Outdoors — possibly with a good book — is the place to be in Western North Carolina in any season, but particularly during the spring when nature awakens from its winter chill and calls us into its domain. Sitting under your favorite tree or walking the many hiking trails of the Blue Ridge Mountains, taking in the wild places afresh with the newness of springtime can be transformative. It’s the beginning of a season of color supplied by the rich native flowers that will push forth in rare abandon.
There is a calmness that befalls you when the machinery of the world is silenced and all around are the natural sounds of water falling, birds calling, insects singing and wind rustling the leaves and grasses. Time spent in nature, among the canopy of trees, has the power to restore and rejuvenate, while opening our senses and reconnecting us to the world.
Spring is also a time to think about our gardens and what we might accomplish to support nature during this time of warmth and sunshine. If you planted in autumn, you’ll be able to see the fruits of your labor as they begin pushing up out of the soil. But laying in a garden in the spring can be just as exhilarating.
Over the past century, the land has been transformed with millions of acres of farmland and habitat, giving way to urbanization and an unnatural fascination with manicured lawns. With its lawns and exotic ornamental plants, much of the landscape no longer supports functioning ecosystems, and the remaining natural areas are no longer large enough to support wildlife.
The good news is there’s a growing movement that understands the importance of native plants to our environment and wildlife, and supports their use in gardens and landscapes.
The use of native plants is critically important in preserving biodiversity. These plants occur naturally within the region in which they evolved and are the ecological basis upon which life depends.
Exotics tend to outcompete native species and actually degrade habitat.
To provide you with some concepts for your own garden, visit Bookends Used Bookstore, located inside the Pack Memorial Library. We’ve just received a donation that includes a large number of diverse and beautiful garden books. You’re sure to find the perfect one to help you with your own garden.
To expand upon your concept, you might consider a visit to one of Asheville’s public gardens, which have understood the importance of using native plants since their inception. For a closer walk among nature, visiting some of the gardens is an excellent option. There are several public gardens where the beauty of the landscape combines with nature’s insouciance to provide a respite from our chaotic world.
In the heart of the city, adjacent to the University of North Carolina at Asheville, you’ll find the Asheville Botanical Gardens, an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to study and promotion of native plants and habitats of the Southern Appalachians. Although located on university property, the gardens receive no funding from the university nor from any governmental entity. Take a walk along the paths of this 10-acre haven, and experience the diversity of plant life that can be found in this region.
The Biltmore Estate’s formal and informal gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, considered the father of American landscape architecture. You’ll find the beauty of the Italian Garden impressive and the trees in America’s first managed forest breathtaking. Indeed, Biltmore’s lush landscape is a living tribute to the genius of Olmsted. Biltmore’s horticulturists continually work in the gardens, changing the displays with the seasons.
The NC Arboretum, just south of Asheville and inside the Pisgah National Forest, is one of the most botanically diverse and beautiful natural settings in America. With its forested coves and meandering creeks, its beauty speaks to our very soul. The Arboretum includes 65 acres of cultivated gardens that pay tribute to our region’s rich cultural heritage and reinforce the importance of native plants to our world.
You can take one of the many short hiking trails to the Azalea Garden, by the banks of Bent Creek, which features nearly every species of azalea native to the US.
As an educational center and affiliate of UNC, the NC Arboretum is understandably focused on our endangered butterflies and pollinators. They have created plants and nesting sites for butterfly species, and the plants selected for the seasonally-planted landscapes and container gardens support foods—both pollen and nectar—for insects, with a focus on butterflies.
The NC Arboretum is a partner in Pack Library’s ZOOM program, so if you’re a library card holder, check their website to reserve your pass for free admission.
It’s a perfect time to think about a new garden or enhancing your existing one. And Bookends is the perfect place to find the perfect garden book to assist you.
Bookends Used Bookstore is open during regular Pack Memorial Library hours. Prices can be found on the first light-colored page in the upper right corner. Books can be paid for with cash, check or credit card at the library’s main floor checkout counter.
Proceeds from the sale of books provide funding for programs that support the community.