WRAL donates 50 azaleas to Robeson County History Museum garden

·3 min read

Oct. 9—LUMBERTON — Fifty azaleas will add even more color to the Helen Seawell Sharpe Garden at the Robeson County History Museum.

The azaleas join the garden by way of a grant awarded by WRLA, which provides the colorful flowers to local nonprofits. This is the third year the museum has been a recipient of grant bringing a total of 150 plants to the garden, said the Museum's curator Shep Oliver.

"They're all over the place," Oliver said of the azaleas populating the garden.

Each year WRAL-TV 5, MIX 101.5 WRAL-FM and N.C. Beautiful sponsor the WRAL Azalea Celebration. Through this program, WRAL-TV gives away more than 5,000 azaleas to more than 100 non-profits from all over the state of North Carolina each fall.

The Azalea Celebration was held at the transmitter site off N.C. 70 on Sept. 25.

CBC President and CEO Jim Goodmon started the annual event in 1985 with the goal of beautifying the community and introducing new and unusual varieties of azaleas, according the WRAL website. WRAL-TV, MIX 101.5 and N.C. Beautiful sponsor the event in order to promote the enhancement of community appearance. The giveaway strives to "establish a continuous, well-maintained project for their community to enjoy and emulate."

CBC Property Management staff and volunteers distribute the plants at the CBC transmitter site in Auburn.

"They've got a great big field out there. They've got your number on the azaleas and you ride out to that field and the guy puts them in you truck," Oliver said.

The new azaleas to be planted in the garden include Encore Azalea's Autumn Royalty and Autumn Fire.

The Autumn Royalty features large single-form, deeply funneled, magenta-purple blooms that rebloom periodically from spring to the onset of winter.

The Autumn Fire showcases deep red, semi-double blooms that stand out against dark evergreen foliage. During the winter, the flower's green foliage will change to a deep purple-bronze color. Afterward, spring sees the return of the characteristic dark green foliage.

The garden, sandwiched between the CSX railroad tracks and East First Street, had gone untended for many years until the museum's board obtained a grant from CSX to restore it dedicated it to the now late Helen Seawell Sharpe.

Helen, with her late husband Jack, restored the Southern Express/French-Allen Fuel Company building at East First and Elm streets and turned it into a museum dedicated to Robeson County's history. That was in 1986. In 2016, the family turned the building's deed of trust over to the museum's board of directors.

The garden has been a work in progress since it's opening three years ago. It has several features in addition to its variety of flowers, including a deck off the back of the museum, and wrought iron rails leading to down the side of the museum.

"The garden here is looking really, really good," Oliver said. "Were looking forward out here to have music Sunday afternoons. The weather's getting ripe."

Three years of being awarded azaleas in the WRAL Azalea Celebration, makes the Robeson County History Museum eligible for the A.J. Fletcher Award. Named for the founder of Capitol Broadcasting Company and creator of the WRAL Gardens, the A.J. Fletcher Awards honor organizations who have best maintained their landscaping projects created with their WRAL azaleas.

Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at [email protected] or 910-416-5865.

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