Explore the Dare County Arboretum and Teaching Garden

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Outerbanks Arboretum and Teaching GardenHang onto your hat! You’re about to enter a humming, thrumming, real-life search engine tucked away from the distractions and demands of daily living where you can immerse yourself in a verdant oasis, discover answers to the most confounding horticultural questions, and become one with nature.
Welcome to the Outer Banks Arboretum and Teaching Garden. Maintained by the Dare County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers, the Garden is a testament to the power of community and a showcase for our local flora. It’s a place where nature enthusiasts of all ages can explore and learn. Well-tended walking paths meander past a variety of plants and trees, all handily identified with name plates bearing the common name as well as the botanical name. Benches are thoughtfully placed throughout the garden, providing opportunities to relax and soak up the tranquil atmosphere.

Can you guess our most frequently asked horticulture-related question? That distinction goes to: What kind of grass can I grow on the Outer Banks? Homeowners are happy to live at the beach, but despite the challenges, they yearn for a lush green lawn. The issue of our notoriously sandy soil can be addressed at one of the Arboretum’s Demonstration Gardens where tidy beds of Centipede, St. Augustine, Zoysia, Fescue, and Bermuda sprout – a turf-lover’s dream. The Demonstration Gardens are a treasure trove of knowledge for anyone looking to enhance their green thumb, providing insights into effective planting, watering, and soil management practices.

Interested in a plant to keep erosion and weeds at bay? Creeping stonecrop might sound frightening, but never fear – it’s just a friendly groundcover that’s easy to grow, drought-tolerant, and a great addition to your landscape. As are bugleweed, common periwinkle, and black mondo grass.

The blend of aromatic scents from the Herb Garden might have you contemplating what’s for dinner. This culinary mix includes parsley, lemon balm, pineapple sage, thyme, rosemary, and Mexican mint marigold which boasts a slight licorice flavor, is a delicious seasoning for fish and chicken, and can be used to make infused vinegar for salad dressing. Even the bright yellow flowers are edible!

Butterfly Garden SignA photo op awaits in the enchanting Butterfly Garden where a butterfly-shaped chair invites one to recline and gaze upon the fluttering pollinators as they sip sweet nectar from swamp sunflowers, purple lantana, glossy abelia, and purple cone flower. The Butterfly Garden is meticulously maintained by the Dunes of Dare Garden Club and adds a touch of magic to the Arboretum.

The best gardens please all the senses. For those with sensory processing sensitivities, nature can be a particularly welcome escape from the noisy parts of their world. This is pleasantly illustrated in the Sensory Garden where lavender, lemon verbena, spearmint, rosemary, and the velvety touch of lamb’s ear offer visual, textural, fragrant, and taste qualities – a holistic sensory experience. The sound of buzzing bees and birdsong provide a nice accompaniment.

Despite the challenges of our coastal landscape – sandy soil, high temperatures, wind, and salt spray – even the delicate daylily can survive and thrive here. A surprising number of flowers which are well-suited to our climate are featured in the Arboretum’s Annuals and Perennials section. Vibrantly colored gaillardia flowers are prolific along sandy beach walkways. They are drought and salt-tolerant and even attract pollinators. Black-eyed Susan, hummingbird plants, coreopsis, and salvia are all welcome here. In the Central Garden area, say hello to familiar wax myrtles, camellias, crape myrtles, and the venerable live oaks.

Stroll in the cool shade of the Wetlands Walkway where a breeze ruffles the emerald-green fronds of ferns and clumps of river oats join numerous other marsh-loving plants. From there, find yourself in the Blueberry Cove area where picnic tables beckon one to pause for a snack or alfresco lunch.

What else are you likely to see in the Arboretum? A Master Gardener volunteer raking the path, pruning, pulling weeds, or performing any number of other chores necessary to keep the garden in tip-top shape.

The Dare County Arboretum and Teaching Garden has blossomed into a place of beauty where hundreds of visitors have been inspired, informed, and filled with a sense of wonder. Thanks to the dedicated, hard-working volunteers who toil so tirelessly to make it a success.

Tip your hat to all of them!

The Outer Banks Arboretum and Teaching Garden is adjacent to the Thomas A. Baum Senior Center, 300 Mustian Street, Kill Devil Hills. It is opened 365 days a year from sunrise to sunset. Leashed pets are welcome.