"HOW On Earth" – Published in Pink Magazine – November 2009

Garden Writer’s Association Conference

“In the night the cabbages catch at the moon, the leaves drip silver, the rows of cabbages are a series of little silver waterfalls in the moon.”
–  Carl Sandburg

I had a fantastic opportunity to go to the annual Garden Writer’s Association symposium this fall, which was held in Raleigh, North Carolina. My trip was the most inspiring and exciting work experience I have ever had. Driving up I-95, I followed a rainbow for over 2 hours. I was transfixed by its beauty and its ever changing depth of both light and fullness. There were moments that the rainbow became a double. I truly felt like a Leprechaun who was chasing after the pot of gold, only in the end, I found it.

The four day event was a whirlwind of visits from one incredible garden to the next interspersed with lectures that both intrigued me and had me laughing out loud. I met authors of my college textbooks and other famous gardening authors, architects and photographers. I felt like a teenager who got to go backstage and meet her rock star or movie star idols.

Tony Avent’s Plant Delights Nursery

Tony Avent’s Plant Delights Nursery is a must see for any gardener. There are six acres of botanical display gardens with over 17,000 different plant specimens. I fell in love with his vast fern collection, shade gardens as well as his succulent and xeric gardens. Beware, this is truly one of those places that you will want to take home many new, never seen before, plant varieties. They also mail order, so the safe excuse of not having enough room in your car will not work.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens

The Sarah P. Duke Gardens are just breathtaking with its photogenic vistas, colorful formal terraces, grand water gardens and wide variety of plant material. It is an impressive 55 acre historic public garden that really invites one to stroll and relish the beauty of this well designed landscape.

The Garden of Montrose

The Gardens of Montrose located at Nancy Goodwin’s home are enchanting. I was drawn to the large scale trellises that created a series of garden rooms overflowing with dahlias, asters and helianthus all in full bloom. The style of the gardens here are informal with drifts of color and texture weaving throughout the maze of paths.

North Carolina Botanical Gardens

The North Carolina Botanical Gardens are noted for their native plant collections representing the state’s three geographical regions: Coastal Plain, Piedmont and Mountain. By the time I arrived here, I was feeling satiated and even a little overwhelmed by the numerous plants and spectacular gardens I had seen so far. It was a welcome surprise then to me that in addition to the botanical garden that the 21st annual “Sculpture in the Garden” was taking place here. The theme this year for the 24 artists was an interpretation of “Celebrating Life Forces-earth, air, fire, water, spirit” Laced throughout the garden were forty works of art in a wide variety of media. I love art sculptures in the garden. I feel they can bring personality, intimacy, and whimsy to our gardens. I equally enjoy the formality of a beautiful statue to that of a stepping stone created by a child. In addition to the thought provoking art, the garden that had everyone’s attention and cameras snapping, was the Carnivorous Plant Collection. This collection of insect eating plants was simply fascinating. We all stared in wonderment at these marvels of nature.


Another stop on the tour was to S.E.E.D.S., which is a non-profit community garden whose goal is to teach people to care for the earth, themselves, and each other through a variety of garden-based programs. It was refreshing to see and meet the kids that were involved in this project. Their faces lit up when you asked them questions about their gardens. Their enthusiasm was inspiring. This garden truly encompasses the meaning of community. They have after school programs and half-day camps appropriately named SEEDlings. They offer workshops targeting the basics of vegetable gardening and how it relates to healthy eating for both children and adults.

Downtown Raleigh

On the final morning of this enlightening trip, I decided against more garden touring and instead chose to walk around downtown Raleigh and explore a bit. I am so glad I did, because otherwise I would have missed seeing some of the most ingeniously designed, well maintained commercial color pots that I have seen. Not only were the colors, textures, varieties, and habits of these plants artfully arranged, they were impeccably groomed. If that was not enough to impress you, the fact that there were probably over 100 of these pots lining the street did.

I took my final pictures, got on the road and headed back home filled with appreciation, joy and thankfulness for this wonderful journey.


Plant Delights Nursery                        www.plantdelights.com

Sarah P. Duke Gardens                       www.sarahpdukegardens.org

The Gardens of Montrose                   (919)-732-7787

North Carolina Botanical Garden       www.ncbg.unc.edu

S.E.E.D.S.                                           www.seedsnc.org

JC Raulston Arboretum                      www.ncsu.edu/jcraulstonarboretum