My daughter and I recently visited the Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum, which is within minutes of our home. We enjoyed a leisurely stroll and even found a cat in Knoxville's 44 acre "secret garden." The grounds are beautiful and provide a great place for a picnic or in my case, for my toddler to run around and let off some steam that day!
The gardens are actually older than Knoxville and began as a nursery.
"The year was 1786, the United States had declared its independence from Great Britain 10 years earlier and North Carolina was awarding land west of the Appalachian Mountains to its dedicated soldiers of the Revolutionary War and selling land to cover war debts. David Wessels Howell was one of the individuals who was awarded a piece of land where he established a plant nursery and orchard in the area that would later be known as Knoxville, TN."
--from the Garden's Website: History of the Howell Nurseries By Katie Steinhoff
The gardens and nursery were nearly lost for a housing project in 2001, but now, full restoration efforts are in progress. The board has big dreams for East Knoxville's garden space:
"Our hope is to see this historic landscape preserved, restored and expanded as a public garden, a community resource and as a tourist destination. We envision: every tree native to this region displayed along with rare and exotic species already established, pleasure gardens designed by nationally noted garden designers to create a collection quite extraordinary and significant to Knoxville, a bird sanctuary, areas designated for plant cultivation, meditation, water features, sculpture and ultimately an amphitheater for plays, concerts and festivals... The Gardens will provide a new and much needed dedicated “green space” for the community that surrounds it as well as educational programs for children and adults throughout Knoxville."
--from The Garden's Website.