There were many things Alice Huffard Richards was known for: her tenacity, her love of children, her knowledge of Latin plant names, among them.
And her pruning shears, an old pair of scissors, were always within reach.
“She’d go to visit a friend and pause to prune the flowers before she went in. She’d even pull over on the side of the road and prune or deadhead flowers that needed some love—and she would do this anywhere and everywhere,” said Jim Richards, one of Richards’ seven children. “She was renowned for always having her scissors in the car with her.”
The Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia will be dedicated March 18, memorializing her commitment to plants, children and Georgia. The first $1 million toward the garden was given to UGA by Richards’ family. The balance, about $4 million, was raised through private donations, including money from all 80 members of the State Botanical Garden advisory board, of which Richards was a charter member, and every employee of the garden.
The centerpiece of the State Botanical Garden, a UGA public service and outreach unit, the children’s garden is a 2.5-acre interactive outdoor classroom where visitors can learn about Georgia history and natural resources, native plants and pollinators and healthy foods.
The garden features a replica of Ellison’s Cave in Walker County, the 12th deepest cave in the U.S., mastodon fossils from 40 million years ago, granite mined from Elbert County and a pitcher plant bog, just a few points of interest visitors can expect to see, touch and explore at the new children’s garden.
“The garden is designed to showcase Georgia and the valuable natural resources in our state,” said Jennifer Cruse-Sanders, director of the State Botanical Garden. “We are so excited to share these themes with communities in Georgia and beyond, as a way of achieving our mission for service and outreach.”
Hailing from Carroll County, Georgia, Richards dreamed of creating a children’s garden in Athens from the time she joined the State Botanical Garden in the early 1980s, when the board of advisors first formed. Her family helped make the new garden a reality after she died in 2007.
But her impact goes beyond the children’s garden, back to 1968, when the State Botanical Garden first opened.
“She asked me why she should join the garden’s board, and I said, ‘you love flora and fauna, but more than that, you love conserving land and leaving things better,’” said Susan Duncan, who recruited Richards to join the original board of advisors. “You have the opportunity to create something wonderful.”
Richards was as comfortable recruiting new board members to the garden board as she was on her hands and knees, planting, trimming and watering in the flower garden. When the master plans for the State Botanical Garden were being drawn up, she proposed the initial concept for a children’s garden, a place to nurture and enrich the lives of the next generation.
The Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden is set to open March 23 with a festival-style spring celebration featuring food trucks, music, dance and aerial performances at the Theater-in-the-Woods stage and free fun throughout the entire day.