Display Gardens

Our display gardens offer a variety of settings in which to view native plants and cultivars of native plants. To introduce you to them all, we've provided brief descriptions below—as well as a new video.

Watch a video that highlights our new (2012) Piedmont Habitat display garden. Well-known master gardener Paul James paid us a visit in May of 2012 and spent some time in this display garden with volunteers and friends.

Native Plant Border

pastels in Garden Commons

The native plant border is a collection of native perennials, shrubs, and small trees. It was designed to be visually interesting throughout the growing season and supplies nectar for pollinators from spring to fall. Featured throughout this collection are a number of rare plants. Our rare plant walk begins in the border and winds about the Garden Commons.

Native Water Gardens

water gardens

All of the aquatic plants in our water gardens are native to the southeastern United States. This collection includes elegant American white water lilies, Nymphaea odorata, and American lotus-lilies, Nelumbo lutea, as well as emergent plants like heartleaf pickerelweed, Pontederia cordata, and many others. Be sure to visit with the bullfrog tadpoles, goldfish, and koi that live here.

Carnivorous Plant Collection

carnivorous plant beds

Our carnivorous plant collection is known as one of the best in the Southeast. Numerous species of pitcher plants, sundews, and butterworts are found in the southeastern United States as are Venus' flytraps. These are cultivated in five raised beds. In addition to the carnivorous plants, these beds include some of the showier plants commonly found in pitcher plant bogs such as orchids, meadow beauties, and the pine lily. The centerpiece of this space is a sculpture depicting the prey of pitcher plants and honoring the late Rob Gardner, the developer and original curator of the collection.

Garden of Flowering Plant Families

walkway and arch in the Garden of Flowering Plant Families

The Garden of Flowering Plant Families is a place where visitors find a visual representation of the evolutionary relationships between plant groups. Collections such as this were historically more prominent in botanical gardens. Here, familiar and exotic representatives of various plant families grow side by side. Did you know that tomatoes, peppers, tobacco, and petunias are all in the same family? There's a lot to learn in the Garden of Flowering Plant Families, and the area is complemented by interesting works of sculpture by NC artists.

Horticultural Therapy Demonstration Garden


The Horticultural Therapy Demonstration Garden includes five 4-foot by 4-foot, 24-inch-high raised beds and illustrate gardens designed for persons with limited mobility and reach. Gardeners who use wheelchairs, who have difficulty standing for long periods of time or who must stand upright are able to enjoy working in these gardens. The gardens are planted with heirloom vegetables and flowers varieties that have been handed down from generation to generation and help preserve our biodiversity. The North Carolina Botanical Garden's Horticultural Therapy Program uses this area.

Coastal Plain and Sandhills Habitat Gardens

green tree frog

The Coastal Plain and Sandhills Habitats represent the wide range of ecosystems present in the eastern part of the state, beginning with the rolling sandhills where you see the state tree of North Carolina, the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris). Soon the terrain becomes flatter, simulating the pocosin and wetland habitats common on the outer coastal plain. In this area grow myrtle (Morella cerifera) and carnivorous plants, such as the Venus' flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) and pitcher plants (Sarracenia species).

This natural habitat garden is burned yearly to simulate processes that are part of the endangered longleaf pine ecosystem. Fire plays an important role in promoting the growth of a high diversity of plants here and in the real pine savannas of the state.

This part of the Garden is the best place to observe wildlife and plants together. Listen for the spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) in the early months of the year, and watch our resident non-poisonous water snakes bask in the summer sun.

Learn more about the the frogs and toads of North Carolina

Piedmont Habitat Garden


This garden was once Laurel Hill Road! Now it is a series of beds that display plant communities of the Piedmont with a focus on the plants that prefer sunny sites. You will see roadside wildflowers, a representation of a diabase glade featuring a number of rare plants, and a collection of old farm implements that remind us of the impact that the Piedmont's agricultural history has had on the landscape.

There are things to see in this collection year round, but summer and fall are the best times to take in the perennials and grasses that dominate the Piedmont habitat. View a list [PDF] of the plant species we used in this garden.

Mountain Habitat Garden & Paul Green Cabin

Paul Green cabin

The Mountain Habitat Garden contains plants and trees that are characteristic of the mountainous areas of the southern Appalachians at elevations ranging from 1,500 feet to 6,684 feet. Dense shade from canopy trees and abundant moisture create a cove-like environment for these species.

Plants native to North Carolina's western boundary include spring-blooming wildflowers such as trilliums, bluebell, bloodroot, liverleaf, and Oconee bells; members of the heath family, such as mountain laurel, flame azalea, rhododendrons, and leucothoe; Canadian hemlock, white pine, and tulip tree; and many species of ferns.

A dominant historical feature in this habitat garden, the Paul Green Cabin, was moved to the North Carolina Botanical Garden in 1991 and restored. In this cabin, playwright Paul Green did much of his research and writing on uses of native herbs. Green's plays often incorporated the botanical knowledge and herbal folk wisdom of North Carolina's native peoples and settlers.

This habitat garden also features displays of ferns and woodland wildflowers from all the geographic regions of North Carolina that grow best in a shady location.

Fern Collection

sensitive fern

While there are many opportunities to enjoy native southeastern ferns at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, the fern collection in front of the Paul Green cabin provides a different experience. Here, ferns are arranged so that visitors may see and compare specimens of related Southeastern species in the near beds and appreciate the intricate patterns and textures of masses of ferns in the surrounding area.

An example is the juxtaposition of northern maidenhair fern, a not uncommon plant that grows in the mountains of North Carolina, with southern maidenhair, a rare fern found closer to our coast.

The Mercer Reeves Hubbard Herb Garden

herb garden photos

In the Mercer Reeves Hubbard Herb Garden, visitors experience approximately 500 species, cultivars, and varieties of plants classified as herbs and learn the historical uses of plants. Nestled within the garden is a re-creation of a wooden cottage known as "The Herb House."

In the 1920s, Dr. W.C. Coker, a botany professor at the University of North Carolina, began a pharmacy teaching and research garden in what is now the Coker Arboretum for pharmacognosy students. Now located adjacent to the Totten Center, this herb garden has grown to include not only a Medicinal Garden, but other specialty collections as well-an Evergreen Garden that contains the Herb Society of America's National Rosemary Collection; a Culinary, Industrial, and Poison Garden; and a Native American Garden. The latter displays native plants that were used for medicine, ceremonies, and everyday living by Native Americans of the southeastern United States. Visitors may use a self-guided tour to learn about the historical importance of 20 plants and visit an Ati, a replica of an Occaneechi hut.

Interested in helping maintain our herb garden? Become a Volunteer.

Totten Center Landscape

Totten Center Landscape photo

Landscaped areas around the Totten Center feature a variety of native southeastern plants that do well in low-maintenance situations. Drought-tolerant plants, ferns that do well in sunny locations, evergreen groundcovers, and flowering perennials that require little attention are being tested and displayed here. The Totten Center building serves as the hub of horticultural, propagation, and conservation activities and is not open to the public.

Updated on March 01, 2017 at 12:53:33 pm.