Saturday, November 22, 2014

North Carolina Arboretum near Asheville (Part 3)

I've already posted two rather longish blogs about this arboretum: and now a third? Well--it is a big place (400 acres!), and the terrain is hilly and the architecture grand throughout. There are enough cool plants to justify this focus: and the maintenance of the facility and collections is terrific. I have to say that part of the reason I seem to obsess is because he setting, the scope and the status it already has are such that it could be poised to make a great mark on American Horticulture: what's missing at this point is publicity and a more visible research and public engagement function--which could easily come about with the right new staff. Kelly Norris at Des Moines Botanical garden is the perfect example of the dynamic impact a personality can have on an institution: Kelly's put Des Moines on the Horticultural map in just a year or two! Although I have no doubt Kelly's got a terrific team to work with (and CEO Stephanie Jutila has been orchestrating effectively behind the scenes!) the catalytic impact of a driven visionary plantsman is key to the short or long term success of a botanical garden.

These long borders of perennials and annuals look so good after our arctic blast last week!

The lichened trunks on the shrubs speak to the growing venerability of this garden
I made note (and lost it) of what these multitrunked trees (shrubs) were--but I'm a sucker for lichens. I recall that this Arboretum was started after I'd begun my own career--so we're not talking centuries here--but trees and shrubs grow quickly in North Carolina, and there's obviously humidity here!

The keen gardeners I met educated me to the extent that microclimates prevail around Asheville--there's a significant difference in temperatures and rain/snowfall depending on aspect and especially the location--due to prevailing storm patterns: a factor of almost two from one place to the next: such is the power of mountains!

Schizachyrium scoparium
It never ceases to surprise me how widespread and adaptable little bluestem is: the USDA map (q.v.) shows that it grows in practically every state, and all Canadian provinces south of the Arctic--except for Oregon and Nevada. If I were a resident of those two states, I'd go find a promising hill at middle elevations and show me some bluestem seed pronto!I think it merits "National Grass" status--although if Obama proposed it, I can pretty much guarantee the House and Senate would vote it down!

More elegant interpretation--here of the Quilt Garden (See next slide)

I showed a number of panels of this garden in the previous blog post I did on NCA--but this one shows the viewing stand where I took some of those pix (and where you get the "intended" view of the quilt. Here Carpet bedding has been literally raised to plain bedding, if you can forgive the exerable paranomasia.

Why did I take this picture? The lush pots are nice enough--oh yes--that gray flagstone: love it!\

Hibiscus coccineus: on of America's great wildflowers

There are those who are crazy about poppies, and those who are nuts about hibiscus. Some of us are fond of both groups! This wonderful giant perennial, with leaves like marijuana and these outlandish spidery huge crazy red flowers--can't believe we don't have it at Denver Botanic Gardens yet!

They even put Mallows on their banners!

Another of those enormous allees! They're ready for throngs here!
We could have used a few miles of these vast allees at Denver Botanic Gardens this year to accommodate our way over a million visitors (who filled our paths and made it hard to get by all over the gardens from opening to closing). I luxuriated in these empty ones (although I did wish to see a FEW more people on them!)...
Celosia argentea var. cristata

Contrast between the architecture and well grown annuals (like this scarlet coxcomb Amaranth) that invite a closeup look--part of the charm of Gardens.

And the luxury of lawns and distant views of hills...

If you don't have flowers handy, you can always put up a banner with sunflowers...

Lagerstroemia 'Natchez'
Here we are quite high in the hills of the Appalachians, and crepe myrtles are hardy--with no damage even after the notorious Polar Vortex winter...we have to try these here in Denver!

You can see the flowers were starting...

Here beautifully sited surrounded by sensual grasses

And a view from further away--I find it fascinating to see plants in different contexts and distances...

How's this for an interesting play of shape and form? The Pennisetum is twice as nice thanks to the meatballs.

Who comes up with these names: "Bunny Blue"? I've never seen a blue rabbit!

The obligatory green roof--here a rather rustic one (which I enjoyed...)

The grand lawn alongside the greenhouses

Tipularia discolor

And now we're in the woods! Having an Arboretum is a good thing: having that arboretum cocooned, as it were, in a vast forest of extraordinary biodiversity--well, that's just peachy! Finding a new wildflower (and an orchid to boot) for the first time--now that's the bee's knees! You may be getting a sense of what a lovely day I had at the North Carolina Arboretum: late summer--warm but not hot--a gentle breeze. Great views, architecture, flowers: I call that Heaven!

More Tipularia. What a great name...what the hell does it mean?

Goodyera pubescens
ANOTHER dadburned orchid--in this case the Rattlesnake Plantain (great common name)...although I've seen this before (not quite so rare)...(Thank you James for the correction)...

I love ferns (in this case a bevy of dryopterids I think--should have looked more closely). Colorado has over sixty kinds of Pteridophytes, and you can drive from one end to the other and not see one. One of the many reasons I enjoy going East!

I love the seedling Sassafras and oaks--so cute and small and portable--surely they could spare a few (no I didn't dig them up: I don't do that sort of thing...).

I walked quite a way through the woods--lovely big paths here too! Wish I'd seen just a few more walkers..

A young planting of Arizona cypress--I'm surprised that this Southwestern tree does so well in the East.

Some dramatic clumps of Switch grass liven up an out of the way grassy bank. Nice tough.

Liatris sp.? or was it Lobelia?
There were a number of "pocket" prairies tucked here and there that had to be deliberate since they were full of cool plants. Lobelia siphylitica now that I look more clearly (thanks for corroboration, James!)

Another pocket prairie

Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata)
I realize this is just a weedy little Senna, but I love the Partridge Pea--I must see if I can locate seed--we need a weed as pretty as this!

Ripe fruit on the Hawthorn
Late summer is definitely the season of fruiting trees... 

What an aristocratic parking lot planting: Franklinia altamaha--in full bloom no less!

Any Arboretum that fills its parking lot with a plant that is extinct in the wild deserves three blogs! I would love to come back in April one day and see the woods full of their ephemerals, and enjoy the spring blooming perennials and flowering trees. Here's hoping they glom on to a great Plantsman soon, and that they don't get too crazy a marketer in there who will try to turn it into a garish Cathedral. Botanic gardens tread a fine line, and so far North Carolina Arboretum has tread it like and acrobat!


  1. I visited this past summer too and you better believe I took pictures of that parking lot! I wish everyone would adopt ambitious boulevard planting (although the design here is a little less friendly for places with lots of snow removal).

  2. The genus name Tipularia comes from the name of the crane fly genus, Tipula. I had a few in pots which I protected over the winter. However, I think the last of them is now gone. Squirrels are a big problem for me.

    Your Goodyeara is actually Goodyeara pubescens. Goodyear tesselata does not range as far south as North Carolina. I have a few Goodyeara pubescens in a shaded bog garden with Gaultheria procumbens. Both the Goodyear pubescens and Gaultheria procumbens are expanding and growing well. My son particularly likes eating the berries from the Gaultheria procumbens.

    The prairie plant is Lobelia siphilitica. That reminds me ... did the Lobelia spicata plant I sent you ever bloom?

    I agree that a botanical garden needs an expert plantsman or plantswoman. Botanical gardens are trend setters for horticulture in the area. To keep people interested a garden must continually renew itself. This can be done through innovative gardening, new research, and creative events.


  3. Thank you, James, for your thoughtful comments and corrections! I THOUGHT it didn't look quite like for the Rattlesnake Plantain--

    I think we may have fumbled the Lobelia you sent--sorry! We juggle a lot of plants.


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