Monday, February 14, 2011

Not Quite Spring in Charlotte

I spent last week in the Charlotte, NC area to see what late winter is like a few zones warmer than New England. While for me it was a great break from 2+ feet of snow , the locals were complaining that, because of the unusually cold weather, they were running 2-4 weeks behind normal. Never-the-less it was nice to see some bare ground.
My first visit was to the botanical gardens at the UNC-Charlotte. Here you can see the 3-acre Susie Harwood Garden which contains mostly exotic ornamentals planted in an oriental-styled garden. Since there were not a lot of plants blooming, or leafed out, it was easier to appreciate the structure of the garden. Some early spring bloomers were familiar like the ‘Jelena’ Witchhazel (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’).

This Wintersweet, at 15', perfumed the air beneath.

Two shrubs that I had not seen before were the Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) and Yellow Paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha). The Wintersweet had a very powerful, pleasant fragrance and was in full bloom. The buds of the Paperbush were quite striking in the winter garden; I’m sorry I could not hang around another week or two for them to open up. As zone 7 plants I will just have to enjoy the photos of these two.

This Dragon-eye Pine (Pinus wallichiana ‘Zerbina’) with its yellow-banded needles really caught my eye as I entered this garden.  It grows as far north as zone 6 and could make it in southern New England.  While there were several example of this species in the garden, I particularly liked this prostrate-growing cultivar.

Just across from the Harwood Garden is the 7-acre Van Landingham Glen featuring plants native to the Carolinas. The plants here are sorted out by habitat, including Pine Woods, Flood Plain and Costal Plain. In addition to the native species there is a collection of hybrid rhododendrons. Unfortunately for me, most of this garden was still at rest with only a few plants, such as Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) just beginning to stir.
Footbridge in the Van Landingham Glen

The next day was a little warmer, pushing 50°F, and I drove across Lake Wylie to see the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont, NC. While relatively new, opened in 1999, the gardens here are very impressive. The current installations are primarily ornamental with a mix of native and exotic species and cultivars. 
Canal Garden at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

It was very nice for the winter visitor that the gardening staff left many of the dried perennials and grasses in place to show off their winter-interest. This is certainly true to their mission of being a four-season garden. The native Possumhaw Holly (Ilex decidua) really popped out in the winter landscape.

In addition to the fountains and walks in the ornamental gardens there is a ½ mile woodland walk that is very well done with signage indicating key native species in a natural setting. Opening in May 2011 will be a ‘Meadowood’ walk featuring more native species in a natural setting. For the color starved there is an orchid conservatory that was in full bloom. This garden certainly merits future visits!

Another ‘garden’ in the Charlotte area is the Latta Plantation Nature Preserve just a little north in Huntersville, NC. Here are over 600 acres of land with native species, flora and fauna, in their native habitats. If spring had been a bit closer I would have made time to spend an afternoon here to see how the native plants really grow here – maybe next time.


Curbstone Valley Farm said...

The gardens are lovely, but I have to admit to being especially smitten with the lovely stone bridge at the Van Landingham Glen, it's gorgeous, and fits so well with its surroundings.

Curtis said...

Yes,in fact all of the hardscaping at the UBC-Charlotte gardens was very well done, but this little bridge really caught my eye for the clarity of its construction and style.