Native Flora of the Carolinas

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By Cheval Opp

Torrential rains and tornado warnings the day before did not bode well for the GWA Native Flora of the Carolinas Region IV garden tours. But Friday, May 5 dawned with abundant sunshine for the early morning photo shoot at Sarah P. Duke Gardens, the first stop for our tour. Fortified with coffee and juice, thirty-five participants including a gardening couple from South Dakota joined the guided tours.

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Garden guides led small groups through Sara P. Duke Gardens.

This Duke Gardens began as abandoned lake construction but in the 1930’s a visionary gardener Dr. Frederic M. Hanes, an early member of the original faculty of Duke Medical School, found the resources to build a terraced garden on the site.

The garden has since expanded from a terraced hill into four distinct areas that our members toured in small groups with docents. The garden’s original terraces, topped by a wisteria-covered pergola, displayed glorious spring blooms starring stunning alliums. The Mary Duke Biddle Rose Garden featured no-spray and heirloom roses set among annuals and perennials. In the H.L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants the flowering big leaf magnolia was one of many plants of the southeastern United States. The W.L. Culberson Asiatic Arboretum devoted to plants of eastern Asia offered a traditional red bridge. The newest garden we visited was the  Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden, an ecology-focused garden.

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Jan Little, Director of Education and Public Programs for Sara P. Dule Gardens presented a history of North Carolina natural resources.

Mid-day the weather goddess let loose a monsoon rain, but our group sat snug eating lunch and enjoying two presentations. Reid Hargrove, the District Sales Manager for McCorkle Nurseries, shared an overview of the latest plants in the Gardener’s Confidence Collection, several of which were giveaways at the evening trunk show. Jan Little, Director of Education and Public Programs for Sarah P. Duke Gardens then presented a history of North Carolina natural resources. She pointed out that today North Carolina is one of the most diverse ecosystems of any state in the United States.

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Entrance to H.L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants displaying plants of the southeastern United States.

After lunch the group took their vehicles to North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill. We were grateful the clouds had cleared, and sunshine graced our afternoon tours. The North Carolina Botanical Garden has been a leader in native plant conservation and education in the southeastern United States for more than 40 years. Following a short overview of the garden’s history and mission, docents led small groups through the twelve display gardens. The variety of the plants was a display of North Carolina’s diverse ecosystems.

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Viewing the gardens of Fearrington Village which include about 60 garden beds connected by brick.

The last stop of the day was at Fearrington Village for a guide of the grounds, the trunk show, and dinner at the Roost Beer Garden. In 1786, William Cole, Sr. purchased 640 acres of land for $80 that eventually became Fearrington Village. Over the last 40 years, the Fearrington community has grown to include 2,000 residents, an award-winning inn, a spa, several restaurants, acres of beautiful gardens, an independent bookstore, boutiques, and much more. The Fearrington grounds include about 60 garden beds connected by brick pathways, a herb garden used by the chefs at The Fearrington House Restaurant, cutting beds used by florists, a vegetable garden, and several greenhouses.

Brienne Arthur, National Director for Region IV, is to be commended for arranging such a great day of gardens. At day’s end members were encouraged to enjoy numerous other garden events available on Saturday and Sunday. The Arthur Foodscape at Arthur’s home in Fuquay-Varina on Saturday allowed neighbors and visitors to see the gardens Arthur showcases in her new book, “The Foodscape Revolution.”

Meet the Author

Cheval Opp in flowersCheval Force Opp writes the “Day-Trip” column for Washington Gardener Magazine. When she is not traveling to visit gardens, she works in her garden in Dunn Loring, Virginia. You can reach Cheval at

Author: GardenComm

GardenComm, formerly known as GWA: the Association for Garden Communicators, provides leadership and opportunities for education, recognition, career development and a forum for diverse interactions for professionals in the field of gardening communication. GardenComm members includes book authors, bloggers, staff editors, syndicated columnists, free-lance writers, photographers, speakers, landscape designers, television and radio personalities, consultants, publishers, extension service agents and more. No other organization in the industry has as much contact with the buying public as GardenComm members.

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