Instead of water, the beginnings of tiny saplings greet those taking a stroll through the semi-completed Longleaf Botanical Gardens, which will officially open to the public Friday Nov. 29.
Cheryl Bragg, executive director of the Anniston Museum of Natural History, said the garden will be the crown jewel of its upcoming walking tour “Christmas in the Gardens.”
The tour, which will be set up for three weeks, will take guests through the Anniston Museum of Natural History, the Berman Museum of World History and the Longleaf Botanical Gardens, which will be decorated with Christmas lights. Christmas trees will line the pathway to the garden entrance and events and music will be everywhere, inside and out, Bragg said.
“We’ll probably charge around $10 a carload. We’re going all out,” she said.
The Longleaf Botanical Gardens project, named for the stand of longleaf pine growing behind the building, has been in the works since 2010. Though the project is far from complete, donations and help from the Anniston Rotary Club have helped get the ball rolling.
“They got plants and materials and did all of that,” Bragg said, pointing to where museum staff workers were setting up light beds and water hoses for the garden today. “We’re real pleased about the way it’s turned out.”
The dark red bricks lining the pathway and the terracotta panels on display were once part of the old Anniston Land Company building, which was demolished this year.
“People can buy brick and have it engraved in their honor or in honor of someone else. We’re really proud,” Bragg said.
Over where the tennis courts once were is an open greenhouse volunteers work to cover up every week. Soon it will be the home of an “edible garden” and one day, a glass conservatory.
Bragg was pleased with the overall long-term goals for the garden as well as with what staff and volunteers can accomplish in the near future.
“We have the right plan and a right- now plan,” she said.
Because the museum staff has been so involved with most of the building and renovations, they’ve been able to save money and stretch the funding they do have.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do that if we had gone with a contractor,” she said.
With utilities, remodeling, plants and landscaping, the entire project will cost around $8 million.
“There’s a lot of work that takes a lot of money that we don’t yet have. We have a lot of challenges,” she said.
As for the future of the gardens, Bragg said instead of a formal atmosphere she wants to focus on an educational, interactive learning environment.
“We want to be really family friendly,” she said.
Staff writer Madasyn Czebiniak: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @MCzebiniak_Star.