Convention 2008 Tours

2008 convention tours || friday tours | saturday tours | sunday tour ||

  friday tours: Asheville area

Friday: Asheville Tour:
Biltmore Estate Gardens

The year was 1969 and I was 9 years old. It was my first visit
to the Biltmore Estate and a fascination began that continues to this
day. I quickly went through the few rooms that were open on the
first floor and sped out into the garden. When my mother and the
staff members from the estate found me, I was lying on the bank above
the Bass pond oblivious to the fact that I was supposedly lost on the

My next memory is of my grandmother and me filling bags with
recently dug tulip bulbs from huge piles in the walled garden. The
staff members digging the bulbs politely turned their heads and
whispered, “We’re just going to throw them away and we didn’t see
anything.” The bank outside my grandmother’s backdoor was really
impressive that spring. In the years since, I have used every
opportunity to return to the estate and wander through the grounds.
I have volunteered to chaperone countless school trips, and for
several years held a season pass. Since becoming an instructor in
the Landscape Gardening program at Caldwell Community College, I have
encouraged some of our most promising students to become summer
interns in the horticulture department at Biltmore.

In my almost 40 year relationship with Biltmore I have discovered
its long and distinguished horticulture heritage. It is a heritage
that began with the construction of Hunt’s impressive chateau. It
started with elaborate plans developed by Frederick Law Olmsted and was
brought to fruition by Chauncey Beadle, Charles McNamee, Robert
Bottomley, James Gall, the Boynton brothers and many others. In its
heyday the Biltmore nursery, developed to provide the millions of
plants needed for the estate, became one of the largest commercial
nurseries in existence. It covered almost 300 acres and had 75,000
square feet of greenhouse and coldframe space. At one time the
Biltmore nursery catalog was so extensive and the plant descriptions
so complete it was used as a textbook for Plant Material classes in
some universities.

One can only imagine what the planned arboretum would have been
like if they had followed through with Olmsted’s ambitious plan. The
arboretum idea was eventually abandoned and many of the unusual
specimens collected for it by Beadle found a home in the Glen. Years
later Beadle’s collection of native azaleas were also added to the
Glen and the name was changed to the Azalea Garden.

Our tour will begin with a bus ride along the Approach Road. Try
to imagine this area as it looked immediately after James Galls’ crew
finished grading the road and redirecting Ram Branch. It was an
almost blank slate waiting to be planted in Olmsted’s naturalistic
style incorporating both native and exotic plants to achieve his
desired effect of subtropical luxuriance. As we traverse the Approach Road, unique features of the landscape design and plantings will be pointed out by Biltmore staff. Everyone will then be dropped off at the entrance to the Shrub Garden to ramble. From here you will take a self guided tour through the Shrub Garden, Spring Garden, Walled Garden, and Conservatory, ultimately arriving at the Azalea Garden. The rest of
your time can be spent in the Azalea Garden admiring the extensive
collection of azaleas and other unique plants. The lower part of this
garden contains magnificent examples of Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia
), China Fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata), Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), and Bigleaf Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla).

Planted under the trees is an equally interesting shrub layer. Look for the rare Disanthus cercidifolius peeking out from under the Hydrangeas and tree-like Cephalotaxus. Other plants of interest are the large Stinking Cedars (Torreya taxifolia), a very large Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica), and Cut leaf European Beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Asplenifolia’). Once you have finished exploring, return to the buses which will pick you up just above the Azalea Garden. Complete your tour of the estate with a leisurely ride along the French Broad River, as the bus captains give a brief history of the estate’s agriculture and horticulture legacy. For those who would like to spend more time on the Estate and visit the Chateau and Winery, discount tickets will be available for purchase at the plant sale. It is worth noting that Dr. Michael Dirr made an annual pilgrimage with students to the estate while teaching at UGA. Of the over 325 genera listed in his Manual Of Woody Landscape Plants, I have been able to find almost 200 represented at the estate . . . by Aaron Cook

Friday: Asheville Tour: Charles Dexter Owen garden

This fabulous garden belonging to Charles and Cary Owen is located
in Biltmore Forest, adjacent to the Biltmore estate. A confusion of names might seem to occur until you realize that Charles Dexter
Owen is a cousin of the Charles Owen Dexter, hybridizer of the Dexter rhododendrons at Heritage Plantation on Cape Cod. The Owen house, constructed in 1936, sits in the middle of the largest collection of Dexter hybrid rhododendrons in the south, exceeded only by the
original Dexter garden on Cape Cod which provided the plants “by fully loaded box cars”.

Friday: Asheville Tour: North Carolina Arboretum at Asheville
The Arboretum, established in 1986 by the NC General Assembly, is an affiliate campus of the University of North Carolina. The Arboretum’s mission ‘To Cultivate Connections Between People and Plants’ is accomplished through education, economic development, research, conservation, and garden demonstration. Located within the Bent Creek Experimental Forest of the Pisgah National Forest a few minutes south of Asheville, the 434-acre Arboretum property encompasses 65 acres of cultivated gardens and 10 miles of forested hiking/biking trails.

Gardens are thematically designed to reflect the cultural and natural heritage of the Southern Appalachians, demonstrate the formal and informal, the man-made and the natural aspects prevalent on this property. They provide the classroom space to help people understand the role of plants in their lives. Emphasis is given to the ecological, horticultural and educational value of plants native to the Southern Appalachian region, their relatives from other geographic regions, and other non-native plants, cultivars, and selections suitable for landscape use.

Several gardens you will see during your visit include: the Quilt Garden with colorful raised beds designed after traditional quilt patterns; the Heritage Garden featuring plants used in traditional folk medicine and crafts of the Appalachians; and the Bonsai Exhibition Garden showcasing one of the best collections of bonsai in the Southeastern United States, with special emphasis on native plants, and perhaps most importantly the National Native Azalea Repository.

The National Native Azalea Repository is approximately 8 acres in size, bordered by Bent Creek. It has an overhead canopy of pines and hardwood trees and an understory of native rhododendron, dogwood, New York fern, doghobble and a multitude of seasonal wildflowers. Two level loop trails with secondary trails wind through the garden allowing access to the various parts of the area. The garden was established to maintain a germplasm collection of azalea species native to the US, and to interpret the diversity and value of native azaleas and their companion plants. The collection currently holds over 100 accessions of 13 different native azaleas species, cultivars and hybrids. Rhododendron canadense, R. occidentale and R. eastmanii are not in collection holdings at this time.

Other features to see during your visit include The Baker Exhibit Center, which welcomes visitors and features special exhibits in science, art and culture. On May 2, an exhibit titled “Dr. Entomo’s Palace of Exotic Wonders” will be in its third month. Reminiscent of a traditional circus sideshow, this exhibit features more than two-dozen living and mounted bugs ranging from glow-in-the-dark scorpions to bird-eating tarantulas. Other Arboretum facilities include: the Education Center; a state-of-the-art production greenhouse; and the Operations Center with “green roof” technology. While visiting the Arboretum, we will enjoy lunch at the Savory Thyme Cafe, with its nearby gift shops, The Garden Trellis, and Connections Gallery.

Friday: Asheville Tour: Haywood Community College is a two-year college offering technical, occupational and liberal arts associate degrees, including course work in horticulture supported by its overall landscape plan and arboretum designed by Doan Ogden. The original inventory of trees on the 80 acre campus, done in the 1960’s, had 880 trees – more than 22 native species – with most averaging 100 years old. Since then 100 new species of trees, shrubs, and ground covers have been added.

At the heart of the garden lies Ogden Circle, a council ring 24 feet in diameter surrounded by four walls tapering up from the earth. The walls define four paths that cross here, radiating from a centered millstone. Tall, columnar boxwoods punctuate the circle. Students contribute hanging baskets, wooden flower boxes of impatiens and lobelia, and a living sculpture of annual plants atop the millstone.

Structures within the garden, such as the wooden arbor supporting Dutchman’s pipe vines (Aristolochia gigantea) or the split-rail fences dividing cinnamon ferns (Osmunda cinnamonea) and periwinkle, work with the native plants. The Rockery hosts lichen- and moss-covered rocks, thick ferns, and wildflowers. A virtual wall of Eastern hemlock glows bright green with tips of new spring growth. Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) grows near the trail’s end.

To see an excellent article about the gardens, click here to download a 1.8MB PDF from the May/June 2004 issue of Carolina Gardener magazine.

Haywood Community College Rhododendron Garden Ogden’s accomplishment includes a fine series of flower gardens (such as a dahlia garden, an Oriental garden, and a rose garden), a preserved native forest, a wonderful variety of trees (including a willow walk), and the Rhododendron Garden, one of the better rhododendron collections in this western region of North Carolina. Designed to extend the blooming season as long as possible, the Rhododendron Garden follows a delicate rhythm in harmony with nature. Careful landscaping gives the effect of a long, leisurely walk deeper and deeper into the forest, even though the walk only measures .33 mile. The woodland canopy of tall oak, poplar, and hickory filters sunlight onto the rhododendrons which filter it yet again onto the herbaceous layer below, dense with ferns and wildflowers such as bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia), foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia), and bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis).

Friday: R. vaseyi Tour: Pilot Mountain / Pisgah Inn
The group will travel to Pilot Mountain near Brevard, North Carolina in fifteen passenger vans, ending up at the north end of Pilot Mountain within a few feet of the Art Loeb trail. We usually see a few early R. calendulaceum along the road and some R. vaseyi as we get near the parking lot. A moderate (i.e., not easy but not strenous, but do wear hiking shoes) climb along the switchbacks of the Art Loeb trail through the masses of R. vaseyi will take a little over one hour. You will find strategically located surprises along the trail, just in time to spend a moment catching your breath and taking pictures of the jack-in-the-pulpits, trillium, ferns and other wildflowers. The view from the top of the mountain is a 360-degree wonder encompassing the Blue Ridge Parkway, Johns Rock, and surrounding territory.

After returning to the van, the party will make its way to the famed Pisgah Inn for lunch. The afternoon tour will include the Blue Ridge Parkway to Highway 215 and the Devils Courthouse. On Friday, the Vaseyi Tour can choose to include the North Carolina Arboretum and its National Native Azalea Repository on the way back to the hotel.

Augie Kehr at Pilot Mountain

Art Loeb Trail, Pilot Mountain

  saturday tours: Hendersonville area

Saturday: Hendersonville Tour: Bell Garden
The Doley and Melody Bell garden began in the 1970s as a retirement venture for former educators David and Naoma Dean. Credit for the garden design and layout goes to the Deans. Following David’s death, Naoma married Dr. Allen Clague and they continued improving and maintaining the garden until Doley and Melody Bell became stewards of the garden in June of 2000.

This remarkable garden has an estimated 3000 rhododendrons and azaleas including Dexter, Haag, Leach, Kehr, Gilkey, Delp, Van Veen, Richardson, and Lee hybrid rhohodendrons, and Glenn Dale, Back Acre, Exbury, and Girard hybrid azaleas. There are deciduous azaleas from North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. Special plants include flowering peaches, crab apples, hybrid dogwoods, hybrid laurels, Franklinia, Cunninghamia, Camellias, Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), Enkianthus, Pieris japonica, Japanese Maples, and more.

Saturday: Hendersonville Tour: Stelloh Garden

house entrance detail Denise and Bob Stelloh moved to Hendersonville 12 years ago, along with 600 plants from their previous garden in the Washington DC area. Their woodland garden covers a little more than two acres, divided into planting beds by a half-mile of winding trails. The hilly site had many native wildflowers, mountain laurel and R. maximum, along with a few native R. calendulaceum, R. arborescens and R. viscosum, under an overstory of mature oaks, tulip poplars, pines, sourwoods and dogwoods. Twelve years later, about half of the site is now interplanted with groundcovers, a variety of evergreen and deciduous azaleas, rhododendrons, and japanese maples and other ornamental trees—and, thanks to some hurricanes, quite a few less overstory trees. The most exciting time was the fall of 2004 when the remnants of hurricane Ivan blew down a 139 year old oak, which pushed over a 100 year old tulip poplar on its way down, creating a sun garden and years worth of firewood in an instant.

Saturday: Hendersonville Tour: Collins (Larus) Garden
The 2001 Convention tours included a visit to the garden of Ed and Mary Collins and we will visit them again—this time to a completely different garden! Two years ago Mary & Ed Collins purchased the Charlie and Ethel Larus property, sold their existing house and garden, and made a rapid move to a beautifully established garden located on 7 plus acres with two streams. Charlie had eclectic tastes with a special interest in dwarf plants. As a result, the garden had a large and densely planted collection of dwarf indumented rhododendrons, evergreen azaleas, deciduous azaleas and a large number of perennials, wildflowers. and unusual trees and shrubs. The Collins are in the process of incorporating the thousand plus plants brought from their previous garden into the landscape, by opening up an additional two acres to display their Cowles hybrids and many deciduous azaleas, and revamping the existing dense plantings by selective transplanting to the new area.
Dwarf conifer collection

Saturday: Hendersonville Tour: James and Mary Ann Stewart (Kehr) Garden

Augie, magnolias Four years ago the Stewarts obtained the fabulous garden developed by Dr August Kehr over the course of twenty four years. Not entirely by chance, it is located adjacent to the Collins garden, which gives us two gardens for one stop. The property encompasses some 10 plus acres with 2 streams. The back part of the property is the meadow that Augie used for his later magnolia hybridization work and has what may be the largest collection of magnolias in the US. The upper garden has a very large collection of azalea and rhododendron hybrids, many developed by Augie, along with many other rare and unusual plants. One of his goals was the development of a good yellow evergreen azalea using various propagation methods. Although he never reached this goal, approximately a dozen plants in the garden are the result of this effort. Augie’s last plant registration was ‘Memory of Fred Galle’, a decidous native azalea developed from seed given to Augie by Fred Galle. This plant will be available in the Plant Sale.
Saturday: Hendersonville Tour: Turlington (Skinner) Garden
Dorothea (Dot) Turlington has owned the Henry Skinner house and garden for a number of years, and Dot has maintained the remaining Skinner garden plants and nursery stock. The garden represents his choices of native azaleas from his famous 25,000 miles of plant-hunting trips across the Southeast in search of distinctive native azaleas. It also contains some of the deciduous azaleas he hybridized after his retirement to Hendersonville.
Skinner #4

Saturday: R. vaseyi Tour: Pilot Mountain/Pisgah Inn
This Saturday tour will be similar to the Friday tour, except we will spend more time on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Highway 215 and will not visit the North Carolina Arboretum.

  sunday tour: Southern Highlands Reserve

Sunday: Post Convention Tour: Southern Highlands Reserve

Southern Highlands Reserve On Sunday morning, May 4th, we will travel from the hotel to the top of Toxaway Mountain to visit the Southern Highlands Reserve, a privately funded nonprofit organization which manages a 130-acre property at elevations up to 4700 feet.

The Southern Highlands Reserve is dedicated to the cultivation, preservation, and display of plants native to the Southern Appalachian Highlands. The garden is divided into two distinct areas. In the Core Park, where plants are displayed according to their visual appeal, native plants and their cultivars are mixed. In the natural areas, where plants are placed in their natural communities, only native plants are used. The garden design is a combination of professional input combined with liberal use of native stone and local talent to achieve a must see, once in a lifetime event.

There is more to see and enjoy than time and energy will allow in a one-day visit. Features of the Reserve include:
• the Woodland Glade featuring native groundcovers;
• the Wildflower Labyrinth, a centuries old seven ring design featuring Coreopsis and Butterfly Weed in early May;
• the Azalea Walk, featuring Gregory Bald seedlings;
• the Vaseyi Trail, a magic walk through Galax beds under a canopy of R. vaseyi;
• the Vaseyi Pond, a world unto itself;
• the Viewsite and Firepit with a view limited only by weather and your imagination;
• and many more walking possibilities.

Rhododendron vaseyi A short hike toward the mountaintop will take us to what may be the largest colony of R. vaseyi in existence. This trail is in a very preliminary form and care should be taken to avoid damage to the area.

Lunch will be provided in the garden or in the Reserve Center depending on weather, and the group will return to the hotel on Sunday afternoon.

Rhododendron vaseyi

If you plan to sign up for this trip, please do so early. The Reserve Management has limited our group to a total of 28 visitors due to the special and fragile nature of the area. We can accept only the first 28 signups and all others will be regretfully declined.