I usually find it’s the gardens I accidentally stumble across that really surprise me. During my trip to Charlotte in North Carolina, I scanned google maps to see if I could walk down to Freedom Park (beautiful btw if you ever go there) and I happened to see a place called Winghaven close by. I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am to have made that decision to take a look at Winghaven.
There is something very emotive when looking around a house that was once someone’s home, especially when the furniture is still original and you can imagine how much it was loved. A black and white photo on the coffee table showed a couple gazing at each other adoringly in days gone by in the beautiful yet modest house. Just outside the side door, an outbuilding is home to a projector screen where a film of Elizabeth Lawrence played on a loop. I could have watched it many times and I even felt emotional watching Elizabeth talking so very passionately about nature. A seriously inspirational women, who was the first female to graduate with a Degree in Landscape Architecture from the North Carolina State College, listed in the top 25 horticultural greats of all time and considered as one of the three preeminent figures in the horticultural history of the southeast USA, along with Thomas Jefferson and J.C. Raulston. Elizabeth also wrote countless newspaper columns and books. Her life was dedicated to nature and creating the Winghaven gardens. Much of it was to experiment with plants to find out what would grow in Carolina soil along with planting to encourage nature into the gardens. An influential women in the world of gardening at a time when the area had few gardens and even fewer women interested in horticulture.
After covering myself in bug spray (because Charlotte mosquitos really like my ankles) I started my tour of the garden. I felt overwhelmingly privileged to wander around without anyone else in sight - I know thats so mushy but it’s really how I felt! The second I closed the door behind me, I stood in awe watching a Hummingbird. My first ever real life Hummingbird. It was enthralling. From here, I meandered the brick pathways, under arches, by box hedging, stepped over to the mulched areas and caught a glimpse of a turtle in the pond. From butterflies and frogs to colourful birds and dragonflies, it clearly is a wildlife haven. There are lots of seating areas, intended to welcome visitors to sit and watch, to just take a moment out and enjoy the garden. I enjoyed water features and a more formal area full of colourful flowers at the back of the house had the most incredible Hostas I have ever seen - not a hole in a leaf and the flowers were just statuesque and brilliant white. The foundation say there is something in flower every day of the year, which wouldn’t surprise me in such a vibrant garden.
Ten houses down the road sits Elizabeth Lawrence’s experimental garden. A long path down the middle with deep herbaceous borders and a pond. It may have been experimental but it looks superb. Of course, there is plenty of seating - that invitation again to sit and enjoy.
I noticed around the gardens are bricks with gardening quotes and a clear religious aspect to Elizabeths life from prayers to Godly references. Elizabeths tenacity, passion and influence is abundantly clear throughout. She was a lady who loved nature and done everything she could to protect it, nurture it and embrace it.
The Vision: To inspire passion for the natural world.
Something can be learnt from any garden all over the world but It isn't always the well known gardens that provoke that sense of purpose, it could be something off the beaten track, someone you’ve never heard of. But when you find a gem like this, its one you’ll never forget.
To see more photos of my trip -