Turn right at the Waffle House, cross the railroad tracks, go past the lumber company, through the industrial center, and it’s on the left. Not exactly directions that would lead one to believe he or she is about to encounter a tiny bit of paradise. Nonetheless, that’s exactly how I found the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The arboretum is a part of NC State University and is home to some of the most magnificent and comprehensive plant collections in the country and the world. This is the perfect spot for enjoying an hour or two exploring and admiring nature… and of course, the JC Raulston Arboretum is a delightful spot to say, Pull over and let me out!
The impressive gate adorned with maple leaves is a welcomed vision because it informs visitors they’re about to enter a magical place. Tucked away in this mostly industrial neighborhood awaits a veritable oasis of plants and gardens. There are sixteen gardens, each with its own theme and character.
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Follow The Garden Path
You’ll want to begin at the visitor center where you can get a map. The JC Raulston Arboretum is user-friendly and laid out in a manner making it easy to choose a path, follow it, and admire the beautiful surroundings. Even if you’re not sure of the path you’re following, it leads to gorgeous flora.
The Japanese Garden was one of my favorites. The statuary, beautiful plants, bamboo, and overall feeling created by this special setting is truly awe-inspiring and tranquil – a calm backdrop for quiet reflection.
Xeric Garden and Scree Garden
The Xeric Garden and Scree Garden with their prickly plants native to the Southwestern U.S., Mexico, and South Africa were my son’s two favorites. Taking kids to the Arboretum is an educational must. It’s a joy watching young students enthusiastically learning by experiencing. These two gardens at the JC Raulston Arboretum definitely have a wow-factor. Or as my son said, “Those plants are cool.”
A Pop of Color
No trip to an arboretum is complete without seeing some beautiful flowers. The perennial border, the annual blooms, and flowering trees add a splash of color to the verdant landscape.
To get above it all, the A.E. Finley Rooftop Terrace overlooking the McSwain Education Center provides a wonderful plant-filled view. A branch of NC State, education and preservation are an integral part of the JC Raulston Arboretum’s mission. What a beautiful setting for learning!
Benches, Gazebos, and Statues
Beyond the educational element of this fantastic environment, simply put, it’s beautiful here. Even if you’re not into learning about deciduous plants, the JC Raulston Arboretum offers an amazing site to step away from life’s demands and enjoy a serene natural setting. There are ample benches and paths to stroll; ideal for a brief encounter with nature.
Tours and More
The JC Raulston Arboretum is open year-round seven days a week and free guided tours are offered on Sundays at 2:00 pm from March through October. There are also volunteer opportunities and the facility and gardens are available for rental. I can’t think of a more picturesque venue for a special occasion.
Quoting from their brochure, “The mission of the JC Raulston Arboretum is to introduce, display, and promote plants that diversify the American landscape, thereby benefiting our communities economically, environmentally, and aesthetically, as well as, provide educational experiences to the general public, students of all ages, and the green industry.”
Having spent a spring afternoon wandering this flourishing patch of Raleigh I can attest the mission is taken seriously. Furthermore, spending time at this hidden gem is a pleasure. Sure, this may not be the first place you’ll want to visit when you stay in North Carolina’s capital city, be that as it may, it’s not one to be overlooked either.
NC State University
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Road
Raleigh, North Carolina 27606
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1 thought on “The JC Raulston Arboretum, A Hidden Gem in Raleigh, North Carolina”
I had no idea if this even existed in North Raleigh….