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Spring's big bloomers
Welcome the new season seeing nature at its most vibrant state
Published Friday, March 21, 2014
by Michaela L. Duckett

Now is the perfect time of year to see the world-famous azaleas in bloom at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston, S.C.

Spring is in the air. It’s time to stop and smell the roses, the tulips, daffodils and every other flower in bloom this time of year.

Botanical gardens are opening their doors, flower festivals are underway and the mountain countryside is a field of colorful wildflowers in all their splendor. Welcome the season by reconnecting with Mother Nature during her most vibrant state. Here are a few scenic destinations, both near and far, to take in all the beauty:


Perhaps one of Charlotte’s best-kept secrets, Wing Haven Gardens on Ridgewood Avenue in Myers Park is the creation of two neighbors, both extraordinary women named Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Clarkson developed her formal garden as a habitat for songbirds, and Elizabeth Lawrence, author of “A Southern Garden,” literally wrote the book on southern gardening.

Their combined gardens, enclosed on all sides by brick walls, encompass almost three acres of land and include lovely vistas, formal gardens and woodland areas integrated with pools, fountains, plaques and statuary. It is designed to resemble a Cross of Lorraine, featuring a long path crossed by two shorter, perpendicular paths.

The garden also contains an English sundial from 1705, various terra cotta pieces, and the largest chastetree (Vitex agnus-castus) in the United States. Wing Haven visitors not only marvel at the beauty of the flowers, but also enjoy the frequent sightings of birds and the small wildlife scampering throughout the property. (Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary; 248 Ridgewood Ave.; www.winghavengardens.com)


Gentle breezes, clear skies and gorgeous flowers are the hallmarks of springtime in Asheville, which is home to hundreds of floral species not found outside of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Flowers typically begin blooming in March and gain momentum in April. Visit the gorgeous gardens of the Biltmore House March 20 – April 27, and see them in their full glory as 75,000 tulips and many other blossoms welcome springtime during Biltmore Blooms festival of flowers. It begins with the bright golden yellow of daffodils and forsythia in the gardens, coinciding with opulent potted tropical plants and lavish flowers inside the estate. When the festival ends, the blooms continue to display their beauty. By May, the grounds are blanketed with irises, peonies and acres of azaleas. (The Biltmore House; 1 Lodge St., Asheville: www.biltmore.com)


Escape to a world of lush foliage and tropical color with a visit to the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens Orchid Conservatory, the Carolina’s only glasshouse featuring an 8,000 square feet display of orchids and tropical plants with one of the largest indoor displays of bromeliads in the Eastern U.S. and a 16-foot tall Tropical Canvas full of epiphytes.

The garden, located within 380 acres on the banks of Lake Wylie and open seven days a week, is a great spot to pack a cooler and have a picnic on a sunny afternoon. Don’t forget the camera and bug spray. Stop by March 29 for some family fun during Peter Rabbit’s Garden Adventure – as characters from the famed children’s story, including Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail, come to life and greet guests. (Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden; 6500 South New Hope Road, Belmont; www.dsbg.org)


Escape to the mountains of Tennessee to enjoy the lovely woodland flora with a journey to Gatlinburg during the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage April 15 -19. The annual five-day event in Great Smokey Mountains National Park consists of a variety of wildflower, fauna and natural history walks, motorcades, photographic tours, art classes and seminars.

Explore the natural beauty of 1,600 flowering species in bloom by taking a hike or leisurely stroll along one of the many trails. The wildflower pilgrimage offers 146 professionally guided walks and indoor presentations, which explore the region’s rich wildflowers, fauna, ecology, cultural and natural history. (Great Smoky Mountains National Park; 107 Park Headquarters Rd;  Gatlinburg, TN 37738; www.springwildflowerpilgrimage.com)


From now until the end of April, you’ll find Charleston, S.C., lost amongst abundant blooms from renowned azaleas and camellias, wisteria, flowering fruit trees, quince, redbuds, forsythias, pearl bushes, Jessamine, honeysuckle, dogwoods, anemones, hyacinths, lilies, star and saucer magnolias and bedding flowers. Peaking from late March through early April, it’s a Lowcountry show you don’t want to miss.

It’s an ideal time to pay a visit to America’s oldest unrestored garden at the Magnolia Plantation. Since the gardens first opened to the public in the early 1870s, tourists have traveled from all over the world to experience its beauty. One of the nation’s last surviving large-scale romantic gardens, the grounds are designed to be a place where you can get swept away in the beauty and forget the worries of everyday life.

Magnolia is said to be the first garden in America to plant azaleas outside, and spring is the time to see them in their full glory as hundreds of thousands in multiple varieties in bloom grace the paths, creating a stunning reflection in the dark waters of the lake basins.

While the garden boasts varities from Indica to Durume and Satsuki and hundreds more, the Indian Azaleas (many of which were once thought to be extinct) are definitely the stars of the show. (Magnolia Plantation & Gardens; 3550 Ashley River Road; Charleston, S.C. 29414; www.magnoliaplantation.com)


Located on the campus of UNC Charlotte with the mission of promoting the knowledge and appreciation of plants for educational, environmental, and aesthetic purposes, UNCC Botanical Gardens consists of three main areas – the McMillan Greenhouse complex, the 3-acre Susie Harwood Garden, and the 7-acre Van Landingham Glen – each with something unique to offer.

The gardens include native species such as rhododendron and wildflowers, as well as nonnative flowers like orchids and tropical plants. Admission is free. (UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens; 9201 University City Blvd.; www.gardens.uncc.edu)


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