Asheville Botanical Garden
I was determined to forgo "the list" today. We checked a few items off of it that
to be accomplished, but then it was time for a field trip. So we scooted up the road to the Asheville Botanical Garden. While it sits on land owned by the University of North Carolina at Asheville, it is not run by the University. The Botanical Garden just celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Asheville's Botanical Garden fosters native plant habitats on ten acres. A number of plants on the grounds are rare, uncommon or endangered. Admission is free--the gardens are open year round--drive in, park, and take a walk. Do not bring your dog, however, as no pets are allowed. Given the fragility of some of the plants they are trying to protect, I understand. One good chase of a rabbit could annihilate a colony.
This botanical garden is not a display of some landscaper's prowess, necessarily. What it does well is to create the microclimates necessary to support specific species of true natives. When I say "true native," I mean a plant that is not cultivated from a native, or native to another part of the country, but native to Western North Carolina as it was decades or centuries ago. These plants were and are the raw material of many things we plant in our gardens today by fancier names.
One of my favorites from today's walk is Indian Pink (
). It's a good example of why some people don't want to plant natives, in that it requires some "special attention." In this case, soil that supports Indian Pink can't be allowed to dry out.
In some ways, those who choose to promote and support the planting of native plants are successful because of their passion. People walking past our yard will frequently say something to the effect of how we "work all the time." It doesn't feel like work, however. It is a real joy to be in the garden and watch the number of participatory species go up--more birds, more bugs, more plant species...the occasional new surprise like the gray tree frog we stumbled over hiding under a log. We give names to some of the critters (like "Snowball" for a pure white squirrel, or "Mullethead" for a white-breasted nuthatch) because they have become our familiars. They reward us for our familiarity by ignoring us, even as we get a bit closer to them in their comings and goings.
We go to the trouble of planting natives because they support the life that belongs in these mountains. We use cultivars of natives because we will not steal plants from a habitat in which they are happily growing, and a cultivar may be the closest thing we can get to that "real thing." As long as it supports the same insect and bird species, it gets to set down roots.
If you've been reading this blog for awhile, then you know I have a thing about bunnies. Well, today I got to see a couple young ones, foraging in the clover at the Botanical Gardens at Asheville. Which means I have to give the gardens a round of applause. Because its not just the flora that benefits from an untrammeled landscape. It's the fauna, too. And as numerous studies are now starting to show, its not just the bunny fauna that benefits. Its the people fauna, too.