History and Development of Lockerly Arboretum

MAY 13, 2014 035

The 50 acres that comprise Lockerly Arboretum today are the direct result of a love affair between Mr. E.J. Grassmann and the Milledgeville area. From the mid-1920’s through the 1960’s, Mr. Grassmann travelled the Middle Georgia area because of his kaolin-clay interests. He came to love Milledgeville and its beautiful antebellum properties.  He had many unsuccessful attempts to purchase property in and around the city but never gave up.  As fate would have it, the property we now call Lockerly Arboretum was eventually purchased by Mr. Grassmann. It has been said that a garden is a true reflection of its creator. Luckily for us, Mr. Grassmann wrote his vision for the development of the property, which has served as the guide for the Arboretum’s plantings throughout the years.

Mr. Grassmann had very specific ideas about the plant material to be used on the grounds of the newly created Lockerly Arboretum,”…. it was deemed desirable to establish an arboretum where plants of America and from other parts of the world could be established…….. for the enjoyment and education of such of the coming generation… …The plantings should not comprise ordinary items generally seen . . . but should comprise plantings and specimens of unusual items worthy of more general knowledge . . . and varieties of merit not ordinarily grown.” Common trees and shrubs routinely found in residential landscapes were not what Grassmann had in mind for Lockerly.  Variety and experimentation with plants lent themselves to his vision.

He also believed that Lockerly Arboretum  was a spot where, “horticultural work can be carried out to Existing Reference Garden (3)educate and assist students, old or young, in the practical work of beautification and conservation of areas ranging from a home site to communities.” Mr. Grassmann recognized beautiful parks and show places for the enjoyment of the general public, but his desire was for Lockerly to be, “developed  for the further education of students and lovers of plant life and horticulture, wishing to enhance their knowledge and ability to enable them to practically encourage others.” To take this even one step further, he specifically mentioned that, “literature and instruction should be available to supplement observation.” Lockerly’s founder truly believed that educational opportunities and materials should go hand in hand with the horticulture displays throughout the property.

For the past 50 years, the Arboretum’s staff amassed collections of native azaleas, rhododendrons,  camellias,  hollies and perennials. The two most recent areas of focus have been native woody ornamentals and conifers. The Native Plant Collection is located near the Woods Museum. The Conifer Collection is located in the Pinetum, one of the oldest ‘planted areas’ within the Arboretum. Over a five year period, an extensive collection was developed  and has matured into quite a colorful tapestry. As in any garden,  plants at Lockerly thrive, survive, and sometimes succumb to the elements. Our gardens are in a constant state of flux due to Mother Nature and her seasonal idiosyncrasies.

We embrace and honor Mr. Grassmann’s vision for Lockerly Arboretum. Our plans and plantings are 8256db00feb9ca2cdb51d27c63da04a8designed for the enjoyment of our present and future visitors. Our plant collections continue to expand. During the spring of 2015 we began an ambitious plant collection identification program to inventory, map and label the plants in our collections. We hope to make these maps available to the public in the near future.

We invite the public to walk on the Arboretum trails, wander through the meadow, enjoy the color and texture of our Pinetum, and explore the variety of plantings from around the world that make Lockerly Arboretum their home.