NEW HANOVER COUNTY – Airlie Gardens has been around for more than a century, so combining history and horticulture comes naturally.
Starting Thursday, the venue will be sharing those two things with the general public in a new way, as volunteer guides begin leading weekly history tours through the 67-acre gardens, which are run by New Hanover County.
“We’ve offered walking tours for groups before, but you would have to call in and make special reservations,” said Rebecca Hunt, guest services manager for the gardens. “We’ve never done drop-in tours before where they’re open to the public.”
The tours will be held every Thursday morning starting at 10 a.m. throughout the month of September. Participants will walk a little less than a mile during the hour-long tour. Along the way, they’ll learn about how the gardens were first established as a private space by Pembroke and Sarah Jones, the original owners of the land, as well as about local artist Minnie Evans, who was the gardens’ gatekeeper from 1949 to 1974. Guides will also highlight the flowers and plants that thrive in the area and in the South, such as azaleas, camellias and Spanish moss.
“We have different guides, so each tour might be a little different,” said Hunt, noting the gardens are also home to several structures as well as the 471-year-old Airlie Oak. “What’s consistent throughout is the history that will be told.”
The tours are included with the price of admission and don’t require pre-registration. Though they’re currently only being offered in the month of September, Hunt said they could become a regular feature.
“This is kind of our test to see what kind of interest there is for these tours,” Hunt said. “If it’s really popular, we’ll do more of them.”
For more information on Airlie Gardens, including operating hours and admission prices, visit their website.
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