Earlier this year I failed to make the time to go to the Philadelphia Flower Show. It would have been my first time to attend the world’s largest indoor flower show. Then I ended up visiting Winterthur on a raw and rainy day to see the Downton Abbey costume exhibit. It was also early enough in the year that not much was in bloom anyhow. But I made up for them both with my first visit to the Elizabethan Garden in Manteo, North Carolina.
As many times as I’ve been to the Outer Banks — been visiting for at least 20 years, I believe — it was hard for me to believe I’d never been to the gardens. My husband and I made a special visit last week for my birthday. The weather wasn’t the greatest. The skies were overcast and the air had a chill but there was no rain. After the long winter we had, the gardens weren’t in full bloom yet but there was plenty to see, including a handful of energetic and fearless squirrels.
The Elizabethan Gardens are easy to navigate. Just follow the paths and get lost in nature. There’s a detailed, larger than life sculpture of the garden’s namesake, Queen Elizabeth I, at the entrance, and the gardens back up to the Roanoke Sound. You can stand at a wooden gate within the gardens and watch the gentle waves lap against the sand. Imagine you’re locked away in your own secret garden.
At the heart of the gardens is a traditionally landscaped Elizabethan garden with fountains and beautiful sculptured crape myrtles. The surrounding areas are full of wooded and lush foliage. It’s not overly manicured; there’s a naturalness about the plants. It’s amazing the variety of what’s being cultivated. There’s even a new exhibit of hostas that a volunteer has curated. He eagerly asked us to take a look at the plants and they were very lovely with lots of color and variety.
The gardens also have a wonderful rose garden in a separate section. Unfortunately, the roses weren’t in bloom when we were there but the leaves were full and there were a few buds. The rose garden also has a special rose sent from Queen Elizabeth II as a gift.