When the temperature is 34 degrees and humidity is 98%, walking the roads around Charlotte in North Carolina seems rather crazy, but as my love of gardens is quite frankly up there on the crazy scale, it seemed totally necessary to wander through the University campus in blistering heat. Arriving somewhat sweaty at the UNC Botanical Garden (there really is no point me pretending to be all beautiful and ‘glowing’) at the MacMillan Greenhouse, it was immediately apparent the sweltering walk was worth it.
Its doesn't look so big from the roadside but the vibrant planting at the front is enticing enough to walk the final slope up to the entrance . You know how we always say ‘it doesn't matter if the sun isn't out because if it’s cloudy flowers seem more vibrant’? I am starting to wonder if us British just say it to make us feel better! The colours just in the planting beds around the greenhouse and in the entrance were so very vibrant in hot, bright sunshine. I don’t know how orange can be more orange than orange. But it was.
I met with Dr. Jeffrey Gillman, Director of the gardens who pushed straight on with a friendly and great fun tour of the greenhouse and outside spaces. Jeffrey made it clear the gardens were about the plants, not just for display, whilst obviously they are on display and look wonderful! Relaxed and knowledgeable, he guided me through the greenhouse pointing out plants of interest - mainly those which are fun or quirky and any which had a story. A great way to engage people with plants and nature, something Jeffrey is clearly passionate about. As we wandered, a group of school children were meandering around and he immediately engaged them with tasting peppery leaves and fragrant Allspice. The children loved it and no doubt will remember that hot flavour on their tongues! Creating memories is what can start a lifelong love of plants.
A vast collection of Orchids, Cacti and tropical plants plus the elusively flowering Titan Arum, we giggled at the Sensitive Plant ‘Mimosa’, the beauty and fragrance of some of the smaller Orchids and I particularly loved the Goldfish Plant ‘Nematanthus’.
Outside we walked through the Susie Harwood Garden and the Van Landingham Glen, which was a welcome relief under the shady canopy, although my frizzy hair wasn't having any of it, for a moment it was an escape from the heat. The Glen is a place to study botany with so many different species of trees, shrubs and plants. Plenty of Rhododendrons although Jeffrey pointed out he thinks having them their gives people a false sense of excitement for their own gardens in Charlotte , which is just not going to happen in the sun and heat. We took a moment to pay respects at the final resting place of Bonnie E. Cone, affectionately know as ‘Miss Bonnie’ who inspired many to believe in education and a huge supporter of the botanical garden.
The botanic garden is actually in the middle of a campus. So thats generally 18 to 21 year olds - who drink - and party! I had to giggle at the signs ‘Glitter is Litter’ but of course thats a far more serious message and one I wholeheartedly believe in, but I expect we can all image what goes down in the woods sometimes.
The Susie Harwood Garden is full of plants for inspiration for a Carolina garden, plus its generally very serene and I can only hope the students at least take some time out of study to relax and enjoy such fantastic nature right on their doorstep. I wonder if they know how taking time out in amongst the trees can help their concentration and focus when studying.
Travelling is exciting enough, experiencing new cultures and relishing new scenery but visiting gardens around the world is so special to me. Whilst some of the plants may be different - or at least grown differently to back in Britain, the same thing applies across every single garden I have evert visited in the world. The passion of those involved is always the same.
Dr. Jeffrey Gillman has published books (I walked away with a few) and has some interesting opinions on organic gardening. Overall he does just want we need to do right now in horticulture across the Globe. He leads, he makes it fun - he just wants to inspire an protect.
Check out the website and go visit! It's always great to visit gardens around the world and expand your plant love!
Find the UNC Botanical Gardens website HERE