North Carolina’s home of golf is also a place with beautiful gardens.
In the early days, it was industry that brought people to Southern Pines and Pinehurst, specifically for taping the longleaf pine trees for turpentine. Eventually, the abundant sunshine, warmer winters, and the flora and fauna enticed people from northern climates to vacation and live in this Sandhills part of the state.
At one time, Pinehurst was more of a health resort than a golf resort. When James Walker Tufts purchased land here in July 1895 he envisioned building a health resort to attract those with consumption and other ailments. He laid out a New England style village and built cottages, restaurants, and hotels. He offered activities like archery, trail rides, fox hunting, harness racing, and polo.
The village with its winding streets and central village green was designed by the firm of the prominent landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmstead – the same firm that designed New York’s Central Park and countless other landscapes across America. Plants were imported from France and scavenged from the nearby bogs and swamps to create a garden environment to be enjoyed by the guests.
Tufts’ health resort plans had to be scrapped when it was discovered that consumption (today called tuberculosis) was contagious. He turned to a new business venture; a place for healthy and wealthy people who wanted to hit a little white ball. Golf was born in Pinehurst. Today, the town still has many of the original buildings from over 100 years ago. And having a beautiful landscape is embedded in the area today. You can learn more about these early days of Pinehurst at the Tufts Archives across from the Holly Inn.
Back in the 1970s, the Sandhills Community College had only a few greenhouses used by students in its landscaping program. Then in 1978, the Sandhills Horticultural Gardens was developed on the campus. Eventually, a collection of hollies was moved here and became the Ebersole Holly Garden, which today is the largest collection of hollies (over 350 cultivars) east of the Mississippi River. But even with this holly addition, it was still just a collection of plants, not a fully developed garden.
Over the years, other garden sections were added and today it is a delightful place to explore. The English style Sir Walter Raleigh garden was the first push to have a formal garden. As you walk through the arbor, notice the two perennial gardens on either side. The brick pathway, intersected by a fountain, is lined with Natchez crepe myrtles, while Oakland hollies make small garden rooms. The end of this path leads to a lower sunken garden with even more plantings.
The Japanese garden meanders across the hillside with hidden rooms along the switchbacks, all set in a naturalistic environment with traditional Japanese garden elements of a Karesansui (dry garden) and an Azumaya (viewing shelter.)
The Hillside Garden includes a 300-foot long winding stream that flows past a butterfly garden, plus many other diverse plant specimens. Other highlights include a fruit and vegetable garden, children’s garden, conifer garden, and a native wetland trail. The gardens are free and open every day from dawn to dusk.
The Pinehurst Village Arboretum is another nod to history. The town took an abandoned landfill overgrown with weeds and turned it into a 35-acre arboretum using the original vision of Frederick Law Olmstead’s design for the village of Pinehurst.
Multiple paths, some paved with brick and others of gravel and sand, wind into the woods with native trees, across Joyce’s Meadow-named for the woman who envisioned the park, and through a savannah woodland. Along the way, there is a magnolia garden, a flowering tree garden, and the recently added pollinator garden where three seasons of natives bloom, all grown from seed when the garden was first planted. The garden hosts an annual Flutterby festival each October to tell the story of the monarch butterfly, and it includes live monarchs.
Back in 2005, two friends decided the area needed a healing garden. They found space behind the Clara McLean House on the hospital campus and set about installing a place for reflection and quiet conversation for both hospital visitors and those in the community.
The garden is divided into a dozen themed rooms, each with a touch of whimsy. An oversized chess set and large checkerboard appeal to those young at heart. A small arbor leads to a secret garden. The potting shed is a recreation of a dovecote used in England. But this is also a serious garden with a formal rose display, masses of pollinator plants, rows of hydrangeas, and a small water garden with a stream. The volunteers who maintain the garden take their work seriously; it is certified as a monarch butterfly way station and a wildlife habitat.
It was the longleaf pines dying from the taping of their turpentine that prompted James Boyd to buy a house in Southern Pines when he was looking for a winter home for his Pennsylvania family in the early 1900s. He eventually purchased enough acreage to save the last stand of virgin longleaf pine forest here. Today, that house and land make up the Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities.
After the elder Boyd’s death, his grandsons inherited the property, which became a center of literature in North Carolina due to the success of grandson James, a prominent author in his day. Now the house is home to the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame and a writer in residence program.
Tours showcase much of the house as it was when the family lived here, including the gardens in the back. The original structure of the gardens remains. A neatly trimmed parterre leads to the garden’s long beds filled with pollinator loving plants. The large lawn is lined with shade gardens, weeping cherries-the signature tree of the property, plus longleaf pines. The original swimming pool has been converted to a water garden at the far end of the lawn. An annual plant sale in April includes selections propagated on site.
Across the road is Duncraig Manor and Gardens, a charming English Tudor style home built by the chairman of the Quaker Oats company in 1928, and now completely renovated into a lovely 12 room bed and breakfast.
The country estate style of the property encourages you to enjoy the gardens, which feature a back terrace and lawn, brick paths lined by camellias, and a flower-filled courtyard. Longleaf pines line the property’s edge. A stay here includes hors d’oeuvres and drinks in the evening and a full breakfast in the morning. The innkeepers also provide house tours to those interested in the history of this fascinating home.
When You Go:
Both towns offer a selection of dining options ranging from casual to gourmet. Favorites include Wolcott’s and Ashtens in Southern Pines and the Holly Inn in Pinehurst. Just down the street from the inn is Lady Bedford’s Tea Parlour, where you can enjoy an afternoon break with a traditional tea service.
Southern Pines has many shopping opportunities in the downtown historic district. Pinehurst has a nearly 6-mile greenway trail, as does Southern Pines. Southern Pines also offers a home and garden tour each spring. And both cities have nature trails. And golf.
For more information, visit www.homeofgolf.com.
Featured image – Weymouth Center Gardens / provided by the Weymouth Center