Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The North Carolina Botanical Garden, Part II

Spring Beauty (Claytonia)

I first got interested in gardening with native plants about 20 years ago, when we lived in Chapel Hill and my husband was in graduate school. We lived only a few miles from the Botanical Garden and I remember the displays of Rudbeckia fulgida, Joe Pye Weed and summer phlox. Then we moved to Pennsylvania for three years, where there was not as many flowering trees as we have here in central NC, but the local parks had astounding numbers of wildflowers. Like the mountains in NC, the ground in western PA doesn't dry out in summer like it does in the piedmont and coastal plain of NC. In PA we saw large colonies of May apple, Trillium, bloodroot, Blue-Eyed Mary, Geranium, yellow violets and Virginia bluebells in the spring, and showy milkweed, blue vervain, Monarda, and I don't know how many kinds of sunflowers and asters in the spring and fall. Then we moved back to NC and to our farm, and with it being "heavy land" as the locals say, we have a lot of wildflowers here too, many of which I've transplanted into the garden. Natives aren't the only plants I grow in the garden, but they have a special place.
Below are pictures from the Garden that I took last April.

20 years ago I didn't know that hothouse Geraniums weren't really geraniums at all, or that
there were native Geraniums. Just personal preference but I much prefer Geraniums to Pelargoniums.

These charming bells belong to American bladdernut. Dirr is rather
dismissive of it in his Manual but it's very attractive in April.

The Paul Green Cabin, where the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and author of The Lost Colony did much of his work. This cabin was moved from its original location to the Garden in 1991. The flowering tree in the foreground is red buckeye (Aesculus pavia).

This sweet betsy bush (Calycanthus florida glauca) is easily 15 feet high. It has the sweet fruity
fragrance that sweet betsy is famous for, and when it's in full bloom its perfume carries a good 50 feet.

Trillium leaves and newly emerged fern

A spread of scorpionweed between the Totten Center and the Herb Garden. The orange-
flowering shrub to the left in the background is Florida azalea (Rhododendron austrinum).

I love that azalea, even as it leans out from the shade of a possamhaw (Ilex decidua). With its spectacular blend of colors, it looks like Flame Azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum), but it is very sweetly fragrant.

Birdsfoot Violet, growing in the Coastal Plain section. Garden staff
does controlled burns of this section of the Garden every few years.

We have a lot of green and parsley leaf hawthorns growing on our place, but none
quite have the character of this blueberry hawthorn (Crataegus brachyacantha).

The lovely and fragrant coast azalea (R. atlanticum). The scent
is a lot like R. austrinium, but more cotton candy and less spice.

Pinxterflower or piedmont azalea

White dwarf crested iris

Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium reptans)

Southern wood fern

Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum)


  1. What an awesome garden. I can't believe how pretty that sweetbush is. Just wonderful.

  2. Love the azaleas. Beautiful. The first picture is also amazingly pretty.

  3. This was a great post. I enjoyed seeing the cabin in such a beautiful setting. I've added many or our areas native plants to my garden. They thrive and require no excess water. Natives are always a good choice for the environment.

  4. What a lovely place to visit...thank you for the tour!!!!

  5. Dear Sweetbay,

    Thank you so much for this wonderful walk through Spring greenery.

    I love the folk names of some of those plants and the way they differ between cultures: 'Pinxter flower' to me means Cardamine pratensis, a.k.a. 'Lady's Smock', because it is out at Easter (=Pinxtern).

    That cabin looks so cosy and inspiring: the ultimate bit of garden furniture :-)

    Lovely post for a gloomy day.

  6. Oh Sweet Bay, what a cheering and wonderful post. I dearly love the native azaleas and you have shown them so nicely in natural settings, thank you! All the wildlings are wonderful, I especially like the wood ferns. They might find a home here. :-)

  7. Natives can be ironclad as well as beautiful. I remember reading somewhere (Gardening 20 minutes a Day, or something like that) that natives should be avoided, because they require so much care. What piffle!

    I looked up Cardamine pratensis and it grows in the North America too. It's become naturalized in Canada and our Northeast and mid-Atlantic states. The flowers remind me of Toothwort.

    The cabin is the ultimate piece of garden furniture. :) Its only drawback is that the public cannot go upstairs, which is unfortunate because the view would be delightful.

    The Garden has azaleas growing wild on its hill in the woods (up above the Trout Lily). I've seen Pinxterflower growing wild elsewhere in Chapel Hill too -- once in a large island in one of the new outlying parking lots! The wild azaleas are delightful.

  8. Sweetbay,

    I love this garden, thank you for the tour...It was much needed to remind me of spring here in Nashville. So many of these beauties are my favorites and I get the triple joy of seeing them here on your tour, in the woodlands nearby and some in my own garden ...soon I hope! Natives will always have a special place in my garden, too.



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