Cape Fear Botanical Gardens impress

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 6, 2011

By Carolyn Glasgow
Master Gardener Volunteer
Our state has a hidden gem. It is the Cape Fear Botanical Garden, 2 miles from downtown Fayetteville. The Garden is a 2[0xbd]-hour drive from Salisbury and is well worth the trip.
I recently toured the brand new Wyatt Visitors Pavilion Complex and gardens with my former college roommate. The weekday morning visit in April turned out to be an ideal time to see the azaleas beginning to bloom and the workmen busy constructing a new water feature and adjoining Butterfly Stroll.
Dr. Bruce Williams, then director of horticulture at Fayetteville Technical Community College, Martha Duell, a community advocate, and garden columnist Roger Mercer conceived the idea for the gardens in 1988. In 1989, Mercer used his columns in The Fayetteville Observer to introduce “a place that promised peace, tranquility, joy, and beauty plus income and recognition.”
At the charter meeting, 125 people became Friends of the Cape Fear Botanical Garden and set out to raise funds and develop the gardens.
In 1997, Fayetteville Public Works Commission created a “water-wise” themed garden on the property “to educate its customers on the financial, environmental and horticultural wisdom of reducing water use in the lawn and garden.”
An 1886 farmhouse complex was donated to the garden and has been used for the offices and gift shop until this month upon the opening of the new Visitors Pavilion.
The 33,000 square foot pavilion has areas for meetings, exhibits, classes and special events. It was designed to be LEED certified as a “green building” by the U.S. Green Building Council. The Entry Pavilion has a large expanse of light-filtering glass walls and a fiberglass ceiling. There is a Café Cart and a delightfully stocked Garden Gift Shop.
The gardens encompass 79 acres nestled between the Cape Fear River and Cross Creek. There are 2 miles of nature trails through the landscaped gardens and through pine and hardwood forests. The trails include a Laurel Loop Trail, Oak Loop Trail and River Trail with several overlooks on bluffs above the Cape Fear River.
Most of the garden acres support indigenous plants, trees and wildlife. There are hosta, daylily, conifer, camellia, shade, heritage and rain specialty gardens. The Children’s Garden is soon to be expanded to include a belly-flop deck.
There is a gazebo on the Great Lawn, designed for weddings or other festive events, or a place to sit and relax while touring the gardens. More than 2,000 varieties of ornamental plants are showcased.
Sculpture throughout the garden is fascinating and appropriate for the setting. Gourd bird houses, stepping stones, extensive plant identification labels and nicely manicured flower beds and trails all contribute to create this world-class botanical garden, a hidden gem in the Inner Coastal Plains of North Carolina.
Admission is $8 for adults with some discounts available. The Botanical Garden is located at 536 N. Eastern Blvd. (Business 95), Fayetteville. Call 910-486-0221, or go to
Carolyn Glasgow is a Master Gardener volunteer with the Cooperative Extension Service in Salisbury; 704-216-8970.