Tag Archives: NAX 2012

Airlie Gardens

August 24, 2012 – Airlie Gardens, NC
(written by Quill Teal-Sullivan, photographs by Wonsoon Park)

The final stop on our North American Experience was Airlie Gardens, a lovely display garden nestled amongst fresh water ponds and ancient live oaks at the edge of Wilmington, North Carolina. Airlie has a long history of public visitation, having first opened its doors to public tours over 100 years ago as the private estate of the Pembroke Jones family. In 1999, Airlie officially became a public garden when the owners partnered with the Coastal Land Trust and sold the 67-acre garden to New Hanover County.

Visitor Center at the Airlie Gardens

Our host for the day was former Longwood employee Jim McDaniel, who serves as the Director of Parks, Gardens, and Senior Resources for New Hanover County. When Jim was hired ten years ago, Airlie was on the brink of collapse after a brutal period of financial hardship under prior leadership. Over cups of strong Wilmington coffee, we listened to Jim recount the trials and triumphs of fighting for Airlie’s survival, and the victory of bringing the garden to full financial sustainability.

Director Jim McDaniel

Jim and his dedicated staff have integrated contemporary new gardens, facilities, and programs into a garden that drips with Southern history and magic.  One new addition to the garden is the Minnie Evan’s Bottle Chapel, dedicated to the popular African American folk artist who served as Airlie’s gatekeeper when it was a private estate. The Bottle Chapel is constructed of concrete and salvaged glass bottles, evoking the colors of sea glass and the spirit of a stained-glass window. A shrine composed of Aunt Jemima syrup bottles inside the Chapel is a tribute to Minnie’s devotion to the church, and a mark of the artist’s clever use of the materials.

Dr. Lyons taking photos of the Minnie Evan’s Bottle Chapel

Yet another new addition to the garden is a large butterfly house that was constructed using a prefabricated metal gazebo-like structure, enhanced according to USDA butterfly house standards, including mesh siding and roofing just right for domestic butterflies. The entire project from start to finish (including plantings), cost $200K, a figure that Jim estimated as being far less than many comparable butterfly houses on the market.

Butterfly House

But the crown jewel of the Airlie Gardens is far from new. The Airlie Oak, a 468-year-old live oak (Quercus virginiana) took our breath away. Its branches twist and turn towards the sky, festooned with Spanish moss as though hundreds of bearded old elves are swinging up-side-down from every limb. The Airlie Oak is North Carolina’s State Champion, making its neighboring oaks that are from 200 to 300 years of age, look juvenile. This ancient oak is insured for $1 million.

live oak (Quercus virginiana)

Our tour ended with a visit to the entry gate, surrounded by plantings designed by Longwood Graduate alumnus Rodney Eason. Then off we went to a fish-fried dinner along the sandy beaches of Cape Fear. And alas, this brings our North American Experience to an end. We have visited a diverse mix of gardens, each unique in its mission and approach serving its audience, collections, and greater community. Goodbye North Carolina, and thank you for your hospitality.

Beautiful walkway

Juniper Level Botanical Garden at Plant Delights Nursery

August 23, 2012 – Plants Delights Nursery, NC
(written by Dottie Miles, photographs by Quill Teal-Sullivan)

Hidden within a hedge of ‘Nellie Stevens’ holly and other “spiny” plant material, Plant Delights Nursery at Juniper Level Botanic Gardens is an eclectic collection of diverse plants gathered from near and far.  Passionate founder, Tony Avent, describes it as a research and botanical garden funded by a plant nursery operation with a mission, “to discover, study, select, preserve, and make available new hardy perennial plants for both shade gardens and sun gardens around the world.”

Our host, Tony Avent

Looking for non-invasive plants that can be hardy in the North Carolina climate, Avent is the mythbuster of horticulture, noting, “where you find it in the wild is not necessarily where it grows best.”  The garden is a testament to his pursuit to learn more about his collection, as he designs planting beds for both pleasure and research.

Martin examining a South African species

Within his garden, Avent has built an organic series of trails inviting one to wander, immerse and delight in the unique collection.  Containing whimsical garden elements and a smart irrigation and filtration system, the collection and juxtaposition ofplantings is astounding. Avent explains, “you don’t learn something new by duplicating what you already know,” and then goes on to highlight an experience of plant discovery that challenges known research and historical data.

Rain Lillies

To date, his collection has massed to 19,836 accessions that have been assembled through plant exploration in the U.S. and abroad. Avent and his associates have been on more than 70 collection trips during which they gathered over 1000 different ferns, the largest Aspidistra collection worldwide, an Amorphophallus collection that is the third largest in the country, rain lilies, agave, trillium, and the list goes on.

Beautiful agaves

To further plant propagation and research efforts, Avent has recently acquired neighboring land to expand operations; he anticipates opening to the public 7 days a week in the next few years.  Until then, Juniper Level Botanic Gardens is open eight weekends a year.

Cactus bloom

All in all, Avent may just be the most unique part of his eclectic garden.  To those who know him and his passion for plants, it should come to no surprise that he seems to find extreme enjoyment in sharing his garden with others.  The knowledge and insight he shared about his collection was a special treat and we all walked away wanting more than one of his plants.

Group shot with Tony Avent

North Carolina Botanical Garden

August 22, 2012 – North Carolina Botanical Garden, NC
(written by Wonsoon Park, photographs by Nate Tschaenn)

It was an overcast day with a little bit of drizzle when we were greeted by Johnny Randall and Dan Stern at the entrance of the North Carolina Botanical Garden (NCBG). Dr. Randall is the director of Conservation Programs, and Stern, a former LGP Fellow (class of 2010) is currently the manager of the Sentinel Plant Network. The NCBG is operated by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the history of the Garden dates back to 1903 when William Chambers Coker, the University’s first professor of botany, began planting a teaching collection of trees and shrubs on the central campus. The Botanical Garden Foundation was founded in 1966, and now NCBG covers about 1,000 acres.

Director Johnny Randall and former fellow Dan Stern touring the group through the gardens.

Known as a “Conservation Garden,” the NCBG has very clear mission, which is to inspire understanding, appreciation, and conservation of plants in gardens and natural areas. We looked around the main visitor site of the NCBG, which is comprised of the Display Gardens and Education Center. Walking along the boardwalk through the Costal Plain Habitat Garden, Dr. Randall explained that this garden is a real piece of an ecosystem that literally has been moved from the actual coastal plain area. This habitat garden is burned once in a year, normally between January and February, to revitalize those fire-adapted plants in the same way as the original habitat.

Coastal Plain Habitat Garden

As a founding institution of the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), the NCBG has been actively involved in ex-situ conservation conducting many important projects, such as their seed bank program, as well as rare plant reintroduction program. Using a series of raised beds, the Native Water Gardens and Carnivorous Plant Collection show that the North Carolina is a hotbed of carnivorous plants, including pitcher plants, sundews, and butterworts.

A pitcher plant and Venus flytrap in the Carnivorous Garden.

The new Education Center was dedicated in 2009, and it’s the state’s first public museum and outreach center to earn LEED platinum status. This facility features photovoltaic panels, geothermal wells, rainwater cisterns, storm-water retention, clerestory windows for natural lighting, and many others. Surprisingly, all the funds for this project were donated by nearly 600 individual donors.

Metal cisterns outside the Education Center collect rainwater and the paths are lined with recycled concrete from sidewalks.

We headed up to the Coker Arboretum at the UNC campus, which is two miles away from NCBG. Margo MacIntyre, the Curator of the Arboretum guided us throughout the 5 acres of secured area. The Arboretum features Southeastern American native woody plants as well as Southeastern Asian native plants for comparison.

Group shot at the Coker Arboretum

Finally, Dan Stern gave us a short history about the Wisteria Arbor, which was completely rebuilt in 1997 with five types of native climbers to demonstrate the examples of what we should plants and what not. We learned a lot about how to put conservation efforts into botanical garden settings, and really appreciated the hospitality of the staff today.

This iconic tunnel at North Carolina University, formerly planted with invasive Japanese wisteria, was replanted with several native vines including the native wisteria, Wisteria frutescens.

High Point University Arboretum and Gardens

August 21, 2012 – High Point University, NC
(written by Robert E. Lyons, photographs by Dottie Miles)

High Point University (HPU) is a small liberal arts college not too far from Raleigh and Greensboro, North Carolina.  Although I had never visited the HPU campus, I sure had no idea about its plant collections.  So, when Jon Roethling, a friend and fellow plantsman, told me of the University’s plans to develop their campus into a first class arboretum and garden complex, my interest was more than piqued!

Our group met Jon just inside the gated entry to HPU where he was ready to showcase all the newest developments on this rapidly growing campus. At first, it was challenging to see through the obvious avalanche of new construction, such as brand new buildings, larger than life water features, and impressive landscape structures.  Yet, Jon skillfully blended them all with expert discourse related to the new and existing plant materials, all intertwined with kudos to the HPU President, Nido Qubein, and his wife for their vision.

Within Jon’s 2-year tenure as a direct report to the Director of Facilities, he has overseen over 320 acres of campus property and its plants. He reviews new plant choice specifications with other HPU personnel with an eye towards diversity, uniqueness and even fragrance.  No common plant palette under Jon’s watch.  Students, staff, and faculty will be fortunate to enjoy the likes of Edgeworthia, hardy palms, and gardenias on their way to work and class.

High Point University does not have an undergraduate program in horticulture.  However, Jon wants to engage students as much as possible in the understanding of the campus plantings, as well as instill an interest and appreciation for plants, regardless of their major. I’m positive that the campus’ first LEED certified building (School of Education) and designation as a Tree Campus USA will only strengthen his attempt to make an impact on all HPU students.  Of course, one of Jon’s biggest challenges is directly related to the audience he serves…specifically, how to actually schedule the needed planting, landscape repairs, and plant maintenance without interfering with the busy activities found anywhere, anytime, throughout HPU.  Jon uses GIS to map the plant collections, he has labeled them for identification, and has integrated this information within the public information kiosks found within the student center.

At the end of the day, we contemplated all that Jon has done and agreed that High Point University would soon be a public horticulture force to be reckoned with thanks to his efforts.  Well done!

Sarah P. Duke Gardens

August 22, 2012 – Sarah P. Duke Gardens, NC
(written by Sara Levin Stevenson, photographs by Abby Johnson)

The Fellows spent Wednesday morning visiting the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, located on 55 acres in the center of the Duke University campus.

Entrance of the Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Upon our arrival, the Director of the Gardens and LGP alumnus, Bill LeFevre, met us.  Bill and part of the Sarah P. Duke Gardens team took time to help us get to know the gardens and its various programs and events.  Our meeting took place in the Doris Duke Center, a focal point in the grand entryway experience.  We then toured the grounds with some of the knowledgeable staff.

White Garden

A few of the tour highlights included the Terrace Garden, H.L. Blomquist Garden, and the Discovery Garden.  The Terrace Garden is located in the heart of the historic area.  It is a vibrant collection of perennials that sit in large rock walls made of a rich blue Duke stone, from a local quarry.  The historic area is a popular spot for weddings and events, especially among Duke University alumni.

Terrace Garden

The H. L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants focuses on conservation and is the most heavily interpreted area of the gardens.  Its design and messaging encourage visitors to embrace native plantings and learn conservation techniques.  Stephan Bloodworth, the curator of this garden, describes it as an education tool for applied plant conservation and he aims to create an interpretive experience that leaves a lasting impression on visitors.

Sign in the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants

The newest garden is the Discovery Garden, a farm education area.  This garden is packed with interesting details, including a vegetable garden, tobacco barn-turned education center, beehives, chickens, fruit orchard, bio-swale, rain garden, herb garden, composting station, and storytelling area.  It was designed for with the public, children, and families in mind with an emphasis on presenting ideas that would be easy for a visitor to replicate at home. The Discovery Garden is a prototype site for the Sustainable Sites Initiative so various techniques were incorporated in the building process that promoted sustainability, such as using salvaged materials.

Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden

The Sarah P. Duke Gardens has over 300,000 visitors every year and is a well-loved and often visited institution on the Duke University campus.  It attracts student groups and classes and the local community through programs such as an annual film and concert series.

Japanese Garden

We enjoyed our visit to this vibrant garden and are grateful to our hosts for their hospitality!