With the help of volunteers, trees will be planted in this multiyear project until thousands of flowering trees, shrubs, and daffodils continuously line the 1.5 miles of the John Lewis Freedom Parkway that connects John Lewis Plaza (near the memorial sculpture dedicated to John Lewis, “The Bridge” by Thorton Dial) to The King Center by way of The Carter Center.
The project was inaugurated with the first 300 flowering trees planted in Freedom Park. The tree species we’ve selected begin to bloom in late winter. The park and parkway start to pop with color as early spring teases its arrival and is a timely celebration of Lewis’s birthday on February 21.
The Flower Forest 2024 planting is funded by these sponsors through our partnership with Arbor Day Foundation. The tree tribute to John Lewis is an ongoing Trees Atlanta collaboration with the City of Atlanta, Freedom Park Conservancy, and National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Thank you!
Video courtesy of Arbor Day Foundation.
Photo Gallery from the Project Kickoff and yearly Volunteer Planting Projects
View additional photos and read about Year 1 Kickoff or Year 2 projects and view photos from past years.
Archive – 2021 Project Kickoff
300 Blooming Trees to Establish Spectacular Tree Tribute to Congressman John Lewis
Flowering Forest – a Tree Tribute to Civil Rights Leader John Lewis
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms shares this message of support for the Flowering Forest.
In addition to our distinguished speakers who will honor the late Congressman John Lewis at the Saturday planting day, these messages of support for the establishment of this meaningful tribute has been recorded by Georgia Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff and Atlanta City Councilmember Andre Dickens.
Honoring a life-long legacy of public service, a living tree tribute is being created in memorial to the late Congressman John Lewis in Freedom Park. Hundreds of blooming plants, including over 300 blooming trees, colorful flowering shrubs, and fields of daffodils will be planted in the first phase of a multi-year project. A 3-day volunteer planting project is scheduled for February 19, 20, and 21, ending on Sunday, which would have been John Lewis’s 81st birthday. Volunteers who wish to participate in the tree planting are required to register in advance (registration closed).
The trees and flowering plants have been selected for their early blooming in late winter (specifically around February) to celebrate the civil rights icon’s birthday with a spectacular blooming event each year. The desire to honor John Lewis’ life and legacy inspired the Freedom Park Conservancy, Trees Atlanta, and The National Center for Civil and Human Rights to bring together their commitments to community stewardship, urban tree cover, and civic storytelling.
Harriett Lane, Freedom Park Conservancy Chair acknowledges “Freedom Park has an important legacy in the areas of art, activism and nature, and this tree installation will honor John Lewis and allow us to reinforce his legacy for future generations. Today John Lewis Plaza within Freedom Park is anchored by the The Bridge, a work of sculptor Thornton Dial, which represents Congressman Lewis’ lifelong quest for the advancement of civil and human rights.”
The John Lewis Plaza is a space committed to celebrating his life. The park area around the Plaza provides the perfect venue for the initial planting of hundreds of flowering trees that will bring color into the space as a continuing celebration of his legacy. The “Flowering Forest – a Tree Tribute” planting project takes place in February allowing the public to honor Lewis’ birthday on February 21 as well as celebrate Black History Month and Georgia Arbor Day (February 19, 2021).
Over a five-year period, the Freedom Park Conservancy will lead the effort to extend the Flowering Forest with additional hundreds of blooming trees through Freedom Park, the largest linear park in the City of Atlanta, along the length of John Lewis Freedom Parkway to Boulevard. A stunning landmark corridor of blooming trees will link John Lewis Plaza, The Carter Center, and The King Center. Tree selections will include mostly native varieties of redbuds, magnolias, dogwoods, yellowwoods, buckeyes, fringe trees, and other flowering species.
Greg Levine, Co-Executive Director of Trees Atlanta noted, “This February’s planting will create a natural annual blooming event that celebrates a great man who represented Atlanta for nearly four decades. Our tree tribute will continue growing for generations to honor his impact on social justice.”
The National Center for Civil and Human Rights’ Head of Programs & Exhibitions, Dr. Calinda Lee explained, “Congressman Lewis sowed seeds of hope and equity. His life’s work was an undaunted fight for civil and human rights — without prejudice or exception. The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is honored to join this partnership to celebrate John L. Lewis’s legacy and to serve as a tangible reminder of the beauty that can grow from a commitment to stay in good trouble. We look forward to sharing the Congressman’s story to inspire the changemaker in each of us.”
Honored Guests and Volunteers
The following articles include many wonderful images of the event:
Thank you to the photographers who contributed photos for our Photo Gallery, including: UPS Corporation, Andrea Brannen, and Judy Yi. Additional images are also posted to our Facebook photo album 📷 .
About John Lewis: John Robert Lewis was an American statesman and civil rights leader who served in the United States House of Representatives for Georgia’s 5th congressional district from 1987 until his death in 2020. In 2018, a group of friends and leaders had the name of a major boulevard in Atlanta, Freedom Parkway, changed to honor Congressman Lewis. This boulevard is now called the John Lewis Freedom Parkway.
About Freedom Park Conservancy:Freedom Park Conservancy is working to adopt a new master plan for the approximately 200-acre Freedom Park by Spring 2021. Learn more about us atwww.freedompark.org. Freedom Park Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote the improvement and preservation of the park for the benefit of a diverse public. Born out of formidable citizen activism linking the movements of environmentalism, urbanism, historic preservationism and more, Freedom Park is now one of Atlanta’s largest public green spaces. Our vision is for Freedom Park to be Atlanta’s most innovative green space, celebrated for its inspiring origin and beauty.
About Trees Atlanta: Trees Atlanta is a nonprofit community group that protects and improves Atlanta’s urban forest by planting, conserving, and educating. Since its founding in 1985, Trees Atlanta has planted over 140,000 trees throughout metro Atlanta with volunteers and partners to ensure environmental, social, and economic benefits of trees are available and abundant for the health and well-being of all communities. Trees Atlanta plants over 7,000 trees every year, including helping to design, install, and maintain the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum; educates youth and adults through classroom lessons and hand-on training; and improves forested land by removing invasive species and restoring the native plant ecology of the area. Trees Atlanta is a trusted leader in organizing and demonstrating stewardship of our urban tree canopy. To volunteer and to learn more about the organization, please visit: treesatlanta.org.
About the National Center for Civil and Human Rights: The National Center for Civil and Human Rights in downtown Atlanta is a cultural institution that connects the American Civil Rights Movement to the struggle for human rights around the world today. The Center features a continuously rotating exhibit from The Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection, which includes many of Dr. King’s documents and personal items. Visitors will be immersed in experiential exhibits through powerful and authentic stories, historic documents, compelling artifacts, and interactive activities. The Center is a source for ongoing dialogue — hosting educational forums and attracting world-renowned speakers and artists who work on a variety of human rights topics. For more information, visit www.civilandhumanrights.org. Join the conversation on civil and human rights: facebook.com/ctr4chr/ | instagram.com/ctr4chr/ | twitter.com/Ctr4CHR
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The Blooming Forest – A Tree Tribute to John Lewis is organized in partnership of these local nonprofit organizations.
This project is made possible with the support of the City of Atlanta, members of the Atlanta City Council, a generous sponsorship from UPS in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation and tree planting gifts from Trees Atlanta funders.
1. Magnolia Collection
Magnolias are part of an ancient lineage of flowering plants dating back approximately 95 million years. The Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum is home to 18 types of magnolias from evergreen to flowering. Two magnolias in particular have witnessed history as they were planted just beyond the outfield wall for the former Ponce de Leon Park, where the Atlanta Crackers played baseball. Babe Ruth and Eddie Matthews both hit home runs that were caught in the canopy of one of these magnolia trees. As part of Arboretum experimentation, we have taken cuttings from these historic magnolias and grown them into new trees so that this piece of history can live on the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum and in new parks and baseball fields around Atlanta.
2. 33 Oaks
The oak trees on this slope and throughout the Arboretum represent many ecosystems in Georgia, from bottomland hardwood swamps to granite outcrops. Of the approximately 90 species of oaks native to the United States, 33 are native to Georgia. All 33 oaks are growing on this slope and between them dance 33 stainless steel leaf sculptures – one for each tree.
These metal oaks were designed and crafted by David Landis of Landis Sculpture Studio. Learn more about David’s work here. For more information about the individual oaks featured, see our fact sheet here.
To learn more general information about our Georgia oaks, check out this video here.
3. Beech Circle
Among the stateliest of our native trees, beeches are indicative of a mature forest. Though they can take around 40 years to produce a large quantity of nuts, beech trees are critical for wildlife. Beeches provide food and shelter for all kinds of birds and mammals, such as the red-headed woodpecker. Dubbed the fairy ring, the circle of beech trees here surrounds a granite outdoor classroom and gathering place where you can contemplate how the beech trees will look in 3, 5, and 10 years!
4. Eastside Azalea Collection
Despite the native azalea holding the title of Georgia’s State Wildflower, it is underused in the landscape. The Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum is now home to the largest public native azalea collection in the Atlanta Area with over 300 azaleas on display. The collection highlights over 25 species, cultivars, and varieties, and is home to all 13 azaleas native to the state of Georgia. This collection focuses on named cultivars (varieties that have been selected for depending on color, size, bloom time, etc.) within two series called the Georgia Moon Series and the Sunrise to Sunset Series. The Georgia Moon Series will have fragrant white-blooming Georgia native species, and the Sunrise to Sunset Series will be comprised of Georgia native species in warm orange, reds, and soft yellows blooming from March – July.
5. Stumpery Garden
The Stumpery Garden is a horticultural oddity, serving as a public place for learning and exploration and demonstrating how trees can be utilized in a beautiful way. Stumpery gardens utilize dead, fallen, and storm-damaged trees as an asset to the garden – providing critical habitat for beetles, frogs, birds, and small mammals such as chipmunks. Whole logs are placed upside down to display their root structure, and logs, branches, and pieces of bark are arranged to form walls and archways. Plants such as ferns, lichen, mosses, soft grasses, and trailing plants are encouraged to grow on and around them.
Different from the Eastside collection, the Westside collection has all straight species and natural varieties that encourage free hybridization. These azaleas are all grown from seed so there are many variations in the hues even between the same species.
7. Persimmon Woods
Home to the largest American persimmon tree in the state of Georgia, this remnant old growth forest on 1.3 acres provides habitat to a variety of deep forest flora. Walking through a nature trail and over a few bridges will bring you up close and personal with woodland groundcovers, rare spring ephemerals (plants with a short life cycle) such as trillium, and a large collection of native woody species. Enjoy the seasonal blooms, learn from plant identification signs, and get hands-on with volunteer opportunities to plant, divide woodland perennials, and collect seed.