Stop and smell the oil painting
12th Annual Art in the Arboretum

Wrightsville Beach Magazine, Wilmington, NC
Tuesday, September 25, 2007

As the dog days of summer gradually ease into the milder days of fall, the gardens in the New Hanover County Arboretum are filled with color and grandeur, and enchanting music drifts through the leaves and over the tranquil pond in the center of the gardens. This serene site is the location for the 12th annual Art in the Arboretum; a fitting location to showcase some of our area's most gifted artists and talented musicians. If you haven't yet had the chance to tour the Arboretum, let this weekend-long event be your grand introduction as the Art in the Arboretum event blends all of the splendors of the Azalea Coast — beautiful landscapes, original art and lively music.

Since 1989, artists and local residents alike have been enjoying what is now being called "Wilmington's best-kept secret" - the New Hanover County Arboretum. Not only is the Arboretum a place of serenity and inspiration for artists, it has become a prime resource for anyone wanting to learn more about the various plants, trees, flowers and, alas, weeds that thrive in Wrightsville Beach, and how to handle them.

"If you have a house on Wrightsville Beach and you’re wondering what can be grown in your yard, this is a resource for you," says John Grudzien, an Arboretum Foundation Board member and head of the marketing committee. "Everything in the gardens can be grown in your very own yard, and we’re here to help you accomplish that."

In each garden you will find a small, decorated box containing information on everything from growing herbs to growing roses. And with the many varieties of gardens the Arboretum offers, there is sure to be one that brings your inner gardener to life and sparks inspiration for your own personal Eden.

There is an herb garden, a vegetable garden, a Japanese garden with a gorgeous teahouse, a perennial garden, a children’s garden (perfect for an afternoon tea party) and even a turf demonstration area — letting you see, touch and feel different types of grass that grow in our salty climate.

Over the years, Art in the Arboretum has evolved greatly to accommodate even more artists and guests. Several local artists have launched or enhanced their careers after showcasing their works in the garden.

Dumay Gorham, now well known for his dramatic and lifelike metalwork, had his first show at Art in the Arboretum and several pieces of his work are permanently displayed on the grounds. A favorite of his is the stunning Sea Serpent, located in the middle of the pond. Other popular artists from past shows include Julie Libby, a wood artist known for her essential and nonessential wood sculpture; Betty Brown, a watercolor artist who has supported Art in the Arboretum from the beginning; Karen Crouch, a metalwork artist recognized for her interesting and expressive work and Christa Sylvester, a clay sculptor.

These artists have helped bring the gardens to life with their mystical and stunning work, and the Art in the Arboretum event provides a chance for the community to witness the magic.

"The goal of the show is to create a complex experience showcasing expression and growth of the artists," says Noreen Stokes, an arboretum volunteer. "The event is a nonprofit fundraiser, and the money raised is returned to the arboretum for enhancement of the gardens."

Glana Nichols, Art in the Arboretum's art committee coordinator, has been a part of the event since its inception more than a decade ago, and she knows just how to make it bloom. "We decide where to place each piece so that it shows its best face," Nichols says. "It’s so nice to see people appreciating art and the garden at the same time. The love of art and the love of gardens overlap each other to create an event loved by all."

The event will be held Friday, October 12, and Saturday, October 13, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., on the grounds of the arboretum at 6206 Oleander Drive and costs $8 (free to 14 and under). Members, also called Friends of the Arboretum, will be admitted for $4. There will be several different kinds of music to enjoy, from harmony groups to strolling musicians, who will perform throughout the duration of the show.

From 5-7:30 p.m. Friday evening, a Membership Party will be held for the Friends of the Arboretum, where guests will have a chance to meet the artists while indulging in heavy hors d'oeuvres and wine. There will also be a silent auction, raffle, door prizes and music by the Cosmic Groove Lizards. -- Laura Rectenwald

Art in the Arboretum is Oct. 12 and 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The gardens at the New Hanover County Arboretum are located at 6206 Oleander Drive and are open to the public, free of charge, seven days a week from 8 a.m. to sunset.

The Plant Information Clinic answers your plant and gardening questions over the phone or in person, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

For more information: visit or call (910) 798-7679.