Gardening News

Be Inspired – Visit a Public Garden

Ideas and inspiration are just two of the reasons to visit a public garden on National Public Gardens Day. Paul James, host of HGTVs Gardening By the Yard, and national spokesman for National Public Gardens Day, shared his vision of what we can learn from public gardens.

What Can We Learn From Public Gardens?
James pointed out that it’s important to not be overwhelmed when visiting some of these grand gardens, and instead look at the small details to recreate in your own garden space. Maybe it’s seeing what grows best in shade, how to add accents in your garden, effective use of irrigation or as simple as how much mulch to add to the landscape. He suggests that you take the big tour first to soak it all in, and then go back another day to look at the details.

Paul James

Paul James

Even though National Public Garden Day is in May, James encourages gardeners to visit a public garden throughout the year to see all seasons of plant growth. In the middle of winter you can see the bones and foundation of a garden, the other three seasons showcase the various blooms and foliage of the plant. A common mistake made by gardeners of all levels is not understanding the eventual size of a plant. In a public garden you can see the mature plant at the correct size – important info to know before planting.

Public gardens come in all shapes and styles, from showcase gardens and native plants to research facilities. Each has something to offer the gardener looking to define his/her own style.

What’s Ahead?
Connecting gardeners and the plants is a common problem across the country. National public gardens vary in their use of plant identification, but gardens are working on this, especially with newer technology like QR codes for SmartPhones. Finding the plants can be a problem. National gardens usually have a greater variety than what’s offered in local garden centers. But that shouldn’t stop the gardener from finding a plant; ask your garden center to order it or shop online. The plant is usually available with a little detective work to track it down.

James is always surprised when he travels and finds residents of a city who have never or rarely visited the public gardens in their own backyard. He suggests that gardens need to reach out in different ways to attract visitors with more than plants – concerts, free programs, and new types of gardening – all ways to get people more interested.

You can learn more about the National Public Gardens program at

The Triangle is home to four public gardens – the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, the North Carolina Botanical Gardens in Chapel Hill, the Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham and the Cape Fear Botanical Garden in Fayetteville. Make plans to visit one of these in May or anytime of the year.

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