French Drains for Torrential Rains

Much of my deer resistant garden is on a slope. The slope was created by the construction of the house in 2005. While the builder tried to minimize the damage, the heavy machinery access required some scraping away of the topsoil as it turned and twisted to create a level building envelope. We were left with hard-packed white dirt that wouldn't grow anything.

Had the slope grown grass (we tried), there might never have been a large garden on the slope.

Dump truck loads of good garden soil were delivered. The garden slopes down to the house. In 2007, when I began planting the gardens, I created an edging trench in the form of a small French drain (rock below the grass) at the top of the slopes to separate meadow from garden.

That worked well, but there was the occasional garden erosion during heavy rains.

In November 2009, I once again began cutting out a nice, sharp garden edge between the small, hidden drain of rock and the garden until...

My husband decided that we should add concrete edging. We did. But, the torrential rains came before the grass could grow over the backfill soil!

The small rock and the soil washed downhill with the series of winter rains. The garden had significant erosion and 8,000 poppy seeds were relocated somewhere outside the garden!

In February, we tackled the drainage issues again.

This time, we dug the trench out one foot wide and deep. We laid a 4 inch perforated pipe, covered in a sock to keep the soil out. We added sharp drainage rock where the pieces are one to two inches in size. On top of the drainage rock, we added more expensive decorative round rock.

A true French drain wouldn't have the pipe, just rock. But, we took liberties with the definition of a French drain to ensure that we won't have to redo the project again!

Since the French drain was completed, we've had several more torrential rains. There was no erosion at all. An added benefit is that the decorative rock packed down firmly on top of the sharp rock. The rock is stable enough for rolling a wheelbarrow and wide enough for one person to use as a garden path—and the lawn mower can clear the rock to mow the grass.

Sometimes, you do things three times before you get it right!

This article describes how we handled our drainage issues. We are not experts on drainage systems. Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel.

Phlox on the Rocks

For a blanket of dainty spring blooms grow moss pinks! As a bonus, the evergreen foliage of the moss pinks (phlox subulata) keeps a little color on the ground year round. And, this phlox is low-maintenance and requires little water (xeric), making it a great plant for hot, sunny locations such as a rock garden.

I grow a deep pink, but there are also other shades of pink—as well as white, blue and lavender phlox subulata. A creative gardener could mix several colors to grow a stunning patchwork quilt of blooms.

Suitable for sandy, average and clay soils, phlox subulata grows well in zones 3-8b. It grows only 4-5 inches high, but spreads to around 20 inches wide. Shear the plant back by one third after the blooms finish.
While I am using a sun-loving phlox, select a woodland phlox (P. divaricata) or creeping phlox (P. stolonifera) for shaded gardens.

Save Water and Time with Xeric Garden Plants

The narrow bank of my sunny stream is a difficult space, so I am converting to xeric plants to save water and save time.

When rearranging the garden in fall 2009, I moved a few clumps of the phlox from my outer gardens to the streamside rocks in my cottage garden. No shade. No irrigation. Sunshine all day long on every sunny day of the year.

The phlox is happier, loaded with buds and beginning to bloom with great exuberance!
Phlox subulata buds will soon be in bloom
Good companions include plants with the same growing conditions as the phlox subulata. I am using agastache, allium, armeria, cheddar pinks (dianthus), lavender, grape gaillardia, rosemary, salvia, sedum, stachys and thyme. These plants provide a mix of textures, plus a variety of foliage and bloom shapes that can take the heat with little water in the summer. Additionally, most of these plants have evergreen foliage so that my cottage garden doesn't look totally bare in winter.

The color scheme is based on blue, purple and pink blooms from spring through fall—a cottage garden look with xeric plants!

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel.

A Pink and Purple Pulmonaria Bloom Bouquet

Dainty pink and purple bells of blooms grace the frosted foliage of a new pulmonaria. A mass planting of this lovely perennial makes a perfect deer and rabbit resistant ground cover for a shaded or woodland garden.

Pulmonaria 'Silver Bouquet' is a 2010 introduction from Terra Nova Nurseries. I received four small plants in September 2009 to trial in my gardens. My plants have not been pampered and are blooming the first season! In fact, these are the first spring flowers in my garden this year.

The beautiful foliage remained evergreen throughout the winter here in my zone 7b garden. Planted on the east side of my house under a sweetbay magnolia, the silver foliage shines brilliantly in the understory. My plants receive dappled morning sunlight and are growing in average, well-drained soil. Grooming is simple—I removed a few of the older leaves beneath the fresh spring growth.

In addition to the lovely blooms, the foliage forms a nice, clumping bouquet that will be twenty inches wide at maturity. I can already see that the foliage growth rate will be fast. 'Silver Bouquet' is suitable for zones 4-9 and is heat and humidity tolerant.

While I would grow this pulmonaria for the foliage alone, I adore the spring blooms of pink and purple—perfect colors for my garden!

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Plants courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

My First Succulent Container Garden

Home alone—at least one container garden won't need watering and tending when I go away on vacation. Reading Succulent Container Gardens by Debra Lee Baldwin inspired me to create my first project.

Not having prior experience beyond garden sedums, I decided to try a simple design and use an existing container.

For my project, I went to Big Bloomers Flower Farm in Sanford, North Carolina where I found a selection of succulents that are suitable for zone 7, with good drainage and full sun. I can overwinter the container on my front porch where the winter sun warms up the stone floor.

Using a terracotta container that stays on my outdoor teak dining table for three seasons, I chose a rustic color scheme. The sempervivum 'Red Rubin' and 'Icicle' echo the rust-burgundy colors of the weathering on the pot. The sempervivum, aka 'Hens and Chicks' are suitable for zones 3-9.

The emerald green agave bracteosa 'Calamar' works for zones 7-10 and is spineless and compact. Spineless meaning that you won't be injured by any sharp spiny agave points. It is underplanted with green sedum tetractinum that is hardy down to zone 5.

My original plan was to use the agave and sedum in a round, green-glazed pot so that the agave will have space to grow over the next year. It will mature at 2 feet—too large for the present home. However, since I underestimated the size of the terracotta container and didn't have enough sempervivum, the agave is temporarily in the same pot (for this story). Debra is careful to address fitting the size of the plants with the size of the pot.

I will do some rearranging of the plants after my next visit to the nursery so that the tabletop arrangement is all sempervivum—a design that I love in Debra's book. Sempervivum will multiply and the offspring can be separated from the mother plant.

Using Debra's very clear instructions for planting, I made a mix of potting soil and perlite from one of the "recipes" that she provided. After planting, there was soil and perlite on the plants, so I used a soft artist's brush to gently sweep away the debris. I carefully watered the soil.

According to Debra, the succulents should last about two weeks between waterings—enough time for me to slip away on vacation. I won't have to phone home to see if these plants are still alive!

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Succulent Container Gardens: Book Review

I love container gardens stuffed with annuals for summer blooms, but I don't like leaving them unattended when I go on vacation. Creating a container garden takes imagination, time and expense—I don't want to come home to wilted or dead plants!

Until recently, I knew nothing about growing succulents—that can tolerate a couple of weeks without water. I live in North Carolina, not Southern California.

The idea of succulents as container plants never crossed my mind until I opened the book, Succulent Container Gardens by Debra Lee Baldwin.

I think my jaw dropped as I looked at the photos of gorgeous and creative succulent container designs! My husband and son looked over my shoulder as I stood at the kitchen island pointing out incredible colors, forms and arrangements. The guys "got it" as I read a few passages to them about the low-maintenance of succulents.

Sitting down to read the book, I learned about the varieties of succulents that will work in my climate. Debra's how-to instructions on choosing plants to work with pots convinced me to try my hand at creating my first succulent container garden.

Debra's planting instructions are easy to follow and include choices in soil mixture as well as tricks and tips for getting the plants into the container. I found out that a soft paint brush is needed to gently brush the soil mixture from the plants without any damage.

Debra provides many inspirational designs that are making me think outside the standard container—succulent wreaths and topiaries as well as interesting objects that can be used as containers—including birdbaths, bathtubs and shelves.

It is so easy for me to recommend a garden book that inspired me enough to do what is described within the book!

Review written by Freda Cameron.

Succulent Container Gardens by Debra Lee Baldwin was provided courtesy of Timber Press:
Debra has wowed the gardening world with her new book Succulent Container Gardens, now see Debra Lee Baldwin's exclusive DIY video showing the easy steps to making one of her swoon-worthy succulent designs.

Pick Your Favorite Color of Blanket Flower

Not your mother's blanket flower! No longer the ordinary orange and gold, blanket flowers (gaillardia) are available in a wide range of colors. From experience, I've learned to purchase gaillardias only when I can see the actual bloom color.

Great for a long bloom season, drought, deer and rabbit resistance, gaillardias are very reliable in my garden. I'm not a collector, really!

The quest for solid color "daisy shape" plants that the deer and rabbits won't eat led me to the gaillardia. Blanket flowers are quite at home in hot, dry locations and require no pampering. If deadheaded, they will rebloom again and again. If not deadheaded, the bi-color varieties will seed everywhere. I wouldn't mind it if the solid colors would seed around, too!

Gaillardia aestivalis var. winkleri 'Grape Sensation'
Zones 7-9
18 inches high x 3 feet wide
Full sun

This grape is sensational with salvia 'Diane', cottage pinks (dianthus) and stachys 'Helen von Stein'. I gathered seeds from the grape last fall and divided the plant with the idea to eventually fill up one bed with this combination. It's still too early to know if the seeds germinated. Until I have enough for a mass planting, lavender 'Grosso' and a few purple to deep pink agastache are in this section of the garden.

Gaillardia 'Yellow Queen'
Zones 3-10
18 inches high x 18 inches wide
Full sun

This yellow gaillardia is planted with salvia 'Mystic Spires Blue' in several locations as well as mixed with purple verbena bonariensis, nepeta 'Walkers Low' and achillea 'Cornation Moonshine' in another location. I collected and purchased seeds to see if all will bloom true to color.

Gaillardia 'Tokajer'
Zones 3-9
16 inches high x 12 inches wide
Full sun

Gaillardia 'Tokajer' disappeared last year, but I found it again when moving perennials in the fall. The location was too shaded, so I had only a few blooms. I have moved it to a sunny spot with other orange as well as purple perennials.

Gaillardia 'Tizzy'
Zones 3-9
18 inches high x 3 feet wide
Full sun

I really like the deep orange color on 'Tizzy' as well as the fluted petals. This gaillardia blooms almost non-stop. Last year, I kept it separated from other orange bi-color gaillardias to make sure it consistently bloomed the same color. I just moved it up to the butterfly garden with salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna', agastache 'Navajo Sunset', agastache 'Purple Haze' and echinacea 'Sundown. There are also purple alliums, Homestead Purple verbena and a few other plants—based on purple and orange—in the same section of the garden. I have high hopes for continued success with this one.

Gaillardia 'Burgundy'
Zones 3-9
24 inches high x 12 inches wide
Full sun

Another fabulous bloomer, 'Burgundy' is great with coreopsis, especially 'Red Shift'. I'm using this gaillardia in a garden bed based on blue, dark red and yellow. Other perennials include achillea 'Moonshine', blue flax and agastache 'Blue Fortune'. I plan to add salvia 'Mystic Spires' blue to the area. This is definitely a keeper, so I've also planted both collected and purchased seeds of this one to try for a mass planting.

So where is the old gold and orange gaillardia? At the feet of monarda 'Jacob Cline', crocosmia 'Lucifer' and salvia 'Navajo Bright Red'. Every time I see a gaillardia bloom bi-color, I dig it up and move it to the same location. I should have a rather big mass planting this year!

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Garden Inspiration: Bring it Home

Ooh and ahh! Yes, there are many palatial estates, perfectly manicured hedges and graceful Japanese bridges that we see on our travels. But, there are also ideas to translate into realities for your home gardens. Draw inspiration from shapes, plants, color schemes and function.

Get It Straight—Formal Garden Style

An herb garden in a raised bed would be an excellent choice for bringing formality, with function, to a home garden. Diagonal checkerboard squares are filled with either herbs or pretty stone.

Formal gardens aren't always made up of entirely of straight lines. Circles, such as fountains, can be accented with symmetrical plantings to play well within the straight lines of a courtyard or fenced garden.

No Imports

If you prefer to walk on the wild side, growing native plants in a meadow, bog or woodland garden may be just the thing. Native plants are lower maintenance as they do just fine with Mother Nature as the gardener.

If you live in alpine, desert, mediterranean or tropical conditions—your native plants will be different from those of us living in the eastern regions of North America. Native gardens are based upon your environment and those plants that you see growing wild in your area. Examples can often be seen in regional sections of public gardens.

Making Plants Do—and Making Do in Small Spaces

Some of us aspire to grow plants that aren't quite perfect for our regions. We create micro-climate pockets in our gardens and select plants that may require a bit of extra work, such as drip irrigation moisture for tropical plants.

Without garden space, creative gardeners grow an amazing assortment of plants, herbs and vegetables in containers for balconies, porches and patios. Container gardens can also be used to create privacy and define spaces.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

On the very practical side, grow your own food alongside your flowers. Veggie gardens and orchards can fit into small spaces and wide open places.

Okay, you're right—we can't bring the Chianti vineyards home. But, have you ever grown grapes on your arbor?

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

House Hunting is for the Birds

Spring is house hunting time. The new house must be perfect. It can't be too small or too large. A lavishly decorated house is nice, but a simple little cottage will do just fine. Of course, the house must have a garden!

The birds are house hunting again! The chickadees are scouting around the bluebird houses to select a nesting home. The bluebird population is very high here in our neighborhood, too.

There are bluebird houses mounted along the board fencing throughout our neighborhood of open meadows. We have two more birdhouses behind our house, too. When there aren't enough birdhouses to go around, the bluebirds nest in the wooden newspaper tubes below everyone's mailbox!

Each year, the chickadees are the first to nest in our bluebird houses. After they raise their young, a bluebird pair takes over the same house. Our birdhouses are four feet off the ground and positioned along the edge of our woods, facing the open meadow.

We've noticed a male chickadee standing guard on top of one of the bluebird houses. The female has been going in and out of the house for several days, carrying nesting material. However, the male chickadee isn't very territorial compared to bluebirds!

If there is a car parked in our driveway when the bluebirds are nesting, there is a problem. The male fusses at his reflection in the side mirrors for hours and hours at a time. My son left his car parked here while he was in college. I had to tie grocery bags over the car mirrors to give the poor bluebird a break from his guard duty!

Meanwhile, we'll keep the bird feeders full of seeds for the nesting couples. Nesting season is another reminder that spring is in the air!

I published this story on my blog one year ago. The birds must be on the same schedule this year as they are back at house hunting. The bird activity is a reminder to make sure we have birdhouses available—cleaned before the new occupants move in. Only the title for today's story has been changed to avoid confusion with the March 2009 story.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel.

Milkweed for Monarchs

The Monarch Spring Migration Begins in March

The spring migration of the Monarch butterflies starts around the second week of March. The Monarchs will leave their winter habitat in Mexico and begin their journey to our gardens in search of nectar and host plants. The Monarchs will travel through several sections of the United States during the spring migration.

The Monarch overwintering habitats were hit hard by torrential rains, snow, hail and cold temperatures. The Monarch news at Monarch Watch is still filtering in about the impact of the weather on the population. A reduction in the survival rate is of great concern and we are in the best position to help the returning Monarchs successfully reproduce by growing milkweed in our gardens.

Milkweed is the only host plant for the Monarch Butterfly.

The female lays eggs on the milkweed leaves. Those eggs hatch into caterpillars that later become butterflies. Raise caterpillars in your garden by growing asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed), asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed) or other varieties of milkweed.

In some zones, it may be as late as June before the milkweed has returned. It is a late plant to emerge after winter. For this reason, it may also be late spring or early summer before garden centers have milkweed available for sale. A few of the mail-order nurseries sell milkweed plants and seeds.

When shopping in spring, please buy a few milkweed plants (with leaves) and plant those for any early spring migrating Monarchs. Monarch activity also occurs during August through October for the fall migration.

Nectar plants feed the Monarch Butterflies and as a gardener, you probably already have a butterfly garden. There are so many nectar plants favored by butterflies—cosmos, marigold, verbena and zinnia are good annuals; asters, bee balm, coneflowers, susans and sedum are good perennials and wildflowers. A few butterfly bushes will keep all the butterflies happy, too.

What can gardeners do to help the Monarch Butterflies?

Grow milkweed.
Grow nectar plants.
Do not use insecticides or pesticides.

Please share the "Milkweed for Monarchs" message with other gardeners and bloggers!

Please link to this story to spread the word. Write your own story about Monarchs, or drop me a note to receive a copy of this story to republish.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are owned by those respective companies or persons.

A Bounty of Cut Flowers

Wading waist-deep through tall zinnias to select stems to bring indoors, I felt euphoric! Until summer 2009, my garden was based on perennials, shrubs and trees. A lovely view—I hesitated to cut flowers from perennials to bring indoors because I didn't want to destroy that view.

Yes, I've had container and a few bedding annuals, but for the first time, I ventured into growing a cutting garden.

I planted zinnias en masse in the cottage garden. From our front porch rocking chairs, The Musician and I sipped our morning coffee, petted Charm and watched butterflies, bees and hummingbirds drawn to the blooms all summer long. The more blooms that I cut, the more the zinnias bloomed. Some of the zinnias were taller than me. I was in gardener heaven!

Is this the feeling that veggie gardeners have when they harvest their bounty? Gathering my harvest of blooms was one of the most rewarding experiences that I've had as a gardener.

I can no longer imagine my garden without zinnias.

The success of growing zinnias was so rewarding, that I have seeds to sow again this summer. The Benary's Giant Zinnias (36 inches high) are exemplary performers, and I have that variety in several colors—golden yellow, wine, white and lilac.

Another variety, the dahlia-flowered 'Purple Prince' was gorgeous and is worth repeating. I know that I'm heading down the garden path of a zinnia addiction!

Many gardeners report that deer eat zinnias, but I successfully grew a few of the Benary's Giant in test patches throughout my deer resistant garden, mixed with salvia and agastache. If food is in short supply, the deer may eat anything, even a yucca!

I'm expanding my zinnia-growing trials in the outer gardens. Renee's Garden has graciously provided zinnia 'Cool Crayon Colors' and 'Berry Basket' to trial with the deer. I will use a few seeds of each in the cottage garden as my protected example of the bloom colors.

As for growing zinnias, I think they are foolproof. Sow the seeds in a sunny location, keep the soil moist and you will quickly see green seedlings. Thin the seedlings by gently lifting and transplanting any that are too close together. I probably planted mine too thickly, but didn't have a problem with mildew.

I planted in succession, several weeks apart, beginning the last of May. My last seeds were sown in mid-July. The succession planting kept me in flowers until frost.

The Benary's Giant were such prolific bloomers, that I don't think the succession planting is necessary as long as you keep cutting flowers for yourself. The stems are long and strong and can take the weight of multiple branches that result from the cuttings. My zinnias wanted to lean south toward the summer sun, but I didn't stake any of them.

Since zinnias attract the pollinators, I had a few interesting colors created by nature!

For that reason, I cannot precisely identify the blooms in my garden. By September, I had so many colors that I never planted—often mixed on the same plant.

A few garden forum friends actually play around with breeding their own zinnias. The colors and forms are stunning! One gardener has several pastel shades that I hope will someday be sold as seeds to the rest of us.

No matter the colors or the form, all of the tall zinnias are beautiful to me. Armloads of blooms to bring indoors makes a gardener happy!

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Six Months of Bloom from One Perennial

Creeping heliotrope was unknown to me until a local plantswoman recommended the perennial. I brought six little pots home to my garden. Not knowing anything about the best placement, I planted the ground cover around a sundial and along a few rose bushes.

After the first year, I realized that I had a prize edger so I decided to make better use the plants. During the relocation project I discovered that the heliotrope grows long taproots. Even if you move it, you probably have left it behind! Fortunately, I don't consider this a problem unless you plant it under roses (I'm still trying to remove it from that spot).

The heliotrope is definitely deer, rabbit and sun proof. The plant thrives in harsh conditions for zones 7-11, though it would not surprise me if it grows in colder zones.

On my blog and on gardening forums, I sang the praises of this plant to everyone—for several years! No one had heard of it. No gardener could find it. My friends thought creeping heliotrope was a make-believe perennial that only existed in my garden (or in my mind).

Although I made it famous, heliotropium amplexicaule 'Azure Skies' is now in the Southern Living® Collection, not the Freda Cameron Collection. The perennial is from the Athens Select™ program.

You can buy the heliotrope at retail garden centers in the summer, but I don't get any kick-backs or commissions for all my marketing and public relations efforts. Even the Grumpy Gardener had to visit my garden to take a photo of HIS perennial!

I photographed six months of continuous bloom in 2009, but it actually bloomed into November before I finally cut it back. My favorite use is growing the heliotrope along the edge of the stream to cover the ankles of salvias, zinnias and other cottage garden favorites. I planted the stream-side pieces, three feet apart, in spring 2009.

This heliotrope is not to be confused with the very fragrant, annual heliotrope. In fact, you could say this one doesn't smell too good which is probably why all critters leave it alone.

My perennial heliotrope gets no care from me other than the fall cut back. It stands alone. It blooms. All spring. All summer. All fall.

So, go ahead and add heliotropium amplexicaule 'Azure Skies' to your sunny garden, too!

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Ten Gardens to Visit in the NC Triangle

For a great gardener's getaway, visit the Triangle area of North Carolina. The cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill are home to spectacular public and private gardens. It is so easy to fill up a weekend—or a week—with gardens!

Even if you aren't a gardener, there's nothing more pleasant than strolling the many gardens to just enjoy nature and being outdoors. When the sun shines and weather is fine, locals go to the free public gardens at three major universities — North Carolina State University, Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

See private gardens that are open for only a few days each year or by appointment. Plant collectors will enjoy visiting the all the gardens, especially the gardens associated with nationally known nurseries. When the weather is chilly, warm up inside a huge butterfly conservatory that is filled with exotic tropicals.

With ten gardens, all located less than one hour from Raleigh—how many will you see?

Raleigh Gardens

JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University
If you want to see the perfect plants to grow in the southeast, start at Raulston. In addition to the plant trials and huge perennial border, there is a fabulous Lath House, a butterfly garden, a Japanese Garden, a Xeric Garden and so much more. Every Sunday at 2:00 PM, March-October, you can take a free, guided tour. Admission free.

Juniper Level Botanic Garden
This garden is a must see—but is open only eight weekends a year during the open house days for Tony Avent's Plant Delights Nursery. Group tours can be arranged by calling ahead "WAY in advance." Although admission is free to visit the gardens, you'll have a difficult time leaving the nursery without taking home a plant or two or three...

Rose Gardens of the Raleigh Little Theatre
If you can sneak into this "almost secret" garden between weddings and events, you'll be treated to 56 varieties of roses in the 60 beds at the Rose Gardens. Accredited by the All American Rose Society, the gardens include "hybrid teas, floribundas, grandifloras, miniatures and antiques." Admission free.

Durham Gardens

NC Museum of Life and Science
Not a garden per se, the NC Museum of Life and Science has a glorious butterfly conservatory. The Magic Wings Butterfly House® is home to over 100 species set in a tropical garden. Outdoors, there are wildlife habitats, a rain garden, wetlands and too many children's activities to mention. This is definitely the place to go if you are bringing your children along, but you don't have to be a kid to enjoy the museum. Admission fee.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University
Known for one of the best spring color displays in the terraced gardens, there is so much more to the famous Duke Gardens throughout the year. Set among 55-acres, locals stroll the paths through the Asiatic Gardens and the Garden of Native Plants. Admission free.

Chapel Hill Area Gardens

Coker Arboretum at UNC Chapel Hill
Quietly tucked away on the campus of UNC, Coker Arboretum is the perfect place to picnic and stroll the paths to view native plants and special hybrids. A mix of evergreens, dogwoods, azaleas and the famous wisteria arbor serve as garden walls that separate this garden from the hubbub of campus and town activity. Admission free.

North Carolina Botanical Garden at UNC Chapel Hill
To see North Carolina natives, visit the Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill. Native wildflowers, trees and grasses are in both natural settings and display gardens to enthrall and educate gardeners and visitors. There are also acres of hiking trails adjacent to the gardens. Admission free.

Fearrington Village and Gardens
Just ten minutes south of Chapel Hill, Fearrington Village and Gardens are reminiscent of an English country village. Set in the rolling countryside with Belted Galloway cows grazing the pastures, the gardens are perfect for a stroll after lunch or coffee at one of the restaurants. A home and garden decorating shop is filled with garden items while the grounds include folk art sculptures from local artists. Admission to the gardens is free.

Montrose Gardens
Wander the streets of Historic Hillsborough and stop in at Montrose Gardens of 19th Century origin. The Garden Conservancy is planning for the future of these gardens, that may be toured on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings by appointment, so call ahead. There is a fee to tour the gardens.

Niche Gardens
The nationally known mail-order nursery, Niche Gardens, is also open to the public. Native plants are the specialty of this nursery, open seven days a week from spring and fall. On Saturday mornings, visitors can take a free garden walk or groups can schedule an in-depth paid guided garden tour.

More information about the gardens can be found at Gardens & Arboretums. If you are interested in visiting the Triangle, download the free itinerary Love our Triangle of Gardens: 3-day itinerary for the Raleigh area, written by Freda Cameron. The itinerary also includes suggestions for restaurants and lodging, many with a garden theme.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.
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