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In downtown Raleigh just off Western Boulevard a delightful surprise awaits the adventurous garden explorer, the WRAL-TV Azalea Gardens. I’ve lived in Raleigh long enough that this destination should have been marked off my Places to Visit list long ago.

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On a recent October morning my wife/photographer joined me to check out the garden and see if what we’ve heard is true. Our consensus is this garden is a must-visit.

WRAL Gardens Oct 5 2016 (73)

We were not expecting many blooms this late in the season (October) and were pleasantly surprised by the hard-working azaleas, coleus, impatience, and cannas outdoing one another to capture our attention.

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The grounds are immaculately maintained, and I want to give a shout out to the gardeners and landscapers who take such pride in their work. You’re doing a great job, ladies and gentlemen.

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WRAL Gardens Oct 5 2016 (80)

Near the main entrance we found a plaque with the words of Dorothy Frances Gurney, “One is nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth.” Well said. That captures how I feel in the garden, mine or someone else’s.

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The garden, ¾ of an acre in size, sits on a sloping site surrounded by the five acres of the WRAL studios on one side and the back-side of a strip mall on the other. Thankfully the strip mall disappeared from view as I took in the feast of sights and sounds.

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As the name implies the centerpiece plants are azaleas, forty-five varieties according to the official brochure. Dogwoods, rhododendrons, and hydrangeas make a fair showing also along with fountains and a few garden sculptures.

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WRAL Gardens Oct 5 2016 (79)

I dipped my fingers in the fountain but that was to remove a collection of pine needles and leaf debris. Honest!

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We loved this garden snippet which demonstrates that gardening can be enjoyed in any size space.

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The mature azaleas stand tall enough that one feels alone in a private garden while exploring the numerous paths crisscrossing the site. Children would jump at the chance to scamper and explore. This garden is a great classroom for teaching that visitors respect the boundaries created by the paths and leave only footprints.

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Benches sprinkle the garden offering strategic locations for enjoying the vistas, taking a breather, snapping a selfie, or stealing a kiss. I tried all four to make sure the ambiance was supportive.

The garden offers ample parking just across the driveway and a one unit restroom is accessible inside the lower level of the office building for emergencies.

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The butterfly parked in the path for a sun-warmed snooze. No doubt he was overwhelmed by the vast array of blooms left to sample.

I give Capital Broadcasting founder, A. J. Fletcher, two thumbs up for his vision in creating this garden to share with the community, and I commend the current leaders of the organization for perpetuating his work. Thank you all!