Connecting with Tradition – The Quilt Garden

Heritage crafts and gardening have deep roots in the Southern Appalachian mountains. From broom making to basket weaving, functional art keeps generations connected to the land. The Arboretum’s Quilt Garden is a unique interpretation of traditional quilt block patterns with plants, representing the close ties between heritage crafts and gardening and the contemporary art and craft of quilting in the Southern Appalachians.

Quilt Garden Panorama Color Correction

Twenty-four in-ground beds divided by gravel and slate foot path walkways allow visitors to enjoy exploring the gardens up close, while an observation area provides a stunning overview of the entire garden.

The Quilt Garden pattern for 2014 is Rail Fence. Developed in Colonial times, the simple pattern was taught to children as they first began learning to piece fabrics together. Quilting history shows that the pattern had symbolic significance and was used to send information to escaping slaves on the Underground Railroad. Different quilts displaying various patterns were hung outdoors over fences or clothesline to convey different meanings.
Rail Fence Template
Plants for the Quilt Garden are selected based on seasonal appropriateness, hardiness, garden performance and design. Spring season plants must be able to withstand late spring frosts and fluctuations in temperature. Summer plants must withstand heat, full sun exposure and meet maintenance best practices and tolerances. Plants selected for fall must, as in spring, be adaptable to light frost and fluctuations in day and nighttime temperatures.  In general, plants selected for the Quilt Garden must flower continuously without need of deadheading (removal of spent flowers) or have outstanding foliage color and/or texture, have compatible water needs, withstand full sun conditions, have moderate growth rate allowing growth to stay within bounds of the pattern and have little to no exceptional maintenance requirements and/or treatment for known pest or disease pressures.

The spring Quilt Garden is planted with more than 3,000 PennyTM   Series violas: Viola cornuta ‘Deep Blue Improved,’ ‘Orange Improved,’ and ‘Peach Jump Up.’




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Contributed by Sheryl Klemanski, Director of Finance and Resource Management


Pandora pulling into the parking lot with her owner, Wanda.

I am always amazed at the wonders I see at the Arboretum as I come to work or leave each day. It may just be the sight of a few deer grazing on the grass as I drive up Frederick Law Olmsted Way or how the sun reflects off of the Exhibition Greenhouse in the early morning. In the fall, the muhly grass looks like pink smoke billowing from the hillside. But the one experience that has brought the biggest smile to my face is seeing a little Papillon named Pandora. Pandora is 15 years old. Despite being deaf and having limited vision, Pandora demonstrates so much excitement when she is at the Arboretum that she has captured the hearts of the staff.

Pandora and her “mom”, Wanda Buckner, have been coming to the Arboretum almost daily for more than 11 years. They have walked almost every trail from Hard Times to Owl Ridge to the Carolina Mountain Trail.  Wanda has had Pandora since she was a puppy and can attest that although Papillons are considered a toy breed, they are far from delicate.  This certainly explains how this little ball of fur can take on the challenges of our toughest trails.

What brought Pandora to our attention is her enthusiasm for the Arboretum.  In the summer months, you can hear her barking with her head out of the car window as she and Wanda make their way up Frederick Law Olmsted Way to the parking lot. Some may say she is just reacting to the treat given to her at the gate, but I choose to believe she is responding to the entire experience of the Arboretum. When she gets out of the car, she jumps up and down as she readies for her walk.  Wanda believes that Pandora is under the impression that this is her place (which, of course, it is).

Even though Pandora is a small dog, she is kept on a leash at all times for her protection.  During her walks, she has seen all kinds of wildlife, from other dogs to squirrels to a bear!

I’m not sure if Pandora is our oldest canine member (in human years she is 99 years old), but she is certainly our most recognized. Her walks are now limited to the core garden areas, but her enthusiasm for the Arboretum is still going strong. Pandora serves as a role model for everyone who comes to the Arboretum, whether to work, volunteer or visit… whether you’re a young pup or a more mature dog, I encourage you to enjoy the experience!

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FungiFest Coming in September

The North Carolina Arboretum will host the Asheville Mushroom Club’s popular FungiFest on Saturday, September 7. The festival is a daylong celebration of fungi, featuring displays, classes and workshops.

ImageAt the heart of this year’s event will be a vast display of wild mushrooms in their varied colors and forms. Members of the Asheville Mushroom Club will be on hand to answer questions, and vendors will offer mushroom art, edible mushrooms and grow-your-own kits. For those who want to learn more, there will be mushroom walks led by experts, as well as classes on mushroom identification, the role of mushrooms in the environment, the healing properties of mushrooms and cooking with mushrooms.

Founded in 1983, the Asheville Mushroom Club began as a group of four individuals and has since grown to a robust membership of mushroom enthusiasts, from beginning collectors to professional mycologists. The club’s FungiFest is an excellent opportunity to discover the variety of mushrooms found regionally and learn more about the different aspects of fungi identification, folklore, cultivation and culinary preparation.

FungiFest is one of many popular events hosted by The North Carolina Arboretum. Each year more than 494,000 visitors experience the Arboretum’s gardens, trails, exhibits, shows and expos, educational programs, demonstrations and lectures. The Arboretum’s ability to meet its mission and enrich the visitor experience is made possible by a community of supporters—from members, volunteers and staff to state and local funds, tribute gifts, grants, and community partners.   

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Twenty-first Century Clay

Grounded in traditions that date back more than 150 years, the work of ceramist Matt Jones is strong and functional. But upon closer inspection—be it a walk around a five foot tall jug or the turn of a mug in hand—a modern aesthetic is quickly revealed. Jones prides himself on walking a tightrope between the cultural past and present day tastes. His first solo exhibition, Twenty-first Century Clay, is a testament to his balancing act.

At his pottery indecorative painting the Sandy Mush community of Buncombe County, Jones draws from the rulebooks of functional and decorative pottery of the Carolinas, as well as a form he calls contemplative pottery. He explains, “As we look at pottery in museum context and create collections throughout the state, we become comfortable looking at pots as art objects. Potters seek to make contemporary pots that stand as art.”

Jones’ work consistently overlaps functional and decorative. Twenty-first Century Clay explores the symbiosis of his utilitarian styles with a decorative sensibility. Through his use of regional clay and glaze materials, as well as wood to fire his kiln, Jones maintains a focus, grounding his work and connecting it to a larger genre of North Carolina pottery.

“All potters struggle to find a balance between form and function,” said Jones. “Pottery can be a full education. From aesthetics to geology, history, anthropology and philosophy, pottery can lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world we inhabit.”

Twenty-first Century Clay will be on display at The North Carolina Arboretum through September 22, 2013. Many of the pieces are for sale. The exhibition is open to the public during regular Baker Exhibit Center hours: 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily. Exhibit admission is free with the standard parking fee ($8 per personal vehicle). Admission and parking is always free for Arboretum Society members.

The North Carolina Arboretum is grateful to the following Community Partners for their support of the exhibit: Smoky Mountain Living and Duke Energy Progress.

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Spending the Day with Your Dog

Sure, there are plenty of dog parks in Asheville and the surrounding communities that allow your canine friend to interact with members of his/her own species, but what if you want to spend some quality time with your dog? The North Carolina Arboretum is a dog-friendly environment that provides different levels of interaction for you and your pet.
Lucy on Trail
For those with senior dogs, a leisurely stroll through the cultivated gardens or on the Natural Garden Trail gives you and your pooch time to enjoy the beautiful gardens and woodlands, smell the flowers, and even practice some of those old tricks you may have learned in obedience class (heel, sit, stay). For young pups, it’s a place to learn to socialize with humans, experience different venues and develop that lifelong bond between you and your pet. For the more active dog, the Arboretum offers more challenging trails on which you and your dog can hike or run and still experience the incredible scenery of the Bent Creek Watershed.

There are a few guidelines to follow when bringing your four-legged friend to the Arboretum:
• Your dog must be on a leash at all times (Buncombe County Ordinance).
• Please pick up any waste (waste bags and receptacles are located on the property).
• Do not leave your dog unattended or locked in your car.
• Dogs are not allowed in the buildings or the Bonsai Exhibition Garden, with the exception of service dogs.
• While on the trails, be mindful of potential risks, including encounters with snakes.
• If you are alone and need to use the restroom, please ask a staff member or one of our wonderful volunteers to hold the leash while you take your short break—do not tie your buddy to a tree or other structure.
• Like you, your dog can become dehydrated during your outing, so we recommend bringing along water for both you and your friend.

We hope you both have a wonderful time at the Arboretum!

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Sure Signs of Spring

ImageTwo sure indicators of spring, bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) and service berry (Amelanchier arborea) are in flower this week at The North Carolina Arboretum.

Long awaited these early wildflowers are blooming alongside cowslip (Primula veris), Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica), unfurling cinnamon fern fronds (Osmunda cinnamomeum), butterweed (Senecio glabellus), Allegehney spurge (Pachysandra procumbens) and trout lily (Erythronium americanum) in the Stream Garden. Yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima), and (Houstonia caerulea) bluets are flowering in the Bonsai Exhibition Garden, wild ginger’s little brown jug shaped flowers (Asarum canadense) are in the Stream and Heritage gardens.

All the above mentioned wildflowers are planted in central garden areas and are easy to see and admire.

Tailing arbutus (Epigaea repens), one of the sweetest fragranced early spring wildflowers is in bloom along the trails.

Early spring ephemeral wildflowers bloom quickly taking advantage of the high light levels at ground level just prior to leaf expansion in the overhanging trees. Lasting only a few weeks or even days the early bloomers are a welcome harbinger of springtime warmth and new life in the garden!

Flowering shrubs are blooming in the garden this week and include quince, forsythia, spirea and viburnum. A host of mid-season bulbs are in flower in container gardens and landscape garden beds including narcissus, hyacinths, anemone, ranunculus and early tulips.

Trees flowering with the service berry include magnolia, redbud and maple.

The service berry common name and most common derivation of the name in Appalachian lore is that the white flowering branches were the first flowers used at spring church services and gravesite burials in the newly thawed ground. Appalachian people may have pronounced the word ‘service’ as ‘sarvis’ as a form of the word ‘sorbus’ which was a well-known European tree to North American colonizers. The tree is highly ornamental producing edible fruit in early summer.

A visit to the Arboretum is delightful in any season but spring ephemeral wildflower season is particularly dear to me as these were the first plants and plant names that I learned as a child. Come visit and start learning today!


– Clara A. Curtis, Director for Design and Exhibit Assets, Interim Director of Education

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