Wild Spaces at The North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville

by - October 30, 2018

Back in August I traveled to Asheville, NC for the EcoStream Conference. I first dropped off my boys with my parents in Whitetop, VA, then drove down a little early so I could explore the North Carolina Arboretum. I'm pretty sure I went to a workshop at the arboretum over a decade ago when I was just barely pregnant with my first, but back then I hadn't been bitten by the gardening bug. If anything I was too nauseous and nervous to take in the surroundings. So this visit was essentially a first exploration of the space.

The vast gardens were very impressive, such as the heritage and bonsai gardens, but what really caught my eye were the wild spaces. In those areas, life was there regardless of human intentions, such as a patch of mushrooms in a grassy lawn and moss growing along a fence railing. By no means do I mean to minimize the efforts of growing the manicured areas, as I'm learning in my own space that it can take just as much work to create wild spaces or at least give the illusion of such. I'm sure the wildflower patches started as a carefully curated list of native bloomers.

There was a wildflower garden in The Forest Meadow (this is the official name of this garden), and there was one happy little 'Mexican Hat' coneflower that I've tried to germinate seeds for without success. I'm trying my seeds again with the direct sow method since stratifying them in the fridge didn't work out.


There were so many trails that I would have loved to explore had I not been alone. 


I actually took a break to purchase a memory card for my camera, check into the hotel and change clothes, and then I returned to the arboretum to look for the stream on the map, hoping there would be a restored reach with structures to photograph. I couldn't find any restorations, but there was a mowed trail near the entrance that I walked for a few minutes on before heading back to the main gardens. In this riparian area, there were so many wildflowers I've always seen by creeks and rivers or in my parents' ten acres in Tennessee. I got a little spooked since the sun was going down and the tall weeds were far above my head, so I only stayed a few minutes before heading back to the main gardens. 


The wildflowers along the stream were a mix of Joe Pye Weed, Ironweed, Goldenrod, and Jewelweed, and plenty of others that I failed to notice. I may be a little crazy for planting several of these varieties in my own yard last week as they can grow 4 - 6 ft tall, but if you only saw the flurry of wings and buzzing when the sun was higher up, you would understand how vital these species are to the ecosystem. My attempts to bring elements of my favorite parts of gardens and wild spaces around the state may result in my yard transitioning towards a massive weed patch, but nature's value isn't just in the pleasure it brings to our eyes. I believe there is beauty in function and purpose, not just in physical form.


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