Dubbed the Florida Garden by Ida Callaway, the beds flanking this path just up from the herb garden got the name because of the tropical and marginally hardy plant material she acquired on trips down to Florida and subsequently brought back to plant here. Alice Callaway later modified the name to Florida Lane and continued to use plants here that would lend a tropical feel to this section. In late winter, the beds are in bloom with narcissus and Spanish bluebells, but during the warmer months of the growing season, they are still filled with tropical and exotic plants, perpetuating the theme begun years ago.
The Garden Club of GA’s Garden History of Georgia 1733-1933 lists papaya, citrus trees, and oleander growing in Ida’s Florida Garden. We also know that she planted bananas as well. Among the species that Alice installed are camellia, nandina, crepe myrtle, canna, variegated Chinese privet, ginger, and the large-leaved native magnolias.
During an interview with former Horticulture Manager Jo Phillips, who was hired by Alice Callaway in 1994, she described her theory of why Ida planted bananas on Florida Lane.
“We’re told that Ida really loved bananas. She and Fuller Sr. met when she was a college student and she loved bananas. He owned a retail store at the time, and he ordered bananas and had them delivered to her dormitory, I think. He courted her with bananas, so it’s kinda sweet that she would try growing them on Florida Lane. We have as well. There are some species that are hardier than others, and we usually get them to live for a few years. Then we’ll have a really hard winter that they won’t come back from.”
- Southern-most section: Umbrella (Magnolia tripetala) and Fraser magnolias, native deciduous trees with long tropical leaves that contribute to the tropical feel on Florida Lane. Alice Callaway planted several deciduous magnolias in this area, but these two are the only ones she planted that are still extant. The M. tripetala died approx. 2010 and the present one actually grew back from the root system of the first one.
- Hardy ferns are located in the southernmost section under the magnolias. They include autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora), holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum), southern wood fern (Thelypteris kunthii), and tassel fern (Polystichum polyblepharum). These were planted here in 2002, however, Alice Callaway did have a hardy fern garden at one time below the sunken garden that contained several of these species.
- Japanese windflower (Anemone ‘September Charm’ & A. ‘Prinz Heinrich’), planted by Alice Callaway in the mid-1990s.
- Center section: heirloom canna lily (Canna ‘Yellow King Humbert’) planted by Alice Callaway, loquat (Eriobotrya japonica), castor bean (Ricinus communis), species of banana (Musa) or banana relatives (Ensete), Mexican bush sage (Salvia leuchantha). These tropicals have a history of being grown by either Sarah, Ida, or Alice.
- Northern-most section: Variegated Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense ‘Variegata’) flanks each side of the path that dissects the lane, Cockspur coral tree (Erythrina crista-galli), pink crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia sp.), nandina (N. domestic), and ginger lily (Hedychium) were all grown by Alice Callaway.