Favorite Gardens in North Carolina

Jason Frye
| February 22, 2024 | 4 Minute Read
A small reflection pond with a clearing of grass behind it. A large formal greenhouse is in the background. Courtesy of Reynolda Gardens

Plant lovers and green thumbs know storied gardens like those at The North Carolina Arboretum (the bonsai garden and spectacular holiday lights draw droves), Biltmore (where the Biltmore Blooms spring festival welcomes hundreds of thousands of bright blossoms), and Wilmington’s New Hanover County Arboretum (dozens of garden rooms dazzle locals and visitors year-round). But other botanical gems wait to be discovered (or re-discovered) on the Outer Banks, in Fayetteville and in historic Winston-Salem.

Reynolda Gardens, Winston-Salem

Beverly Hurley, editor of Triangle Gardener and, cites Reynolda Gardens (free) as among her favorite in the state. Why? Many reasons, but the “original Lord and Burnham glass Palm House erected in 1913 as the centerpiece of the gardens” is top on her list. This elegant greenhouse (above) is full of orchids, palms, cacti and more, and it joins Japanese-inspired tea houses, shady pergolas and a quartet of orderly gardens to make for a lovely garden experience. A pair of rose gardens, the Blue & Yellow Garden and Pin & White Garden, ensure there’s vibrant color here year-round. When you visit, you’re only steps away from the Reynolda House, the onetime home of Katharine and R.J. Reynolds that’s now an art museum.

The Elizabethan Gardens, Roanoke Island

On the north end of Roanoke Island, The Elizabethan Gardens ($12 adults, $11 military and seniors) stands as a living memorial to the first English colonists to land here, the famed Lost Colony. (If you visit in summer you can see the outdoor drama, which is staged next door.) Shade gardens grow beneath the sprawling arms of live oaks; formal gardens planted with unerring symmetry transport you to the time of Elizabeth I; and roses, hydrangeas, camellias and more delight the senses. The gift shop offers a carefully curated selection of decorative and functional gifts, and plant sales throughout the year let you take home a cutting or clone from the garden’s incredible collection.

A small dock on a pond surrounded by dense greenery and blooming flowers. Mr. Thomas Keever

Cape Fear Botanical Garden, Fayetteville

The 80-acre Cape Fear Botanical Garden ($10 adults, $9 military and seniors), only 2 miles from downtown Fayetteville, has more than two dozen planned gardens and features to experience. A butterfly garden draws scores of fragile flutterers, the camellia garden delivers winter blooms, and the children’s garden offers a sensory experience and place to play. There are several miles of trails to walk here as well; some lead to secret gardens, others to ponds (above) and along the banks of the Cape Fear River. Programs like the Nature Trail Discovery Backpacks (loaded with field guides, binoculars and other goodies) get kids engaged with the Botanical Garden, and for the garden enthusiast, talks with master gardeners and volunteers reveal even more about what’s growing here.

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