Pender Pines Gardening Center: The Happiest Place on Earth (Part 2)

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by Donna Byrd

I am still at Pender Pines Gardening Center and am now convinced it is Disney, NC.  I have been through the magic kingdom of plants and pretties, piling on my purchases to replicate this piece of heaven in my yard.   Pulling my heavy cart, I walk into a warm blast of moist air and check out the Garden of Eden. Luscious tendrils of shiny, green leaves hang like Rapunzel’s locks from the castle’s top window.  Potted plants are hung from the green house’s metal structure.

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They are the healthiest plants I’ve ever seen! Following  the pathway, I pass a turtle display, complete with a small pond for swimming and rocks for sitting. A few turtles are posing just for me on the rocks and some are hiding in some green foliage nearby.

I hear another high pitched scream and see several bird cages with tropical birds perched on limbs. There’s a parrot and Gold Macaws, Gray cockatiels and Barney, a Red-lored Amazon and his friend, Squawk.IMG_1488 (Large) I see an African Gray and honestly think he’s talking to me. I feel as if I’m in an Amazon rainforest and wonder how I magically appeared on the scene when all of a sudden, I see tropical bromeliads and orchids, a lovely fountain surrounded by lilies and then… I remember that I’m at Pender Pines Garden Center. Trying to shake off the magic, I wander out of the rainforest and jungle greenhouse.

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That is when I notice that beyond the Maple tree display,  the sidewalk gives way to a pathway of sorts; one that meanders through blooming azaleas and exotic trees just coming to life from a sleepy winter.  I spot the red bench by a pond with cascading water.IMG_1478 (1) (Large)

Thinking that this must be the arboretum I  heard about, I realize how weary I am from expending so much creative energy while walking through the garden center.  Making a decision to leave my cart at the end of the sidewalk, I walk into the peaceful sanctuary. Sitting for a few minutes by the pond, I watch the Koi swim and start to slip into the “moment” that nature’s beauty and quiet can cast over you. My, what a lovely spot! I decide that I, too shall have a pond with cascading water just like this so I can find perfect moments of peace in my own yard. I really don’t want to leave this magic garden spot, but I begin strolling through the rest of the arboretum, noticing how the placement of certain trees, bushes and flowers can create an atmosphere of beauty and tranquility. I want that too. Yes, I want it all!IMG_1518 (1) (Large)

Stumbling out of the quiet back into the busy parking lot, I remember my full cart that I left back on the sidewalk and turn to retrieve it. But wait!  All of a sudden, I notice the….goats? I must check them out! It’s a family of goats in a fenced in area and I see children feeding them. Beyond the goats, separated by another fence are…alpacas?
That’s something you don’t see everyday and I decide I want to get up closer to see where the wool for that beautiful, warm, red alpaca sweater I got for Christmas came from. IMG_1513 (Large)They are darling! Larger than I expected them to be. I wonder if they have false eyelashes, they are so pretty!  There’s a sign that tells you if you pet them they may spit at you, so I back away. Surely, these pretty ladies don’t spit!

I turn back around and on the way back to my cart, there’s a hen house with chickens running around in a caged area.  Turning the corner to get a better look, low and behold, the chickens are upstaged by a pair of Emus. Yes! Emus! Someone else is watching them beside me and says that almost all of the birds and animals at Pender Pines Garden Center are rescue animals. Wow! What a marvellous place! It’s not everyday that I can stand, eye to eye with an emu.IMG_1520 (1) (Large)

I feel that primal, primordial feeling come over me when I look into that emu’s eye. There’s something reptilian about his face and neck that makes me wonder about our beginnings. Does he have ancient secrets in that small, little head of his? I make myself look away and decide that maybe I’ll put a colorful peacock in my fancy garden, to just jazz it up a bit. The emus are too exotic!

Making it back to my cart, I pull it into the “store part” of the gardening center to purchase my findings.  It is there that I notice all the things in there for sale that will make my garden grow as beautifully as their displays. While in line, I look at my cart and realize I’ve taken on quite a bit of responsibility. As a matter of fact, everyone else waiting in line has too. We’ve all been cast under a magic spell. Beauty has made us believe we can go home and magically recreate what we’ve seen today; that “feeling” we felt while sitting on that red bench.IMG_1496 (1)

I feel like a parent at the Disney princess store. There, you buy one of the Disney princess dresses for your little girl and the accessories to go with it. Then, you let a Disney employee to put a bit of makeup on your little angel and  allow her to have a photo shoot wearing her fancy dress with their professional photographers. Of course, this is very expensive but you think, “Hey, we’re at Disney. Why not? It’s a great opportunity to make beautiful memories. We’ll have these pictures as keepsakes and she’ll have this as a play dress until she outgrows it. It’s worth it” You’ve been taken and you don’t even mind. You knew it was going to happen!

That’s the way it is here at my Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. I came expecting to be wowed by beautiful things, knowing I’d spend quite a bit of money. Heck, I don’t mind that I’ve been taken. I look at my heavy cart and realize it’s just the first of many heavy carts that I’ll have to purchase to create what’s in my mind. Some of the seasoned gardeners give me a knowing look.
They’ve stood in this line many times to create their own magic kingdoms.  I smile. I’m going to create my own “happiest place on earth!” It will be at home in my own yard! Thanks for inspiring me, Pender Pines Garden Center. Now, just let me go home and get my hands in the dirt!IMG_1503 (Large)

Pender Pines Garden Center is located at:

20949 US Hwy. 17 North

Hampstead, NC 28443


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