The North Carolina Botanical Garden, part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, describes itself as a “conservation garden.” Our tour guide, Mike Dunn, pointed out this was a description unique to their garden, at least according to Google search results.
In keeping with the Garden’s mission to “advance a sustainable relationship between people and nature,” the main visitor’s center is a green building with features like massive rain barrels to collect water for irrigation. Other eco-friendly construction techniques are used throughout the garden, such as permeable pavers in the parking lot.
In total, the garden covers 1,000 acres, but not all of this is display gardens—portions are set aside as natural areas. A nature trail, with level, winding paths, leads visitors through the different habitats found in North Carolina, starting with the local Piedmont Habitat.
The Mountain Collection displays groupings that stimulate habitats of the western portion of North Carolina. Rhododendron fans will not want to miss this part! Other striking plants in this collection are big leaf magnolia, ferns, trillium, galax, and other wildflowers. Our group was particularly enchanted with the curving white flower spikes of a colony of fairy wands (Chamaelirium luteum). A log cabin nestled in the woods gives a nod to a traditional building style for this area of the country and provides a backdrop to the Garden’s Fern Collection.
The bog garden and butterfly host plant display are in a large sunny spot just behind the main building. The day we visited, we were delighted to see Mama Monarch laying lots of eggs, and some already-hatched larvae happily munching on milkweed!
Other educational groupings included the Garden of Flowering Plant Families and the Mercer Reeves Hubbard Herb Garden, home to approximately 500 plants classified as herbs and semi-enclosed by a pergola planted with a tangle of roses and other vining plants. The Horticulture Therapy Demonstration Garden illustrate raised bed gardens designed for persons with limited mobility and reach.