STATE: NC’s Juniper Level Botanic Garden opens two weekends in July – free to all

Published 3:34 pm Tuesday, July 13, 2021

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Juniper Level Botanic Garden, a $7.5 million gift to NC State University, will open two weekends this summer, July 16-18 and July 23-25. Hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. There is no entry fee. For GPS directions, input 9241 Sauls Road, Raleigh.

“Two open garden weekends are scheduled each season,” said founder and benefactor Tony Avent. “When our endowment at the university is fully funded, that will allow us to open full-time as a public garden and a sister to JC Raulston Arboretum.

“The Gardening boom of 2020 continues prominently into 2021. There’s an almost unprecedented plant shortage in America, especially for long-production time plants like trees and shrubs. In many box stores, where 60 percent of Americans buy their plants, there’s a major shortage. Retailers that do not propagate plants are struggling to get a wide range of plants. We are fortunate because we propagate most things here, but it’s still tough for us to keep up with demand.

“We’ll be giving away pads of prickly pear cactus to our visitors at our Summer Open Garden. I’ve always been fascinated with cacti, so we now have over 150 different kinds of prickly pear cactus ­– probably the largest collection in the world. Since we reign them in annually, we’re giving cactus pads to our visitors. You can plant them at home and enjoy them. The flower colors range the spectrum of the rainbow, and Native Americans have used the prickly pear cactus as a food crop for years.

“They’re so many amazing plants blooming in the summer, and the pollinator activity is incredible. That’s when all the insects and birds are gathering nectar, which they need to survive. If you want a lot of pollinator activity in your garden in the summertime, you need plants that have a burst of flowers.

“Adults and children are invited to come to Open Garden Days and learn more about insects from our entomologist Bill Reynolds. Bill used to be with the Museum of Natural Science; he’s down to earth, loves nature, and enjoys talking with children. Bill’s an insect collector who’s also an expert on cicadas, which are very much in the news.”

Established in 1988 south of downtown Raleigh, the not-for-profit Juniper Level Botanic Garden has grown into a 28-acre conservation and inspiration garden whose mission is to discover, grow, study, propagate and share the world’s flora.

“Currently, we have just over 27,000 different kinds of plants,” explained Avent. “That makes our botanic garden one of the top five collections in the United States.”

Fundraising efforts for Juniper Level Botanic Garden operate under the auspices of The Endowment Fund of North Carolina State University, a 501(c)3 non-profit. Donors receive an official receipt for contributions to the fund.