Everyday Gardeners

Five fantastic gardens in Asheville

Most people associate Asheville, NC with the Biltmore Estate and gorgeous mountain scenery. But dig a bit deeper into the gardening scene there, and you’ll find much more to appreciate. During a recent visit I saw numerous edible gardens tucked into city rights-of-way, next door to restaurants, such as the Sunny Point Cafe, and in residential areas, including the well-tended garden of Nan Chase, author of Eat Your Yard! and co-author of Bark House Style. I also saw too many pretty landscapes to mention them all, but I’d like to share images from five of them here.

It’s easy to see how the WhiteGate Inn & Cottage received a Top-10 Romantic Getaway rating from The property, located within walking distance of downtown Asheville, includes a collection of guest suites and a separate cottage surrounded by gardens laced with paths that invite exploration. And, no, I didn’t stay there on this trip. But I’d love to get the full experience during a future trip to the city.

A double waterfall adds alluring sound and motion at the base of a small stream flowing through the property.

Atlas bears an armillary sphere in one of the gardens at WhiteGate Inn and Cottage.

If you appreciate formal display gardens, have a hankering for bonsai, or like to hike woodland trails, the North Carolina Arboretum is the place to go. From the fully-functional rain garden next to the main garden entrance to the 65 acres of cultivated gardens and 10 miles of trails, you’re sure to find something to love.

The quilt garden had just recently been planted, so the pattern of colors was just beginning to show.

This sculpture, entitled "Oh Great Spirit", is a focal point in one of the formal gardens at the North Carolina Arboretum.

Christopher Mello combines plants with purple foliage, rusted ironwork (including a central stockade of rusted shovels surrounding a collection of Tonka toys), and a twist on on the Southern garden staple bottle tree into an eclectic mix that showcases his unique style.

Purple smoketree limbs display cobalt blue and kelly green bottles.

Succulents and stones combine beautifully with a rusted iron trough on a pedestal in Christopher Mello's West Asheville garden.

Wamboldtopia, the home and garden of Damaris and Ricki Pierce features extensive rock work and surprising details tucked in throughout the garden.

How do you disguise an ugly chain link fence? Damaris and Ricki decided to convert it into a stucco and stone arcade.

Look closely throughout the landscape at Wamboltopia to find whimsical portals with a gothic touch.

In the hills overlooking Asheville, Peter and Jasmin Gentling have carved out a relaxing garden retreat with an amazing history and collection of unique plants.

Natural stone steps carved into the hillside provide a meandering means of reaching the hilltop home.

A simple, rustic gate leads to a moss-covered path through the woods in the Gentling garden.

Denny Schrock

landscape lessons from Biltmore

You may not have millions to spend on your landscape as did George Vanderbilt, the first owner of Biltmore estate and mansion in Asheville, NC, but you can follow some of the same principles that noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted used in laying out the grounds of this popular tourist destination. I was able to visit Asheville and Biltmore last week and came away with these impressions about the gorgeous grounds:

Provide a grand entry. Olmsted and Vanderbilt wanted to wow guests on arrival with an impressive view of the mansion. Allees of trees line the exanse of lawn in front of the home. In your own landscape, frame your home and provide an open, unobstructed view of the entry to welcome visitors.

Borrow the view. You may not be able to afford an estate with thousands of acres, but you, too, can take advantage of "borrowed" vistas. This view of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the back patio at Biltmore is spectactular.

Use masses of color. Whether your gardens are formal, such as these annual flower display beds at Biltmore, or informal, don't skimp on the number of plants. To have a big color impact, plant masses of solid colors.

Use native plants. A major feature of the gardens is the azalea and rhododendron walk. Here native flame azaleas, Cumberland azaleas, and Catawba rhododendrons provide splashes of spring color with few maintenance needs because they are native to the region.

Lead the eye through the landscape. A path past a weeping atlas cedar beckons strollers to see what's beyond the bend. You can do the same in smaller landscapes by creating winding paths that flow around shrub borders.

Frame the view. This glimpse of the south wing of the house from the shrub garden creates a permanent living picture frame to highlight the architecture of the home.

Denny Schrock

holiday lights at bellingrath gardens

I recently traveled to Mobile, Alabama as a guest of the Mobile Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau. My major interest in participating in the trip was to see Bellingrath Gardens and Home, but I was also pleasantly surprised at the wide variety of attractions available within walking distance of the tour group headquarters, the historic downtown Battle House Hotel. The Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center delighted with its interactive display about the human body and petting zoo of Australian animals that tied in with the IMAX presentation on the Australian Outback. The Museum of Mobile provided great historical context for this first capital of New France and original home of Mardi Gras in the New World. The Dauphin Street Historic District Walking Tour showcased dozens of historic buildings, including a couple of the restaurants where the group dined, Wintzell’s Oyster House, and Spot of Tea.

But the highlight of the tour for me had to be the gardens and displays at Bellingrath. Fellow garden communicator Sharon Asakawa and I arrived ahead of the main tour group so that we could spend some time viewing and photographing the late fall chrysanthemum displays, formal rose garden, and other gorgeous plantings before darkness fell. After a tour of the mansion, we returned to a magically transformed landscape decked out with more than three million holiday lights in 950 displays. Pictured below are just a few of them. The holiday light display at Bellingrath Gardens and Home continues through December 31.

The courtyard in the Bellingrath home featured cascading chrysanthemums on the balcony and scrolled ironwork typical of historic buildings in Mobile.

The terrace garden features bluestone pavers that originally were used as sidewalks in downtown Mobile.

This Chicago Peace rose was in near perfect condition.

After dark, the rose garden is transformed by its glowing gazebos and uplit fountain.

Triangular trees and sparkling snowflakes create a postcard scene on the lawn.

I really thought that the train engine should have been labeled BH&G rather than BG&H!

The stockings are hung by the chimney.

Clusters of holly leaves and berries line a walkway.

James A. Baggett

Baked Earth


Putting away my terra cotta pots is my final chore of the season. Terra cotta is my material of choice when it comes to the containers that grace my garden and front porch. I love the natural look of terra cotta (Italian for “baked earth”) and have amassed quite a collection of cool clay containers over the years. But like all crockery, terra cotta breaks when dropped and often cracks or flakes when exposed to repeated freeze-that cycles in the winter. So I keep mine stacked in a lopsided shed attached to the rear of my nearly hundred-year-old house.  Every year at this time I empty my spent containers in the compost bin, I make sure to remove all the loose debris and dirt from the pots. I spray them down with the hose and scrub them clean with a stiff brush before carting them to the shed. Cleaning your pots from year to year prevents passing fungi, bacteria, or viruses. And because clay is porous, salts in fertilizers pass through the pots walls and accumulate on the outside. That’s what that hard white crust is. Clean it off with a baking soda paste and a soft brush. Nothing looks nicer than stacks and stacks of clean terra cotta pots waiting for warmer weather.