Friday, September 21, 2012

North Carolina Botanical Garden - Chapel Hill, NC

by Donna L. Watkins

If you're interested in native plants, this is really the place to be.  Not only do they have large display areas, but the Education Center has displays instructing people what not to plant and what to plant instead of it.  Invasive plants have become a serious problem across the country costing millions of dollars to manage.

LEED Platinum-certified Green Education Center
at North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill, NC
The Education Center certainly fits the bill on being "natural" also.  It's a LEED Platinum certified building, the highest level awarded for green buildings. The Education Center, dedicated in 2009, is the first building on a University of North Carolina campus, the first state-owned building in North Carolina and the state’s first public museum and outreach center to earn LEED platinum status.

There are 7 above ground and one below ground cisterns at this LEED certified green building. The total capacity is about 54,400 gallons of rainwater. The 27,000 square feet of roof surfaces drains into them. A 1-inch rain generates 16,786 gallons of water. 2.4 inches of rainfall will fill them to capacity. Overflow is directed to 11 onsite bio-retention areas to allow water to slowly soak into the ground.

The gardens were designed to have things in bloom from Spring to Fall.  There were lots of butterflies and it was nice to see a good amount of Monarchs since they seemed to be getting more and more rare.

View photo album, with detailed descriptions, of North Carolina Botanical Gardens.

© Donna L. Watkins - Monarch Butterfly on Coreopsis
Our visit turned out to be on a hotter day than we had planned, so although we thoroughly enjoyed all we saw, we did cut our visit short and missed the attached nature trails, Coker arboretum and Battle Park with more nature trails.  There's also an herbarium that would've been lovely to visit.  They have tours of some of the areas also at varying times of the month.  Check their schedule.

It's a lovely place that you could spend a morning, afternoon, or an entire day if you pack a picnic lunch.  The signage is really great for the plants.  I like that since if there's something I'd like to add to my own garden, I can write down the name and cultivar of the plant.

If you're planning to be in the area, schedule some time here, but I have to admit that our favorite garden in the Triangle area (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill) is Sarah P. Duke Gardens on the campus of Duke University.

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