April 17 Update

Several plants continue to bloom this week including Dogwood (Cornus florida), Redbud (Cercis canadensis), several Violet species (Viola sororia, V. bicolor), Green and Gold (Chrysoganum virginianum), Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea), Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), Carolina Jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens), Cats Paw (Antennaria plantaginifolia), Silene species (Red, White, and Pink ones), Phlox, Saxifrage and Trillium.

In addition, some new plants have started to bloom, including Cinquefoil (Potentilla canadensis), Carpet Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans), the deciduous Magnolia acuminata known as the Cucumber Tree, Lady Slipper Orchids (Cypripedium spp.), Blueberries (Vacinum corymbosum), and Crested Iris (Iris cristata).

On Monday, April 8, an azalea began to bloom. The flowering was two weeks later than usual because of the cold weather season in March, but within the next few days the warm weather will create a rainbow of colors among the 618 azaleas throughout the Lion Lake area. Some azaleas will flower for only a week, others last two or more weeks. With such a variety of azaleas there will be some blooming later into May and June. Some of the azaleas are native to the county, such as the Pinxter-flower, found growing wild throughout the state mainly near streams in the forests. The orange and yellow azaleas (called flame azaleas) in the Gardens were transferred from the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia.

Already blooming, regardless of the weather are blood root (white, with petals similar to ox-eye daisies), trout lilies (yellow/gold flower with spotted leaves), jessamine (fragrant yellow vine growing usually in trees or bushes), cat's paws (also called everlasting, a white thick flower which feels like cat paws), and some flowers easily seen but rarely described. To show some appreciation for these carpets of lavender/purple/blue, Dennis Carey, the College's botany instructor has identified them as follows: Early Saxifrage (a white flower about four inches tall); Tiny Bluet (a dwarf species of light blue); Speedwell (a low and small blueish/lavender flower with overlapping four petals); Ground Ivy (low growing small purple flower, fragrant, in the mint family); and the most spectacular of all these small flowers are carpets of Henbit ( two species, one common with light blue/lavender, and non-native species, purple, and called Purple Henbit). The latter species are seen mainly near the lake's main bridge area.

With the frequent rain, the waterfall on the Waterfall Trail has a flow larger than in the past three years. The Gardens are open daily from sunrise to sunset. Visitors are requested to register (and if new to read the visitor regulations). All hikes should be on the trails to prevent damage to flowers and avoid fire-ants. Picnicking is allowed, but fishing, swimming, bicycling, and smoking are not allowed. Any individuals or groups from the College who wish a host or guide for the Gardens should contact Allen de Hart (919-496-4771, and adh4771@aol.com).


Location: The Gardens border US 401 on the east side, 5.5 miles south of Louisburg and 0.5 mile north of Royal Crossroads.

Hours: The Gardens are open to the public from sunrise to sunset. To determine what these specific hours are at any given time of the year, please use this online guide, making sure you have selected the correct month.

Acreage: 91 acres, which include a residence and structures for storage of botanical equipment

Emphasis: The Gardens include preserved forestation and an open area with a lake that provide protection for a wide range of botanical species. The Gardens are also open to the public for visitation, hiking, weddings, educational sessions, 5K track, community concerts, and picnicking.

Natural Environment: Prominent areas of Paleozoic granite, deciduous and evergreen forests, natural springs and streams with cascading sections, 1.5-acre lake, and more than 375 flora species and 100 fauna species. Considerable number of flora species unidentified. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has designated the Gardens as a bird sanctuary.

Previous History: The Gardens property is part of the former Myrtle Timberlake Plantation estate. Its colonial ancestral history is traced to a former land grant by Charles II of England. Records show that Richard Timberlake and his wife Mary owned considerable land in this area in 1789. One of their descendents was Julius P. Timberlake. He and his wife Martha acquired more than 2,000 acres and lived in the Rose Hill Plantation, a columned mansion with Georgian/Federalist design, located about one mile south of Louisburg on US 401. At Julius' death in 1901, his daughter Myrtle received 304.5 acres, mainly in the northeast of the Royal Crossroad. Foundations of the Myrtle Timberlake home remain on the Gardens' grounds and can be seen on a spur trail from the Waterfall Trail.

Current History: The Gardens have gone through three stages of development. The first 21 acres were called "Greencroft Gardens" because Allen de Hart and his wife Flora lived in a colonial home name Greencroft in Albermarle County (near Charlottesville, Va). The Gardens' design and development began in 1963 and the lake was constructed in 1969. Following additional expansion, the name became "Franklin County Nature Preserve." In 1984, the Gardens were charted as a private foundation and merged with the 168-acre De Hart Botanical Gardens (Section A) in Patrick County (near Stuart), Va. On April 26, 2012, the Gardens were officially given to Louisburg College. Mr. De Hart worked as a professor at the College for five decades.


To inquire about holding an event in the Gardens, please contact Allen de Hart at adh4771@aol.com or (919) 496-4771.