Event Details

Saturday, April 20, 2013

2013 Conservation Garden Tour

(1 PM - 5 PM. [plus optional 10 AM "pre-tour" at NC Botanical Garden*])
Event Sponsor: Margaret Reid Chapter

This tour, hosted by the Reid Chapter of the NC Native Plant Society, the NC Botanical Garden, and Triangle Land Conservancy, celebrates gardens that contribute to the health and beauty of the Triangle’s environment.  The four gardens on the tour illustrate ways to steward home gardens that enrich our lives with birdsong, flowers, shade, and water, while enhancing the environmental health of the community.  In addition to showcasing the beauty of native wildflowers, these “conservation gardens” provide wildlife habitat and demonstrate environmentally friendly practices such as water conservation, rainwater harvesting, composting, mulching, and alternatives to lawns.

This year’s tour will be in Chapel Hill and will feature three private gardens plus the North Carolina Botanical Garden.  All are welcome to visit the gardens during the afternoon - please spread the word and bring your friends! Download a map and 1 page printable garden descriptions, using the links below, to guide your tour.

Many of the paths through the gardens are unpaved and narrow.  Terrain may be steep in places, with uneven trail surfaces and steep stream banks.  Please wear appropriate footwear, stay on paths and exercise caution during your visit.  Children are welcome if supervised.  Please leave pets at home. 
Note: on-street parking for the private gardens is limited – especially for the Pringles on Tenney Circle.  Please consider carpooling.  Please respect neighbors by parking clear of driveways and mailboxes.

Download Maps:

2013 Conservation Garden Tour Map.pdf
Conservation Gardens Tour 1-page flier


NC BOTANICAL GARDEN, 100 Old Mason Farm Rd
A stroll through the display gardens at the NC Botanical Garden offers visitors a mini-tour of the plants and character of iconic North Carolina native habitats - mountains, sandhills, coastal plain savannah, and piedmont.  The native plants border, native plant water gardens, fern collection, and landscaping throughout the property also provide inspiration and information for gardening at home.  There is always something new and beautiful to see at the NC Botanical Garden, but spring is a high point, especially in the mountain habitat garden.  Lots of woodland wildflowers bloom in spring’s sunshine before the trees leaf out and shade the ground level.
Visit the NC Botanical Garden’s website for more information.  Here’s a link to their descriptions of the display gardens:
* The NC Botanical Garden’s free tour of the display gardens at 10 AM on April 20 is a great opportunity to extend your Conservation Garden Tour experience with a “Pre-Tour”.

BROWER GARDEN, 612 Shady Lawn Rd.
Developed over more than forty years, the Brower garden is still a work in progress.  An originally bare and unpromising site - only 2/3 of an acre, though surrounded by borrowed woodland -  has become a “book of gardens” or a succession of “garden rooms,” separated by symbolic thresholds - a fence, a bridge, steps, a paving stone.
The entrance area bordering the road features native plants and a waterfall-fed, rock-lined pool. Beyond it, the sunny front yard is framed by stone-bordered beds.  To the right of the house, the former driveway is now a Japanese Maple allée,  underplanted with hellebores and cephalotaxus.
Passing through an elegant (and deer-proof) wooden fence and gate, one descends steeply down to the “Anniversary Garden” immediately behind the house. Once a driveway turnaround, then a children’s playground, it is now the topmost of a series of rock-walled, lushly planted terraces. A pool on the terrace is fed by a gently dripping rock fountain and overlooked by birdhouses perched on the deck above. 
Further terraces lead down a steep hillside into an increasingly natural woodland originally dubbed “the jungle,” but now gradually tamed with paths, carefully chosen rocks and artful plantings. Though tiny blooming bulbs and other spring beauties abound, the emphasis is primarily on native ferns, woody plants and mosses, with gradations and shades of green that can be enjoyed in any season or weather.
A potting shed/studio halfway down the slope offers from its balcony an additional series of viewpoints.  At the bottom of the slope, a stream-fed retention pond is only part of the nature-friendly watering system: from the upper level gravity leads water from two large tanks (200 and 600 gallons, respectively) and a 250-gallon cistern under the workshop deck.  The owners’ deep love and respect for plants and nature is, finally, evinced by the fact that for the past five years the Browers’ garden has been a Certified Wildlife Habitat -  a refuge and nurturing home for all creatures (though the deer have worn out their welcome.)

PRATHER WOOD, 108 Wicklow Place
Jeff and Cheryl Prather began their garden in 1996.  They restored a degraded, deciduous woodland edge, transforming their sloping subdivision backyard into their ideal secret garden, a shady “stroll garden” that focuses on native plants.  They constructed all stone hardscape features and the three bridges over a wandering stream.  Under full canopy in midsummer their garden evokes the coolness and quiet serenity of a mountain habitat, while in early spring the new leaves and emerging fiddleheads of the forest floor blend to create a deliciously ephemeral green.
Working with landscape architect Alicia Berry, the Prathers laid out a long-term plan for developing the garden.  Alicia gave the Prather’s the best gardening advice they ever received:  “The best way to learn about your own space is to volunteer in someone else’s.”  The Prathers volunteer at the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, and at Battle Park, assisting the NC Botanical Garden with trail building and exotic plant removal.  They are also members of the Triangle Land Conservancy and the North Carolina Native Plant Society.  All of these have inspired and enhanced their understanding of their own garden.
While the stream is one of the delights of their garden, the Prathers’ biggest problem has been its periodic flooding and siltation.  At the height of a drought it dries up, but during heavy rains it often floods, sometimes rising above the bench on the red bridge.  They have created plantings in this area that will tolerate occasional flooding and stabilize the creek bank, but generally have to remove several inches of sand and debris from some of the beds after a flood.  Christmas ferns are perfect for the floodplain as long as anything deposited on their crowns is removed within a few days.  In fact, the whole concept of their “secret garden” was inspired by a lone Christmas fern found on-site.
In response to the summer’s drought, the Prathers have eliminated their streetside lawn, replacing it with a mixed sunny border featuring drought-tolerant ornamental grasses, perennials, and “woodies”.  They now have a “lawnlet” i.e., just enough grass for their double barrel composter.  They have added additional rain barrels and installed a 450-gallon cistern under their deck.  During the worst heat of summer they hand-watered a few native plants in obvious distress.  Native plants are considered to be drought-tolerant, but they still need water to get established.

In 1993, when the Pringles restored the Tenney Farmhouse dating from the early 19th century, there were only a few remnants of past gardens.  The low stone walls, the big trees and a few plants date back to earlier days.  Betsy has planted many natives throughout the garden including a number of species of native Azaleas, Trillium, numerous ephemerals and many others.  The sunny front garden is a sea of flowers for much of the growing season but the garden always has a number of plants in bloom including 20 some species in January and February.
One treasure is a sunken compost bin in the foundation of what might have been an old summer house.  It receives all the run-off from the front East side of the garden and driveway, down a trough along the stone wall behind the shed.  Betsy has built other water saving devices into the rest of the garden which retain all the run-off except from extremely big storms.  There is a swale shaped on the West of the front garden which becomes a lake in heavy rains.  Many water tolerant plants flourish here.
The lower back garden has paths leading around a semi-bog that receives lots of run-off and down into the moss garden which had been covered with a large stand of bamboo.  The bamboo had to be dug out several times before victory could be declared.  In the process a nice berm was built up around the lower part of this area which retains the run-off from the areas above.
Another treasure from past times is the wonderful dirt left from earlier chickens and a cow.  No pesticides and only organic fertilizer are used in the garden thereby protecting the thriving community of worms and beneficial insects.  Many butterflies and birds are attracted to the garden as well. 
Note:  Permission has been obtained for on-street parking on Tenney Circle during the tour hours.  No placards or permits are required.  Please respect neighbors and do not block driveways. There may also be parking spaces available on North and Glenburnie Streets (posted parking regulations apply on these streets.)  Consider carpooling!

BONUS FEATURE (not an official tour site, but worth notice or a stop along the route)

COKER ARBORETUM,  399 E. Cameron Avenue  – In 1903, Dr. William Chambers Coker, the University’s first Professor of Botany and the first chair of the University Buildings and Grounds Committee, began developing a five-acre boggy pasture into an outdoor University classroom for the study of trees, shrubs, and vines native to North Carolina. Beginning in the 1920s and continuing through the 1940s, Dr. Coker added many East Asian trees and shrubs. These species, closely related counterparts to many North Carolina native plants, enhanced the beauty and educational value of the Arboretum. Today the collection consists of a wide variety of plantings including flowering trees and shrubs as well as bulb and perennial displays. The Arboretum has something unique to offer during every season of the year.
Coker Arboretum is located next to the Morehead Planetarium & Science Center on the UNC campus, at the corner of Country Club Road and Raleigh Street.
A limited amount of metered parking is available on Raleigh Street and there are a few visitors’ spaces in the Morehead Planetarium paid parking lot (stay on Franklin St. instead of turning at Raleigh St., and the lot is on the left). If no spaces are available in these areas, there is metered parking available on Franklin Street and paid parking lots along Rosemary Street (from Raleigh Street, going north away from Cameron Avenue, go past Franklin Street and turn left onto Rosemary Street).


The concept of the Conservation Garden was developed at the North Carolina Botanical Garden in the early 1990s to represent the many conservation-related activities that were always at the heart of the Garden’s mission and programs.  The following are excerpts from the NC Botanical Garden’s definition of a Conservation Garden, as applicable to our home and community landscapes.  Visit their website for the full text.

- Conservation through Propagation of native plants ensures that wild populations are not damaged by direct use and collecting from natural populations

- The Protection and Restoration of natural areas, which recognizes the importance of habitat conservation to the survival of biological diversity and which establishes the importance of nature’s own gardens, as well as human gardens

- The elimination of Invasive Species and replacement with non-invasive alternatives

- Gardening in Nature’s Context, which seeks to promote plants that support native biodiversity, including pollinators and seed dispersers

- Sustainable Gardening, which seeks to promote environmentally friendly gardening practices and which involves such practices as sustainable water use, protected stream quality, xeriscaping (using drought-tolerant plants), ecoscaping (planting plants in the right places according to their ecological requirements), zeroscaping (working with the established plants in a landscaping plan), integrated pest management, renewable energy sources, non-toxic and sustainably produced materials, recycling and reuse

- People-Nature Relations, which describes how important plant diversity and natural areas are to the physical and psychological health of all of us.

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