The Elizabethan Gardens is a 10.5 acre public garden located within Fort Raleigh National Historic Site adjacent to Waterside Theatre. The Elizabethan Gardens, Inc. is a subsidiary of the Garden Club of North Carolina, Inc.
The Gardens contain over 500 different species of plants. Featured collections include hydrangeas, camellias, historic herbs and a wide variety of native coastal species. Five full-time gardeners and several seasonal and part-time assistants care for The Gardens. Flower displays are changed seasonally to insure colorful displays throughout the year.
Of interest in particular are the camellia collection growing at The Gardens. The Elizabethan Gardens boasts a collection of more than 85 varieties of Camellias that encircle the Great Lawn. The original specimens were grouped by color and include early blooming Camellia sasanqua (C. sasanqua), winter blooming C. japonica, a C. sinensis (tea camellia) and a few C. hiemalis and C.vernalis which resemble sasanqua camellias, but which have enough differences to rate their own classification.
The collection was donated by the Camellia Society of North Carolina and arrived just before Hurricane Donna hit in 1960. Two members of the society and an un-named nurseryman banded together to plant the young shrubs before the bad weather arrived. Although the hurricane hit Roanoke Islandwith gale force winds; the camellias not only survived, they thrived because of the early rains.
In 2003, the collection was dedicated as a tribute to Louis Midgette, Jr., who served as superintendent of The Elizabethan Gardens for its first 28 years. He won many prizes in juried flower shows for his home grown camellias against competitors who grew specimens in protected climate controlled conditions.
Today the camellias are an important part of The Elizabethan Gardens botanical collection providing interest to the grounds during the coldest time of the year. The display sometimes continues through early April if it is a mild spring adding even more color to an already dramatic landscape.
Tucked in among the roses located in the rose garden is the rose sent by H.M., Queen Elizabeth II, from the royal rose garden at Windsor Castle. The Queen’s Rose Garden was dedicated in honor of Queen Elizabeth II by her emissary, Sir Peter Ramsbotham, British Ambassador, in September, 1976.
Another true gem among the living collections at The Gardens is one ancient live oak estimated to have been living in 1585 when the first colonists landed.
Horticulturists are thrilled by our myriad varieties of plants and trees; hybrid lilies originally donated by the N.C. Lily Society; colorful daylilies given by the Hemerocallis Society; and thousands of annuals and perennials planted and maintained by a small but devoted garden staff. We hope you will likewise enjoy and treasure our gardens.