Now 5 years old, the Atlanta Botanical Garden in Gainesville is adding a $2.1 million children’s garden in March.

The Ada Mae Pass Ivester Children’s Garden is set for a grand opening on March 21 and includes a bushel of new attractions covering more than 2 acres on the property at 1911 Sweetbay Drive in northeast Gainesville.

“The children’s garden really adds so much in terms of activities and a new audience,” said Mildred Fockele, lead horticulturist at the Gainesville garden. “We have families and children that come and enjoy being in the garden, but it adds another dimension.”

At the new space will be a collection of carnivorous plants, a pond, build-a-fort area and lawn labyrinth treehouse and a rock-climbing area. 

The fort is especially interesting, being a cross between Minecraft (for the computer kid sort) and Lincoln logs (for the analog adults). The area allows kids to configure balsa wood posts into just about any configuration, building walls with or without windows or a whole house depending on what they can imagine.

It’s whole garden has been designed to suit families rather than classes of kids, Fockele said.

“If you’re a mom or a grandparent out there with a 2-year-old and you had 50 fourth graders show up, it would be a little overwhelming,” she added, laughing.

The new garden was part of the master plan for the botanical garden when it opened in 2015. The children’s garden represents the second stage of the garden’s plan. It’s been named for New Holland native and avid gardener Ada Mae Pass Ivester, mother of retired Coca-Cola Co. CEO Doug Ivester.

In the long term, there are about four or five other large projects that could be built into the garden depending on demand and fundraising, Fockele said.

But in the near term, Hall County kids can look forward to getting the chance to get outside at the new garden in March. 

As a horticulturist, Fockele said she’s most looking forward to the wide array of plants coming to the children’s garden, including the fairy villages and train gardens.

The garden sits at the highest point on the property.

“The winding walkway to the top of the hill is an adventure itself, with shrub tunnels serving as hideouts for miniature fairies and dragons. A balance beam dragon guards the entrance to the garden; its flames of fire lead to the Labyrinth Lawn and water play area,” states a press release from Atlanta Botanical Gardens. “A boardwalk winds through tall grasses to the Fairy Forest, home to fairy houses, enchanted tree stumps, and a castle and fairy rings connected by the Train Garden. 

“This garden features a trolley connecting two fairy villages with fairy houses made of natural materials such as bark, pine cones, acorns, sticks and gourds. The villages are watched over by Desmond the Dragon, a friendly creature hidden behind the pond. And everyone’s favorite giant frog plant sculptures accent the two sides of the pond, with the smaller frog spitting at the larger.”

Plans for the grand opening are still in the works, Fockele said, but the day itself will have a portion open to the public in the afternoon — garden members will get an early look the morning of March 21 — and include events and food.