Airlie Gardens

A Century of Gardens by the Sea

In the South we love our gardens.  Especially 200 year old gardens with 500 year old live oak trees.  Airlie Gardens, in Wilmington, NC is one of my favorite gardens.  Growing up in Wilmington I used to imagine being Mrs. Pembroke Jones and having the entire garden to myself and my garden club.  The love and care (and waterfront location) make these acres of azaleas a Southern spot of heaven.  

From the concerts on the lawn to the gorgeous azaleas I just love how easy it is to get feel completely alone, even with hundreds of people around.  At one point, we wandered into the Butterfly House with a fabulous hanging butterfly mobile.  The multi-colored butterflies flitted around and would breeze by our heads, some stopping to land on a flower, a rock, or us.  These delicate creatures live a lavish life at their screened in house in the gardens, protected from the geese and other birds who call Airlie home.

It took my breath away to see the Bottle Chapel and walk the spiral path to be surrounded by the  bottles, standing in for stained glass.  This beautiful mosaic chapel was carefully constructed by Virginia Wright-Frierson in honor of Minnie Evans, the painter who's works in various mediums have lived on at the art museums in Wilmington.  

One of the Bottle Chapel's stories is that Virginia Wright-Frierson sent out a plea for more of the blue colored bottles, needed for the sky and the butterfly wings.  The altar is religious with a hint of humor, paying homage to recognizable bottle figures.

We grew up hearing love stories about Airlie's swans.  Mating for life, these elegant birds sail around their choice of lakes across the property, sharing their space with white herons who fly in to nest as the sun sets.  

Airlie Gardens is a Southern spot in the middle of a busy, bustling beach town.  This quiet piece of the South will make you catch your breath and take you back in time.

My favorite picture from Airlie Gardens.  I love how isolated this photo makes me feel, yet how hopeful.

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