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.
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.
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.’