Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Public Gardens of the Triangle

For as long as I can remember, an intense rivalry has existed between North Carolina State University (NCSU) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). In the interest of full disclosure, I attended both of these state universities during my long and varied undergraduate career, and I can say with certainty that, while very different in ambiance, each of these two schools is fabulous in its own way. 

National Redbud Collection "Ruby Falls"
"Ruby Falls" Weeping Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
National Redbud Collection
J.C. Raulston Arboretum

Earlier this month I visited UNC and NCSU, not for nostalgic purposes, but to spend time in their public gardens. On a Friday afternoon, my sister Dora took me to the North Carolina Botanical Garden (NCBG) in Chapel Hill.  NCBG emphasizes plants native to the state of North Carolina in display gardens featuring habitats of the coast plain, the piedmont, and the mountains. North Carolina's mountains, known for their botanical diversity, are a hiker's delight. (Trillium which grows there has long been a favorite of mine.) NCBG also contains an extensive herb garden, a carnivorous plant collection, and a fern collection. 

North Carolina Botanical Garden
The North Carolina Botanical Garden sells a selection of native plants in its shop. I confess, the trilliums tempted me, but since I had doubts about their ability to survive a Lowcountry summer, I bought an American witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) instead. The witch-hazel's ribbony yellow flowers will be a treat for the eyes each autumn for years to come.

NCBG's shop sold bloodroot, too, and my sister said, "Now I know where I can buy it." She told me her backyard had contained a large patch of bloodroot years ago when she bought the house. Accumulated leaf litter eventually overwhelmed the stock. 

Bloodroot (Sanguainaria canadensis)
This member of the poppy family is native to Eastern North America.
North Carolina Botanical Garden
Later, back at my sister's house, I located a few green bloodroot leaves and pushed away leaf litter to give the bloodroot a chance to once again expand its territory.  

Many homes in the Raleigh area are built on wooded lots and I've heard Raleigh called a city within a park because of that. The town of Wake Forest also has plenty of wooded lots and I couldn't help but envy the owner of one small front yard with its ground completely covered by moss. Who would choose the labor and toxic chemicals required to cultivate a lush grass lawn, when gorgeous, maintenance-free, velvety moss is an option? 
Hellebore "Lenten Rose"
Lenten Rose (Helleborus x hybridus) at the J.C. Raulston Arboretum
On Saturday morning before meeting my friend Laura for lunch in Raleigh's Cameron Village, I drove to the NCSU's J.C. Raulston Arboretum (JCRA), where the Raulston Blooms & Birds Garden Festival was in progress. Although admission is normally free, Festival admission was $10 per family or $5 per person. The ticket price included entry to a plant sale and a series of gardening demonstrations. 

Dr. J.C. Raulston, the Arboretum's namesake, was a well-known and highly respected plantsman who collected plants from around the world. Consequently, the Arboretum's Japanese Garden and Asian Valley contain an enviable collection of plants.

Japanese flowering quince "Atsuya Hamada"
(Chaenomeles japonica)
J.C. Raulston Arboretum

After wandering through the Lath House and Japanese Garden, I returned to the lawn where the plant sale was taking place and purchased the following: a small Celeste fig (Ficus carica "Celeste"), Red Fox Katsuna (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), Ivy Leaf Maple (Acer cissifuluim), Taiwan holly (Ilex urainsis)

J.C. Raulston Arboretum
Lath House
J.C. Raulston Arboretum

JCRA's redbud collection is among the most extensive in this part of the world. On the weekend I visited, the redbud specimens at the Arboretum were in full bloom, as were many growing along roadways in Wake and Orange counties, where NCSU and UNC, respectively, are located. Redbuds also flourished in nearby Durham County.
Redbud at J.C. Raulston Arboretum
National Redbud Collection specimen
J.C. Raulston Arboretum
Next time I'm in the area, I hope to make time to visit the Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University in Durham. 

Follow this link to visit the North Carolina Botanical Garden online:
North Carolina Botanical Garden
North Carolina Botanical Garden
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC

Follow this link to visit the J.C. Raulston Arboretum online:
J.C. Raulston Arboretum, NCSU
J.C. Raulston Arboretum
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, North Carolina