It was a quiet, pleasant morning at the N.C. Botanical Garden on Saturday.
With the tail-end of the fall colors overtop the gray November skies, the only sounds were birds singing in the trees and the footsteps of a small group walking the paths behind garden guide Fran Whaley.
The group was a part of the Second Saturday Botanical Garden tour, a monthly walking tour of the grounds. The garden has hosted the tours for a number of years, inviting guests between the months of March and November to learn about the plants as they explore the garden.
“The mission of the garden is to encourage the relationship with people, plants and conservation,” Whaley said. “Just acquainting them that the garden's here, what we do, like conserving the rare plants and other plants so people know it's here and can enjoy it and encourage them to come back.”
The tour started under the protective roof of the visitors center, as the morning’s rain drizzled. After introductions, the guests, including visitors from Maryland and Florida, embarked on the journey.
Between short strolls down the path, Whaley flipped around her binder of laminated pictures and maps. She gave the group information about the plants they walked by, including how and why certain flowers show different colors throughout the year.
The guests chatted about the fall coloring and smiled at Whaley’s news that a marriage proposal had taken place earlier that morning in the garden.
Along with horticultural facts, Whaley explained the plants in other contexts, including what local forests might have looked like for Native Americans before European settlement. She also discussed the ways plants can be used in foods and have been used in medicine.
Hoods and umbrellas went up as rain started to come down, and the group entered the sections of the garden devoted to N.C.’s diverse ecological regions. These areas feature plants that are native to their respective regions, including the sandhills, coastal plains and mountains.