Company Field Trip ’21 – North Carolina

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Flash back to fall of 2021–our Fine Gardening Team Leader, Patrick, writes about a company field trip to North Carolina’s best public gardens.

Temperatures have cooled, and fall color has begun to grace the trees throughout Albemarle County. Autumn is a time marked by change, its calm transitions contrasting with the vibrancy of spring and summer. Perched on the threshold of the holiday season, I find myself reflecting on our company’s growth and success during perhaps the most trying times in recent memory. J.W. Townsend has many strengths to celebrate, and one of my favorites is our commitment to training and continuing education. Our recent company field trip to North Carolina exemplifies this focus.

We toured four botanical gardens during our visit, each with a unique personality but united by a common thread: they all work to harmonize intentional landscape design with their sites’ natural features. At Sarah P. Duke Gardens, ferns and hellebore grow freely alongside manmade structures and water features in a woodland setting. Black bamboo and ground covers have been planted throughout a stand of existing trees, ad

ding contrast and character without overpowering the forest.

In perhaps the most direct illustration of the above principles, the North Carolina Botanical Garden bills itself as a conservation garden. Among other areas, it features several “habitat gardens,” each designed to replicate a particular type of ecosystem found within the state. From coastal plains to mountainous terrain, these microcosms showcase biodiversity and serve as educational spaces. Furthermore, they emphasize the intercon

nectivity of the natural world by supporting an array of wildlife.

Given its name, it’s no surprise that the J.C. Raulston Arboretum is a haven for trees, but there is much more to their collection. The Arboretum specializes in finding and cultivating plants from around the globe that can provide distinct benefits to American horticulture. I was intrigued by how seamlessly the staff weave natives and non-natives together alongside crafted features like stone walls and walking paths. The design has a subtly transportive effect, slowly but steadily shifting visitors out of the noise and energy of Raleigh.

Thirty minutes south of J.C. Raulston, Juniper Level Botanic Garden hosts an incredibly diverse catalogue of ornamental plants. Like the Arboretum (with which they have a partnership), Juniper Level seeks to collect the widest possible range of viable and valuable plant material. Unusual trees with bark in shades of blue and gold cast welcome shade over mounds of exotic-looking shrubs and perennials. Perhaps because there is a house centrally located on the property, the design of this garden seems exceptionally applicable to the home landscape.

Since returning home, I have been finding new ways to landscape by blending the merits of wild spaces and constructed plantings. Most of us have a section of our property that is less developed than the rest, perhaps even a bit rugged. These botanical gardens suggest ways to add varied interest to those areas, and they cast a new light on the relationship between ornamental installations and the natural world. Armed with this broader perspective, our team at J.W. Townsend is better equipped than ever to provide the highest level of horticultural care.

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