LaGRANGE — In 1932, Ida Cason Callaway hosted more than 165 members of the Garden Club of America for a festive dinner celebrating the 100th anniversary of Ferrell Gardens, the lushly terraced, 5-acre garden at her Vernon Street home, Hills & Dales.
On Saturday and Sunday Hills & Dales will again welcome a large contingent of garden club members to mark another centennial — the 100th anniversary of the Callaway family home itself. The Georgian-Italian villa opened June 16, 1916 with a gala reception marking the 25th wedding anniversary of Ida and Fuller Callaway and became the home of Alice and Fuller E. Callaway Jr. following his parents’ deaths.
Now a historic property of Fuller E. Callaway Foundation, Hills & Dales Estate has welcomed more than 110,000 visitors since opening as a house museum in 2004.
The Centennial Flower Show comes at the midpoint of a yearlong celebration of the 100-year milestone, kicked off in January with a lecture introducing “Fuller E. Callaway: Portrait of a New South Citizen,” a well-received biography of the textile magnate and philanthropist, written by historians Buckner and Carol Melton. The ninth child of a Baptist preacher, with no formal education after age 8, Callaway rose to national prominence in textiles, banking, insurance and railroads.
“As part of our 100th anniversary celebration, and to pay tribute to Ida and Alice’s love of flowers, Hills & Dales will open its doors to Troup County garden clubs for a weekend flower show,” explained David Brown, greenhouse horticulturist and floral designer for Hills & Dales.
Clubs from Elms and Roses Garden Club Council, plus other local garden clubs, will create 20 arrangements for placement throughout the home — everywhere from the formal living and dining rooms to the ladies powder room, kitchen and third floor billiard room.
The designs will not be judged and will be placed as enhancements to the decor, many of them in containers of the house, explained Betty Lester of Elms and Roses Council, who coordinated club involvement.
“We were so pleased that seven of our eight clubs are participating. We are grateful for the tremendous contributions of the Callaways and Callaway Foundation in our community, and this spurred such good participation. Members are looking at this as a fun project that will be enjoyed by them and by all visitors,” Lester said..
Laura Jennings, president of Laurel Garden Club, agreed.
“Hills & Dales protects and showcases all that is good in the world, from the ancient trees to the tiniest caterpillar. There is a saying that you can’t pluck a flower without troubling a star. Garden Club members value that interconnectivity of the natural world and jump at the chance to open people’s eyes to the splendor of the earth.”
In conjunction with the flower show, the Callaway tradition of hospitality will be extended communitywide. Residents of Troup County may visit the home and garden free of charge Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m. for self-guided tours of the garden and docent-led, walk-through tours of the home. On Saturday, guests are welcome to enjoy Mrs. Callaway’s punch served on the terrace.
Filling Hills & Dales with flowers is very much in keeping with the customs of both Ida and Alice Callaway, who spent more than 80 combined years tending the extensive boxwood gardens begun in 1841 by Sarah Coleman Ferrell but incorporating a small garden begun by her mother, Nancy Coleman Ferrell, in 1832.
“Not only did Ida and Alice Callaway enjoy being the caretakers of the gardens, but each delighted in bringing the beautiful flowers indoors,” said docent manager Suellen Dolan. Flowers and foliage were collected regularly for arranging, and the greenhouse was used to provide fresh plant material when seasonal blooms were not available.
“Alice Callaway even converted Fuller Sr.’s former office into her ‘flower room,’ where she kept journals of her daily garden activities along with a collection of gardening books and paraphernalia. Visitors today see the room as it was in her day,” Dolan said.
Members of seven garden clubs — Iris, Ivy, Laurel, Pine Needle, Talisman, Willowood and Wisteria — will spend Friday at Hills & Dales, preparing arrangements in keeping with the home’s traditions.
“We are aware that Alice Callaway loved her garden and flowers and used the ordinary plants to decorate her home, so designs will be in the style usually in the house,” Lester said.
The clubs are providing their own flowers “as our tribute to the Callaways on the anniversary date,” she added.
“We sincerely believe that Ida and Alice would be so pleased that their lovely home will come alive June 4 and 5 with the talents of local garden enthusiasts,” Brown said.
For more information, contact the Hills & Dales Visitor Center at 706-883-3242 or visit hillsanddales.org.
Andrea Lovejoy, retired editor of LaGrange Daily News, serves on the Advisory Committee at Hills and Dales Estate.