Rock City Gardens Celebrates 85 Years

Monday, May 8, 2017
Frieda Utermoehlen Carter
Frieda Utermoehlen Carter

Rock City honors the legacy of its original gardener, Frieda Utermoehlen Carter, during the ninth annual Southern Blooms Festival this month in conjunction with the attraction’s 85th anniversary celebration. Southern Blooms and Founder’s Day festivities are May 13-14 and 20-21 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.  Participants may meet southern belles and Rocky, enjoy live harp performances and eat during the event. 

Rock City Gardens opened to the public on May 21, 1932, and to commemorate the date, a Founder’s Day offer is available May 21 for guests to purchase an annual pass for $19.32 (less than the cost of a one-day admission). Also on May 20 and 21, Author Tim Hollis is onsite to sign copies of his new book featuring Rock City. 

See Rock City barn painting demos along Legacy Lane at select times during Southern Blooms and take a look at Rock City’s history with coinciding world events displayed through the decades. Guests can also “Walk in Frieda’s Footsteps” on a guided tour to learn about the history of the founders and gardens. 

“One of our first priorities in rethinking and remaking Rock City Gardens into a relevant attraction to current generations of visitors was to restore the emphasis that Aunt Frieda had on the flora of Lookout Mountain,” said Rock City CEO Bill Chapin. “After almost 30 years of making this place more beautiful every day, Rock City’s Director of Horticulture George Schimpf is retiring this month. His success in restoring the beauty of the gardens led to our emphasis on the Southern Blooms Festival. George’s contacts put Rock City Gardens in a position to invite experts to participate in this annual event that helps local and regional gardeners improve their skills. Activities for the entire family hope to encourage guests of all ages to appreciate the beauty of nature and the importance of good stewardship of our environment.” 

Ms. Schimpf said, “There have been over 1,200 varieties of plants that have thrived on our Enchanted Trail since Frieda began the gardens.” Some of his personal favorites to look for are Rhododendron roseum elegans, Yellowwood trees and Native azaleas. The festival also offers gardening advice from Master Gardeners of Hamilton County, “Garden 2 Go” activities, fairy garden workshops (advance registration required), southern belle makeovers and interactive planting demonstrations with the horticulture team. 

Rock City is featuring an Enchanted Mother’s Day Lunch on May 14 at 1 p.m. Skip the restaurant crowds on Mother’s Day with a reserved three-course meal set at a decorated table, with live harp music, a souvenir photo and a fresh flower for the guest of honor. To make a reservation and get additional info on the scheduled Blooms activities, visit

Other savory food options include lunch with a view at Café 7, open from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., or enjoy a homemade chicken salad sandwich topped with an edible flower at the Big Rock Grill. Sugar cookies with green icing as served on opening day are also available. 

Rock City’s new community partner for this event is Partnership for Families, Children and Adults’ Family Connections Supervised Visitation Center. They provide a safe, home-like environment for supervised visitations between children and their non-custodial parent. Partnership is a community impact agency that has been empowering people to build better lives through counseling, crisis intervention, prevention and education programs for 140 years. PFCA operates over 20 programs within four centers of service: Victim Support Services, Elder Services, Stability Services and Mission Driven Enterprises. Last year, Partnership served over 45,000 people in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. PFCA is a United Way Member Agency and is accredited by the National Council on Accreditation. 

Just six miles from downtown Chattanooga, Rock City Gardens is an enchanted, 4,100-foot walking trail showcasing lush gardens, caves and soaring rock formations. Rock City is home to over 400 species of plants and flowers.

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