On our last visit to the North Carolina Botanical Gardens we were confined to the education center while some severe tornado weather passed through the area. This time around we had much better luck, with warm temperatures and sunny skies accompanying us to the University of North Carolina Gardens.
Two miles of trails connect the Education Center to over a dozen smaller gardens. We started in the Display Garden, currently home to The Stickwork Installation. There is a fascinating video on the building of this giants bird’s nest on the Sculpture in the Garden website.
After passing through the Cattail Gate we found ourselves in the Herb Garden, complete with sections for medicinal, culinary, industrial and even poison herbs.
They thought the poison garden interesting, but the boys were enthralled with the chess set we found beyond the Herb Garden.
I enjoyed the Garden of Flowering Plant Families, where plants from related families are grouped together to show the taxonomic relationships among plants. And just adjacent were the aquatic and carnivorous plants. Southeastern US is home to the world’s most diverse collection of insect-eating plants, and we dissected a dead one to find the insect skeletons within.
There wasn’t much in the aquatic beds this time of year, just a few fish and snails to hold the boys’ attention.
Pulitzer Prize winning author Paul Green did much of his research and writing on folklore and the uses of native plants in a cabin that has been relocated to the property (see first picture). Although it wasn’t open on our visit, the interior has been renovated to appear as it did when Green used it as his writer’s retreat. Close by in the Mountain Habitat is the Storytellers' Chair.
On our way back towards the Education Center we crossed through the Coastal Plain Habitat, where a chorus of frogs was silenced by our approach. We only caught sight of the ripples of a few stragglers, but found salamander eggs floating in the water near the bridge.
We ended our visit with an exploration of the Children’s Wonder Garden. Some things remained the same as on our last visit, but there were plenty of new things to see and do, including a fairy mailbox; both boys were compelled to write the fairies a letter…
The NC Botanical Garden is a must-visit destination when in the Chapel Hill area. I would love to return to witness the different seasons in the various gardens, and can imagine how exciting it would be to retrace our steps in another month when everything has greened up. We soaked up some last rays of sunshine, made one last climb up the giant log and then headed towards the parking lot to meet Roberts for lunch.