A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Last spring, in a season when we were learning new rhythms of life, many of us found comfort in the natural world. For Jennifer Brannon, creative director at Green Bee

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Last spring, in a season when we were learning new rhythms of life, many of us found comfort in the natural world. For Jennifer Brannon, creative director at Green Bee

4 Flower Arrangements Inspired by North Carolina

Last spring, in a season when we were learning new rhythms of life, many of us found comfort in the natural world. For Jennifer Brannon, creative director at Green Bee Floral Designs in Winston-Salem, that meant visiting her backyard for fresh flowers. Using blooms from her own property, a friend’s yard, and a local farm, she created arrangements inspired by our favorite North Carolina gardens.


With names like Abba and Orange Princess, these stately tulips — and the delicate sweet peas that accompany them — mirror the colors of a spring sunset. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel

Biltmore — Asheville

Biltmore. photograph by The Biltmore Company

The Biltmore Blooms event kicks off in April with a showstopper in the Walled Garden: thousands of tulips. The flowers — thought to be a nod to the Vanderbilts’ Dutch heritage — have been a springtime tradition since at least 1922. Each November, Biltmore’s horticulture team plants around 96,000 bulbs estate-wide that transform into resplendent blooms throughout April. The tulips range from deep purple to fiery orange to buttery yellow, creating a magnificent rainbow — one close enough for guests to see each layered detail.

(800) 411-3812

Elegant lilacs and simple dogwood flowers mimic the pastel blooms that line the paths of Duke Gardens. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel

Duke Gardens. photograph by MIKKEL PAIGE

Duke Gardens — Durham

At the heart of Duke University, the Sarah P. Duke Gardens comprise four distinct areas on 55 acres. In the Historic Gardens and the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, you can discover a butterfly refuge and a haven for rare North Carolina plants. Each spring, a cherry blossom “snowfall” covers Duke Gardens’ paths with delicate pink petals — nature’s ethereal welcome to longer, brighter days. After exploring the gardens’ extensive grounds, have lunch at the on-site Terrace Café in the Bartter Family Terrace House, or sit back on one of the many benches and enjoy the freshness of the season, flourishing before your very eyes.

(919) 684-3698

Coral bells and hoary azaleas reflect the blooms surrounding the Elizabethan Gardens’ statue of Queen Elizabeth I. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel

Elizabethan Gardens. photograph by Emily Chaplin and Chris Council

Elizabethan Gardens — Manteo

Featuring the world’s largest bronze statue of Queen Elizabeth I and a sweeping view of Roanoke Sound, Manteo’s Elizabethan Gardens boast 16th-century-style architecture and botanical varieties that would have grown during the time of the Lost Colony’s settlement. Stroll through the Queen’s Rose Garden, with its brick beds filled with climbing, thorny flowers; one variety, the grandiflora rose, arrived from Windsor Castle in 1976, a gift from Queen Elizabeth II. At the end of the President’s Walk, you’ll find the statue of Queen Elizabeth I holding a bouquet of roses in her arms and surrounded by azaleas, welcoming her beloved spring blooms and beckoning visitors from all around.

(252) 473-3234

Peonies — a favorite of Babcock’s — are a lush statement, needing only minimal greenery to dazzle any anthophile. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel

Reynolda Gardens. photograph by Jay Sinclair

Reynolda Gardens — Winston-Salem

A living legacy of the late Mary Reynolds Babcock — daughter of tobacco magnate R.J. Reynolds — this Winston-Salem gem has been restored to its original glory, down to its 44 weeping cherry trees. Babcock, who was sometimes seen sporting flower tiaras and walking through the gardens barefoot in the early morning, poured her energy into making the Reynolda estate a place where her prized blooms would thrive. Originally planned by landscape architect Louis Miller in 1913, the gardens still showcase some of Babcock’s favorite flowers: early and modern varieties of roses, azaleas, and peonies. In the spring, those luscious blooms surround Reynolda’s glass conservatory, paying homage to the woman who dedicated her life to botanical discovery.

(336) 758-5593

8 More Inspiring Gardens

The magnolia’s glossy leaves and dramatic, fragrant blooms are quintessentially Southern. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel

North Carolina Arboretum — Asheville

These gardens include the National Native Azalea Collection, representing nearly every native species along with natural hybrids.

(828) 665-2492

Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens — Belmont

Daniel Stowe boasts an orchid conservatory and seven gardens, including Lost Hollow, which has an amphitheater, pond, and playground.

(704) 825-4490

Wing Haven Gardens — Charlotte

Right outside of Uptown, these gardens feature a lush camellia hedge and are the living laboratory of world-renowned garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence.

(704) 331-0664

Outer Banks Arboretum and Teaching Garden — Kill Devil Hills

This garden not only provides visual splendor, but it also doubles as a testing ground for planting practices that are most suitable for the Outer Banks’ microclimates.

(252) 473-4290

Tryon Palace Gardens — New Bern

At our state’s first capitol, 16 acres of gardens contain traditional arrangements of marigolds and celosia alongside clipped hedges and intricately designed paths.

(800) 767-1560

WRAL Azalea Gardens — Raleigh

Behind the WRAL news station, a 1.5-acre azalea garden brings tranquility and natural beauty to the heart of our capital city.

(919) 665-7157

Airlie Gardens — Wilmington

Airlie’s 67 acres feature a sculpture collection as well as a pollinator garden designed to attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.

(910) 798-7700

Bellamy Mansion Museum Gardens — Wilmington

This Victorian-style garden includes herbs that were commonly used for a variety of purposes — including medicine and cooking — during the 1800s.

(910) 251-3700

— Anna Grace Thrailkill and Zach Skillings

This story was published on Apr 27, 2021

Anna Grace Thrailkill

Anna Grace Thrailkill is Our State’s Newsletter and Social Media Producer.