Thursday, April 15, 2010

Travel Tip Thursday: Airlie Gardens

Traveling Tip Thursday is brought to us by Pseudonymous High School Teacher. I've done a few posts for this prompt in the past and decided it's time to do a few more. I also encourage you to use this prompt as a way to get your writing juices flowing. Here's my post for this week, a trip to a garden near where I grew up (I actually went to elementary school in grades 4-6 across the creek from this garden!) Enjoy. By the way, I'm still not around much for the rest of the week as I'm at a writer's conference at Calvin College. The photos are from my recent trip to North Carolina.

Pembroke Jones was the man and nobody could keep up with him, not with his home on 5th Avenue and Newport and his “self-described” bungalow on the north side of Bradley Creek. Jones was born just a few years before the Civil War and his father, a captain, I think was also a blockade runner. He was involved in shipping, railroads and steamships and his “bungalow” near Wrightsville Beach was considered the finest house in North Carolina outside the Vanderbilt’s Biltmore House near Asheville. Pembroke Jones purchased thousands of acres down bordered by the sound to the east and Bradley Creek to the south. Early in the 20th Century, Jones’ wife developed a 155 acre garden around their home. Today, 67 acres of this garden still exist and is open to the public. Starting in late winter, the camellias bloom, followed by daffodils and tulips, then azaleas.
When we moved to Wilmington in 1966, as I was starting the fourth grade, I found myself attending Bradley Creek Elementary School which was on the other side of the creek. The school, like Mr. Jones’ bungalow, has since been reduced to ashes. Back then, a family owned and lived on Airlee property and it was only occasionally opened, making it somewhat of a mystery. That’s no longer the case, as New Hanover County purchased the property a decade or so ago. In a way, my life will always be somewhat tied to Bradley Creek. Twenty or so years ago, my parents purchased grave plots at a cemetery at the mouth of the creek. At the time, my Dad joked he wanted to be buried somewhere that during high tide he could feel salt water on his toes… The good news is that he’s still in good health and able to get out and get his toes wet as he fishes the coastline and out in the open sea.

One of the older religious buildings in the county is a small Episcopal chapel that's found within Airlee Gardens. Today, it's primarily used for weddings and special services.

A highlight of our recent trip was seeing a swan chance a goose off it's lake. That's one pissed-off swan!

There are live oaks in the garden that were seedlings when the Spanish first explored the Carolina coast and were hardy trees by the time of Sir Walter Raleigh’s fateful settlement on Roanoke Island. In addition to the live oaks draped with Spanish moss (as if it was placed there by the Spanish), there are cypress and pine, including long leafs that tower over the other trees and (after all, this is the south) magnolias. The area is also blessed with freshwater lakes adjacent to the salt marsh.

If you’re in Southeast North Carolina during the spring, this garden is well worth a visit. The park cost only five dollars a person and can provide you with hours of wandering and taking in the sights, the smells and the sounds of birds, the joy of seeing how many turtles can sun on a log and watching boats motoring up and down the creek.


  1. I love the photos - great travel post. I have only been to the South once, but I loved it.

    I linked you and thank-you for being more on it than myself this week! Home from work very late today.

  2. My Iraqi Friends would be impressed. Nature to them is a garden, not a wilderness. I showed one a picture of where I'm from, looking south from the Balsams across the Upper French Broad Valley and over the Blue Ridge into SC. He looked at it puzzled as if how I could miss such a place. If they had a "nature" picture up, it was a poster of a garden. There was a beautiful Mosque in Turkey. They would lament on gardens. But, they didn't seem to have much affection for anything else.

  3. I can't believe that in the 41 years I've lived in NC, I've never been to Airlie. Have to remedy that!

  4. I love gardens of all sorts. The downside is that they make me realize how woefully inadequate I am with my own yard efforts.


  5. I liked the Swan and goose. The other day there was a racoon in our backyard when a cat came in. The coon went after the cat and I was pleased to see that. Ran his butt off.

  6. I love gardens, and really enjoyed your pictures. Wished I'd known about them when our kids used to live in Greenville, N.C.

  7. Sage,

    No wonder we clicked. Being from Fla, now living in SC, and having family all over NC- we are definitely kindred spirits!

    Graduating the same year no less!

    So glad I found your Blog...great inspiration and great memories are being evoked here! You are succeeding in what your mission is!




  8. PHST: you've been to the south one more time than I have been to Hawaii!

    App: Interesting concept of gardens--which probably says something about the Garden of Eden and Gethesmane in the Biblical world view

    Kenju, I'm surprised, with all your pictures of wonderful flowers.

    Randall, gardens like these (with large staffs) should be a reminder not even to try!

    CHarles, I wish I had a video of the swan chasing the goose. He'd get so close and the goose would fly further away. The swan was all "puffed up"

    Sleep Head: You'll have to find a reason to head back down there again! :)

    John, did you graduate in '75? THanks. I hope what I write is an inspriation to others (and I'll try to keep my SC jokes to myself).

  9. Sounds wonderful... I'd love to visit. I can hardly imagine the effort it must take to keep a garden of that size halfway decent!

  10. My brother is looking into buying property in NC and I'll be making a special trip to this garden if I'm in the area. Love all these photos you shared, especially the one of the swan!

  11. Sorry Sage,

    I graduated in '72. I thought that's what you said in the Easter post? Did I get the years wrong?

    You are--and KEEP ON- Inspiring my friend!


  12. We had twice tour of Airlie Gardens and the main attraction at Airlie Gardens we have found is the 462 year old Airlie Oak tree. The Gardens atmosphere is really lovable and the four around greenery looks really paradise.

    Best Regards,