“You can go three times around the garden without repeating yourself,” says Julia Mackintosh who along with her husband, Robert, has owned and lovingly cared for Raleigh’s Margaret Reid Wildflower Garden since 1997.
Inspired by reading “how beautiful North Carolina was when the colonists came” and spurred on by a “desire to have my own woods,” Margaret Reid rescued wildflowers and other native plants for more than 50 years from sites across Wake County as subdivisions and shopping centers gradually took the place of fields and woods. Reid planted the rescues in her garden in natural groupings that mimic North Carolina’s natural plant communities.
Margaret Reid granted a conservation easement to the Triangle Land Conservancy (TLC) before her death in 1995 ensuring her garden would not fall prey to development. However, the combined efforts of TLC staff and Friends of the Reid Garden, a dedicated group of volunteers, were not enough to prevent exotic plants from invading the property or to undertake the huge cleanup and restoration needed after Hurricane Fran devastated the woodland garden, toppling many large trees. Even a natural garden needs a gardener.
The Reid garden gained two when the Mackintoshes purchased the property and became its stewards. Why would the couple, who were retiring from actively running Woodlanders Nursery, take on such a daunting task? Being closer to their daughter Amy, who lives nearby and was already involved with the Reid, was one appeal. Equally important was the opportunity to continue promoting the use of plants native to the region in home landscapes.
“More people could leave the land as it is; put their lawns to better use if they knew how.”
“There is a lot to enjoy right here,” Julia emphasizes. She treasures the wildlife served by the garden, where she has documented 25 species of birds, with one-half being resident for at least part of the year.
For Robert, who according to Julia is the true gardener, the Reid was a garden of interest, where he could continue his lifelong passion past retirement age. He says a native woodland garden is edited bush and the maintenance mostly picking up branches.
Friends of the Reid Garden workdays are held the second Saturday of each month. Details and contact information are available at the North Carolina Native Plant Society website (www.ncwildflower.org).
Visitors who come to the Reid garden’s annual Easter Sunday Open Day can admire Toadshade (Trillium sp) and Troutlilies (Erythronium sp) in the Floodplain, smell the Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus) in the West Woods, or enjoy Pinxterflower (Rhododendron periclymenoides) and bright pink Moccasin Flowers (Cypripedium acaule) while strolling the Ladyslipper Loop.
These are but a few of the more than 400 native plants on the 1 ½ acre lot not far from NC State University and Meredith College. The garden is located at 1439 Dixie Trail in Raleigh. Interested groups may also schedule visits by contacting Triangle Land Conservancy (www.triangleland.org).
Dale Batchelor is the founder of Gardener by Nature LLC, a company offering garden consultation, design, management services, and gardening classes. Her display garden, co-created with her husband, John L. Thomas, is a certified National Wildlife Federation Backyard Habitat and a native plant habitat recognized by the North Carolina Native Plant Society.