Belmont’s Daniel Stowe Garden breaks ground on Lost Hollow

November 8, 2013 

— Leaders at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden on Thursday broke ground for Lost Hollow: The Kimbrell Children’s Garden, a new space planned for the heart of the 380-acre garden where children of all ages can let their imaginations run wild.

Charlotte philanthropist and businessman Bill Williamson, along with fellow Garden board member Anne Efird, announced that they expect to top $4 million in donations in the coming weeks. Of that total, half came in the form of a challenge gift from Gastonia Textile Executive Duke Kimbrell and his wife, Dot.

Currently the effort stands at nearly $3.7 million, enough to allow Rodger Builders, the Charlotte-based general contractor that built the Garden’s Orchid Conservatory in 2007 and Visitor Pavilion in 1999, to begin construction next week. Construction, including plantings and hardscapes, will take about a year, Executive Director Kara Newport said.

In addition to acknowledging the board, especially the leadership of Williamson and Efird, Newport thanked major donors. Among them are 96-year-old Orpha Baxter, who became one of the first donors when she pledged $75,000 to support the refurbishment and installation of the Aviary, one of the many pieces that will come to the Garden from Daniel Stowe’s estate.

Newport also noted the unusual motivation for businessman and historian Robert Ragan’s contribution to support the construction of the Sunken Pond. The pond, he said brought back fond memories of his canine pal, Snip, who saved the then 18-month-old Ragan from drowning in a backyard lily pond.

Medieval Discovery

In keeping with the medieval theme of the garden, described as a “deconstructed castle” by its designer W. Gary Smith of New York, the ceremonial shovel pushers got a surprise when they turned the first few shovels of dirt. A trunk, ostensibly from the Middle Ages, was unearthed and contained the plans for Lost Hollow. After unlocking the box, Smith gave the plans to builders from Rodgers.

The ceremony was held surrounding Smith’s drawing of an all-seeing eye of protection that he rendered on the brick pavers there earlier in the day. He illustrated it in actual size at the location where it will be installed in pavers in the coming months.

Participating in the ceremony were children from nearby schools, including Gaston County’s W.A. Bess Elementary, York County’s Crowders Creek Elementary and Palisades Episcopal School in Mecklenburg County as well as homeschool students and others.

Smith, who has designed children’s gardens around the country said that there simply isn’t anything like Lost Hollow anywhere in the United States.

“I’m fortunate to be working on such a wonderful project,” said Smith. “I get to view the world through children’s eyes so I can design a garden that is not only beautiful, but is an experience they will want to repeat again and again.”

“You have something pretty special here,” Smith Said. We’re not going to just give them the storyline and let them walk through. They will discover something new every time they visit Lost Hollow.”

About Lost Hollow

Designed with the spirit of the Garden’s founder, Daniel J. Stowe, in mind, Lost Hollow will offer guests a memorable experience that can be found nowhere else on earth. It will flow seamlessly from the formal design of the established gardens to paths where adventure is waiting to unfold. Striking, Old World architecture combines with sophisticated southern horticulture, to envelop guests as they begin to follow footsteps of yore. More than just a garden, it challenges conventional approaches to design with 14 destinations within the Garden.

To view sketches of Lost Hollow, visit

For example, in one of the Garden’s centerpieces, “Sunken Pond” there is what might be interpreted as remnants of an ancient castle below the water’s surface. It will be, however, a place to appreciate the serene beauty of an aquatic landscape. A Throne Room includes substantial stone thrones and statues of horses from Stowe’s front porch.

Key to the display are pieces of Daniel Stowe’s estate, including a large fireplace opening that will become Fireplace Cave, a European phone booth among a grove of walnut trees that mixes in the anachronistic tone of Dr. Who and an Aviary that will house, not birds, but potentially playful young guests centered in a garden full of foods for native wildlife.

Smith has put together a dynamic team for the design process. He and the Garden are working with the landscape design firm Sitework Studios, based in Asheville and a variety of other experts including blacksmith and metal artist Lynda Metcalfe.

Smith has an extensive portfolio of garden designs including Enchanted Woods at Winterthur in Delaware and the new Santa Fe Botanical Garden in New Mexico. In addition to working with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas, New York’s Bryant Park and other gardens around the country, Smith was selected to design this garden because of his ability to create unique, stirring experiences. Smith is the author of From Art to Landscape, Unleashing Creativity in Garden Design, which received a national book award from the American Horticultural Society. He is also a much-sought-after lecturer.

DSBG is located at 6500 S. New Hope Road in Belmont. Viist for more information.

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