4 Gardens to Visit on the East Coast

Gardener's need inspiration, which is part of our mission at BB Barns. We aim to inspire you with great plants, beautiful plant combinations, and knowledgeable staff. We want you to come curious and leave excited. A good nursery spurs passion in a gardener's heart. We hope that's what we do.

Beautiful gardens do the same. Visiting public gardens is the gardener's time out from pulling weeds. It's a chance to wear clothing that isn't covered in dirt, and opportunities to stroll among gardens designed, planted, fertilized and weeded by other gardeners whose goal is to inspire you, too. Here are four on the East coast that are worthy of leaving your garden for a visit. The goal of these gardens is to educate us and inspire us, pretty much the Holy Grail of gardening.

1. Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Cat fence, bleeding hearts and a shed with a moss covered roof. Oozing charm.

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Boothbay Maine. The only garden I know where you can fit in some kayaking while you're there. This garden is 295 acres with a mile of waterfront (hence the boating). It opens May 1 and stays open through October 31, 9-5 daily. You can drive there or arrive by boat (definitely, go with the boat). It's Maine, so plan on a cottage garden stuffed with everything from peonies to grasses, to blue delphiniums flowering like it's their job.  

It was the dream of a few folks who felt Maine needed a botanical garden, because, well, Maine wasn't charming enough. Here's their story.  

Allium, abelia, kniphofia, ferns, and junipers.

Planning a trip around what's in bloom is not easy, but check out their blog,  Dig It! that keeps the bloom schedule up to date. The garden is dedicated to the pursuit of horticulture, education and research.  

2. Chanticleer Gardens

Chanticleer Gardens in Wayne, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. Here's some inspiration for you: The London's Financial Times described Chanticleer as "planted to perfection."  

The containers at Chanticleer are inspiring, as well. These hyacinths flank the entryway into the garden.

Describing their garden as a pleasure garden, it is without labels and tags. The point is to enjoy the garden, not study the garden (though plant lists are located in each garden and can be purchased for those who must). Visitors are encouraged to ask the gardeners to identify plants and yes, take ideas home. That's the point, Chanticleer says. Their goal is to excite you about gardening, to create passion, and renew your energies, hoping you'll return home, and get creative in your garden, perhaps incorporating some of their design ideas.

The garden is situated at the former home of the Rosengartens. After the owner passed away in 1990, the garden design began in earnest. Open Wed-Sunday, 10-5, April-Oct. Read here to learn what a pleasure garden is and how it differs from a botanical garden. 

The Minder Ruin Garden is built where Adolph Rosengarten Jr. lived most of his life. In 1999 it was torn down and the Ruin Garden took it's place. 

The Minder Ruin Garden, one of the gardens at Chanticleer, is alone worth the visit. Developed to look as though as house fell into disrepair, rooms reflect what they were, a library, dining room and great hall, with windows looking out onto a garden and plantings within.

The gardens major on foliage over blooms, but for those who love bloom there is plenty to enjoy. Here's where you check out what those blooms are and when they're blooming.  

3. Fairchild Garden

Every once in awhile, we need to learn new plants. We may not be able to grow them in our garden, but we gain inspiration by experiencing them. We're inspired by the use of color or texture and find similar ways to do the same in our gardens with hardy plants for our zone. Fairchild gardens is one of those gardens to experience.

Here's the mission of the Fairchild gardens in their own words: 

We save tropical plant diversity by exploring, explaining and conserving the world of tropical plants; fundamental to this task is inspiring a greater knowledge and love for plants and gardening so that all can enjoy the beauty and bounty of the tropical world.

Water is a primary feature among the gardens at Fairchild.

I think all gardeners are a yes on this. The garden is named for Dr. David Fairchild, the famous plant explorer who brought back to America everything from mangos to the cherry trees in Washington.  You can read about him here. The garden is near Miami, where all of these tropical plants can grow outdoors. If you love hanging out in our tropical department, this should be on your next vacation list.They're open every day but Christmas from 9:30 to 4:30. The gardens are located on 83 acres, and offer graduate level fellowships for tropical plant biology and conservation, making their mission statement more than just words. 

With over 3,400 species, something's always in bloom. Here's the monthly list so you can plan seeing those orchids in bloom.

4. North Carolina Arboretum

The prettiest little girl I know, my granddaughter, running through the quilt garden at the Arboretum.

Lastly, if staycation is what's happening this year, the North Carolina Arboretum, located right here in Asheville, is an inspiration and a refuge. Most of us gardeners are very familiar with our hometown garden, but it's worth mentioning for the quilt garden, bonsai garden, and Heritage Garden which is a living museum showcasing Southern Appalachia. Open April-October 9-8, go ahead and get a membership, you won't regret it. 

Located on 434 acres, it is an affilate of the North Carolina University system. It was Fredrick Law Olmstead's, the father of landscape architecture and the landscape architect for Biltmore House,  vision to have a research arboretum located near Biltmore. That vision came to life in 1986, located within Pisgah National Forest, and tucked into one of the most plant diverse regions in the world, the Arboretum is committed to cultivating relationships between plants and people. What gardener isn't on board with that?

As the hashtag saying goes, #getoutside, there are so many great gardens to visit. And, please, recommend some of your favorite gardens in the comments below.

Written by Cinthia Milner, garden coach, blog writer and outside sales associate.

BB Barns serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina and Tennessee.