The Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is a remarkable place that all garden and arboreta lovers should put on their agendas. For visitors to North Carolina, access is easy: The garden is located less than an hour’s drive west of Charlotte – and it’s well-worth the visit.

Stowe Botanical Garden Visitor Center

The Visitor Pavilion graces the entrance to Stowe Garden.

Photo Credit: David L. Morgan

Stowe Botanical Garden Perennial garden

Find inspiration at one of the several perennial gardens found at Stowe Garden.

Photo Credit: David L. Morgan

Stowe Botanical Garden water fountain fun

The spectacular Orchid Conservatory offers a diversity of plants and displays.

Photo Credit: Mark A. Miller

Stowe Botanical Garden canal garden

The Canal Garden is a favorite at Stowe Garden

Photo Credit: David L. Morgan

First-time guests will marvel at the maturity of the Stowe Garden’s plant material, given that it was only in 1989 when the garden was conceptualized by Daniel J. Stowe, a retired textile executive from Belmont, NC. And it wasn’t until 1992 that the first display garden was even opened to the public.

Stowe was a man with a mission – and apparently in a hurry. Intending to leave a gift in perpetuity to the community that made him wealthy, Stowe reserved 450 acres of prime rolling meadows, woodlands and lakefront property, and established a $12 million foundation to develop a world-class botanical garden. A lifelong nature lover and gardening enthusiast, Stowe and his wife, Alene, envisioned designing a complex evolving over many generations to rival other internationally renowned gardens.

And so his dream began. Today, the garden appears as if it’s been there for decades, like an old East Coast private garden. But look again. The sparkling Visitor Pavilion, with an antique stained-glass dome adorning the foyer, gives it away. With its marble floors and freshly painted interior, the building reflects the planning and care that has gone into every corner of a well-planned, but recently designed, masterpiece.

Stowe and his master designer, Geoffrey Rausch, envisioned introducing the Stowe Gardens through a “Garden for All Seasons” concept. The first garden created was the Cottage Garden of old and new plant species in a home-use setting, followed by the Canal Garden, featuring a 300-foot-long canal that appears to flow through flowering perennials and annuals (at one end of which is a sparkling fountain). Next came the Perennial Garden, consisting of four separate plantings of great length. (Had these four plantings been placed end-to-end, they would’ve reached 2/3 of a mile into the countryside!) Finally, the White Garden was created, featuring white-blooming plants of all sizes, where wedding celebrations have become popular.

Opened in January 2008, the Orchid Conservatory is the Carolina's only glasshouse dedicated to the display of orchids and tropical plants. Highlights include a water wall with hanging orchids and epiphytes, living arches covered with bromeliads and other plants, reflecting pools with aquatics, tropical fruiting trees and many species of orchids from around the world. The diversity of plants and deftness of display are superb.

With any garden, words are meaningless without pictures. I hope you enjoy some of the views my camera captured during a visit in October, although I’m not sure if they do this incredible garden justice!