Thursday, May 10, 2018
Garvan Woodland Gardens
After her father death in 1934 Verna Cook Garven managed the family businesses, Wisconsin & Arkansas Lumber Company and Malvern Brick and Tile, an unusual position for a woman at that time. She had moved to South Carolina with her first husband, Lonnie Alexander, but moved back to Arkansas after they divorced and began developing the gardens on family land. Plans made with her second husband, Francis Patrick Garvan Jr., for a home on the garden’s peninsula were shelved when Francis died in 1975. Verna bequeathed the gardens to University of Arkansas School of Architecture in 1985 but maintained personal control until her death 1993.
About 5 miles of trails loop through the gardens. Most of it has been left in a natural state with camellias, azaleas, ferns, daffodils, and wildflowers planted in the understory. The smaller, more manicured section includes a bonsai garden, Japanese Garden, Children’s Garden, and seasonal flower gardens. The section where the 60’ tall, wood and glass Anthony Chapel, the amphitheater, and boat dock are located may be visited without buying admission tickets.
Both the Children’s Garden and Hixson Nature Preserve were under construction during our visit but we walked/rolled along most of the other trails including some that were designated as non-ADA accessible. The garden map provided to visitors has color coded trails so it’s easy to see which ones are accessible. Visitors who use wheelchairs may need assistance on all of the trails due to the hilly terrain.
The parking lot is large enough for any RV but the overflow area is gravel instead of asphalt. Gardens 34.43402, -93.04471