Thursday, June 21, 2018

Revisit Charlotte's Best Kept Secret Garden

Last year I wrote about what we like to call "the secret garden," the immaculate grounds of the Duke Mansion, which, believe it or not, are open to the public.

This stunning estate offers lush gardens, playground equipment, charming pathways, a gazebo, a fairy garden, and a fountain. It's a little piece of Zen tucked in the Myers Park neighborhood.

This year, we discovered another reason to visit: the hands-on, Peter Rabbit-themed children's garden. A few visits ago, we met Maelynn, the full-time staff gardener. She and one of the many volunteers who help her year-round, were constructing a trellis between four large planting boxes in the grassy area next to the playground equipment. She explained her vision for this to be a "learning garden," where families can come and pick fresh produce.

This week, we visited again and the planting boxes were teeming and the trellises were draped with growth. We saw Maelynn and she enthusiastically invited us to pick some of the ruby red cherry tomatoes, encouraged us to sniff the mint leaves, and introduced us to Asian green beans.

She explained that the boxes were planted by theme: the pumpkin patch (gourds), vegetables (tomatoes, beans, etc.), herbs, and "medicinal" (including feverfew, lavender and lemon grass).

The gardens are all organic and there is a spigot on the side of one of the planting boxes if you want to give something a rinse before taking a taste. Maelynn hopes to include some more kid-friendly equipment, like buckets and watering cans over the course of the summer.

Of course all the summer plants are also in full bloom (the hydrangeas are exploding!), which makes for a fun stroll through the rest of the grounds as well.

For more information, read my earlier post. This outing is worth putting near the top of your to-do list this summer.

How to get there:
The Duke Mansion is located at 400 Hermitage Rd, Charlotte, NC 28207. To access the gardens, park on Ardsley Rd. Enter the grounds through a gated footpath on Ardsley.

Don't forget to pack:
Shoes: Something comfy for strolling.
Sunscreen, hat and sunglasses: The grounds are mostly shaded, but some spots are not.

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