You can see both the Tennessee River, in center of photo, and the Smoky Mountains from the garden called God’s Answer to Our Prayers.
A few miles from downtown Knoxville — less than 10 minutes, for sure — lies a romantic, unique and inspiring garden called God’s Answer to Our Prayers – or GATOP, for short.
It belongs to a brilliant cancer physician and researcher, Dr. Alan Solomon, and his wife, Andrea Cartwright. Solomon purchased the 28-acre property in 1971 from a couple named Lynn Hobbs and Jerry Will. They’re the ones who named it. Seems they had been having a hard time finding a place because one of them just had to live in sight of water and the other had to live in sight of mountains. This property filled both requirements, thus the name, “God’s Answer to Our Prayers.”
God’s Answer to Our Prayers features a lot of frog images. Like this one on the edge of a fountain.
It turned out to be something of a godsend for Solomon, as well. He had grown up in the Bronx and had planned to stay in Knoxville only about two years. More than four decades later, you couldn’t blast him out of here. At the garden, on Riverside Drive, he found several passions: plants, of course, especially conifers. But also collecting statuary, showcasing giant marble outcroppings and constructing stacked stone fences, which wind throughout the sprawling property. “I discovered that I’m actually a stone mason,” he said recently, with a soft chuckle. “My hobby is medicine.”
For more than 40 years, after learning the craft from a fellow he hired for the project, Solomon has been building the stone fences — to the tune of 8 to 10 feet per day in his heyday of doing it.
Several times a year, Solomon opens the garden to the public, often on behalf of a non-profit organization such as the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum or Knox Heritage. Earlier this summer, he invited Alan and me to drop by for a tour. I’m so glad we did.
God’s Answer to Our Prayers is built on an abandoned marble quarry. Story has it that it is the site where, back in the pre-automobile days when people in Knoxville used horses for farming and for transportation, a man made his living by picking up dead horses and tossing their carcasses in the quarry. “They say the stench would stop you dead in your tracks,” Solomon says. In any case, the environment is much more pleasant today.
The garden contains many beautiful fountains.
This little piece came from Solomon’s parents’ house. His parents’ ashes are buried beneath those two stones.
There is one of those stacked stone walls.
More stacked stone.
This elegant figure is near the house, where our tour started.
The rhododendron were in bloom when we visited.
A reminder of the horses that were disposed of in the quarry. Solomon has found several horseshoes.
Marble outcropping. “It’s a beautiful gray green color when polished,” Solomon said.
Frogs are everywhere. I like this one.
Solomon pointing out the sights.
See those frogs standing under there?
More conifers. They come in many colors and shapes.
Alan Carmichael being inquisitive.
Love these snowball viburnum. My grandmother used to have these.
Flaming azaleas — the kind that Gregory’s Bald is famous for.
I was surprised to learn that this sculpture is by my friend, attorney Jim Parris. Solomon saw it when it was in Krutch Park as part of Dogwood Arts Festival’s “Art in Public Places” program.
This is wild ginger. Commonly, it is called “little brown jugs” — for obvious reasons.
Here’s what the foliage looks like.
I’ll bet this arbor has filled in by now.
Lawn at the bottom of the garden.
Very cool piece.
Another nod to the horses who ended up at the bottom.
More shoes and other horse hardware.
On a more pleasant note, this cute frog was taking a reading break.
I was trying to see what his book was.
Frog taking it easy.
This piece is called “Lot’s Wife.”
“Man Washing His Hands.”
I loved these praying mantises.
And this spider.
This plant is called a Flowering Solomon Seal. I can understand why he likes it!
This artwork is called “Ecstasy.”
I loved this one.
We made it back up to the house where we were treated to wine and cheese.
Here’s the view from there.
This piece that looks like a cathedral is in the yard.
Here’s Andrea Cartwright. She and Solomon have been married for 16 years.
Aren’t these beautiful?
Thanks a million to our generous hosts.