Juniper Level Gardens

Juniper Level Botanic Garden, a gift to N.C. State University, opens for public viewing two weekends this summer: July 10-12 and July 17-19.

Local gardeners seeking to get out of Moore County for a day might enjoy the opportunity to pay a visit to Juniper Level Botanic Gardens either July 10-12 or July 17-19.

“Gardening is booming in all parts of the country, and nurseries have struggled to keep up with the unprecedented and unexpected demand,” says global plantsman Tony Avent, founder and proprietor of Juniper Level Botanic Garden and Plant Delights Nursery in Raleigh.

Avent says that gardening is a huge pastime in America, but that no one was prepared for this boom.

“Nurseries are propagating as fast as they can and shipping as quickly as they can,” he says. “People have reconnected with the earth, and every plant that goes into the ground pulls carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. That’s undoubtedly a good thing.”

Avent believes that the bulk of the increase comes from existing gardeners.

However, at our open houses, we see a tremendous number of younger people, generations X, Y, and Z,” he says. “They’re interested in connecting to nature and having a garden experience in a different way than their parents or grandparents, who were all about better living through chemicals. They’re learning to be more a part of nature, to garden more sustainably.”

Juniper Level Botanic Garden, a gift to N.C. State University, opens for public viewing two weekends this summer: July 10-12 and July 17-19. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays.

“At our open house, you’ll see a range of plants you’ve never seen,” Avent says. “Many plants don’t emerge until mid-June, early July. People who don’t see the gardens in summer miss so many things. They miss many of our great native perennials in the aster family — so many beautiful gold flowers.

Avent says that the tropical-looking plants are at their peak in the summer months; the cannas, the elephant ears, so many of the aroids (love lilies), and “all kinds of crazy things.”

He adds that pollinators are also more active in the summer months: all the bees, the native bees, the honeybees and the wasps.

“Wasps are actually predators of many beetles, so you want them in your garden,” Avent says. “Some gardeners are caught up in spraying every time they see an insect, but there are naturally balanced systems in place to take care of pests as long as your plants aren’t stressed. If you provide a sustainable environment, there is balance. When a pest arrives, another insect will take it out. The birds also dine on many problematic insects.”

Avent particularly invites parents to bring their children to the open houses.

“We have a full-time entomologist on staff to teach people about insects and how insects work in the garden,” he says. “Maybe we can get away from the concept that bugs are bad. They are critical to our life and nature.”

Avent points out that visitors will find a 25 to 30-degree difference just walking through sections of Juniper Level Botanic Garden.

“A garden is like a house,” he says. “It has walls. It has ceilings. It has the floor. It has furniture, and it has decorations. But we often don’t think of the outside of our house like we do the inside. So, when you walk outside, if you have a ceiling — the trees — it's going to be much cooler in there. Some plants love that baking sun, other plants like to have the filtered light of the tree canopy.”

Avent says that many people think they cannot plant in the summer.

“This is simply not true,” he says. “The establishment time for a plant is so much faster in the summer months, and the watering time for new plants is much shorter. If you plant in the winter, you can get by with infrequent waterings, but if you plant in summer, you need to water every day. But the tradeoff is that you only have to water for a week or so before the plant is fully established.”

Avent says that gardening is about diversity.

“Hopefully, we’ve learned that we, as a society, are better with diversity,” he says. “Gardens are the same way; we want everyone to have an incredibly diverse garden. That way, the garden has something for all the pollinators and something for every season for people to enjoy. That’s what we hope to show people when they come to visit.”

Avent stresses that it’s important for human society to share plants so that they aren’t allowed to go extinct.

“The rarer a plant is, the more it should be shared,” he says. “We believe in getting plants where they will thrive and become abundant.”

The Juniper Level Botanic Garden joined forces with N.C. State University and J.C. Raulston Arboretum because they all have the same mission, according to Avent.

“Secure the plants, study the plants, propagate the plants and share the plants,” he says. “It’s so important to our society. Every plant has a place, and every plant has a purpose.”

Juniper Level Botanic Garden in Raleigh is a $7.5-million gift to North Carolina State University from Tony and Anita Avent. To contribute to the university’s endowment fund to maintain and open the garden year-round and in perpetuity for the public, visit https://www.plantdelights.com/pages/help-preserve-juniper-level-botanic-garden-for-future-generations.

Fundraising efforts for Juniper Level Botanic Garden in conjunction with J.C. Raulston Arboretum, operate under the auspices of The Endowment Fund of N.C. State University, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, tax ID 56-6000756. Donors will receive an official receipt for contributions to the fund.

The gardens are located at 9241 Sauls Road, in Raleigh. Social distancing guidelines are enforced and face coverings are encouraged.

Visit www.jlbg.org for further information.

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