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Cheap college thrills? Visit an arboretum

Coker Arboretum at UNC Chapel Hill offers “something unique during every season of the year.” The attraction came in No. 2 in a list of top national arboretums.
Coker Arboretum at UNC Chapel Hill offers “something unique during every season of the year.” The attraction came in No. 2 in a list of top national arboretums. N.C. Botanical Garden

The website bestcollegereviews.org listed “The 50 Most Beautiful College Arboretums” – a subject of interest to lovers of leisurely outdoor pursuits as well as to students and academics. While the No. 1 spot goes to the arburetum at Cornell University, in far-off Ithica, N.Y., eight of these top 50 are an easy drive from Charlotte, and one – the arboretum at Davidson College – is within Mecklenburg County.

Note to dollar-stretched readers: Arboretums, typically, are free to see.

Here are the regional arboretums that made the list, plus quotes about them by the list compilers:

2. Coker Arboretum, UNC Chapel Hill

“Offering something unique during every season of the year. ... displaying a wide variety of plantings including flowering trees and shrubs, along with bulb and perennial displays.”

14. Orland E. White Arboretum – University of Virginia

The facility in Boyce, Va., “provides a plethora of study opportunities, with over 8,000 trees and woody shrubs, representing over 1,000 species; there is also a large collection of boxwood cultivars, said to be the largest in North America, as well a pine collection that represents over half of the world’s species.”

17. Reynolda Gardens – Wake Forest University

“The Reynolda Gardens of Wake Forest University were once at the center of the Reynolda estate and include a lake, golf course, formal gardens, greenhouses, and woods. Over the last century, the landscape has evolved, serving as a learning center for horticulture, environmental sciences, and landscape history.”

21. South Carolina Botanical Garden – Clemson University

“The South Carolina Botanical Garden is truly one of South Carolina’s gems. ... Art lovers will adore the garden’s collection of nature-based sculptures located throughout the garden as well as the art galleries at the Fran Hanson Discovery Center. Those who love gardening will benefit from the many demonstration gardens and nature trails. This gorgeous botanical garden, designated as the State’s botanical garden in 1992, is open free of charge every day, from dawn until dusk.”

22. University of Tennessee Arboretum

“Located within the 2,260-acre Oak Ridge Forest in Oak Ridge, Tenn., are 250 acres that have been identified as an arboretum with a mission of public education and service. The arboretum features interpretive nature trails and ecological points of interest; it is a research and education facility with over 2,500 native and exotic woody plant specimens that represent 800 species, varieties, and cultivars.”

23. Waddell Barnes Botanical Garden – Middle Georgia State University

The facility in Macon is “made up of 17 themed gardens on 167 acres. The website notes that the collections include 1,600 trees, 2,500 shrubs, and 12,000 ground cover plants.

32. Davidson College Arboretum

“Although the Davidson College Arboretum has only been a national arboretum since 1982, it has been dreamed of and developed for more than 100 years. ... Davidson College is now recognized as being one of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States.”

41. Kalmia Gardens – Coker College

“A former 19th century plantation in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina, the breathtaking Kalmia Gardens of Coker College is one of the top botanical gardens on the list.” The gardens, in Hartsville, S.C., “boast a wide array of rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas, wisteria, tea-olives, dogwood and the Gardens’ namesake, kalmia latifoliate, or the mountain laurel. In addition to these fine species, the Garden also includes many exotic ornamentals.

49. Garden of the Coastal Plain – Georgia Southern University

“Walk, look, relax, read, contemplate, draw, and simply enjoy the 11 acres of gorgeous garden” in Statesboro, Ga., northwest of Savannah, Ga., and due west of Beaufort, S.C. “Not only can visitors enjoy the collection of native azaleas, arboretum, children’s museum, butterflies and hummingbirds in season, and nature in general, there is also living history displays.”