The Bottom Line: “I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses” ~C. Austin Miles
When the blahs of winter are starting to wear on your spirits, why not get a quick pick-me-up by visiting your local conservatory or botanical gardens? I’m going to talk about our local spot, the Daniel J. Stowe Botanical Garden, but you can probably find one in your area. I know I spent many an hour at the Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Garden when I lived in Columbus, OH. It is a great way to get over those winter blues, let me tell you.
Now, technically, this isn’t my hometown, but I’m hoping my ‘rediscover your hometown’ host will forgive me. We live in an area where a lot of small towns sort of blend into each other. The Stowe Botanical Gardens has a mailing address in Belmont, NC., but it is only 5 miles away from my house, in one of those areas ‘between’ towns, so I am claiming it for Gastonia, NC.
History of the gardens: Daniel Stowe was a retired textile executive from Belmont and gave almost 500 acres of land to develop the botanical gardens in 1989. The gardens formally opened in 1992 with a spring show; 1993 added a gift shop. In 1997, 195 large trees were donated which now divide the event lawn, east lawn, and amphitheater. Final construction of the visitor pavilion and gardens was completed in 1999 with Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent attending the opening. In 2003 an orchid conservatory was in the planning stage offering 8,000 square feet of space; 2004 brought the new azalea bed with 500 donated plants, and the hard work of volunteers, it is a pleasant walk along the tram path, 494 feet long. In 2007 the children’s Willow Maze opened, made up of over 600 plants; 2008 brought the opening of the orchid conservatory. It is the only glass house in the Carolinas.
Current featured display: Celebrating the opening of their new orchid house, the Garden is hosting its’ first orchid show and sale. There are some beautiful plants on display by professionals growers and orchid societies. In addition to the hundreds of plants to admire, you can buy your own plant or supplies from quite a few of the display booths. You can get a storehouse of information about the care that this relatively easy plant needs. Photos are permitted but this is a limited showing, only until mid-February.
I had always figured something this beautiful would be difficult to maintain but I was surprised at how easy they are to grow and flourish. One thing these people are happy to do is discuss their orchids.
Other items of the gardens that I enjoyed included: art display in the visitor pavilion, glass sculptures in the orchid conservatory, bronze sculptures scattered throughout the area, clayware fish sculptures in the canal garden, and the Greystone aviary in the Ribbon Garden. Most of the pieces displayed are by local artists, although there are a good deal by famous artists outside our area. The selections of flowering plants and greenery scattered through all the areas made me long for spring.
A gift store is available where you can pick up snacks, books, locally made crafts, plants, strange and unique garden accessories, and a full selection of children’s articles as well as hands-on kits designed for children.
Although there are plenty of professionals on hand to answer your questions and guide you in the right direction, they also depend on a large volunteer staff in several areas of the gardens. Some of the interests offered by the gardens are a garden adventure camp for youths, continuing education classes, and a multitude of school programs.
Like the Schiele Museum, the Stowe Botanical Gardens has a large variety of rentals available for up to 300 people. Naturally they are famous for their weddings and receptions but they offer corporate meeting spaces as well. There are over 110 acres of gardens and changing displays and it was named recently as one of the nation’s top 20 greatest gardens by HGTV.
The gardens & conservatory are open 7 days a week, 9am - 5pm, closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s days. Admission for 2009: adults $10, seniors [60 ] $9, children [4-12] $5, under 4 and garden members have free admission.
Some things they suggest for visiting: picnics & coolers are welcome anywhere on property, seating is first-come first-served on terrace or picnic tables, no grills or pets, exception is health related pets. Bring cameras, insect repellant, sunscreen, and art supplies. Benches are scattered throughout the grounds, handicap accessible. Bathrooms are plentiful, well kept and supplied.
Address: Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden 6500 South New Hope Rd. Belmont, NC 28012 704-825-4490
Of course, since a lot of the plantings in the gardens aren’t in bloom at this time, it was up to my imagination to see the beauty that would be there. I certainly am going to time return trips to catch several of the themed displays during their peak seasons. There is, despite the cooler temperatures, many wonderful areas to pine away your days outside and the wonderful displays included inside.
After my trip I wondered if I had proverbially cut off my nose to spite my face … now I can’t wait for warm weather so I can dig my hands into the soil again! It is certainly an ex-landscapers paradise. While in the area take an opportunity to visit Belmont Abbey, founded in 1876, located within the Belmont Abbey College campus and don’t forget, you are a short drive to the Schiele Museum.