On March 23, Patricia Collins celebrated her 45th anniversary at Callaway Gardens. She was the first female horticulture intern at the garens and worked in the horticulture and education departments. The first 10 years at Callaway Gardens, Collins worked in the horticulture department as a display coordinator in the greenhouse and the John A. Sibley Horticultural Center. The rest of the time, she's been in the education department.
Last fall, Collins was named director of the gardens. She oversees the long-range planning of the gardens, which includes the resort, preserve and community. Projects include designing garden spaces, redevelopment of Meadowlark Garden, preservation of native collections and maintaining the historical significance of the gardens' plants.
“Patricia worked in the Gardens with my grandmother Virginia Callaway and knows her vision and ideas for the Gardens firsthand,” said Edward Callaway, Callaway Gardens’ CEO/ICCF Chairman of the Board, in a statement. “Patricia’s knowledge, skills, understanding and love of Callaway Gardens make her the most qualified professional to set the direction of future developments of the Gardens. I couldn’t be more thrilled.”
Collins continues as director of education. More than 50,000 people participate in workshops, programs and symposia that she oversees.
She also manages the volunteer program that she began in 1985. The program has more than 400 volunteers who help weed or greet guests and answer their questions. The volunteers started the annual Callaway Gardens Plant Fair and Sale, a major fundraiser for the gardens.
“Her care, concern and love for educating others about gardens and her genuine belief in the mission of Callaway Gardens are what make her an extraordinary individual,” said volunteer Sue Landa in a statement.
Collins is also involved in donor development, and also represents the gardens in local, regional and national radio and TV appearances as well as interviews for newspapers and magazines.
“I am honored to do my part to continue the legacy of founders Cason and Virginia Callaway as it pertains to the landscaped and natural areas of the Gardens,” said Collins in a statement. “It was my privilege to have spent time with Virginia Callaway and absorb some of her gardening philosophy.”
Collins was recognized with the Award of Merit by the 2010 annual convention of the American Public Gardens Association. The award recognizes the member who has "performed with distinction in the field of public horticulture and has excelled as a public garden professional at one or more institutions. The recipient's accomplishments will encompass some combination of botany, horticulture, conservation, gardening, research, extension, education, development or administration."
William E. Barrick, former gardens executive director and current executive director of Bellingratj Gardens in Alabama, said in a letter sent to Collins, "I can think of no one more deserving than Patricia for this award in recognition of her exceptional career in public gardening. She is without question one of the most competent, energetic, positive thinking professionals I have ever worked with.”
Collins, originally from South Carolina, is a graduate of Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Ga. She has completed graduate courses at the University of Georgia. She had her husband, a retired Baptist minister and now a licensed family counselor, live in Pine Mountain Valley. They have two children and two grandchildren.
In her spare time, Collins fights kudzu and honeysuckle on their 12-acre property. “Collins contributions are the true essence of the Callaway Gardens’ mission of ‘connecting man and nature in a way that benefits both,” said Callaway in a statement.