Friday, June 6, 2014

Atlanta Trip Report #3 - Mandarin Oriental English Garden

Garden pool at Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta
Beautiful formal pool in the middle of the English Garden at the Mandarin Oriental Atlanta.
Love the flagstone hardscape surrounding the pool. Very chic.

Despite being situated in the middle of Buckhead, one of the fanciest neighborhoods in the midst of urban Atlanta, where real estate values are probably stratospheric, the Mandarin Oriental Atlanta hotel has set aside a blissful bit of greenery - an English Garden where you can reboot and escape the stresses of the city.

The Mandarin graciously offered to host me on my trip to Atlanta last month. Which meant I had some quality time to get up close and personal with the garden. Here's what I found:

I saw some of the biggest, most beautiful Oakleaf Hydrangeas of my life in the Atlanta area -- and several of them were right in the Mandarin Oriental's garden. Check out those loooooooong flower panicles!

Blue spruce surrounded by hostas at the Mandarin Oriental garden
Here's a bold color combination - a metallic blue spruce surrounded by chartreuse hostas. Zowie!
(Incidentally, I've heard that blue spruces don't do very well in the Southeast, but they're available at local Tennessee nurseries and this one seemed to be doing fine in Atlanta. Any other Southeast gardeners care to chime in about their experiences with blue spruces?)

Remember my foliage posts (1 and 2) from last month? Here's more evidence that you can have a wild color palette even without flowers by combining blue spruce, purple Japanese maple, green hedges and a mix of yellow and variegated grassy groundcovers

Here's the same planting bed -- I just backed up a little to capture the wild Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) sprawling nearby. I liked the fact that not everything in this garden was trimmed to within an inch of its life. Now if only I could figure out why the Mandarin Oriental's Russian Sage is thriving while I had to cut mine to the ground for rejuvenation...
Rosemary hedge at Mandarin Oriental Atlanta garden
This Rosemary 'hedge' alongside the pool looked robust and healthy. Last year, the Mandarin Oriental Atlanta apparently had an entire herb section its garden. After a redesign, that herb garden is gone, but the chefs are planning to grow a few of their more frequently used garnishes in the garden this summer.

Of course, I didn't spend all my time in the garden. My wife and I had the chance to sample breakfast at the Mandarin Oriental's Cafe. I love the fact that the Mandarin's restaurant emphasizes fresh, local and organic cuisine.

This spicy cajun shrimp and grits dish used local North Georgia grits from Nora Mill. The grits themselves may  have been the creamiest I'd ever eaten. (Apparently the chef uses "a little" butter.)

Can't beat fresh-squeezed OJ - one of the best glasses I've had since I visited Valencia, Spain

The berries used to top the skillet french toast apparently are local and/or organic. Oh and the restaurant uses organic eggs too. So yeah, there's a whole lots of tasty organic stuff going down.
I should mention that you don't need to stay overnight at the Mandarin Oriental Atlanta to visit the garden. If you're having breakfast, lunch or dinner at the Cafe, feel free to spend some time in the garden before or after.

If you stop by to hear Friday night jazz at the Taipan lounge (8 p.m. to midnight), you can clear your head with a romantic stroll in the moonlit garden. (Presuming the moon happens to be shining that night, of course. Not even the Mandarin can make the moon appear on demand.) 

Here's a word to the wise -- if you do want to listen to jazz in the lounge, make sure to request reservations. It's a hot ticket and most seats were sold out early in the evening, although the room does clear out somewhat as the evening wears on if you want to stop by later on.

There's one other way to experience the Mandarin Oriental Atlanta's garden. The hotel will be throwing a summer garden party that is tentatively scheduled for July 3rd. There's no entry fee for this shindig, so if you're in the neighborhood, feel free to enjoy the ambiance, some live music and some creative libations prepared by a "guest mixologist" at the cash bar.