Sautee Nacoochee, Georgia


Sautee Nacoochee Native Peace Garden

The Native Peace Garden was dedicated on June 22, 2019. About eighty people - elders of the community, garden volunteers, family, friends and SNCA board members and staff - gathered to celebrate the event. The idea for the garden began in 2015, when the late Helen and Jack Mott gifted a portion of their adjoining land to SNCA.

A large oak tree on the site - estimated to be 150 to 200 years old - overlooks a creek sitting above a floodplain behind the Sautee Nacoochee Post Office.

"This tree and garden came not from Jack and me, but through us," Helen said. "We honor the Cherokee tradition of our earth belonging to the ALL."

Allen Stovall, landscape architect, was asked to create a plan for the garden. Allen grew up in the Sautee Valley. He is professor emeritus in the College of Environment and Design at the University of Georgia. Back in 1982, he authored The Sautee and Nacoochee Valleys: A Preservation Study. The study was a precursor to the establishment of the Sautee and Nacoochee Valleys on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 2017, Allen asked several people to help create a native plant garden. In an early meeting, he showed the group his initial drawing, and the work moved off the page and onto the land.

Next, volunteers transformed the site - once covered with invasive privet shrub - into a woodland garden. Native plants were purchased and donated from community members. In his design, Allen considered water diversion, a gravel pathway through the garden and seating areas.

The Native Peace Garden is the first part of an overall master plan that will improve and unite the many features of the SNCA campus. The plan was developed in 2016 by the SNCA board of directors, working with the Georgia Mountain Regional Commission.

Special thanks to Helen and Jack Mott, donors; Allen Stovall, landscape design; Bob Slack, construction; Lynda Doll, coordinator; and Johnna Tutttle, naturalist.

Open from sunrise to sunset, the Native Peace Garden is available for the public's enjoyment.

The latest blooms in
the Native Peace Garden
Wood Poppy
[Photographer: Johnna Tuttle]

Celandine Poppy, Stylophorum diphyllum, is a bright blooming woodland species of the poppy family. It is growing on the bank in the Native Peace Garden on the ball field side. It likes moist, acidic, rich woodland soil and will self sow from it's popping seeds. Watch for chipmunks - they enjoy eating the poppy seeds!

Lanterns on a Winter's Night
lanterns at night

What will bring people outside on a cold winter night? Apparently, hot chocolate and the magic of seeing lighted paper lanterns in a woodland garden was enough to entice about 30 people to the Native Peace Garden on Saturday, February 15. The event, WinterFest in the Garden, was held in conjunction with WinterFest Arts & Coach Tour, a weekend-long event which included three art festivals including the Sautee Nacoochee Art Festival.

lantern workshop

WinterFest in the Garden began with a workshop on February 13. A group of women gathered in the Folk Pottery Studio to decorate paper lanterns with a celestial theme of moon and stars. The lanterns were hung in the Native Peace Garden by volunteers on Saturday.

lanterns in daylight

The lanterns took on a life of their own that night as they glowed and swayed in the breeze and reflected on the murmuring stream. After walking through the garden, guests gathered at a jolly fire and heard a Cherokee story about the creation of Turtle Island. Like lightning bugs on a summer's eve, the lanterns were briefly enjoyed and then disappeared from the wood. The creators reclaimed their lanterns, to be enjoyed as joyous nightlights.