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By Tammy Harrison
Now that the holidays are over, many gardeners’ hearts begin yearning for spring.
Looking through gardening catalogs is a fun way to spend cold winter days, but there’s something else you can do on warm, pretty days: Go to gardens.
Winter is a wonderful time to visit gardens and arboretums. There are many gardens and arboretums in our state that are free, open year round, and in the winter, you have them pretty much all to yourself.
Winter is the best time of year to get ideas for garden structure. While plants have died back, it’s easy to see whole layouts of gardens and design. Whether it’s bed layouts, pathways, etc., it just stands out so much better in the winter.
So if you’re wondering what to do in an area of your yard, it’s a great way to get inspired. Also, garden art, sculpture, fences and gates are more noticeable in the winter, so you can get great ideas on how to use them. I’ve seen so many clever ways to use them in my garden that I might not have noticed with plants competing for attention.
Going to gardens is also a good way to see plants that grow well in this area through the winter. I’m a big fan of camellias and there are so many varieties of them that bloom throughout the winter.
A few years ago, I found a winter honeysuckle that blooms in January and smells sweet. I love it and I would never have known about it if I hadn’t been roaming a garden in January.
My favorite garden, besides my own, is the New Hanover County Arboretum on Oleander Drive in Wilmington. It is a joy to visit year round. While only a few acres, it seems much bigger, with 32 plant collections.
If you’re in Raleigh, go to the North Carolina State University Arboretum. Whatever time of year you go, it will be worth your time. This arboretum is a testing ground for plants destined for North Carolina landscapes. Many species of rare and unusual plants are grown here. You’ll see it here before you see it at your local nursery.
The collections of dwarf loblolly pines, red-bark Japanese crepe myrtles and ground-over-junipers are pretty in winter. Also in Raleigh, look up Mordecai Historic Park, Raleigh Municipal Rose Garden and WRAL Azalea Gardens.
Greensboro also has wonderful, free gardens. I suggest the Bicentennial Garden, which is beautiful. Across the street is the Bog Garden and 2 miles away is the Greensboro Arboretum.
These are just a few suggestions of beautiful places to see. There are so many more. Whatever city you’re in, go to the local visitors’ center and ask about local gardens. It’s a great way to beat those winter blahs.
Send your gardening questions or comments to: Brunswick County Master Gardener Column, P.O. Box 109, Bolivia, NC 28422, or call 253-2610. Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope if requesting information or a reply. Answers may be printed in this column.