Going Native – North Carolina Style

by Seasonal Wisdom on October 6, 2009

The North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill knows plenty about going native. In fact, this 600-acre botanical garden is all about helping the public better understand and appreciate native plants. As you can see from the praying mantis above, the beneficial insects feel quite at home here too.

The conservation garden is affiliated with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and features 2,500 of the 4,700 native or naturalized plant species known to grow in North and South Carolina. Not to mention herbs and other plants from around the globe.

Recently, I had the good fortune to see several of these native plants myself during the Garden Writers Association 2009 symposium.

The garden’s trails travel through various natural habitats. Above Coreopsis gladiata (aka coastal plain tickseed) mingles beautifully with Euonymus americanus to create a stunning late-September scene.

Euonymus americanus can be found in forests throughout the southeastern United States. Other names for this pretty perennial include ‘strawberry bush’ and ‘hearts-bustin’-with-love.’ Incidentally, I called upon Helen Yoest of Gardening with Confidence for help in identifying this eyecatching plant.

One of my personal favorites was the American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), which has the most luscious purple berries. The long-lasting berries are an important food source for many birds, as well as foxes, racoons and white-tailed deer. I particularly liked the way the shrub was pruned to grow up this trellace by the lily pond, which is home to colorful Koi fish. It’s a great example of how native plants can fit easily into different home garden settings.

More than 40 pieces of sculptures by 24 artists are scattered around as part of the garden’s 21st annual Sculpture in the Garden exhibit, on display until Nov. 15.  This spiral sculpture is named “Mandala of the Earth and Sky,” and was created by Frank Holder.

Watch out bugs! This pitcherplant has tubular leaves that snatch up insects, making it a very effective bug catcher as well as a lovely addition to your garden. You’ll find plenty of unusual plants here. In fact, the North Carolina Botanical Garden has one of the best carnivorous plant collections in the Southeast.

Nestled among the rare plants are a number of stunning cacti, which just happened to be blooming during our visit. Aren’t those flowers a heavenly pink?

Sculptures. Native and rare plants. Well-shaded walking trails. The North Carolina Botanical Garden has a little something for everyone and it’s definitely worth a visit. Best of all, it’s open year round. So, if you’re in the Raleigh-Durham area, take some time to go native. You’ll be glad you did.

Learn more about the North Carolina Botanical Garden.

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