I must have driven past McGill Rose Garden a thousand times in the five years since moving to Charlotte. But like many things we miss on our way to something else, it became one of those “someday” destinations for me. Someday when I’m not so busy. Someday when the weather’s nicer. Someday when I don’t want to do the same things I do every other day.
Yesterday I found myself navigating the murky bowels of adulthood. Nothing too terrible — just a $1,200 dental bill, a dog who popped his stitches, a flea infestation, a broken washing machine. You know the boring, expensive, unthrilling stuff of your 30s that’s big enough to be annoying but too trivial compared to the current state of affairs in the world to warrant any sympathy. So anyway, this time when I drove by McGill Rose Garden, I leapt at the chance to do something different and exploratory and free (both of money and care), even if just for 15 minutes.
It wasn’t a particularly nice day and the garden isn’t exactly at its peak in mid-November but like all good outdoor environments, it offered the little taste of escapism I sought.
McGill’s foliage is unexpected and a bit rebellious given its location alongside I-277 and just blocks outside Uptown. And that’s exactly why it was originally planted back in the mid-20th century, to pretty up a not so pretty industrial site.
As the story goes, Helen McGill, whose husband Henry purchased the coal and ice yard at North Davidson and East 13th Streets in 1950, started planting roses on the plot to brighten it up. Little by little, she created a full-blown garden. It started opening to the public annually on Mother’s Day in 1967 and was later purchased by the city in 1976. After Helen’s death in 1985, Henry continued tending the garden until he died at age 103. His dedication to her small but impactful 1.3-acre project and the legacy it left for the city is a hidden gem in Charlotte’s local history.
Today, McGill is a free public park and popular wedding venue, accommodating small parties of 50 to 100 guests. It’s also home to Nectar, a floral boutique and mobile flower truck.
So the next time you’re zipping past on North Davidson, stop in for a visit. It’s a whimsical little hidden gem where you have permission to forget you’re an adult for a few minutes.
Looking for more manicured outdoor adventures? Check out Dana’s 5 Charlotte gardens to help you unwind.