Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Elizabethan Gardens - Manteo, NC

Had a fun adventure today - all by myself - at the Elizabethan Gardens. The Garden Club of North Carolina built this garden some years ago to commemorate the English women who came to the New World and brought with them their love of gardens. As I expected it had some very formal gardens, but there were also lots of natural areas and unexpected touches.

The Gardens are located about 3.5 miles from the Town Dock Marina where we are staying. We had hoped to rent bikes and ride up there, but there is no bike rental in town! so, I decided to walk. No one else was particularly interested or able, so I did it alone. With water and a snack packed I started out about 8:30 this morning - at a very slow pace. There is a fine walking/riding path all the way and I encountered only a few bikers along the way. There are several resting places with benches and [mostly working] water fountains, so I had several stops. I made two mistakes in my preparations - forgot to take a sweat towel and bug spray. Fortunately, I was able to remedy both once I arrived at the Gardens. It took me about two hours, but I really enjoyed the walk.

Altho the path was only a couple hundred yards from the water, I could not see it except occasionally down a street end. I passed old cottages - some lovingly fixed up and some falling down - a working farm, new developments and even some undeveloped land. Altho one has the feeling that there is not square inch of undeveloped water front, there still is plenty of space on this island once you get a block off the water.

The Gardens were very interesting. The formal center garden was the typical English manor garden with boxwood shapes filled with summer flowers - a lot of pentas in different colors. There was also a rose garden that was pretty disappointing. It has only six or eight plants, altho all are special in some way, but nothing was thriving. This time of summer it should be full of blooms, but all the plants appeared to be struggling. The natural walkways were more interesting to me than the formal spaces. There were hydrangeas of many varieties and types, as well as many azaleas (the former in bloom and the latter not, of course!) This oak leaf hydrangea was easily ten feet tall. Lots of shade loving perennials and annual bloomers for filler in the sunny spots. There are also several overlooks onto the Roanoke Sound where historians believe the Roanoke Colony was located.

The most interesting things, tho, were the sculpture. All of it has been donated, and I am sure the donors gave for specific reasons, which were not well explained. There is a huge - like 20 feet tall - bronze statue of Elizabeth. Ok, I got that one. The bronze work is spectacular, with the lace around the bottom of her dress showing intricate detail, and the rose in her hand is just perfect. There are many cairns and basins - most with water in them - which help with the peaceful feeling one finds there. And, then there were little surprises hidden away - some water features, some elves and other story book characters and some more formal pieces. I really enjoyed them all.

But by far the most interesting piece of sculpture was a full life size sculpture of Virginia Dare. It's carara marble, carved by an American artist in Rome and very pretty. You all know that history is not my strong point, altho I do usually muddle thru American history fairly well....but, I thought that Virginia Dare was the first child born in the Roanoke Colony and disappeared along with the entire colony when she was a toddler. Are you with me there? I am asking because the statue is of a full grown woman - a nude wrapped in a piece of fishing seine. Like Elizabeth, it is a gorgeous carving with lots of attention to detail, but I keep wondering if it is Virginia Wolff or Daisy Fitzgerald, or one of Max Parrish's models. I think it it's Virginia Dare then the artist used up a lifetime of "artistic license"!

Since we are traveling, I did not purchase a plant, but believe me.... I looked and considered. I am not convinced that I need to find a way to irrigate so that I can have some bear's britches!

I decided to fore go the two-hour walk back to the marina, so called a cab. But that is a story for another time. This is a really pretty place and I highly recommend it as a way to spend a couple of hours. The Lost Colony is next door and there is an historical part, but I didn't really feel like doing both, so that is a trip for another time. Stay tuned.

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