WORDS BY STEPHANIE WISNET
A lifelong nature lover, gardening enthusiast and world traveler, Daniel J. Stowe and his wife Alene envisioned a stunning garden in Daniel’s hometown of Belmont evolving over several decades to rival other world-renowned gardens. In 1991, Daniel, a retired textile executive at the time, reserved 380 acres of prime rolling meadows, woodlands, and lakefront property and established a foundation on which to develop Belmont’s own world-class botanical garden.
Twenty years ago on October 9th, 1999, Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden hosted the Grand Opening of the new 110-acre campus, including eight garden spaces, 12 exceptional fountains, buildings, and grounds. This was all part of the Master Plan, designed by eminent landscape architect Geoffrey Rausch. Geoffrey was responsible for the planning and design of over 60 botanical gardens and arboreta throughout the continental United States, Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Canada.
Standing sentinel over the initial acreage is the iconic 13,500-square-foot Visitor Pavilion. It features pale yellow, stucco walls fronted by 20 white, Tuscan columns and topped with copper roof. The Pavilion’s domed, stained glass entryway leads to the Great Hall, which hosts a variety of memorable private events including weddings, celebrations and more. Outside guests discover the bubbling fountains anchoring the main gardens including picturesque Canal Garden and more. In 2003, two new gardens opened to the public including the West Garden and White Garden. In 2008, the 8,000-square-foot Orchid Conservatory opened later followed by the opening of Lost Hollow: The Kimbrell Children’s Garden in 2014. In 2019, the Garden opened the Piedmont Prairie Garden.
Over the years, visitors have been invited to enjoy the splendors of nature and learn to become active participants in preserving our natural environment. They see meticulously groomed formal gardens, natural woodland, meadow and wetland areas, the conservatory filled with tropical plants in a natural environment, and myriad annual and perennial flowers, shrubs, vines and trees. Education is one of the Garden’s prime objectives, where seminars and workshops are held throughout the year appealing to all generations. The interested learner of any level will find opportunities to gain further knowledge about gardening, botany, natural history and preservation.
Daniel Stowe passed away in 2006, but the Garden continues to grow and serve as a resource for the community as he always wanted. Now celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2019, Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden creates an inspiring, unforgettable garden experience that instills a love of nature and its beauty. “I feel that Dan would be so pleased to know how much this region has both benefited from and supported the growth required to sustain his long-term vision for this land,” said Alene Stowe. “He was a lover of land preservation and sharing of horticulture beauty that are both at the heart of Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden.”
The Garden’s 20th anniversary festivities continue through the end of the year with events, exhibits, art and more. Planted in celebration, the new Piedmont Prairie Garden offers a glimpse at the prairie that once blanketed the land over 200 years ago. A half-acre of Black-eyed Susans, butterfly weed, showy goldenrod, and a variety of other forbs, grasses and shrubs now covers the vast prairieland and invites both pollinators and guests to explore and enjoy.
The Garden continues to host the awe-inspiring, larger-than-life botanical glass anniversary exhibit, Grandiflora: Gamrath Glass at the Garden, through September 29th. Hundreds of pieces of glass making up dozens of vibrant sculptures by Seattle-based artist Jason Gamrath including towering 10-foot orchids, vivid pitcher plants, energetic Venus flytraps and more can be spotted throughout the grounds. The garden’s annual beds feature big, bold, beautiful plants with large flowers and leaves to complement Gamrath’s sculptures.
The official anniversary party will be held on October 5th and 6th celebrating both the Garden’s 20th anniversary and the 5th anniversary of Lost Hollow: The Kimbrell Children’s Garden. The weekend will feature retro admission pricing at $8 per adult and $4 per child, live music, a cake contest, family activities and the Symphony Petting Zoo at select times. Also, tickets are available for Piedmont Culinary Guild’s Farm to Fork in the Garden on October 6th. Guests will sample from over 25 local chef & farmer pairings as well as multiple food artisans, local brewers, distillers, and wineries while strolling through the Garden, enjoying live music, and listening to speakers.
Rounding out the anniversary year, the Garden will host North Carolina artist Patrick Dougherty who will create a natural, interactive sculpture for the community to enjoy this November. Patrick uses minimal tools and a simple technique of bending, interweaving, and fastening together sticks, to construct works of art inseparable with nature and the landscape. With a dazzling variety of forms seamlessly intertwined with their context, his sculptures evoke fantastical images of nests, cocoons, cones, castles, and beehives. Over the last thirty years, Dougherty has built more than 300 works throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia that range from stand-alone structures to a kind of modern primitive architecture–every piece mesmerizing in its ability to fly through trees, overtake buildings, and virtually defy gravity. Constructed on-site using locally sourced materials and local volunteer labor, Dougherty’s sculptures are tangles of twigs and branches that have been transformed into something unexpected and wild, elegant and artful, and often humorous. Sometimes freestanding, and other times wrapping around trees, buildings, railings, and rooms, they are constructed indoors and in nature. As organic matter, the stick sculptures eventually disintegrate and fade back into the landscape.
Stephanie Wisnet is the Marketing Manager at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and also in the
evenings Thursdays through Sundays through September 29 from 6 to 10 p.m. All are invited to enjoy this local community treasure.