Roanoke Island, North Carolina
The Elizabethan Gardens were created in 1951 by The Garden Clubs of North Carolina, Inc. and are located on Roanoke Island near Manteo. Roanoke Island is in the Roanoke Sound between the inner coastal shores of North Carolina and the Outer Banks. There is a $8.00 per person admission to the Gardens.
The Elizabethan Gardens are a uniquely American collection gardens with an English theme. Parts of the garden areas are shady woodland areas with hostas, hydrangeas, and ferns. There are numerous Greek sculptures and other ornamental features throughout the garden, but not so much as to become overbearing. These gardens will appeal to horticulturists of all degrees as well as just lovers of nature.
Some of the many features include brick walls and climbing vines, hedge rows with narrow pathways, terraced areas with trimmed hedges creating a living fence, plus many mulched pathways with intimate seating areas where you can spend a few moments enjoying the lush plantings or the trickle of a small garden pond.
At the heart of the gardens is the Sunken Garden that is very formal, classical garden style, with a well proportioned, symmetrical design with brick walkways bisecting the neatly trimmed boxwood and dwarf yaupon hedges, accented by Crape Myrtle trees on the corners with seasonal flowers filling the open areas.
There is an abundance of wildflowers and indigenous shrubs and trees as well as one live oak specimen estimated to have been witness to the first colonists landing here in 1585. Sir Walter Raleigh lead England's initial attempt to colonize the New World under Queen Elizabeth I at this location. It was this English Queen that the park is named.
The Elizabethan Gardens, which are open year round, were designed by landscape architects M. Umberto Innocenti and Richard Webel.
The Garden Club of North Carolina adopted The Elizabethan Gardens as a project in 1951. In 1953 land was leased from The Roanoke Island Historical Association to begin building an English Pleasure Garden. In 1952 The Honorable John Hay Whitney donated a collection of European statuary and garden ornaments to the project. In 1953 the internationally acclaimed landscape firm of Innocenti and Webel were commissioned to design The Elizabethan Gardens.
From the beginning, garden club members have worked tirelessly to fund and assist in the development of the gardens. The Elizabethan Gardens formally opened in August, 1960.
The Elizabethan Gardens contain over 500 different plant species and employ 4 full-time gardeners and several seasonal and part-time assistants. Flower displays are changed seasonally to ensure colorful displays throughout the year.
When visiting Elizabethan Gardens you can comfortably spend an hour or so walking the 10 1/2 acres of garden paths and trails, and most areas are handicapped accessible. There is also the Gatehouse Gift Shop and garden store on site that offers some unique gifts.
The Elizabethan Gardens
1411 National Park Drive
Manteo, NC 27954
All photographs by J. Merrill, editor