Plants and trees across the Triangle are blooming this spring, creating the perfect atmosphere for a picnic or a simple stroll through the park. But with the weather constantly changing, it can be difficult to figure out where (and when) to find fresh flowers. 

As warm weather sets in, take a look at INDY Week’s guide on where to spot the rarest blossoms, get the best Instagram pics, and settle down with a quilt and a block of cheese. 

What’s in bloom?

Most spring flowers only start to bloom around the end of March. Early-blooming flowers include daffodils, camellias, tulips, pansies, and irises. The city is also full of flowering shrubs like azaleas—which sprout deep pink, red, or white flowers—and forsythia, which show a sunny yellow.

Some of the most eye-catching spring displays are from magnolia, redbud, and cherry blossom trees, which are blooming here a couple of weeks ahead of the nationally renowned Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington. Need to de-stress? Spend some time watching petals shower down against a clear blue sky or a field of tulips swaying in the breeze. 

JC Raulston Arboretum

This nationally acclaimed garden boasts one of the most diverse collections of flowers and plants in the Southeast. In addition to the usual suspects (many varieties of magnolia, camellias, and crocuses), the beautifully landscaped grounds are home to treats like the Chinese jack tree and flowering quince. A massive celebration of spring is also set for next month with the arboretum’s annual Raulston Blooms! garden festival on April 30. The family-friendly event includes a plant sale, birdhouse competition, and gardening Q&As.

Fred Fletcher Park 

Fred Fletcher Park, in the heart of Raleigh, is a favorite of locals. This time of year, visitors can spot magnolia tulip trees, which have a distinctive pink color and tulip shape. The 21-acre park also features a water garden with cardinal flowers, hibiscus, and swamp roses.

Joslin Garden

Joslin Garden, on Lake Drive, is a hidden treasure of native and exotic plants, walking trails, and two gazebos. In addition to daffodils and tulips, the park has four varieties of camellias. Check out photos here

Fallon Park

If you’re hunting for cherry trees, stop by Fallon Park, a 10-acre expanse on Oxford Road. The small park is a great place for a quiet afternoon. Jack Smith Dog Park in Cary is also a less-visited park with a few beautiful cherry trees. Sit a spell on the lawn and give your dog some room to run. Get more info here

Dorothea Dix Park

If you’re looking to spend some time in the sun, Dorothea Dix is the obvious choice. The wide green lawn is great for yoga, picnics, and some light frisbee-throwing. The daffodils there are still abundant. Find photos here.

Historic Yates Mill County Park 

Yates Mill Park may not have many unique blooms, but it does have a lovely waterfall and lake that is sometimes home to great blue herons, wading birds common to the Piedmont. While you’re there, hop across the street to Howling Cow for some farm-fresh ice cream. 

North Carolina Museum of Art

The museum park is a popular place for concerts and outdoor movie screenings in the summer, but it’s also a great place to go for a walk on the weekend. Spanning 164 acres, it’s easy to enjoy some solitude, even if there are a lot of visitors. Rotating art installations means there’s always something new to appreciate, even while gazing at old favorites. As a bonus, the museum’s Art in Bloom exhibit is this week, March 16-20. Tickets are $30-33. 

Pullen Park

Pullen Park is another great place to spot daffodils, flowering trees, and spring annuals. There’s not much in bloom this week, but flowers are expected to spring up by early April. It’s also a great place to take the kids, with a carousel, pedal boats, and playgrounds.

Raleigh Little Theatre Rose Garden 

While the roses won’t start blooming until May and June, RLT’s secret garden is a beautiful hideaway all year round. The garden’s dogwood, magnolia, and pear trees create the perfect shady retreat. 

Sarah P. Duke Gardens 

Duke Garden’s long row of Akebono cherry trees is expected to reach peak bloom this weekend, March 18. Tulips have just started to bloom with expansive displays expected in late March. Also flowering right now in the garden’s 55 acres are daphnes, dogwoods, camellias, magnolias, daffodils, and irises.

North Carolina Botanical Garden 

The state botanical garden in Chapel Hill isn’t just 1,100 acres of native plants and wildlife. The grounds also include Coker Arboretum and Piedmont Nature Trails, which are open to pets. The garden is home to dozens of local wildflowers and the world’s most diverse collection of carnivorous, insect-eating plants.

And many more … 

Where’s your favorite place for a picnic? If we’re missing the best spot in Raleigh, shoot us an email noting where and when you like to enjoy public gardens, along with pictures of your favorite blooms. 

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