Airlie Gardens

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Wilmington, NC
United States
Airlie Gardens

Landscape Information

This 67-acre garden was part of the original 155-acre estate of industrialists Sarah Green and Pembroke Jones. In 1901 socialite Sarah Green Jones began planting around the coastal inn she had purchased in 1884. Five years later, the Joneses commissioned German immigrant Rudolf Topel to design a more extensive picturesque garden for the estate. With Topel’s concept, the site evolved into a naturalistic landscape that included man-made lakes and curvilinear paths woven through stands of longleaf pines, magnolias, and live oaks and thousands of azaleas and camellias. The lakes were crossed by wooden bridges until the 1960s, when they were replaced by earthen causeways to help protect against coastal flooding. A coquina pergola anchors the edge of the largest lake near the bridge. At the height of the garden’s splendor in the late 1920s, over half a million azaleas were planted on the property, where the Joneses hosted elaborate parties. The property was purchased in 1948 by the Corbett family, who allowed public access to the garden for part of the year. In 1999, the gardens were sold to New Hanover County, who restored them and opened the property year round as a public park. The landscape today is planted with over 100,000 azaleas and includes a sculpture garden, tranquility garden, spring garden, and camellia garden.