Airlie Gardens, Wilmington, NC

Tulips and azaleas in Airlie Gardens take my breath away! My husband and I have rented a beach house in Sunset Beach North Carolina for the month of April for many years. After shivering for an unseasonably cold week, we ventured out to one of our favorite spots, Airlie Gardens, a large sprawling estate, now public, filled with many kinds of flowering shrubs such as azalea, dogwood, and snowball viburnum. Tulips pictured were at their peak.

We enjoy seeing spring come to North Carolina during April, and then when we return to Colorado in May, we can appreciate spring’s arrival again.

On our leisurely stroll we spied great egrets perched in tall grasses beside one of many natural ponds, and swans paddled near their nest on a small island in another water feature. A great blue heron, like a statue, stood on one leg hunting for small fishes at the edge of the water. In the photo, turtles soaked up the sun’s rays as they basked on a log. A tiny lizard darted up and around a thin trunk of a redbud. 

The live oak, said to be about 400 years old, is pictured with Spanish moss gracefully hanging from limbs. Four hundred years ago an acorn germinated in that spot around 1618, even before the Pilgrims set foot far away in what eventually would become Massachusetts.  

During our previous visits to the gardens during Wilmington’s Azalea Festival, young women and girls dressed in period costumes of the old south stood with ruffled parasols in front of bright pink azaleas. We thought of past times when great plantations thrived, and appreciated seeing that women of many ethnicities wore the beautiful dresses.

After thinking of the history of these gardens, we realized that all we saw will continue into the future.  Preparation for a wedding in the chapel was in progress with workers setting up tables under a large tent, and hauling huge tubs of food from a catering truck. Grounds keepers raked and weeded a bed of tulips, and children laughed and squealed as they played jumping games on the trail, and pointed at flowers and birds. Under the huge live oak in the photo, several groups spread blankets for picnic lunches in baskets.

Airlie Gardens always will be a place where groups can have special celebrations, and children can have fun learning about wildlife and nature. It will be a place where people can reflect on the past and look forward to the future, a place of peace and a quiet walk in a picturesque and delightful six and one-half acres of walking paths.

 Later in the season a butterfly house will enchant visitors, and summer concerts will provide evenings of entertainment. A special thank-you to the Corbett family for selling their property to the county in 1996 so now visitors from near and far can enjoy this pleasant get-a-way.

Thank you for visiting with me, and stay tuned for more from North Carolina.