Family & Pets

Best Botanical Gardens In The Charlotte Area

June 20, 2014 8:00 AM

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(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Often praised as a garden city, thanks to its green canopy of trees and incredible spring blooms, Charlotte has a number of gardens dedicated to bringing the beauty of nature to visitors year-round. Our list includes gardens begun by individuals who passed their legacy on to the public, as well as the living classrooms of UNC-Charlotte’s botanical gardens. Charlotte also has an active Master Gardener program which offers plant sales and classes in addition to maintaining two demonstration gardens at Freedom Park and Independence Park. Hours of operation at most gardens vary with the season, so check to determine the current schedule.

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

6500 S. New Hope Road
Belmont, NC 28012
(704) 825-4490

Occupying nearly 400 acres on the border of North and South Carolina, this extensive garden, named for founder Daniel Stowe, has been under development for two decades and now includes mature gardens of perennials, extensive plantings of azaleas and other flowering trees and plants, and an orchid conservatory where something is blooming year-round. Pleasant paths enlivened with sculptures and a dozen fountains and other water features lead from the Visitor Center through gardens both formal and more rustic, including a willow maze, pergolas, serpentine and cottage gardens, a White Garden popular for weddings and a water arch alee. The half-mile Woodland Trail passes through a mature deciduous and pine forest. Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden hosts special events all year, including a holiday light display, orchid and butterfly festivals, plant sales and educational classes for all ages.

Related: A Guide To The Riverbanks Zoo And Garden

Glencairn Garden
725 Crest St.
Rock Hill, SC 29730
(803) 329-5620

This pleasant garden began as the backyard of David and Hazel Bigger in 1928 and today is owned by the City of Rock Hill. Covering 11 acres, Glencairn has perennials and annuals blooming all year under a canopy of mature trees. Footpaths wind past fountains and lily ponds, a Japanese bridge, the Bigger house visitor center and a variety of specialty gardens, including the Veterans Garden honoring men and women who have served in the Armed Forces. One special feature is the Wall of Whimsy dedicated to Rock Hill artist Vernon Grant who invented the Snap, Crackle and Pop Rice Krispies characters. Located in the heart of one of Rock Hill’s finest residential neighborhoods, Glencairn is connected by sidewalks with downtown, Winthrop University and local greenways and parks. At its peak in spring, when thousands of azaleas, dogwoods and flowering trees are in bloom, the garden hosts several annual events including the Come-See-Me Festival in April and the Glencairn BloomFest in May.

McGill Rose Garden
940 N. Davidson St.
Charlotte, NC 28206
(704) 333-6497

Tucked into an industrial area along North Davidson Street, McGill is Charlotte’s own secret garden, a peaceful enclave planted with more than 200 varieties of roses, including miniatures, hybrid tea roses, floribundas, antique roses and more. Begun in 1950 by Henry and Helen McGill in a coal yard along the Seaboard Coastline railroad tracks, the garden today is a favorite spot for weddings and other special occasions. A vintage coal car, donated by Seaboard in memory of Helen McGill, is a feature of the garden, along with sculptures, metalwork, fountains and a rose-covered arbor that beautify the grounds. In addition to thousands of rosebushes and beds full of annuals and perennials, McGill also has an herb garden, a meditation garden, a garden shop and an art gallery. Roses bloom here from spring through fall, and are particularly magnificent just before the first frost.

UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens
9201 University City Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28223
(704) 687-0720

The campus of UNC Charlotte is home to a collection of public gardens highlighting both indigenous plants native to the Southeast and exotics from around the world. The seven-acre Van Landingham Glen recreates a stream-side mountain environment with over 1,000 species of native plants, including wildflowers, mature rhododendrons and native azaleas grouped around a reconstructed 120-year-old log cabin. The three-acre Susie Harwood Garden includes an Asian Garden with moon door and ornamental landscape plants from around the world, as well as a pond with waterfalls. A new area, the Mellichamp Native Terrace, due for completion in 2014, showcases native plants in a sustainable home landscape setting, offering suggestions for native lawn covers, a rain garden, privacy hedges and more. The McMillan Greenhouse contains a rare Titan Arum plant that attracts thousands during its infrequent blooms, a bog garden and rooms filled with orchids, succulents and a huge collection of carnivorous plants, plus the Dinosaur Garden with primitive plants common in the Cretaceous era surrounding a model T. Rex skeleton. You can walk through the gardens and greenhouses on your own or enjoy a free guided tour by prior appointment.

Related: Treehugger: Best Arboretums In Charlotte

Wing Haven
248 Ridgewood Ave.
Charlotte, NC 28209
(704) 331-0664

This quiet retreat includes two gardens developed by dedicated horticulturalists and lovers of the natural world, both living along Ridgewood Avenue deep within the Myers Park neighborhood. The original Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary was begun in 1927 by Elizabeth Clarkson, and passed on to the Wing Haven Foundation in 1971. The compact three-acre space enclosed by brick walls includes a wealth of garden features including pergolas, rose and herb gardens, a grapevine arbor, a woodland area, pools and fountains, all designed to welcome birds and other wildlife. Just down the street, the Elizabeth Lawrence House and Garden, added to the Wing Haven Foundation in 2008, preserves the legacy of North Carolina’s most revered garden writer, the author of “A Southern Garden” (1942) as well as 700 garden columns for the Charlotte Observer.

Related: Community Gardens In Charlotte

With 15 years of experience covering restaurants in Charlotte and the Carolinas, and two regional guidebooks under her belt, Renee Wright examines the dining scene with enthusiasm plus a deep knowledge of food trends and outstanding local eating ops. Her work can be found at

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