Paris, Tenn.–Paris’s first botanical garden will be dedicated at 10 a.m. Monday, December 16. Located at 311 Jackson Street, the garden is an ongoing project of the Historic Atkins-Porter Neighborhood Association.
In 2016, the Neighborhood Association purchased a dilapidated structure on the Jackson Street site. A number of neighbors contributed funding and, in partnership with the City’s Preserve Paris Program, the eyesore was demolished and removed. This endeavor marked the first time that the city had worked in concert on this type of project with a neighborhood.
“We can’t say enough about the City of Paris,” Association President Rachel Terrell said. “They have really stepped up through Preserve Paris and other programs to help our town’s older neighborhoods. We also want to thank Helping Hand, the Board of Public Utilities, USDA and others who made it possible for us to begin creating something special in that space.”
Although the original concept was for a park, the board soon found that it had an opportunity to create an educational venue to teach neighbors and the community about one of the neighborhood’s greatest assets, its plant life and bio-diversity. The group realized that by planting and labeling the trees, shrubs and flowers, they were no longer creating a neighborhood park, but a botanical garden.
“When people think about the Atkins-Porter Neighborhood, they think about gorgeous old trees like stately oaks and magnolias, smaller trees like dogwoods and redbuds, brilliant bushes like forsythias and blooming flowers,” according to River Byrd, head of the Botanical Garden Committee. “Along with that plant life come birds, bats, butterflies, bugs and other helpful creatures.”
Most of the garden’s variety of plantings are native to the area. Visitors can learn what plants are in their backyard, schoolyard or nearby walking trails by studying them in the Atkins-Porter Botanical Garden. They can also slow down, take a deep breath and relax in the gazebo under the swirling fan.
The Association plans to hold occasional classes and invite school groups to visit and study the vegetation and wildlife that flourishes inside the gates of the garden.
“This effort also is of great importance in the A-P Neighborhood where many residents are on limited incomes and don’t have access to the varied plant life and lovely surroundings that will be offered by this space,” Terrell said. “It will be a restful place for all who come.”
Phase I of the project included collecting donated bricks from neighbors, researching ideas, installing fencing, a gazebo, power and water. During phase II, the group created pads from donated brick for benches, purchased and planted trees, shrubs and flowers and mulched. Neighbors donated native flowers, shrubs and other smaller plantings, the stories of which will be documented on the Association’s website.