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Children’s garden set to open in Belmont

A more than $4 million addition to Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is ready to come out and play.

Lost Hollow: The Kimbrell Children’s Garden opens to the public at noon Oct. 18. The 3-acre site features old world and fanciful features, inviting children to touch and discover plants along paths and a pond. Duke and Dot Kimbrell pledged $2 million to the project more than two years ago, with more than 200 people matching that figure. Construction took almost a year.

Plants in Lost Hollow include Sporbolus, black-eyed Susan, Japanese maple, eastern red cedar and big leaf magnolia. It was designed by New York landscape designer W. Gary Smith.

Following openings for major donors and members, the public launch includes performances at the Hillside Theatre along the garden pond, puppets and story time.

Here is garden executive director Kara Newport’s take on the addition:

Q. Where does the new children’s garden fit into the overall master plan for Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden? How far along are you toward the end vision for what the botanical garden will be?

A: There was a much smaller children’s garden envisioned in the original master plan near the final location. Work on building out the master plan is ongoing with the garden now 15 years and 25 percent complete of that vision. Originally the plan was projected at 50 years and I would estimate that we are likely near that time line, with many years and many more featured areas ahead such as a restaurant, a rose pavilion, a dock on Lake Wylie and more display areas. I also think, though, that as the neighboring community evolves the needs may change as well, leading to the board reviewing and considering new options in the future.

Q. What’s the most exciting feature of the new children’s garden? What will families be talking about on the way home this weekend?

A. “It is so hard to guess – right now everyone has a different favorite feature. I would have to say it would be between two. The Moon Keep has so many different features that everywhere you turn you could make new discoveries in the details, from the artistically designed metalwork to the towering stacked posts that seem unlikely to hold up the roof. The most unexpected feature is probably the cave – how many times is a giant fireplace found in the garden and to further find it is an entrance to a magical cave.

Q. How do you envision the children’s garden getting the most use? Is it more for fun on a weekend, programming for school groups, something else?

A. This is probably one of the best things people will be talking about – all of their different perspectives. I think parents will be surprised to learn how much fun they have, children will feel like they just went on a journey to some other land and school children will have their best day of their year, learning new things. I also think, though, that it will become one of the hottest wedding spots in the area and a hip place to have a cocktail party – already a few brides have been enchanted and are on their way to planning their big day.

Q. How does this new feature complement what you already have at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden?

A. Lost Hollow is first and foremost a garden – a place of beauty and respite like all of the garden. Situated next to the canal garden it is easily on the path so it can be experienced by all, but adds substantially to our footprint, 3.5 new acres. Also, the core of the current garden is designed as a summer perennial display. Lost Hollow allows us to add plants that will be in their peak in spring and fall and also expands our plant palette to include shade-loving plants. Finally, its beautiful and elegant design allows it to blend seamlessly adding to the feeling that this space has always been there and was just a “Lost Hollow” waiting to be discovered.