The Triangle is home to several very different botanical gardens, each with its own feel and focus. Some are sprawling research gardens that are part of major universities, while some are compact gems. What they all have in common is that they provide a peaceful, relaxing experience and a way to connect with nature.
All are free to visit.
Whether you’re interested in getting ideas for your own garden, or you have children who need to get out of the house, or you just want to get some fresh air, these gardens are the perfect outing.
JC Raulston Arboretum
Address: 4415 Beryl Road, Raleigh, NC 27606
Hours: Currently Monday to Friday, 12 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (as part of a phased reopening.)
Parking: Free parking in the Arboretum’s paved lot and along Beryl Road.
Accessibility: The JC Raulston Arboretum gardens are handicapped accessible, on wide paths of various materials. The A.E. Findley Rooftop Garden is not ADA accessible.
N.C. State’s JC Raulston Arboretum is both a living laboratory and a public garden. Its mission is to “introduce, display, and promote plants that diversify the American landscape.”
The Arboretum includes many gardens, including the A.E. Finley Foundation Rooftop Terrace, Asian Valley, Butterfly Garden, Color Trials, Elm Circle, Finley-Nottingham Rose Garden, Geophyte Border, Japanese Garden, Klein-Pringle White Garden, and more.
There’s a Model Gardens area, where you can learn about landscaping smaller spaces, a Winter Garden, which shows how every season has its beauty, and a Xeric Garden, filled with plants that thrive with no additional watering.
Explore over 6,000 types of plants from 50 countries within the 10 acres.
North Carolina Botanical Garden
Address: 100 Old Mason Farm Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27517
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Mondays and University holidays.
Parking: Parking is free in the parking lot.
Accessibility: Many of the Garden displays are wheelchair accessible. If you need special accommodations, please let the staff know by calling 919-962-0522.
The North Carolina Botanical Garden, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, includes several distinct areas, including Piedmont Nature Trails, Battle Park & Forest Theatre, Coker Arboretum (read on to learn about visiting here), Mason Farm Biological Reserve, and Preserves and Natural Areas. But when people say “North Carolina Botanical Garden,” they are usually talking about the display gardens at 100 Old Mason Farm Road.
The display garden itself is expansive and diverse, with sections devoted to different North Carolina ecosystems, including the Piedmont Habitat, Sandhills Habitat, Coastal Plain Habitat, and Mountain Habitat.
There’s also a carnivorous plant collection, a Native American garden, water gardens, herb gardens, a poisonous plants garden, and more.
The Children’s Wonder Garden provides a place for children to dig, build with blocks, search for butterflies and more.
If you want to learn about the importance and diversity of botany in North Carolina, there’s no better place to start.
Juniper Level Botanical Garden
Address: 9241 Sauls Road, Raleigh, NC 27603
Hours: Only on the 8 Open Nursery and Garden Weekends each year. Visits at other times must be requested in advance.
Juniper Level Botanic Garden is open without reservations just 8 weekends of the year (2 weekends each season), and plant enthusiasts mark their calendars in anticipation. It’s 28-acre campus contains a staggering 30,000 taxa of plants, including native perennials, exotic plants, and, especially, specimen trees and shrubs that don’t exist anywhere in the world.
The collection is a result of plantsman and horticulturist Tony Avent’s passion for plant breeding and plant expeditions. He and his wife and business partner, Anita Avent, own Juniper Level Botanic Garden and Plant Delights Nursery. Tony Avent studied under J. C. Raulston, who built the JC Raulston Arboretum.
Juniper Level Botanic Garden’s and Plant Delighty’s Open Nursery and Garden Days are always kept on Triangle on the Cheap.
Address: 399 E Cameron Avenue, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Hours: 7 days a week, dawn to dusk
Parking: Metered parking is available nearby and around downtown Chapel Hill.
Accessibility: The paths are mostly flat and either smooth grit or brick. They are wheelchair accessible.
Coker Arboretum is at the corner of Cameron Avenue and Raleigh Street in Chapel Hill. In all, it’s 5 acres.
Stroll the flat, easy walking paths and enjoy wildflowers, trees, shrubs, perennials, vines and more.You’ll find several benches and open lawns throughout. as well as creeks.
This area was first developed in 1903 by Dr. William Chambers Coker, Professor of Botany at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with many East Asian trees and shrubs added in the 1920s through 1940s.
Wilson Botanical Gardens
Address: 1806 Goldsboro Street S, Wilson, NC 27893
Hours: 7 days a week, dawn to dusk
Parking: Large parking lot with free parking
Accessibility: Wheelchair accessible
If you’re up for a little drive, the 11-acre Wilson Botanical Gardens might be calling your name. Of special note is the wonderful 1-acre Children’s Secret Garden, which has several components to delight children, including a garden tunnel, rain wall, music court, dino dig, tire swings, a labyrinth and more.
Some of the other parts of Wilson Botanical Gardens are a medicinal and culinary herb garden, a hosta garden, a show stopper garden, a heritage garden, and a flower garden.
Sarah P. Duke Gardens
Address: 420 Anderson Street, Durham, NC 27708
Hours: 8 a.m. to dusk, every day of the year.
Parking: $2/hour parking at Duke Gardens. Look for parking machines on the lots, or use the Pay by Phone app (location 3109.)
Accessibility: Some of the paths are wheelchair accessible, and some are too steep, or include steps. Stop by the information desk for a map that shows the most accessible routes among the Gardens’ 5 miles.
Although temporarily closed as part of Duke University’s campus-wide pandemic policies, any nature-lover in the Triangle should visit Duke Gardens when it reopens.
Duke Gardens welcomes more than 400,000 visitors to its 55 acres every year. Visitors find it a stress-reliever to walk the paths in any season.
The gardens include areas inspired by the cottage gardens of England, rolling woodland terrain, a Japanese tea garden, a rose garden, terraced gardens, a fish pool filled with water lilies and more.
Chatham Mills “Pollinator Paradise” Garden
Address: 480 Hillsboro Street, Pittsboro, NC 27312
Hours: Any time.
Parking: Free parking.
Accessibility: Might vary.
This garden is a project of N.C. Cooperative Extension, and features more than 225 different species of plants, all with the goal of attracting butterflies, bees and other pollinators. It’s a demonstration garden, mostly with plants that are native to North Carolina.
The plants are throughout the Chatham Mills property. Some border sidewalks and lawns, and some are even parking lot islands.
Chatham Mills hosts a farmers’ market on Saturdays all year except for February and March. Why not visit the Pollinator Paradise while you shop at this local growers’ market? More info on Triangle farmers’ markets.
This video, recorded in June of 2020, will give you a good idea of what you can expect to see when you visit this spring.
The Raleigh Rose Garden
Address: 301 Pogue Street, Raleigh, NC 27607
Hours: All the time
Parking: Free parking in parking lot. Don’t park in the spots that say “permit required” Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is also on-street parking around the theatre, but please observe the parking restrictions.
Accessibility: Park in the staff parking lot behind the building. There are a few parking spots for cars with disability placards. There is also a curb cut down in that area that allows wheelchair access to the garden. It’s a fully green space without sidewalks or much pavement, so please keep that in mind.
The Raleigh Rose Garden is part of the Raleigh Little Theatre campus. It was dedicated in 1951 and includes 60 rose beds, surrounded by evergreen and deciduous trees.
WRAL Azalea Gardens
Address: 2619 Western Blvd, Raleigh, NC 27606
Hours: 7 days a week, dawn to dusk
Parking: Free parking across from Gardens entrance
Accessibility: Some paths are paved and wheelchair accessible
One unexpected spot for a beautiful garden is the land behind WRAL-TV’s studios on Western Boulevard in Raleigh. Capitol Broadcasting Company founder A.J. Fletcher loved azaleas and created the gardens as a way of paying tribute to their beauty.
The garden is maintained by CBC Corporate Property Management, with input from CEO Jim Goodmon, who is Fletcher’s grandson.
Besides azaleas, the garden includes camellias, hydrangeas, perennials, shrubs, succulents, trees and vines.
The Arboretum at Johnston Community College
Address: 1240 E Market Street, Smithfield, NC 27577
Hours: Walking paths open in late spring.
Parking: Park in visitor spots.
Accessibility: Some of the trails are wheelchair accessible.
The Arboretum showcases traditional trees, flowers and ornamental shrubs. Enjoy dogwoods, azaleas, lilies, roses, and irises.
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