A Spectacular Carolina Weekend

Crepe Myrtles define the entrance

Crepe Myrtles define the entrance to JC Raulston

We just spent a marvelous weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina in an escape from the last snowstorm (I hope) to hit Maryland this year.  We had planned this weekend for a visit to the North Carolina nurseries but when a significant snowstorm threatened for last Thursday, we decided to skip town on Wednesday and I’m glad we did.  It gave us an extra day to visit nurseries and gardens in the ‘Triangle’ area.  Even four days is not sufficient to see all that this area offers to plant lovers.  There are three major gardens in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill and we went to each.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University in Durham is what I would characterize as a display garden.  It’s well funded and beautiful and has lots of examples of how to make a dramatic landscape.

Broad Allée with Winterberry on edges

Broad Allée with Winterberry on edges

It had many lovely individual plants including this daphne which illustrated how daphnes want to look in the wintertime as opposed to the burned leaves on ours.

Daphne getting ready for bloom

Daphne getting ready for bloom

The North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill also appears to have a lot of financial backing and it’s focus seems to be well-coupled to the University’s effort to encourage the use of native plants.

North Carolina Botanical Garden

North Carolina Botanical Garden

It’s set next to woodland trails and seems to get a lot of visitors for that reason.

But our favorite was the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh.  This is a plantsman’s paradise.  Many examples of exotic and unusual plants from all over the world including this dwarf Dawn Redwood.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Schirrmann's Nordlicht'

Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Schirrmann’s Nordlicht’

It was still a little early in the season for any of these gardens but the Ralston captured our hearts.

One of the ulterior motives for this particular weekend was to attend an An Evening with the Plant Explorers at the JC Ralston.  This was a wonderful event with 4 1/2 hours of tales of plant exploring mixed in with socializing and plant auctions.  Anyone who thinks Latin is a dead language needs to attend one of these events.  The plant auction was particularly interesting because it was often for plants that had been part of the explorers’ talks.

Plant auction

Plant auction

In particular we were taken by a marvelous Einkianthus, the likes of which we had never encountered.

Einkianthus description

Einkianthus description

Einkianthus quinqueflorus

Einkianthus quinqueflorus

Well, in the end this was our take-home plant from the auction…

The other main component of the weekend was visiting nurseries.  First and foremost was Plant Delights (which has a bonus of a very nice garden as well).  As usual we found many wonderful plants that jumped into our car.

Plant Delights collection

Plant Delights collection

There were three crates like this one that we brought home including many new hellebores.

And then we went out to Pine Knot Farms where the focus is hellebores.

Pine Knot Farms

Pine Knot Farms

And we came away with even more hellebores as well as multiple cyclamen from John Lonsdale and a Mahonia confuse ‘Narihira’ (which we had seen at Raulson) and Edgeworthia chrysantha from Superior Plants.

Edgeworthia chrysantha

Edgeworthia chrysantha

John Lonsdale says that Edgeworthia survives for him in Pennsylvania so I have high hopes for it in Maryland.

Lastly we stopped at Camellia Forest and picked up four new camellias and two exquisite miniature Rhododendrons.

Rhododendron indicum 'Kokinsai'

Rhododendron indicum ‘Kokinsai’

Altogether a wonderful weekend, and by the time we arrived back home the spring was waiting for us…

Chinese Witch Hazel (Hamamelis mollis)

Chinese Witch Hazel (Hamamelis mollis)

Hamamelis × intermedia 'Diane'

Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Diane’

Adonis amurensis

Adonis amurensis

Let me close with one more shot of that Einkianthus which I hope will be with us for a long time…

Einkianthus quinqueflorus

Einkianthus quinqueflorus

4 comments on “A Spectacular Carolina Weekend

  1. Les

    Have you been to Big Bloomers in Sanford?

    1. jw

      We’ve heard positives about this place from others, but our interest is more the unusual plants rather than quantities or inexpensive plants. For that reason going to places that actually breed or discover the plants was more interesting for us. Going to the Big Bloomers website I saw a lot of variety, but no indication that they do anything more than grow bigger versions of the plants that other people started. Sort of like a feed lot for plants. That being said, with more time we will probably check it out in the future. As it was we maxed out the luggage capacity of a Prius.

  2. Randy Emmitt

    I visited Duke Gardens last Sunday, who knows we might have walked right by each other.

  3. Casa Mariposa

    What an incredible haul! I do love that einkianthus. What a beauty. 🙂 I have several Pine Knot Strain hellebores in my garden. I bought them for their reputed toughness. Your trip definitely sounds like a plant lovers paradise. 🙂 It was wonderful to meet you today.