Everything came up roses the first weekend in May: From the arrival of a new “English Rose,” Princess Charlotte, to a run for the roses by Kentucky Derby winner American Pharaoh, to the JC Raulston Arboretum celebrating the newly installed Finley-Nottingham Rose Garden at its annual gala.
The weather was rosy, as well. Recent unseasonably cold temperatures finally gave way to a picture perfect day, May 3, at the JCRA, NC State University’s renowned public garden and horticultural teaching, extension and research resource that is home to the largest and most diverse collections of landscape plants adapted for use in the Southeast.
This year’s gala theme was Stop and Smell the Roses, in commemoration of the completion of the Finley-Nottingham Rose Garden, which has been moved south of its previous location and enlarged with more planted areas, innovative architectural elements, new path designs and bench areas and other scenic spots for guests to enjoy.
The garden currently holds 100 roses and will ultimately hold 150, according to Mark Weathington, JCRA director. “Once they are established, we expect about 3,000 blooms per day during peak season in mid to late May and again in late September,” he said, adding that approximately 500 other shrubs and perennials will complement the roses.
“The new Finley-Nottingham Rose Garden was built thanks to the generosity of the A.E. Finley Foundation’s $125,000 gift,” he said. “Many of the roses were donated by Witherspoon Rose Culture, which will also be assisting in the maintenance of the rose collection.”
Along with being a destination area for arb visitors, the garden will also play its part in the JCRA’s research and education mission: “We will be evaluating the roses for their suitability, pest tolerance, disease resistance and other desirable traits for the Piedmont of North Carolina and the greater southeastern United States,” Weathington said.
The Gala in the Garden is the JCRA’s largest fund-raising event and one that is looked forward to eagerly each year by gardening enthusiasts from near and far. Proceeds enable continued evaluation and support of new plant material, child and adult educational opportunities and continuation of other programs as the JCRA supports the state’s economy through green industry partnerships and community outreach.
When not touring the grounds, gala guests visited six auction tents, featuring not only countless botanicals for sale, but also an amazing array of eclectic choices, such as art objects, garden needs and décor, hand-made quilts, gourmet picnic baskets, pottery, NC State Wolfpack-themed kitchenware, jewelry, birdhouses, wine collections and brunch with garden writer Brie Arthur, to name a few.
A main food tent and roaming servers offered gourmet servings to guests, followed later by NC State Howling Cow Ice Cream at the evening Finale Program and Dessert Social. Music for the afternoon activities was provided by event pianist Roger Lehman, with Bob Graves performing as Dessert Reception DJ.
Jill Adams of the A.E. Finley Foundation served as the 2015 Gala Honorary Chair, and Anne Clapp as Gala Event Chair, with Weathington hosting the event. NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Richard Linton were also on hand to support the event. – Terri Leith
Scenes from the gala: