"The gatehouse was made from warm-colored handmade bricks from the Silas Lucas kiln in Wilson, NC, that were baked before the turn of the century. The architecture is taken from a 16th-century orangery with a flagstone floor, hand-hewn beams, and a wide door featuring a cross design. Above the outside entrance is a sculptural stone coat of arms of Queen Elizabeth the 1st. Orangeries were built to winter this exotic fruit. Oranges were introduced from China through the overland trade routes developed in the 14th and 15th centuries. They gradually made their way from the near east to southern Europe, into France and England. The first orangery was built by Henry II of France but, naturally, Henry the eighth of England had to have one, too. Orange trees were placed in huge tubs and brought into the orangeries for the winter to protect them from frost."
Transcribed from the audio tour
I do enjoy the ability to learn as I go and be able to search for a specific item, such as the detail found on the sculptures of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in America who disappeared with the Lost Colony despite her grandfather's efforts to find his daughter and her family. It's also true of the Lion Couchant Birdbath.
But it needn't be "overly" educational if you will when you have children or people with a variety of interests with you. Pick and choose how to spend your time.
"A figure of quiet hope, wide-browed and intelligent, Virginia Dare, the first child with the first English colony in the new world stands gazing toward the future despite the odds of the history, mystery, and fantasy that surround her. This Carrera marble statue is an idealized version of how Virginia Dare might have looked as a grown woman. In 1859, American sculptor Maria Luiza Lander carved a statue while in Rome. Mystery and intrigue surround both artist and statue after an incredibly hectic existence including two years shipwrecked at the bottom of the Atlantic off the coast of Spain, a controversial tenure in the State Hall of History in the early '20s until it was banished to storage. Then a short stay with the Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Green, his estate donated the statue to the Oaks Center - Chapel Hill. Green decided to give it to the Gardens so the Virginia Dare statue could stand on the island of her birth in her own niche at the foot of an ancient Live Oak watching dreamily beyond the trees toward the softened surge of the nearby Roanoke Sound. Well, we do not know if Virginia Dare grew to adulthood. A legend persists that she did grow up among the Algonquian Indians and that her spirit roams Roanoke Island in the form of a white doe. Lander must have been aware of her legend. Her Virginia Dare features include native elements. Instead of schoolbooks, she holds a fishnet draped about her waist. About her neck and arms, she wears the laces of an American Indian Princess and instead of a royal greyhound a heron accompanies her."
My visit to the Elizabethan Gardens renewed my wish for young Virginia Dare to have lived a long and happy life with people that loved her.
Fittingly, perhaps, then, to move on to the most coveted wedding spot, the Terrace and Gazebo. The forward balcony-like space looks across Roanoke Sound towards the Wright Memorial at Kitty Hawk. The river gods are satisfied with their birdbath sculpture on this Overlook Terrace and gargoyle benches are noted by the eagle-eyed visitor. There's so much detail here, that it's easy to overlook any number of items. And an excellent reason for return visits, especially if you live nearby.
The Gazebo, constructed with 16th-century tools and techniques, was built of hand-hewn oak posts and beams locked together without modern nails, like how the Quechua people in Peru worked with stone. The workmanship is especially appreciated as it allows great views of Roanoke Sound. It's a wonderful place to find a bench and listen to the symphony of nature's lapping waves stimulate the imagination.
Head into the Sunken Garden from the North or continue to explore along the Oak Walk. If you follow the former, you'll find an intricate pattern of 32 identical clipped dwarf yaupon patterns that I witnessed children solve like mazes, all under the watchful eye of their parents and the two-tiered statue of Aphrodite. The advantage over the high-trimmed bushes is the children remain always visible. The peals of laughter can be heard across the Great Lawn.