With dozens of rare plants and plenty of tucked-away natural refuges in their backyard, Mary Coker Joslin and her husband William have created a sort of “secret garden” over the past half-century.
Soon the natural gem near Five Points will be open for all Raleigh residents to enjoy. The Joslins agreed to donate the property on West Lake Drive back in 2011, although it stays private until Mary Coker Joslin moves out. But city leaders are already planning for the eventual park, and the City Council approved a preservation plan last week.
“This is a wonderful gift for the city of Raleigh,” said former Mayor Charles Meeker, who chairs the City of Oaks Foundation – the nonprofit set up to receive the donation and manage the gardens.
The plan instructs how to make the site accessible to all, with the house becoming available to host small educational programs and group meetings. Foundation director Kevin Brice said no major changes are needed to the four-acre property.
“What we’re trying to do is keep what the Joslins have done at the site and preserve and protect it,” he said.
Brice said the city parks department will work out a management agreement with the foundation; it’s still too early to project operating and maintenance costs for the site. The gardens will be funded by a mix of city dollars and private donations.
Horticulturalists from the city have been cataloguing the gardens’ plants in recent months. Some of the plants were a gift from J.C. Raulston, for whom the arboretum at N.C. State University is named. Others came from the N.C. Botanical Gardens in Chapel Hill and from private nurseries in the Carolinas.
The gardens consist of 13 sections, with individual themes ranging from wildflowers to pine woodlands. A small creek runs through the center of the property.
The Joslins have tended the garden since 1950. William Joslin, a prominent Raleigh lawyer who was active in the Democratic Party, died at age 90 in January 2011. Both Joslins led the restoration of the Coker Arboretum at UNC-Chapel Hill and helped assemble property for Green Park near their home. They opened their private garden to visitors once each April, a tradition that will continue until it becomes a full-time park.
The Joslins, Brice said, “are the kind of people we all inspire to be – generous, compassionate and civic-minded.”
That legacy will live on as future generations continue to enjoy their beloved gardens.