The New Hanover County Arboretum in Wilmington, North Carolina is seven acres of gardens and horticulture exhibits showcasing plants native to southern North Carolina. In addition to the flowering beauty of nature, visitors to the gardens will also see outdoor art works and horticulture workshops. The facility is a part of the New Hanover County Extension Office and utilizes “green” industry professionals and students of environmental studies to maintain the gardens and grounds. The gardens at the arboretum are handicap accessible.
The Arboretum’s goal is to not only offer a venue of solitude and natural wonder but to be a resource center in horticultural development and environmental stewardship in the southern United States. The New Hanover County Arboretum is typically regarded as the model of horticultural education, research and development in the Cape Fear Coast region. The staff and students who manage the arboretum also provide outreach to area schools and civic groups. Community members are welcomed to become involved with the gardens and learn how to preserve, grow and maintain their own gardens through on-site volunteer opportunities and workshops.
The Children’s Garden was designed with little ones in mind. Children can wander around the garden crawling and playing in “kid-sized” cottages and play areas. A vegetable and flower garden were planted to entice a youngster’s imagination on the connection between nature and their dinner plate.
The Ability Garden is offers raised flower beds and adaptive horticulture equipment so both children and adults with disabilities can experience the joy of growing. Arboretum volunteers staff the area, offering assistance and facilitating hands-on activities. The Ability Garden is often scheduled for use by special education classes, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers.
Enter the Japanese Garden through a red Tori gateway which was donated by Takeda Chemicals in the early 1990’s. A $20,000 grant from the former Wilmington Company sets the majestic tone which is followed throughout this section of the arboretum. Tranquil water features are bordered by colorful plants, ornamental grasses and stone. A Japanese tea house is nestled among the foliage, offering a shady place to rest and take in the peaceful nature of the garden.
The Gathering Garden showcases the tropical offerings at the New Hanover County Arboretum. Tall Palmetto palms, dwarf Scrub Palmettos, Needle Palms and nearly a dozen other species of towering greet visitors in the Gathering Garden. Lush tropical plants are scattered around the shrubs and trees, creating a serene oasis.
A Water Garden fills the senses of both sight and smell with water lilies and lotus plants. The garden’s “Sea Serpent” resides in one of the water features. The copper statue shows only his head and tail, and is quite a popular inhabitant with visitors of all ages. Dumay Gorham, a Wilmington artists designed the friendly looking creature.
The Herb Garden showcases plants which are typically grown for culinary, fiber creation or medical reasons. A stone path leads visitors through the garden and past the Confederate jasmine collection to the arbor seating area.
A Perennial Border area of the arboretum highlights the stone pergola and a massive Chinese Wingnut tree. This section of the New Hanover County Arboretum is often booked for outdoor weddings.
The two day annual Art in the Arboretum event occurs in October. Visitors will encounter works of art created by local crafters and artisans throughout the garden tour. While walking through the outdoor art gallery you will see pottery, sculptures, baskets, glass works and wooden creations. Local musicians entertain visitors participating in the art walk. There is no fee to take the tour. Proceeds from the art sale benefit the continuation of the Ability Garden Program.
Each year the Master Gardener Program hosts multiple Plant Sales so the public can purchase native plants and hanging baskets created by the programs students. Proceeds from the sale benefit Cooperative Extension programs and grounds maintenance.
The New Hanover County Arboretum works in conjunction with the annual Wilmington Premier Garden Show. The event occurs each February at he Schwartz Center in the downtown area. Members of the Friends of the Arboretum receive free admission to the two day garden show.
After spending an afternoon exploring the gardens at the Arboretum, don’t forget to browse the Hutaff Visitor’s Center for upcoming special events and classes. The New Hanover County Master Gardener Program offers plant information clinics on a wide variety of topics. A plant clinic located inside the center is open daily during normal business hours. The clinic has been serving the community since the latter part of the 1970’s. Plant fact sheets which define growing zones along the Cape Fear Coast and tips on developing a flourishing garden. The arboretum is open daily during daylight hours. There is no fee to tour the gardens, but donations are accepted.
Plants for Rain Gardens details the proper soil conditions for rain gardens, plants which easily adapt to this type of environment as well as trees and ornamental grasses which flourish in a rain garden in the Cape Fear region.
Wetland Plants for Coastal North Carolina shares information on the varieties of wetland plant native to North Carolina. Learn about the important role such plants play in developing habitats and shelters for butterflies, frogs and birds. Information regarding floating rooted aquatic plants for backyard water gardens is also a part of this education series. Plants for Backyard Wetlands is a companion clinic for this learning program.
Salt Tolerant Plants instructs adult learners on the challenges of garden development in coastal areas. Clinic facilitators broach the topics of battling salt spray by means of both natural and man-made protection techniques. Landscaping at the beach, vegetation restoration and dune preservation are also a part of the curriculum of this course, which is designed for both professional landscapers and local residents. A plant list detailing the salt tolerant plants and tips on care round out the subjects covered during the clinic.
Turf grasses which last through the cold months of winter and thrive during the warm weathers months are the focus of this horticulture course.
A Vines course teaches clinic students the art of decorative vine growing, care tips and types of vines which are both native and acclimate easily to a coastal environment.
The Ground Covers clinic details the type of plants which thrive in drought conditions and are tolerant to dry or humid climates. Three separate classes offer aid to Cape Fear Coast planters who are preparing to establish a garden The Annuals, Perennials and Deer Resistant Plants clinics offer growing tips, garden design ideas and plant lists to take with your to a local nursery during the selection process. Four clinics offered at the New Hanover County Arboretum focus on tree and shrubbery selection, growth, placement and preservation.