Airlie Gardens

Spring bulbs

Spring Bulbs at Airlie Gardens

Generations of locals and tourists travel to the historic property with its beautiful azaleas, dogwoods, camellias and various annuals bring a splash of color to the waterside oaks and pines.

A 67-acre county park, Airlie Gardens garnered nationwide fame for its spectacular plantings, which at one time included more than 600,000 azalea bushes and more than 5,000 camellias.

The most famous couple to originally owned the property were J. Pembroke Jones, a wealthy rice trader, and wife Sarah (Sadie) Jones, who bought a 150-acre tract in 1886. They named their estate “Airlie,” after the ancestral Scottish home of Jones’ family.

After the Joneses’ deaths, the Airlie property passed to the Corbett family in 1948. Bertha and Waddell Corbett operated the gardens as a private tourist attraction for many years. In 1999, in cooperation with the N.C. Coastal Land Trust, New Hanover County acquired Airlie from the Corbetts at a cost of $10.5 million.

pergolafountain

Pergola Fountain

Attractions include the gigantic Airlie Oak, estimated to be more than 460 years old, the Pergola Fountain and plantings arranged to bloom year-round.

The property known as Airlie was part of a 640-acre land grant from King George II to the Ogden brothers in 1735; by the 1800s much of the original acreage had been transferred to Joshua Grainger Wright.
It was not until the arrival of Sarah Jones, wife of Pembroke Jones, that a formal garden was created. The Joneses were wealthy industrialists noted for their lavish entertaining.

They used Airlie as a means to accommodate their guests and parties.

Camellia Garden

Camellia Garden at Airle Gardens

Sarah Jones began planting the property in 1901 and later in 1906 commissioned German landscape architect Rudolf Topel to transform the tract into a picturesque garden. Airlie reached its peak during the 1920s, at which time it was reported that over a half million azaleas and 5,000 camellias were in the garden; many of these plants still bloom and thrive in the garden. The 67-acres of today’s Airlie are all that remain of the original 155-acre estate.
The Corbett Family purchased the Airlie property from the Joneses in 1948 and used the gardens as a primary residence. Local business owners with strong ties to the community, the Corbetts would open the garden to the public several seasons throughout the year, especially in the spring during azalea bloom. In 1999 the family sold the property to New Hanover County.

Bridal Walkway Airlie Gardens

Bridal Walkway Airlie Gardens

Today, Airlie is a local treasure as one of the last undeveloped land tracts along Bradley Creek. The gardens are undergoing restoration and are now preserved for public use.

Regular season hours at Airlie are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., seven days a week. During spring bloom season, the gardens stay open till 7 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Winter hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

Cost: Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children aged 6-12. Children younger than 6 are admitted free.

Visit www.airliegardens.org for more information.

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