On an early, warm, summer morning, the SAMs (Senior Adult Ministry) from First Baptist Church left Pine Bluff and set out for Hot Springs and Garvan Woodland Gardens.
Not only were they looking forward to the glorious cool breezes in the gardens but also to the event entitled “Splash of Glass,” — 222 pieces of unique, multicolored art glass created by the enormously talented James Hayes. These pieces of art glass are splashed across the 210-acre peninsula on the shores of Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs.
Garvan Woodland Gardens, first called “Twentieth Century Gardens,” was the vision of Verna Cook Garvan who died in 1993. She inherited the property from her father, Arthur Cook, a Malvern brick and lumber businessman. Cook originally purchased the property in the 1920s for future timber for his company, Wisconsin-Arkansas Lumber. When her father died, Garvan assumed control of the family’s assets and masterfully managed Malvern Brick and Tile and the lumber company, first alone, then in later years with her husband, Patrick Garvan.
Verna Garvan loved gardening and, with the help of a brick factory employee, Warren Bankston, planted thousands of native and exotic trees, shrubs and plants. After many years of work, Garvan realized that she wanted a garden on a grander scale than she and Bankston could construct. In 1985, an agreement was reached with the University of Arkansas School of Architecture to operate the gardens. Today, Garvan Gardens is recognized as one of the top five most spectacular gardens in the United States.
Hayes is a native of Pine Bluff and is the owner of the James Hayes Art Glass Company in Pine Bluff. He received an art degree from Hendrix College in 1988. After college, he discovered glassblowing at the Arkansas Art Center Museum School. He has studied glassblowing in Murano, Italy, Columbus, Ohio, and the Pilchuck Glass School near Seattle, Wash. Hayes has won many awards and honors, and his art glass is sold in many shops, galleries and art museums across the United States.
Arriving at the gardens, the SAMs went first to the Chipmunk Cafe for an early lunch. The cafe menu is quite extensive. The sandwich meal deal consists of a choice of turkey, ham, chicken salad or corn beef with lettuce and tomatoes, chips and a drink. There are many sandwiches, wraps and salads on the menu. Favorite among the group were the sandwich meal deal, the Reuban sandwich, the green herb chicken salad sandwich, the all American burger, the grilled chicken breast sandwich and the pulled pork sandwich.
After lunch, the SAMs enjoyed the cool breeze off the outdoor patio of the cafe while waiting for the golf cart tour. The golf cart driver, Nancy Rostan, an accountant at the gardens, explained that the employees are expected to do occasional tours. The SAMs couldn’t have been more delighted with Rostan. She was very patient, stopping the golf cart so that the SAMs could take pictures. The moment the group saw the first of Hayes’ art, they were amazed, according to a spokesman.
Hayes has said that he uses “nature, chance and his emotions” as inspiration for his art work. In the garden setting, his work is even more beautiful, if possible. In the gardens, Hayes’ pieces consist of onions, bowls, chandeliers, floating balls, flowers, vines, wind mobiles, mushroom fairy houses, Razorback-inspired sculpture, and hanging twist chain.
There are too many flowers in the gardens to mention — both annuals and perennials. The mass plantings of impatiens, hostas, begonias, blanket flowers, coneflowers, caladiums, and many others will take your breath away. Two areas not to be missed are the Fern Glade on Warren’s Woodland Walk, named after Warren Bankson, and the Garden of the Pine Wind, a four-acre, majestic rock and stream garden. Featured in the latter are 300 varieties of Asian ornamental plants, 60 types of Japanese and other Asian maples, as well as oriental dogwood. A children’s garden is now being constructed.
Those making the trip included the volunteer SAMs driver, James House, the volunteer SAMs trip planner, Jeanette McGrew, Ann Adair, Audrey Borecky, Betty Craig and Peggie Howard. It was a wonderful day of Christian fun and fellowship, the spokesman said.