Pink! Clouds of pink Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) became the new color of fall for me. Pink replaced peaches and oranges and yellows, the colors that were once my everything in the September and October landscape. But after being shown how pink could be used, pink became my new autumn hue. I never knew it would wear so well in the lessening light following the autumn equinox.
The year was 2007. I was traveling through the Charlotte area for a kid’s sporting tournament. Being the two-fer opportunists that I am, I knew I could do a side-trip to the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. The kids are use to this by now, as is my husband.
The Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden has been listed by USA Today as one of the top ten gardens to visit. The Gardens were also featured in HGTV’s Flower Gardening book as one of the top 20 gardens in the United States.
The man for whom the garden was name, had a lifelong love and interest in nature and gardening. A textile executive, Mr. Stowe made a donation to develop 380 acres of a 450 acre parcel of land. At this posting, only 10 acres have been developed, but it features some remarkable gardens: the Orchid Conservatory (opened in 2008), the Four Seasons Garden, the Canal Garden, Perennial Gardens, the Cottage Garden, the Conifer Garden, the Encore Azalea, and the West Gardens.
During my visit, it was the Canal Garden that impressed me the most. A long time fall garden-lover, the Canal Garden was exceptional. The only way I could take in what was before me was to photograph every step. I believe it was the most beautiful garden I’d ever seen. It’s true that I’m also attracted to rills and straight lines and paths to move me forward. But the colors, particularly the pink, and the lushness was intoxicating. I wanted to drink in the scene, one step at a time. And I did.
When I returned to Raleigh, I learned two renowned local designers, Doug Ruhen and Edith Eddleman, did the plan. Once I knew this, it all made sense to me. Both have an incredible eye for design. It was fabulous because of them.
I’ve visited the garden a couple more times since then on media trips, and in different seasons, but no other garden or season compared to that bed in the autumn sunshine.
All the gardens are worth a visit, but the Canal Garden, with flowing beds, 300 feet long, with a rill in the center and water fountains at either end of the garden was simply stunning. Jumping in the water rill were fish made of ceramic. Perfection!
What I felt when I saw this garden for the first time was a deep, heartfelt love. Art can move me this way. That’s why art is so important, and a well-designed garden is nothing less than art.
During a winter visit, I visited the Canal Garden again. It still moved me, even with nothing in flower, and the grasses wearing their blond attire. Yet, the garden was still magical. Winters gardens often are.
Fast forward a couple of years….
I recently had the good fortune to be speaking at the Mint in Charlotte. Since it was fall, I knew no trip to Charlotte would be complete without stopping by to see the Canal Garden once again. I needed to see and feel the rush this garden gave me. To taste again the essence of a good design. I left the city of Charlotte early so I would have extra time to just sit and admire the flowing space.
I made a beeline past the other gardens of distinction. I had one garden on my mind, but it wasn’t there.
There were still fish jumping in the canal. The paths were still there, and the fountains at each end were still pumping out water creating joyous sound. But the garden that I remembered was gone.
In its place was plant material. Instead of a lush, luxurious location, there were park-like beds of winter-blooming pansies. Gone were the grasses wearing cotton-candy pink color. Ordinary plantings replaced an extraordinary garden.
I walked the path with such disappointment, my heart sank. I realized I was mourning a garden that once was. Yet, I felt grateful to know the garden that it use to be; the garden of an extraordinary past. With sadness, I realized I needed to move on and find a new favorite at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden.