It’s no exaggeration to call Massee Lane Gardens one of Georgia’s hidden treasures. Except for a road sign, carefully placed on a long stretch of state Route 49, one could quite easy bypass the gardens.
Located on the outskirts of Fort Valley, the 10-acre Massee Lane Gardens is home to more than 1,000 varieties of camellia flowers. But that’s only one of its attractions. Carefully displayed behind glass walls, it houses one of the most extensive collections of fine porcelain sculptures.
It has the largest collection of Edward Marshall Boehm porcelain sculptures on public display. The internationally renowned Boehm Porcelain Studio has been creating handcrafted, individual porcelain pieces—using a process perfected in ancient China—since 1950.
Many of the pieces in Massee Lane Gardens’ collection depict birds—eagles, owls, swans and condors—spreading their wings. Other groups of sculptures depict royalty on horseback, flowers and religious themes. This prized collection is among an elite few around the world that includes the Vatican Museum and the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Admittedly, I’m not one to appreciate flowers. But the scent of budding camellias struck me as I approached one of the many brick paths that wind through the gardens. Small signs with the names of camellia varieties dot the flower beds along the pathways. They help visitors like me to distinguish the goshozakuias (camellia japonica) from the lasca beauties (camellia reticulate).
Massee Lane Gardens is the national headquarters of the American Camellia Society, which relocated to Fort Valley in 1968 from Tifton. Its finely manicured grounds include several individual gardens, a greenhouse, picnic area and pavilion.
It is becoming a popular site for wedding ceremonies, the manager told me during my visit. And for couples who decide to get married at the gardens, there are many scenic locations to choose from. The Ornate Iron Gates and Wishing Well, once the entrance to the gardens in the 1960s, are one of the most picturesque sections of the gardens. But there are many other inviting areas to discover.
This is a great time to see, smell and enjoy camellias—which bloom from September to April. Massee Lane Gardens is open Tuesday through Sunday, and admission costs $5 for visitors older than 12 years old. It does not have an independent Web site, but information is available at www.Camellias-acs.com or by calling (478) 967-2383.