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About Waddell Barnes Botanical Gardens

Dr. Waddell Barnes

Dr. Waddell Barnes
1925 - 2014

The botanical gardens will serve as a living memorial to Dr. Waddell Barnes, who died in October 2014 at the age of 89.

Dr. Barnes, who earned a degree in medicine at Harvard University Medical School, practiced general internal medicine and medical oncology in Bibb County for 26 years. He became president of what was then the Macon State College Foundation in 1998, and his association with the college included serving as a health education advisor.

After becoming a master gardener, he headed a committee of community volunteers that helped carry out the vision of the botanical gardens by donating new plants, soliciting funding and creating an annual lecture series that focuses on horticultural topics.

Dr. Barnes was honored in February 2014 with a national "Award of Excellence" from National Garden Clubs. The award annually recognizes exceptional individuals, organizations or institutions that have made significant contributions to their communities in such areas as environmental and civic responsibility, conservation, community beautification and promoting the love of gardening.

He also received the Lawrence Enersen Award from the Arbor Day Foundation in recognition of his lifelong commitment to tree planting and conservation on a community level.

Upon his death, Dr. Barnes' family carried out one of his wishes and donated the remainder of his own personal horticulture library – an additional collection of about 350 books – to the collection he had previously started at the college.

In 2003, at the request of Dr. David Bell, then the president of what was Macon State College, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia named the college's botanical gardens after the late Waddell Barnes, M.D., a former chair of the Foundation's Board of Trustees and the driving force behind the development of this unique horticultural resource.

When construction of what originally was known as Macon Junior College began in 1967, the 167-acre campus became home to more than 1,600 trees, 2,500 shrubs and 12,000 ground cover plants. Landscape architect Clay Adamson, who retired as plant operations director from the Medical College of Georgia, made the original plant selection. Joseph White Jr., the director of Plant Operations when Macon Junior College opened, supervised the careful planting of the large order, most of which came from a nursery in Dalton, Ga.

Viewing the development 30 years later, Dr. Barnes was inspired by the potential he saw for an expanded horticultural display and approached then-MSC president Dr. Aaron Hyatt on developing the campus into a showcase for native plants and other specimens that have adapted to the region.

To launch the ambitious project, Dr. Barnes put together an executive committee of knowledgeable gardeners, which became a working group to oversee development of the embryonic gardens. Through his network of friends and international contacts, he secured a $10,000 grant from Stanley Smith Horticulture Trust of London to further the project.

Most significant was arranging for a comprehensive master plan by Robert and Company, a firm already noted for designing the Heritage Garden Master Plan of the State Botanical Garden in Athens and a similar overall plan for Stone Mountain Park. The college's new master plan laid the groundwork for all future garden development, including theme gardens, greenhouse, recreation facilities and other resources that will have wide community interest and use.

Divided into 16 distinct gardens, the plan advised detailed lists of plants for the each theme: Southern Traditional, Fruit Trees, Shrubs and Vines, Medicinal, Natives, Showy Fruit, Showy Flowers, Fragrant, Wet Environment, Touch & Feel, Fall Colors, European, Asian, Urban Environment, Industry and Xeriscape (landscaping requiring the least amount of water).

Turning the plan into reality has been the responsibility of David Sims, director of Plant Operations for the college, who is responsible for implementing the plan and maintaining the garden's health and beauty.

Expanding the development, Dr. Barnes and President Bell enlisted support from the University of Georgia School of Environmental Design.

With the aid of volunteers, an early project was undertaken by Dr. Silvana Andrew to take the list of the 1967 plantings and become plant detectives to identify their location on campus.

As a resource to the community, the Botanical Gardens look to local volunteers to help with the entire spectrum of activity: plant labeling, maintenance and other assistance. They're developing a "Friends of the Garden" type organization as an auxiliary, which will accept donations for plants, landscaping features such as paths, benches, gates, gazebo and other items. Individuals or organizations can honor or memorialize individuals with plaques or contributions to the general fund.

Dr. Barnes also created a horticultural section within the college's main Library. Again, he saw an area that needed development and contributed volumes from his own collection to get this started.

Information for this piece comes from a Macon Magazine article (February/March 2003) written by Dick George, past president of the Master Gardeners of Central Georgia and founder and first president of the Central Georgia Horticultural Society.

  LAST MODIFIED: 6/7/2016