Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Visiting Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens

Last weekend, my husband and I took a weekend trip to Charlotte, NC, a drive about 3 hours away from us in Raleigh.  While we were there, we visited the beautiful Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens.   I was absolutely entranced with these gardens - in fact, I believe this is now my favorite botanical gardens that I've ever visited.   

I took hundreds of photos, most of which didn't turn out all that great.  But I'd like to share with you today some of the views that we saw on that beautiful (if warm and humid) morning in Charlotte.

First, a little about the gardens.  They were founded by Daniel Stowe, a multi-millionaire who wished to establish a botanical gardens for generations to enjoy.  The gardens are only about 20 years old, and the focus of the development has been the careful creation of artful spaces, merging botanical beauty with artwork in a classic and yet fully contemporary way.   I was really so impressed with how naturally the gardens incorporated art into the landscape.  It's a very easy integration that was wonderful to explore.

This summer, the gardens are exhibiting a collection of art called ZimSculpt, featuring over 200 pieces of sculpture created by artists in Zimbabwe.   The ZimSculpt pieces are spread across the entire gardens, and look stunning in these beautiful spaces.   I hope to share a full post dedicated to the beautiful sculptures we saw, but will show some here too, since they were such an integral part of the garden displays this summer.  You can learn more about ZimSculpt at

And now, on to the photos.

First, here is a map of the gardens as they have so far been developed.  We entered at the visitor center pictured in the lower left of this map, and we explored the formal lawn, the orchid conservatory, the fountain allee, and the more meandering perennial and fountain gardens.  Our visit took about 2.5 hours, and we felt like we saw everything, yet I would have enjoyed spending more time, but the heat was getting thick and heavy.

The outside entrance of the visitor center is filled with bright annuals just right for the southern heat in Charlotte, NC.

As I was paying the entrance fee ($12/person, worth every penny!), I noticed that my husband was looking up.   

And for good reason!  And antique Victorian-era stained glass dome graces the lobby of the visitor center.

Heading out into the gardens, the formal lawn is the first thing you see.   It's surrounded by brick pathways and a variety of evergreen shrubs, flowering trees, and perennials.  The patio has tables and sun umbrellas upon which you can enjoy a picnic lunch or a snack from the gift shop.

The lawn is centered on the fountain allee gardens which extend as far as you can see.

Walking around the gardens, I was so impressed with how perfect the design was.  There was always something to draw you down the path, around the corner, through to the next garden space.   There were other visitors that day, but I never felt crowded or rushed, I always felt like I could enjoy the gardens because each small garden room was visually separated perfectly from the last, and there was always something new and beautiful around the next corner.  Here are some photos that attempt to show the gorgeous design and plants of the garden.

The Tropical House, built in 2008, is stunning and deserves its own post.

The gardens, terrace, and visitor center can be rented out for weddings, corporate events, or other large parties.  The white garden room pictured below is a perfect place to hold a wedding ceremony, and the visitor center is absolutely gorgeous, and perfect to house a wedding reception.   You can also use the gardens for wedding photography, but they do charge a nominal fee for that.

I mentioned that the gardens were filled with sculptures from ZimSculpt collection... there are permanent art installations as well.   Here are some photos which attempt to capture the excellent integration of art into the garden design.

There are plans underway for expansion of the garden, some of which will open in October 2014.   The new area is designed as a children's garden, and will include an amphitheater for musical performances, and several more fountains and structures.

Overall, I'm absolutely in love with this garden!  I'm looking forward to going back in other seasons to see how it looks.   If you are in or near Charlotte, NC, this is definitely a worthwhile stop!


Linking To:

A Delightsome Life:  Home and Garden Thursday
Fishtail Cottage:  Garden Party

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