I’ve just come back from a week in Raleigh, North Carolina where I attended the annual Perennial Plant Association conference. I renewed old friendships and made new ones, listened to some interesting lectures, and visited some incredible gardens.

One stood out, however, for its imagination, creativity, and vision. The Uncommon Garden was a grown man’s fantasy world of dragons and serpents in an Asian woodland setting. This garden was created out of nothing, being a flat piece of land when purchased. Over the years, it has become the setting for boardwalks, streams, ponds, geysers, walls, bridges, and caves.

So, I will lead you on a journey through this amazing garden, created with the vision of a man in a wheelchair and an artist who has sculpted the land and sculpted with stone and metal.

Entrance to The Uncommon Garden

Walking up the driveway, one immediately knows that this will be an unusual experience because the entrance is a series of silver and black steel panels topped with orange rectangles. Once inside the door, one sees a bamboo fence and wooden boardwalk that winds through a woodland.

Oriental bridge

Stream and massed Carex

Stream with undulating railing

Once over a small bridge, one views a stream with lush masses of Carex and exotic sculptures. Walking further on a path of concrete and swirling stone, one sees how wide the stream is. The viewing platform is edged with a low undulating, serpent-like railing, an inkling of the adventure yet to come.

Dragon with enormous claws

Steps with serpent railings

Another serpent railing

Shortly thereafter, one encounters a fearsome dragon whose claws are enormous. Happily, there is a walled, secret room across from him where one can hide out. However, in that room, lovely as it is, there is a set of steps with two railings, each of which is a serpent. Coming back down, there is another path with another serpent railing. This path leads to the second dragon.

Cave window

Dragon fire

Lake with geysers

Curvilinear boardwalk

Fortunately, there is a nearby cave into which one can escape from the dragon. The cave has a window into the secret room but it also surprises with fire from the dragon’s mouth. Hurrying through the cave, one sees a lake with geysers in it. Thus, one is impelled to keep moving forward, finally emerging onto a curvilinear boardwalk.

Happily, this work of art is frequently used as a fund-raising venue, meaning that many people get scare themselves silly if their imagination is equal to the task.