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JC Raulston Arboretum Garden Party & Rare Plant Auction

Permission granted for redistribution and reprint – All photos courtesy of JC Raulston Arboretum
Garden Party and Rare Plant Auction May 5th at NCSU's JC Raulston Arboretum​​​​​​​

An interview with Mark Weathington, Arboretum Director
RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA – With spring in full bloom on the first Sunday in May, the JC Raulston Arboretum Garden Party and Rare Plant Auction returns to North Carolina State University. Rain or shine, white tent festivities will be held on the Arboretum’s Great Lawn, May 5th, from 2:30 to 6:00 PM.

Launched over 25-years ago, the annual Garden Party and Rare Plant Auction is the Arboretum’s signature spring event, catering an afternoon filled with tasty treats, local craft beer, wine, live entertainment, plus silent and live auctions. Rare and collectible plants will be picked up by the highest bidders, as well as a variety of exceptional plants for indoor, patio, or outdoor locations, including a selection of flowering perennials, flowering shrubs, and larger trees. Other items on the block include unique travel opportunities, dining experiences, and garden ornaments.  

Sponsored by the North Carolina Agricultural Foundation, proceeds will benefit the daily operations of the Arboretum. Tickets are available online: Click here for information and ticket purchases. Due to limited capacity, a sellout is expected.

“The Garden Party is such a fun event and the best time of year to get together with people in one of the prettiest settings in North Carolina,” said Arboretum Director Mark Weathington. “People can grab a beverage, wander through the gardens to our lawn space, enjoy tasty finger foods, and live entertainment.

“The live and silent auctions have something for everyone, including a good variety of really rare, unusual, hard-to-find plants. Some of them from our own collection, some of them we get from our colleagues at other botanic gardens, plant breeders, or nurseries that specialize in rare things. We try to go for things that are difficult if not impossible to find, then we couple them with other great pieces of garden ornaments, garden-related items, sometimes jewelry, plus fantastic trips in the United States and around the world.

“We often do quite a few succulents which are very popular for people in offices, condominiums, apartments, and smaller spaces. We’ll have some tropical type plants, indoor plants to put on your patio and bring inside during the winter. There will be garden art, pieces that help bring the outdoors inside if you feel like you don’t have a green thumb.

“For outdoor landscapes, ticket-holders will find pretty good size trees, flowering shrubs, and herbaceous flowering perennials for gardens. So, it really doesn’t matter whether you have sun or shade, a lot of space or a little space, we will have plants that fit into any location – something for everyone.

“The silent auction is mobile bidding. We have people set up at stations to help with the app on your phone. This allows people to have fun at the party, hang out with friends, meet new ones, and to keep up with the fun of the changing status of their bids.

“The live auction is reserved for the rarest of the rare with lots of excitement and suspense. The highest bid over the years was $4,500 for a trip for two to Portugal, and we sold beautiful smaller plants for as little as $25.

“The Garden Party and Rare Plant Auction would be a fantastic early surprise for Mother’s Day, which is the following Sunday. There’s nowhere else you can have this combination of a fun outdoor party, entertainment, plant auction, beautiful flowers, and plants, which are always perfect for Mother’s Day. It’s definitely unique.

“Life’s just too short for boring plants. I think our gardens and plants can and should reflect our personalities. One of the big problems of our time is what we call plant blindness – not really seeing the plants around us. With children, they call it nature deficit disorder, disconnected from the natural world. We all need to spend more time, especially with our children, families, and friends, reconnecting with the natural world.

“The auction always includes a good number of choice and unusual Japanese maples, which lots of people want in their gardens,” said Weathington. “The list varies from year-to-year, but we usually have some unusual and cutting-edge things like hostas and hellebores, brand new and just released hydrangeas. Another item we’re excited about is the introduction of a new redbud, and it’s called the Flame Thrower. Not publicly available yet, we will auction one at our sale. The Flame Thrower is a complete breakthrough with brilliant gold foliage that darkens to deep burgundy repeatedly over the season. It’s like a fall color all season long.

“We’re still acquiring plants. Last year we auctioned off a plant that we had collected in Sichuan, China, one that was superior to other plants of the same species. We needed to name the plant and get it into the hands of nurserymen. The winning bid won and named the plant.

“Another rarity, we work with a paleobotanist who looks at fossil wood and tries to figure out what they are. She discovered a new, but extinct species of pistachio tree. Last year the fossil was auctioned off, and the extinct species named in honor of the recipient’s father, who had just passed away.

“Part of the mission of JC Raulston Arboretum is to distribute plants, to get them into the hands of people. In addition to distributing them to nurseries who will grow them and make them even more widely available, this is another opportunity for us to get plants out to people who will enjoy them,” said Weathington.

JC Raulston Arboretum is at 4415 Beryl Road in Raleigh. Beryl Road is accessible from Hillsborough Street, across from Meredith College; Beryl Road is also approachable from Blue Ridge Road over the railroad tracks across from the State Fairgrounds.

Proceeds from Garden Party and Rare Plant Auction will benefit daily operations of the JC Raulston Arboretum. Fund-raising efforts operate under the auspices of the North Carolina Agricultural Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit (tax ID 56-6049304).

Photo gallery below is courtesy of JC Raulston Arboretum


Mark Weathington, Director
JC Raulston Arboretum
NC State University

Robert B. Butler
North Carolina Press Release

Permission granted for redistribution – photo credits required

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JC Raulston Arboretum Garden Party & Rare Plant Auction


JC Raulston Arboretum Garden Party & Rare Plant Auction

Garden Party and Rare Plant Auction JC Raulston Arboretum North Carolina State University Robert B Butler North Carolina Press Release Commun Read More


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