AAS Winners that Attract Pollinators
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North Carolina’s Airlie Gardens

Submitted by on November 21, 2010 – 2:57 amNo Comment
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A unique attraction at Airlie Gardens, 300 Airlie Road, Wilmington, North Carolina, is a really, really old tree. It’s estimated that the live oak sprouted in 1545, and close to five centuries later, it has grown to be one of the largest trees of its kind in the Carolinas.

The gardens don’t date back quite as far as the oak. The property known as Airlie was part of a 640-acre land grant from King George II to the Ogden brothers in 1735. By the 1800s, much of the original acreage had been transferred to Joshua Grainger Wright. It was not untill the arrival of Sarah Jones, wife of Pembroke Jones, that a formal garden was created to be used for parties.

Sarah Jones began planting the property in 1901 and later in 1906 commissioned German landscape architect Rudolf Topel to transform the tract into a picturesque garden. Airlie reached its peak during the 1920s, at which time it was reported that over a half million azaleas and 5,000 camellias were in the garden (many of these plants still bloom). The 67 acres of today’s Airlie are all that remain of the Joneses’ 155-acre estate.

The Corbett Family purchased the Airlie property from the Joneses in 1948 and used the gardens as their primary residence. In 1999, the family sold the property to New Hanover County. Today, Airlie is a local treasure as one of the last undeveloped land tracts along Bradley Creek. The gardens, preserved for public use, are in the midst of restoration.

After celebrating more than a century of gardens by the sea, Airlie continues to welcome visitors with a combination of formal gardens, wildlife, historic structures, walking trails, sculptures, views of Bradley Creek, 10 acres of freshwater lakes, and (of course) the Airlie Oak.

The Gardens are known for a collection of over 100,000 azaleas and countless camellia cultivars, which bloom throughout the winter and early spring. Displays around the Airlie Oak, Pergola Garden, and other areas also bloom with continuous color year-round, as the displays are changed seasonally. As the picture shows, there’s a butterfly exhibit each summer.

For more information on visiting this part of North Carolina, Road Trips Gardeners, go online.

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