History of Wilson Botanical Gardens
In 2003, through grant funds, the Wilson County Arboretum hired a landscape architect to develop a Master Plan for a "community" garden on the property surrounding the Wilson Agricultural Center, the original 6 acres. It was determined to change the name of the site to the Wilson Botanical Gardens (WBG), to represent more plants (botanical gardens) than just trees (arboretum). Community meetings were held to determine the garden's focus and how to make the WBG a place for education and enjoyment.
The WBG benefits Wilson and the surrounding communities by promoting tourism and economical growth. The Wilson Ag. Center is used by over 30,000 people annually who see the gardens. Group tours are available and we have had visitors from as far as Australia. The WBG primary focus continues to be education. We hope to bring more of our classroom activities outdoors for hands on experiences.
The WBG wants to honor our agriculture history by growing traditional row crops and using recycled tobacco warehouse bricks for some of our paths. All gardens (not all paths) in the WBG are handicapped accessible.
The Wilson Botanical Gardens slogan is Growing in Wilson . . . One Plant at a Time. While we hope the WBG grows a little quicker than one plant at a time we are aware that to complete the master plan is a long-term goal of 10 years.
The WBG is funded through grant funds, memberships, personal donations, fund raisers (such as Wilson Winter Lights). The WBG does not receive funds through the state or county government. Also the WBG would not be possible without the Wilson Master Gardener Association and all the volunteer hours they dedicate to the garden.
The original plantings in the garden were started in 1995 when Cyndi Lauderdale was hired as the Extension Agent. The gardens are maintained by Wilson Master Gardener Association volunteers. Nearly 11 acres of land are complete or in development. (An additional 5 acres was purchased by the county and given to the WBG.)
The first plantings were Turf Grass demonstration plots which are still one of the most popular features of the WBG. The WBG currently has 5 turf species and a total of a dozen different cultivars.
Next, the Certified Plant Professional Mixed Planting Garden was installed for the primary purpose of training landscapers and nurserymen for the Certified Plant Professional exam. Of the 300 plants on the exam, 125 are included in this garden. Another 75 plants not on the list are also included, making this small area home to over 200 plant species. This garden is also used by homeowners wanting to see plants to use in their landscapes. This garden is also referred to sometimes as the Display Garden.
The Certified Plant Professional Tree Testing Area was developed in 2001 and is located along Goldsboro Street. This area is now called the Arboretum. This garden was the signal to the community that something was going on at the Wilson Agricultural Center. In 2006, the arboretum expanded by 25 trees, which are native.
The WBG was one of twelve gardens in the state to receive the JC Raulston Arboretum (NC State) selections to evaluate. The Pittosporum bed was planted in 2004. The plants that do well across NC then will be released to nurseries to propagate for sale to consumers. Our Pittosporums became infested with a scale insect and it was determined that remove verses endless insecticidal spraying was a better approach. At that time a shift in leadership occurred at the JCRA and the program ended. So now the JC Raulston bed grows some very unique and different plants either donated by JCRA or other private sources. The WBG also receives plants from nurseries located in Oregon and Canada to evaluate in our climate. The WBG has a designated area to be developed to test the All-America plant selections.
In 2005, the 4-H and Youth Garden was funded through the Community and Rural Development Grant to help educate inter-city youth on vegetable and heritage gardening. Some of the groups of youth that have participated in this garden include the Greater Oasis of Hope Church youth, Peace Program, Youth of Wilson, boyscouts, and Fike EC. The Youth of Wilson have also been dedicated volunteers throughout the WBG since 2007. Their help has been invaluable in mulching, weeding, potting plants and making rain barrels. In 2012 this garden was renamed the Heritage Garden to reflect more closing the crops grown in this area. Also in 2012 this garden won the state Master Garden Landscape Design Award.
The Sadie Minshew Greenhouse and Educational Complex was dedicated in May 2005. Sadie was an original Wilson Master Gardener Association and main propagator until her death on Nov. 2, 2004. This greenhouse area is dedicated to her memory. Individuals, Wilson Master Gardener Association, Beddingfield students, and the North Carolina Nurserymen Assoc. all donated funds to make this area a reality. The Educational Complex next to the greenhouse was funded by the Wilson Community Foundation. This area has benches made by Hunt High School and a small water feature. The WBG seasonally changes container gardens in this area.
The daylily collection was started in 2006 and has had two further expansions to include more daylilies and ornamental grasses. Ann Goodwin, local nurseries and New Hope 4Hers have donated to this area.
Flanking the building's main entrance is a Native Plant Garden. This garden was installed by the Beddingfield High School Horticulture 1 class in November 2005.
In 2007 a grant given by Merck started the Medicinal and Culinary Herb Garden. The Culinary and Medicinal Herb garden has grown into the showplace of the WBG with a beautiful white picket fence, arbor and 9 foot tall fountain. A Vollis Simpson whirligig is located in this garden. This garden won the State Master Gardener Landscape award in 2009.
In 2007, directly behind the Heritage Garden the Pondside Garden was installed on a hot day in August by the Wilson County Green Association at a Build a Pond workday. The Pond is home to goldfish and frogs. It also has lovely water lilies in spring and summer. "Dancing Cranes" is an art feature located at the Pond created by Clifton May. Also note the bamboo koi on the arbor, designed by Will Hooker, NCSU.
In May 2010 a new garden was installed next to the building, the Showstoppers Garden. These plants were selected by NC nurserymen and Extension Agents as top plant performers across NC. The walkway is an environmentally friendly Belgard permeable paver system. In 2013 in was announced that the NC Nursery Association would no longer be promoting the Showstoppers collection. At this time there are no plans to change this area.
At the WBG annual meeting in October 2010, the Children's Secret Garden plan was unveiled, designed by Great Gardens. December 2010 the new Children's Secret Garden began Phase 1 with building the Tree House with rain wall. The Children's Secret Garden was dedicated in May 2012. The garden is approximately 1 acre and is our showcase. It took over 6 years to raise the funds for the CSG. At this time a garden tunnel, sandlot play, dino dig, musical court, banana split sundae water feature, slide, tire swings, and labyrinth with gong await for the young and young at heart to come play. Still to come include a stream with a metal sunflower garden to include wet play.
Near Goldsboro Street is a bird garden and what is referred to as the fence garden. This area is temporary until the All America selections garden is installed. In the circle bed all-america selections are grown in our greenhouses and planted for visitors to view.
The Hosta Garden is under the large red maple tree and was planted in 2011. These plants were donated by a local wholesale nursery. There are many different shape, sizes and colors in this shade garden.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math
Background – In the U.S., students are behind many other industrialized countries in Science and Math. This has led to a need for more STEM teachers and more STEM graduates to fill available jobs. The government has a plan in place to recruit 100,000 STEM teachers over the next 10 years and for colleges and universities to graduate 1 million students with STEM majors. In Wilson, many companies recruit for STEM careers from outside the region due to a lack of qualified individuals to fill the available jobs.
The mission of the Wilson Botanical Gardens is to promote horticultural education through the use of outdoor classrooms. Adults and children can heighten their appreciation of how horticulture, gardening, landscape design and environmental stewardship are linked to the land they inhabit. The Garden is targeted to middle and high school youth. Our experience shows that older students are more engaged and learn more with hands-on activities, particularly activities that are held outdoors.
The STEM garden was funded with grants and fundraising activities. Construction began in 2015 and phase II was completed in 2016. Additional funding will be needed to complete phase III.
The STEM Garden has five main areas:
Science: A rain garden with native carnivorous plants anchors the Science area and will educate students on water conservation, filtration, recycling, collection and use, pollution reduction and erosion control. Secondarily this area focuses on insect/plant interactions and digestive processes in a specialized ecosystem by growing and displaying carnivorous plants. A dozen binoculars can be checked out from Cyndi’s office to use with students to look into the carnivorous plants. Signage will have QR codes. 10 ipad minis are available to check out to use with students.
Technology: The Technology garden has two educational areas: a solar powered charging station and a weather station. These emphasize the use of solar energy, power generation/conservation and responsible use, weather prediction, trending and tracking. Show how to use charging station. Weatherunderground app.
Engineering: A donated, working windmill is featured in the Engineering area. In the windmill pond, fish waste nutrient water is pumped through a small hydroponic plant growing farm. Wind energy, recycling of animal wastes and non-soil based farming is emphasized in this area. Nearby is a human sundial. Users can use the sun to tell time and compare ancient to modern concepts of the earth’s rotation and relationship to the sun.
The Math area has geometric plantings for use in mass/volume calculations, a Fibonacci patio that introduces this mathematical model and its relationship to nature and a backgammon table. We hope to interest the students in not only the game, but in its mathematical lessons of counting, predication and chance. Supplies available from Cyndi.
In the center of the STEM garden is an event space that can be used for educational programming, concerts, weddings, memorial services etc.
Our logo plant is Rubeckia, Black-eyed Susan. The original art work was donated by a local artist, Pat Montgomery. We feel this is an appropriate plant, since it is a perennial and hopefully each year we get a little bit bigger and better. It can survive drought and adverse weather but each year has many beautiful blooms.
As the gardens evolved so did the focus and the audiences that visited the WBG. A current focus is getting more youth involved at the WBG. In 2013 we received a grant to focus on youth gardening, Green Adventures. Be sure to "Like" our facebook page and check our website to keep up to date with both our adult and youth activities.
The WBG invites you and anyone who enjoys plants to visit us.