Occupying the grounds of the former Howell Nursery, a sprawling and incredibly durable commercial garden supplier that produced trees and shrubs for two centuries, the Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum was established in 2001 when the nonprofit organization purchased the land directly from the Howell family. Since then, the garden has undergone a transformation with its whimsical gardens, trails and improved visitor experiences. In tribute to these improvements, and a growing sense of place, has led some to describe the adjacent early 20th century neighborhood as the “Garden District.”
The grounds now occupy all 47 acres of the original Howell property that had been part of the Howell operation since the 1940s. An encyclopedic array of trees and shrubs, endless stone walls, and the unique round stone houses within the Marth A. Ashe Garden add a distinct personality to the site.
Other notable features include the visitor center based in the former Joe Howell residence and the Old Mule barn which has been renovated at the site of the former C.B. Howell Nursery.
The playful memorial “Secret Garden” is inspired by the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, who lived in and near downtown Knoxville between 1865 and 1875, during which time she began her career as a successful author.
Also look for the statuesque Cedars of Lebanon trees with vistas looking over to the peaks of the Smoky Mountains National Park to the south, and especially fun for children – an expansive bamboo maze. In fact, there is something to discover almost around every corner throughout the entire site.
Trail maps are available at the kiosk by the parking area along the road adjacent to the Visitor Center.
Joe N. Howell, owner and operator of the Joe N. Howell Landscape Nurseries, started to work in the family business in the potting room when he was just 12.
After working at the nursery during the summers, and studying landscaping at the University of Tennessee, he officially joined the firm as a designer in the late 1920s.
Knoxville News-Sentinel, November 11, 1951
The Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum is located in East Knoxville at 2743 Wimpole Avenue, Knoxville, TN, 37914
KBGA’s history page is at: http://knoxgarden.org/about-2/history/