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Explore North Carolina’s Native Gardens

North Carolina’s mild climate, abundant rainfall, and strong sun make the Tar Heel State a natural plant showcase. Learn more about the state’s flowers, shrubs, and trees in some of North Carolina’s great botanical gardens. The North Carolina Botanical Garden in Asheville boasts free entry and a great hiking trails which weave through formal and display gardens. You can see 2,500 of the 4,700 plant species native to the state, and among the don’t-miss attractions is the carnivorous plant collection, including sundews, Venus flytraps, and pitcher plants.

Near Fayetteville, the Cape Fear Botanical Garden conserves and displays plants native to the area. There are nature trails, an amphitheater, and plenty of unusual plants. There are ponds, pools, and a scenic river trail. In Wilmington, Airlie Gardens is a lush, flowing, natural garden full of native plants such as azaleas, camellias, and wisteria. One unique feature is the bottle chapel – a sanctuary made from color glass bottles.

Charlotte’s University of North Carolina Botanical Garden is on the school’s campus and is a great spot to relax or enjoy a picnic. Check out the greenhouse, the carnivorous plant collection, the orchid gardens, and the hardwood garden, which has Japanese maples and azaleas.

Elizabethan Gardens

Operated by the Garden Club of North Carolina, the Elizabethan Gardens is part of the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site on the North Carolina coast. Spanning 10 acres, the Elizabethan Gardens is a major attraction of the OBX area. The gardens, home to over 500 species of plants, are open daily throughout the year, and there is a separate entrance fee from Fort Raleigh. The Elizabethan Gardens offer free audio tours, and allow picnics onsite. Be sure to see the 85 varieties of Camellias around the Great Lawn, or the Sunken Gardens.

JC Raulston Arboretum

Covering 10 acres on campus at North Carolina State University, JC Raulston Arboretum is an educational garden located in Raleigh in the North Carolina Piedmont region.

Open daily with no charge to the public; the JC Raulston Arboretum was created in 1976 by Dr. James Chester "JC" Raulston, and is part of the Department of Horticultural Science. Several gardens and collections are on display, including the Finley-Nottingham Rose Garden, the Klein-Pringle White Garden, and the Xeric Garden.

And be sure to visit the Annual Color Trial, the Lath House, and the A. E. Finley Rooftop Terrace.

North Carolina Botanical Gardens

Established in 1951, the North Carolina Botanical Gardens covers over 700 acres in the North Carolina Piedmont region in Chapel Hill. Home to over 2,500 species of plants native to the Carolinas, the gardens are operated by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The UNC Botanical Gardens is free and open to public on a daily basis, and now showcases 14 collections and gardens – all starting with the Coker Garden in 1903. Visitors are encouraged to check out the 90-acre Battle Park, the Coastal Plain and Sandhills Habitat Gardens, and the Garden of Flowering Plant Families.

Greensboro Arboretum

Covering 17 acres, the Greensboro Arboretum is set in the North Carolina Piedmont region in the city of Greensboro. The garden is free and open to the public daily, and features 14 plant collections and display gardens.

Take a walk along the Woodland Trail in the Shade Garden Collection, or get a full view of the arboretum at the Blanche S. Benjamin Overlook. Special collections include the Robin B. Ward Meditation Garden & Groundcover Collection, Dwarf Conifer Collection, and the Landmark Arbor within the Irene H. McIver Vine Collection.

Stunning display gardens include the Green Hill Farm Hosta Garden, Beeson Rhododendron Garden, and the R.R. Allen Family Butterfly Garden and Fountain.

North Carolina Arboretum

Covering 434 acres, the North Carolina Arboretum is located in western North Carolina in the city of Asheville. Set along the Blue Ridge Parkway, the free arboretum features gardens, exhibits, and hiking and biking trails. Found in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest of the Pisgah National Forest, the NC Arboretum offers the Blue Ridge Quilt Garden, Cliff Dickinson Holly Garden, National Native Azalea Repository, and much more.