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Autumn at Arbor Gate: Alamance County’s hidden secret


Chris Steckler / For the Times-News  |  Times-News

Hidden away in the heart of Alamance County and wrapped around the Agricultural Building, you’ll find a gem of a public garden, a garden we hope remains a secret no longer.

In 2002, Arbor Gate was conceived as a teaching tool to train future Extension Master Gardeners. Since then, the garden not only fulfills that purpose, but is also used by agents and Master Gardeners to help demonstrate gardening techniques and showcase plants suited to our Alamance County gardens and landscapes.

The gardens continue to be lovingly maintained by extension Master Gardener volunteers under the guidance of N.C. State Cooperative Extension Service and each year brings something new to the collection of garden spaces.

Every season has its own stunning display, but in autumn, Arbor Gate takes on a special glow.

The garden spaces can provide inspiration for your own home landscape, offering solutions for every situation:

  • Have a hot, dry spot? Look to our parking lot scree garden for ideas.
  • Do you have drainage issues on your property? See what we’ve done in our rain garden.
  • Do you have a lot of trees creating dry shade? You’ll be surprised by what’s blooming under our venerable silver maple.

Our little bog garden features fascinating carnivores like North Carolina’s native pitcher plants — just right for that soggy situation.

Blended in with the ornamental plantings, you’ll find berry plants and grapevines with muscadines ripening toward fall. Tasting is never forbidden — we use no pesticides on the fruit plants.

Recently we have been adding more native plant species to the garden’s mix of shrubs, trees and perennials. Native species are resilient and offer exceptional wildlife value. Birds flock to the garden for insects and berries. Arbor Gate’s abundant plants for pollinators include food plants for caterpillars and pollen and nectar sources for native bees and butterflies. They may not be native, but European honey bees feel right at home here in Arbor Gate’s pollinator patches.

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Autumn is an especially colorful time to visit the gardens. Our native asters shine, berries glow in shades of purple, red and gold and butterflies are at their peak.

There’s a fall-blooming aster for every garden situation, from shady character white wood aster to sun-lover dwarf Tatarian aster. Salvias and bee blossom send sparks of color in dry sunny areas. Fall-blooming perennial sunflowers, black-eyed Susans and goldenrod light up the borders.

The best news is that Arbor Gate Teaching Garden is open and we’d love to have you visit us at 209 North Graham-Hopedale Road in Burlington. All of the plants are labeled with botanical and common names. Stay tuned for news about our Master Gardener Fall Plant Sale with many plants offered from Arbor Gate as well as the Master Gardeners own gardens.

Come visit Alamance County’s Arbor Gate Garden and share the secret.

Add some autumn color to your garden

If you want to add some of Arbor Gate’s treasures to your landscape, here is a list of plants featured in this article along with their countries of origin:

Cornus kousa (fruits) - Korean dogwood - East Asia

Miscanthus sinensis - Maiden grass - Asia

Iris germanica - reblooming iris "Immortality" - Croatia

Salvia uliginosa – Sky blue sage – South America

Crinitaria tatarica – Tatarian aster – Europe, Siberia

Tricyrtis formosana – Toad lily – Taiwan, Japan

Lantana camara – lantana – West Indies, Mexico

These plants on view at Arbor Gate have the added bonus of being native to the United States. Native plants are considered more resilient in the landscape and better for area wildlife.

Lonicera sempervirens – coral honeysuckle, trumpet honeysuckle

Vitis rotundifolia – muscadine grape

Ilex verticillata – deciduous holly, winterberry

Zephyranthes – rain lily

Conoclinium coelestinum – blue mist flower

Helianthus angustifolius – Swamp sunflower

Aster oblongifolius – Eastern aromatic aster – “Raydon’s Favorite”

Callicarpa americana – American beautyberry

Oenothera lindheimeri - Gaura, bee blossom

Sarracenia leucophylla – Pitcher plant “Tarnok”

Gaillardia aestivalis var. winkleri - lanceleaf blanketflower “Grape Sensation”

Anisacanthus wrightii – Texas firecracker

Agave parryi – century plant

Solidago shortii - Short's goldenrod

Eurybia divaricata – White wood aster

Muhlenbergia capillaris – Muhlygrass

Chris Stecker is the Alamance County Cooperative Extension horticulture technician and county program coordinator for the extension Master Gardener volunteers. For questions about the garden or the Master Gardener program, contact her at Alamance County Extension office at (336) 570-6740.

Want to read more?

The following story appears in the Sept. 2020 edition of Alamance Living magazine. If you want to read more stories like this, pick up a copy of the magazine at various locations in Alamance County, or call 336-227-0131 to subscribe so issues will be mailed to your home.