While many public gardens are all about bling and show, the North Carolina Botanical Garden, part of the University of North Carolina, is about preserving native species of plants and educating gardeners on stewardship of our environment. And the displays are stunning.

NC Botanical Garden 7_6_14 (120)

Consider the surfacing material chosen for the expanded parking lot. Observe the beauty as well as practicality of these paving stones. Rain water is allowed to absorb back into the soil rather than be wasted in a municipal storm drain.

NC Botanical Garden 7_6_14 (135)

Most home gardeners could not afford the elaborate rainwater collection system installed on the Education Center at the Botanical Garden. We can certainly consider rain barrels or rain gardens, and we can adopt techniques like adequate mulching and drip irrigation to maximize the efficiency of our water use.

NC Botanical Garden 7_6_14 (124)

The curators of the Botanical Garden have established native habitats to display plants common to the myriad environments that call North Carolina home. Are you partial to the coast? The Coastal Plain Habitat is waiting. Is the mountainous region of western North Carolina more to your liking? Stroll through the Mountain Habitat, and check out the fern collection.

NC Botanical Garden 7_6_14 (119)

Set a leisurely pace, and stop often to look and listen. This little guy never tried to sell us insurance like his famous cousin! He was shy, and it took some effort to coax him to pose for a portrait.

NC Botanical Garden 7_6_14 (121)

NC Botanical Garden 7_6_14 (126)

NC Botanical Garden 7_6_14 (122)

An avid nature lover sees a beckoning path and feels the call to explore.

ShawnStoryTellerBench NC Botanical Gardens 7_6_14

My photographer took a break at the famous Storyteller’s Chair and let me hold the camera. I was delighted to find that 1 of my pictures was in focus.

NC Botanical Garden 7_6_14 (125)

Wouldn’t this cabin be a great painting? I can smell the fresh biscuits, gravy, and bacon cooking on the stove. I expected to see chickens prancing around the yard and to hear the sounds of the cows coming in for milking.

NC Botanical Garden 7_6_14 (130)

Near the Totten Center visitors can inspect a huge collection of aquatic and carnivorous plants. Insects love these native bug traps.

NC Botanical Garden 7_6_14 (129)

Shawn convinced a dragon fly to stop flitting about and pose for this picture.

NC Botanical Garden 7_6_14 (128)

What a great idea! Raised water gardens! You have to see these. And the water lily loves its full sun location.

NC Botanical Garden 7_6_14 (127)

The Native Perennial Border is usually a high-traffic location for butterflies and honeybees. We saw none on our mid-July visit. I was astounded to see so many native plants in full bloom with only an occasional bumblebee. Is our passion for pristine, weed-free, chemical lawns affecting the beneficial insect population around us?

NC Botanical Garden 7_6_14 (131)

As I paused to examine this chess set, my mind filled with ideas and possibilities.

NC Botanical Garden 7_6_14 (133)

I am not sure how to calibrate the sundial, but anytime is a good time to be in the garden.

NC Botanical Garden 7_6_14 (132)

The raised beds in the herb garden make plant inspection easy. I am engrossed in an espalier display, wondering about the level of patience required for such a creation.

NC Botanical Garden 7_6_14 (134)

Don’t forget to stroll behind the Education Center and explore the plants growing in a full-sun environment. The Botanical Garden has a kid-friendly bird blind where patience observers can watch feathered friends stop by for a snack.

“I have often thought that if heaven had given me choice of my position and calling, it should have been on a rich spot of earth, well watered, and near a good market for the productions of the garden. No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden. … But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.” – Thomas Jefferson

The North Carolina Botanical Garden is a free visit. Take home a memory, purchase a plant at the gift center, but leave only footprints.