Near the Blue Ridge Parkway, in Asheville, N.C., the University of North
Carolina established an arboretum in 1986. The 434 acres of parks and gardens
and educational spaces that comprise The North Carolina Arboretum are located
within the Bent Creek Experimental Forest, which in turn is part of the Pisgah
National Forest in the Appalachian Mountains.
While the arboretum is just over two decades old, the idea for a public
garden near Asheville was conceived over a century ago by none other than
Frederick Law Olmsted, America's father of landscape architecture. Olmstead,
whose works include New York's Central Park, Boston's Fenway Park, Stanford
University, and the U.S. Capitol park in Washington, D.C., capped his career with
the landscape design for George W. Vanderbilt's opulent Biltmore Estate, just a
few miles from the site of the Arboretum.
The Quilt Garden features plantings in a traditional quilt pattern, paying
homage to the mountain crafts of North Carolina. It is fun to walk through, but
the "quilt effect" is best appreciated from the overlook provided.
Another tribute to crafting is the Heritage Garden, where plants are grown that
support traditional crafts such as basket making, broom making, dye making, and
papermaking. The Holly Garden represents a wide selection of the more than 400
species within the holly family. The National Native Azalea Repository contains
almost every species of azalea native to the United States. Best viewed in late
spring or early summer, this lovely garden is situated along the banks of a
creek. It is not only a garden, but also a "conservation reservoir"
or storage center that holds the hereditary material for each of the native
species as well as hybrids and cultivated varieties.
The Stream Garden pays tribute to the rivers and streams of Appalachia. This
demonstration garden displays trees, shrubs, and perennials planted in an
abstract representation of a mountain stream.
The Arboretum is the product of many partnerships and has multi-tiered
educational missions. Both of these facets are addressed in the Professional
Landscape Garden, a two-acre site designed to serve landscape professionals
through education and various horticultural certifications. It contains over
250 specimen ornamental plants. For those interested in new developments, the
Plants of Promise Garden contains award-winning landscape plants, new
introductions, and superior plants derived from North Carolina's native flora.
The Perennial Border Garden, located outside of the Arboretum's greenhouse,
demonstrates plantings with staggered bloom times designed to provide a full
season of color.
My personal favorite was the Bonsai Exhibition Garden. Not only were the
100-plus bonsai specimens among the most attractive and varied I've seen
anywhere, the information provided about the history and practice of bonsai was
Other Features And Activities
The Arboretum also features both indoor and outdoor art, with permanent and
traveling collections on display. Adult education seminars are offered on a
wide variety of topics from landscape design to seasonal horticulture to flower
arranging. The grounds include a café and gift shop.
Over 7 miles of trails wind through the property, almost 4 miles of which are
open to bicycles as well as foot traffic. A local walking club, the Asheville
Amblers, have put together a 10K walking routes within the Arboretum as well as
an 11K route to Lake Powhatan, which are adjacent and can be combined into one
walk of about 13 miles.
Things To Know
Bicycles, pets, and children are all allowed at the Arboretum, with the
following restrictions. Bicycles must remain on the roads or on trails
specifically designated for bikes. Leashed pets are allowed on trails. Children
under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Things not allowed in the arboretum
include hunting, fishing, possessing weapons, or collecting/disturbing the
plants. Picnicking is allowed.
The grounds of the North Carolina Arboretum are open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. April
to October, and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. November to March. Open hours for buildings
including the Education Center, Exhibit Center, Café, Gift Shop, Gallery, and
Greenhouse vary. For more information, go to http://www.ncarboretum.org.
Sally O'Neal is a native Washingtonian who appreciates the diverse geography
of our 50 states and travels widely. She writes weekly for sportsmansguide.com.