Gardens

Stroll down our garden paths and step back into a bygone era.

Encompassing more than 16 acres of gardens and landscapes, the Palace gardens were designed by noted landscape architect Morley Jeffers Williams in the 1950s and represent the formal garden style of 18th-century Britain.

This fall, the formal parterres of the Maude Moore Latham Garden and the Gertrude Carraway Garden will each have elaborate displays of mums. Our spring display includes daffodils, tulips and many other spring flowers. The Kellenberger Garden reflects the Colonial era with an arrangement of marigolds and celosia, which were popular in the 18th century, and cool-season vegetables will be ready for winter in the Kitchen Garden.

Also included in our site are gardens surrounding three historic houses – one with a formal lawn and camellia collection, town garden and swept yard/working garden. Three additional gardens reveal the splendor of Victoria era. The Etteinne Mitchell Riverside Garden includes a diversity of native plants, which are both beautiful and play an important role in the ecosystem. The plants selected survive both periods of flooding and of dry soil, and provide food and shelter for numerous animals.

What were the Palace Gardens really like?

We can only make intelligent guesses about what kind of gardens there might have been surrounding the 18th-century Palace. Governor Tryon seems to have had little interest in horticulture. Two maps of New Bern drawn in 1769, when the Palace was still under construction, reveal two different garden plans.

More than two centuries later, in 1991, Palace researchers discovered yet another plan. In the collections of the Academia Nacional de la Historia in Venezuela they found a garden plan that came from Palace architect, John Hawks. Hawks gave the plan to Venezuelan traveler Francisco de Miranda, who admired the Palace greatly during his 1783 visit to New Bern. The Miranda plan suggests a strong French influence instead of the more-to-be-expected English garden style. But who created the plan? Some attribute it to Claude Sauthier, a French cartographer well-versed in period garden design, who created a town map of New Bern in 1769 for Governor Tryon. But, when compared to plans of the Palace and other documents he created for Tryon, the handwriting in the Miranda plan is clearly that of John Hawks. The Miranda plan, furthermore, contrasts with Sauthier’s more rectilinear design, showing instead that the garden’s plan was for a path and open lawn from Pollock Street to the Palace courtyard, with more formal parterres in the French fashion extending behind the Palace to the Trent River.

None of the historic garden plans have ever been implemented at the Palace. Morley Williams designed the current gardens at the time of the Palace restoration. Before undertaking the Palace project, Williams had served on the faculties of Harvard and North Carolina State Universities and assisted in the restoration of the gardens at Mount Vernon and Stratford Hall. His designs are in the Colonial Revival style that was widely employed in the mid-20th century.