The Arboretum encompasses seven acres of gardens and plantings dedicated to demonstrating the best plant species for southeastern North Carolina landscapes, proper horticultural techniques, aesthetic design, environmental stewardship, and research. It is a dynamic place, constantly changing to meet the educational needs of residents and green industry professionals, and to provide cutting-edge leadership in plant selection and use for this region.
The Arboretum grew out of the vision of Dr. Charles E. “Pete” Lewis, who was the county’s Extension Director from 1979 to 1989, and a group of dedicated people who shared his dream. In the late 1970s, the county was shifting from a rural farming county to a rapidly developing urban center, and Cooperative Extension saw a need to expand programming to meet the needs of both consumer and commercial horticulture. By 1981 the idea of creating an arboretum was gaining community support, but a site was needed.
In 1982 a fire destroyed the Bradley Creek School, and in February 1984 New Hanover County commissioners appropriated $200,000 to turn the school’s site into a home for the Arboretum and Extension Service. After four years of hard work by countless volunteers, the New Hanover Count Arboretum formally opened on October 5, 1989.
Today the beautiful seven-acre site serves as a “horticultural laboratory” for on-site Cooperative Extension staff. The gardens’ operations are supported by major fundraisers by the Friends of the Arboretum and Master Gardeners, and by public and private grants. The Arboretum has many special features, including a Japanese Garden with a tea house and winding stream, a magical Children’s Garden with a miniature cottage, a sweeping perennial border surrounding one of the largest water gardens in North Carolina, a Rose Garden that fills the Arboretum with color and scent for months each year, and an herb garden that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. The newest additions are colorful picnic area and a vibrant tropical garden with hardy palms.
The New Hanover County Arboretum is a wonderful community project supported by state and county government, local garden clubs, and dedicated volunteers. There is no charge for admission, and the gardens are open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Join the thousands who visit annually, and see for yourself how special the Arboretum is!