Open Days Program—For the Love of Gardening

For the Love of  Gardening— The Thompson Garden by Kathleen Thompson.

The beauty of this suburban garden begins at street side where a path beckons you to enter and enjoy a preview of the abundant plantings that follow. The front garden is a delight of shrubs and perennials showcasing a spectacular thread-leaf Japanese maple. Upon entering the brick walkway at the arbor, you view a gently sloping garden with curved borders and pathways outlined with recycled concrete.  Beds, with ever-shrinking lawn areas, are richly planted with perennials featuring a mix of native and specialty plants including tropicals, all in perfect harmony in both shade and sun. A number of the plants are rare and unusual, collected and propagated at the J.C. Raulston Arboretum. A small pond can be found along the network of twisting trails that lead through the woods to a community lake. Each area of this garden will elicit a sense of serendipity and discovery of plants, woods, and water.


Welcoming Vignettes – The Thompson Garden

Walt and I started designing this garden even before we designed and built the house over 25 years ago. Our style is Southern Informal, our goal was to design a garden utilizing the best characteristics of the slope of our land.



Saturday May 17 and Sunday May 18, 2014

We started with mattock and heavy-duty tiller, added what seemed like tons of compost to obtain rich healthy soil. Our land is heavily wooded with a moderate slope leading to our community lake. Those woods and lake are home to an array of birds, bats, ducks, rabbits, squirrels, fox, and the occasional deer, some are welcome to visit the garden, others (especially the deer) are not.

The first thing we did was enhance the trail through the woods to the lake; the boring builder plants were quickly removed from the front of the house too. We enjoy native plants along with exotics and tropicals, a great mix.

Amorphophallus making it's Spring Debut at the Thompson Garden

Amorphophallus making it’s Spring Debut at the Thompson Garden

My all time favorite tool is the Japanese weeder. Also his and hers long and short-handled shovels. My friends have been known to say “she has a shovel and knows how to use it.” It’s true.

Our garden time varies by season, an average would be about 15 hours a week . We use shredded hardwood mulch in the garden beds, wood chips on the trails. Lots of new work done in the last year, new front garden, retaining walls with raised beds, eliminated more grass.

I can remember being about 4 years old, a woman who lived on our street had a beautiful yard and I would just go and look at it. She would come out and yell “you get away from there”. That may sound negative, but for me, it was so beautiful since we had no place to plant anything in an apartment in the city.


We started our own garden with the purchase of our first home. Each home since has had a better garden, in Virginia, Texas and now in NC. This is our 4th home/garden. Ideas and inspiration are everywhere, especially visiting other people’s gardens, the JCRA. We truly enjoy visiting Tony Avent’s garden.

My mother is probably the best gardener I’ve ever known. With limited resources, she always had a beautiful garden once we moved from the city to our family farm. She could make anything grow!!


During our 3 warmer seasons and frequently in winter, we’ll sit on the porch for breakfast and dinner and just enjoy the garden and the birds. We also sit by the pond and just feel nature all around us.

The best suggestion we share with new gardeners is to take the time and prepare the soil the best you can, doing that one tough job will make your future gardening much easier and more enjoyable. Some people look at the garden and see only the work involved. We see the garden as stress reducing enjoyment. The pleasure derived far outweighs the amount of labor put into it.

We hope you visit the Garden we Love this weekend… Kathleen and Walt Thompson


Cary, Raleigh, and Wake Forest  Open Days
Friday, May 16 | 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturday, May 17 | 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, May 18 | 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Visit seven private gardens in Cary, Wake Forest, and Raleigh, , NC.

The JC Raulston Arboretum at North Carolina University in Raleigh will also be welcoming visitors.

Admission: $7 per garden
Discounted admission tickets (6 tickets for $35 general / $21 Garden Conservancy members) will be available in advance at the JC Raulston Arboretum (4415 Beryl Road, Raleigh). Admission to the Arboretum is free.

Open Days are self-guided and proceed rain or shine.
No reservations are required.

Enjoy – living the EntwinedLife

Jayme B

Garden Conservancy Regional Representative

J.C. Raulston Arboretum Volunteer

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