To see more photos of my trip -
In comparison to my last blog about the UNC Botanical Garden in Charlotte, the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont is more of a ‘display’ garden, used for events and celebrations. On first look thats what you would think anyway. Every garden has its own character and style, even if it is full of the same plants. There is so much that contributes to that but one thing that stands out when you get the chance to speak to the people involved is that the personalities who work there play a huge role in the overall ‘feel’ of the garden. I love this link between people and plants.
From a large lawned formal area right outside the grand events building to long and stunning herbaceous borders running either side of a water feature, there are sculptures and a vast array of plants. All very pretty and a wonderful setting for a wedding! There is so much colour and interest.
My visit was organised by Jim Hoffman who arranged for me to walk and talk with Patrick Larkin, the new Executive Director at the garden. I hear the horticultural pool at Patrick’s level is small across the US - therefore Patrick is well known, respected and has worked around the USA at various gardens. Keen to capture the interest of young people he has an all round positive approach to inviting the younger generation to Daniel Stowe. Recently a whole new area has been designed to do just that. After the formal areas and fountains, the approach to the Children’s Garden takes a very different turn, even the colour and air changes. The garden has winding paths on different levels, with areas to explore, dens and hideouts. The materials used are iron, stone, gravel and woodland. It immediately captures something inside that is young and adventurous. Its clever.
Patrick also discussed the importance of protecting pollinators and is developing a whole new area called the ‘Dry Piedmont Prairie’ which will be ready for visitors to explore next year. A beautiful space, slightly undulating, which will be planted with native plants for pollinators to help our much needed bees, butterflies and other insects that help to keep us all alive.
Jim Hoffman then kindly walked me around the rest of the beautiful garden including past the ‘Pollinators Putting’ area - an idea from Patrick to encourage children to play crazy golf with educational information about our garden creatures along the way.
We entered the temporary butterfly installation which aims to encourage people, especial children, to engage with nature. We discussed how so many children from urban areas have never seen anything like it, let alone a butterfly. I should note to anyone reading this….butterflies cannot bite - they have no teeth!! Some children were actually scared. I hope they soon relished the opportunity to marvel at these amazing pollinators. A wonderful lady who was clearly knowledgable and passionate about butterflies told me to put my hand out and before long a Black Swallowtail found its way onto the tips of my fingers. It sat there for ages and I felt enormously happy!!
Before Jim left me to wander alone we took a look through the Glasshouse, a vision of Daniel Stowe himself. He didn't get to see it before he died, but I am sure he would be extremely happy with how beautiful it is inside. I particularly liked the air plant arch and the reflection of white Orchids in the water was simply divine.
The more I travel and meet passionate horticultural greats, the more I realise we are just one big community, everyone has the same desire - to educate the next generation, to nurture and protect nature and everyone wants to help pollinators! Its a special group of people, making a worldwide impact. You can be special too!
Just try to do your bit, however small, that impact can be great.