been raising funds to replicate and replace the cemetery’s old iron fence. Through donations from the tours and other events on the property such as portion of proceeds from weddings, along with help from descendants of the Arnold family, the new fence is finally in place. It was completed in late April 2012.

The ornate iron gate remained, and Liz Tedder found a company in Moultrie, Ga., that could replicate the design for a new aluminum fence. So that it would not look new and shiny with powder-coat black covering, she and the company were able to use a rusty color with flecks that to the unsuspecting eye looks like an old rusty fence. She also put in a retaining wall and now aims to repair and reset broken and leaning tombstones in the historic cemetery, and work on the landscaping.

There is currently wild landscaping in the cemetery area, including early roses from the 1800s. One old rose at a tombstone from which Tedder has grown more bushes is a Russell’s cottage rose with a bloom about three inches that first blooms red and becomes a purple-red. There are also heirloom bulbs such as a type of grape hyacinth with a feathery bloom in early spring. She hopes to add more early roses, plantings from the 1830s and some trees in the cemetery area for shade, and maybe some benches where visitors might sit and reflect.

Oak Grove Plantation and Gardens was built by Coweta County settlers right after Indian removal in the early 1800s.

The cemetery is the final resting place of members of the Charlie Arnold family and his descendants.

“The plantation is only five miles from Palmetto, so this family was part of that Palmetto group,” said Liz Tedder in an interview for a tour a couple of years ago. “One of them even served as mayor,” she said.

The Arnold family lived at Oak Grove for many years. Thomas Arnold was the last male heir, Tedder said, and after his death in 1980, his nieces inherited the property. But after they moved to Rome, Ga., the property fell out of the hands of the family.

“Leslie Smith and his wife had it from the 1940s until 1980,” said Tedder. “She was a midwife, and they were black, so a lot of black babies were born out here. I’d say this place was pretty well-known around Newnan.”

When the Tedders bought the property almost 30 years ago, the house at Oak Grove was still in its “pure state,” she said. That’s because — unlike many historic properties — the home was never vacant.

The gardens over the years have been featured in such publications as Southern Living magazine, Southern Living Landscape book, Country Gardens, Southern Homes, Atlanta Magazine and area newspapers. Images of the gardens may be viewed at .

In addition to Saturday’s garden tour, Liz Tedder is already looking forward to another spring tour, which for 2013 might be a little earlier in the year in April rather than May, depending on how early the spring plants begin to bloom. For more information call 770-841-0789.

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