By Dorothy Fansler
Greetings to our California friends from Dorothy and Jim Fansler Having lived in Southern California all our lives, the term so often recited by Easterners, "I like to live where there is a change of seasons" rang on uncomprehending ears. To our great joy, experiencing winter changing to spring here in Greensboro has been an exhilarating privilege. We have a nice little stand of woods behind our house and a delightful nature path nearby to use for our morning walk with Chester, our dog. Each day as spring has appeared there has been something new flowering and/or coming to life. From each walk we raced back to compare notes with one another on what had been seen. Surprises are still emerging and, yes, the dogwood 'Canus florida' blossomed right on schedule, April 15th. It is an overpowering joy to witness the bloom of the white, pink, and yellow dogwood trees in every yard with their branches overreaching into the next yard and touching each other, leaving the blossoms looking like butterflies hovering in the air. Jim described it most accurately when he said, “The blossoms on trees scattered throughout the small forests looked like ghosts hovering and wavering in the air.”
Greensboro is a place where even the unattended areas look beautiful. It is a well cared for city with three beautiful parks and a fourth in the process of springing to life as I write. We wanted to share these parks with you so I talked with Kathy Cates, Director of City Beautiful, part of the Greensboro Parks and Recreation Department now celebrating thirty-five years of operation. Greensboro Beautiful raises more than $150,000 a year in private contributions, which goes directly to fund specific projects on public property. In addition, hundreds of volunteer hours support the efforts of this non-profit group. Many of these volunteers have had an active role for twenty to twenty-five years.
The Gardens of Greensboro are: the Bicentennial Garden, Greensboro Arboretum, Bog Garden, and the newly developing Gateway Garden. These gardens are open free to the public year-round from sunrise to sunset and have to their credit beauty, environmental conservation, education, health, as well as recreation.
The Bicentennial Garden opened in l976 as part Greensboro’s Bicentennial Celebration of the United States. It is a floral showcase of trees, shrubs, and mass-planted beds. A wedding gazebo complements the natural beauty of the park and adds an air of elegance. Kaitlyn, our sixteen-year-old granddaughter informed us that one must go there on prom night for pictures. A recent gift from the local Tanager family has added bronze sculptures, new stone steps with a decorated iron railing of bronze oak leaves, branches, and butterflies by a local sculptor, Jim Gallucci, and a new stone bridge. These compliment an existing variety of sculpture of artistic and historic interest. The garden is made up of a stream that recirculates, and a sensory garden of herbs, scented plants highlighted with textured plants giving a total landscape experience.
Within the Bicentennial Garden is the David Caldwell Historic Park. Reverend Dr. David Caldwell (1725-1824) was a Presbyterian minister, a self-trained physician, and an early educator in Colonial North Carolina. In 1767 he and his wife, Rachel opened an academy for young men in a log cabin at this site and educated hundreds as lawyers, doctors, and ministers, as well as producing five state governors. Dr. Caldwell's estate was originally five hundred and fifty acres. The spot where his home and academy once stood is now this dedicated park maintained by the Greensboro Park and Recreation Department. The site is established as a place for historical research and archaeological survey work. This work is important to the history of Greensboro and America as Dr. Caldwell was an important educator and statesman in the New World. Much of Caldwell's home, library, academy and medical grounds were burned and destroyed by British General, Lord Charles Cornwallis during the Revolutionary War.
A touching new section of the Bicentennial Garden was established two years ago as Camberly's Garden. Camberly, the fourteen-year-old daughter of Mayor Keith Holliday was an accomplished musician and danced with the Greensboro Ballet. In 2002 she died suddenly of an aneurysm. Kaitlyn, as part of the Greensboro Ballet, danced at her funeral. Friends developed Camberly's Garden as a healing place. Brick pavers are sold there in memory of children whose lives are shortened due to accident or illness.
The Arboretum is a seventeen acre site with nine permanent collections and special display gardens. Each collection has been grouped into and labeled according to habit, family, color, growing conditions and seasonal interest.
In 1991 a million dollars of "in kind gifts", plant material and labor from all over the United States were donated to the Greensboro Arboretum. These gardens are dedicated to the education of local residents, landscapers and students. The Arboretum hosts special events throughout the year such as the “First Sunday in October Art Show.” The "Art in the Arboretum Event" is an occasion which hosts fifty artists around the Piedmont area in a show where they exhibit and sell juried fine art and sculpture. The Arboretum is a living museum where one will find over 2,500 ornamental trees, shrubs, vines and other plants that are hardy to the Piedmont region of North Carolina.
The Bog Garden is in the middle of Greensboro's urban setting and one of the city's most unusual. This garden is primarily a flood plain that takes water from the Bicentennial Garden to Benjamin Lake. It is much like a nature preserve. An elevated wooden plank walkway winds through the garden's native plant material and provides access for visitors to see the many varieties of plants and birds indigenous to the area. Benjamin Lake Overlook is an area where young and old alike love to come to visit, and even feed the latest migrant birds, ducks, geese, as well as the turtles. The walk to the lake overlook is flanked on either side by lush trees, shrubs, ferns and plants. Many of these plants were rescued and relocated from construction sites by volunteers.
The anticipated development of the new Gateway Garden is the most recent excitement in Greensboro. This garden is actually a major entrance to Downtown Greensboro and promises to become an horticultural oasis. It is an eleven acre area that will contain The Wisteria Grove parking lot and a Visitor Center with demonstration Gardens of herbs and annuals. There will be a wedding area allowing photography opportunities with a gazebo, an arbor and many colorful beds. Behind the water treatment storm area is planned a Rain Garden with wetland plants and an overlook bridge. A great lawn area will host special events such as an annual sculpture show.
The history of Greensboro will be presented in the Heritage Garden in 2008, the 200th birthday of Greensboro, and will include the textile and transportation history of this area.
The Gateway Garden will also feature a Children's Garden containing a maze, fossil sandpits, a Weird Plant Garden and Fun for Kids Topiaries. It is with great anticipation that the fund raising for this impressive Gateway to Downtown Garden continues.
Only one worrying comment was made by Kathy Cates during our talk. She has experienced an 18% decrease in tree canopy cover since her arrival in Greensboro fifteen years ago. All the Greensboro Beautiful projects keep this sobering thought in the forefront of their planning with the hope that working the problem will keep this number from increasing.
Dorothy Fansler, Greensboro Subrosa Reporter and Rose/Shakespeare Gardens Docent in absentia