A Local Secret Garden


Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary were created by Elizabeth and Edward Clarkson in 1927 on their estate off of Ridgeway Avenue in the Myers Park area of Charlotte. The gardens, enclosed on all sides by brick walls, encompass almost three acres in the heart of Charlotte and include lovely vistas, formal gardens, and woodland areas. Elizabeth’s gardens were planted to provide a sanctuary for birds and other wildlife. The gardens provide cover, nesting sites, food, and water for the fowl and other small animals that take refuge in the gardens.

When I visited Wing Haven last Friday I discovered that throughout the garden Elizabeth, and later her Estate, had placed small plaques bearing the names of the many plants and flowers. I also discovered small plaques inscribed with inspirational quotes hidden among rose bushes and in front small water pools.  Visitors to Wing Haven will marvel not only at the gardens but at the frequent sightings of birds and the small wildlife scampering throughout the property. Wing Haven truly is a quiet sanctuary secluded behind stone walls, iron fences, and large oaks.

The garden’s creator, Elizabeth Clarkson, was diagnosed with undulant fever and was often bedridden because of this illness. To entertain herself while recovering Elizabeth focused her interests on ornithology. She began journaling about birds and their habits in 1933. Elizabeth Clarkson was also an early environmentalist. When the city of Charlotte sprayed DDT to reduce the mosquito population, Elizabeth protested the pesticides by blocking the fogging trucks. You can read Elizabeth’s journal entries here http://www.winghavengardens.com/ECBlog/index.asp

After Elizabeth’s death the Clarksons gave the gardens to the Wing Haven Foundation and its Board of Directors has been responsible for maintaining the gardens in keeping with the Clarksons’ spirit and intent.

I myself discovered Wing Haven Gardens last weekend when I visited the gardens to listen to a selection of personal favorites played by Ayoung Lee, a classically trained pianist. I arrived at the gardens at about 6:30 p.m. with several friends and we drank champagne and nibbled on finger foods while we toured the shady oasis. The rose garden was exceptional and a very fragrant spot in the dusky summer evening. I saw my first chipmunks at Wing Haven and delighted to see them darting to and fro amongst the underbrush beneath the mature oaks. Being from Florida, I had not previously seen chipmunks. The birds kept up a constant chatter and all the while lovely sounds from the talented Ayoung Lee floated out to us in the garden from Mrs. Clarkson’s old Steinway. Visiting Wing Haven was a wonderful treat for an early summer’s evening.

I encourage you to visit this local treasure and make a donation supporting the Wing Haven Foundation. Check this link for information on Wing Haven events. http://www.winghavengardens.com/SeasonalEvents.asp?month=6&year=2012

 ~Leanna Fitzgerald~

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Filed under Events, Hidden Treasures, Librarians Can Be Fun Too, Local Points of Interest and Events

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