Travel

In the green with little gas

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is a true delight for horticulturists and is highly pleasant for those of us who aren't. This family attraction has the added advantage of being only a short drive away – just a few miles outside of Belmont.

Distance

The garden is about five miles southwest of Belmont, about 20 miles from uptown Charlotte.

Getting there

Take Exit 26 off Interstate 85 South; turn right onto Main Street. Pass through Belmont; continue approximately five miles on N.C. 273 to New Hope Road (N.C. 279). Turn left onto New Hope. The entrance to the garden will be about one mile ahead, on the right.

To see and do

Like the flowers and shrubs it showcases, the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden has grown and blossomed since first being “planted.”

In 1991, Daniel and Alene Stowe of Belmont took the first steps toward fulfilling their vision for a world-class botanical garden by securing a 380-acre tract of gently rolling meadows and woodlands bordering Lake Wylie. Groundbreaking began in the winter of 1997.

The garden opened to the public in October 1999, with a 13,500-square-foot Visitor Pavilion (with its spectacular stained-glass dome), 10 acres of manicured gardens, a dozen fountains and a half-mile woodland trail. Today, more than 100 additional acres have been carefully cultivated, offering guests an ever-expanding, ever-changing variety of colorful flowers. Many of the flowers are common and familiar; most are strange and exotic.

DSBG is really several small, themed gardens woven into a tapestry that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The first to enthrall guests is the Four Seasons Garden, where kaleidoscope of colors, textures and forms awaits you year-round.

The Canal Garden stretches the length of a football field, but instead of goal posts, two graceful fountains stand at each end. Along this 300-foot corridor are shaped topiaries, tropical plants, cactus and canna.

Four small gardens, each visibly different from the others, compose the Perennial Gardens. Here, you're actually encouraged to walk on the grass. Serpentine paths, oversized birdhouses, wooden bridges and a challenging tunnel fountain – which practically dares guests to get wet – make this a popular area for the entire family.

At the end of the trail is the Conifer Garden, showcasing junipers, cypress, spruce, cedars and pine.

The Willow Maze is designed to appeal to young children, while the White Garden, highlighted by impressive rambler rose bushes, is a popular spot for receptions and social gatherings.

The newest addition to the garden is the 8,000 square foot Orchid Conservatory.

This diamond-shaped glass structure, which opened this spring, will thrill orchid enthusiasts. There are more than 25,000 species of orchids in the world, and horticulturists have developed another 100,000 hybrids and cultivars.

The Cascade Wall is its centerpiece, guaranteed to elicit surprised gasps from first-time guests. Also displayed here are plants bound to whet your appetite – chocolate, coffee, breadfruit, and banana trees.

Trivia: Of all the many varieties of orchids, vanilla is the only one grown as a food crop.

Gary McCullough
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