New beginnings start at Mt. Cuba Center. The Mid-Atlantic botanic garden opens a new guest arrival experience in June with the unveiling of a Woodland Glade entrance garden, a sustainable parking lot, and a ticketing terrace. A woodland glade is a unique habitat where a clearing within a forested area allows sunlight to reach understory plants. Repurposing an underutilized space near the Copeland House and designed with an open planting style, this naturalistic garden builds upon the existing features of the space, making good use of breaks in the tree canopy to highlight native perennials and ferns juxtaposed against tall trees.
“The new arrival experience is designed to provide a sense of place that fits with the rest of our gardens while also creating a new environment to showcase different plants and planting styles,” says George Coombs, director of horticulture. “This new space prepares guests to understand the unique beauty of Mt. Cuba and the importance of gardening with native plants.”
Highlights in the new Woodland Glade include a witch hazel grove, a majestic yellowwood tree, and expansive sweeps of various perennials. Combined with the recently opened ticketing office and terrace, the new areas incorporate more than 12,000 native plants. These native plantings are not only beautiful, but ecologically beneficial.
Notable Native Woodland Glade Plants
Hydrangea arborescens ‘Haas’ Halo’ is a knockout offering the perfect combination of horticultural excellence and pollinator value. Its oversized lacecap flower heads were consistently among the largest in Mt. Cuba’s recent trial, Wild Hydrangea for the Mid-Atlantic, H. arborescens ‘Haas’ Halo’ was a seedling selected by Frederick Ray, plantsman and horticulture professor, from the Pennsylvania garden of Joan Haas. It also had a nearly flawless performance when grown in shade, where it displayed uniform growth, dark green foliage, and flower heads that remained attractive for months after their midsummer bloom.
Cypripedium kentuckiense (Kentucky lady’s slipper): Few orchids can rival stunning Kentucky lady’s slipper in mid-May with its attractive yellow flowers. This perennial, multi-stemmed orchid produces the largest flowers of any known lady’s slipper. This plant is rarely found in the wild and is vulnerable to becoming extinct. These orchids were propagated in Mt. Cuba’s greenhouse. This plant performs best in filtered-to-partial shade with moist soil and is adaptable in alkaline soils.
Jamesianthus alabamensis (Alabama warbonnet): This is considered to be a rare plant with very small populations in Alabama and Georgia (mostly in the mountains and spilling into the Piedmont). It grows 3-4 feet tall along lightly shaded, moist streambanks over limestone bedrock. Its bright yellow flowers look similar to sunflowers, asters, or coreopsis.
This plant was a gift to Mt. Cuba to hold in trust for future generations. If something were to happen to this plant’s original population, Mt. Cuba and a few other botanic gardens across the country have “backups.” Mt. Cuba works to conserve plants like this to make sure they are not lost in the wild and to learn about what they need to thrive today.
The new entry experience maintains Mt. Cuba’s intimate feel as guests move along accessible pathways from the new parking lot, featuring 73 new parking spaces, to the Copeland House. The new pathways are also reflective of Mt. Cuba’s efforts to become more sustainable and to incorporate new design features to help mitigate water runoff in the parking lot. Called porous pavement, these new paths utilize recycled materials that are easier to walk on than mulch or asphalt, and it’s water-permeable, meaning that it allows water to pass through it and infiltrate the subsoil rather than causing run-off and erosion.