Southern Highlands Reserve is a native plant arboretum and research center dedicated to sustaining the natural ecosystems of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We accomplish this mission through the preservation, cultivation and display of plants native to the region, and by advocating for their value through education, restoration and research. Located in Western North Carolina at an elevation of 4500 feet, the varied topography and forest types found on our 120 acres allow us to emulate many of the plant communities found in the higher reaches of the Southern Appalachians.

 

Plan Your Visit!

Southern Highlands Reserve offers tours for individuals, small and large groups by reservation.

Genius Loci: Southern Highlands Reserve

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What They Are Saying

Dan Nadenicek

Dan Nadenicek

Dean, College of Environment & Design
University of Georgia

At the Southern Highlands Reserve (SHR), Robert and Betty Balentine, Director Kelly Holdbrooks, and SHR staff members are engaged in an atypical but highly important type of philanthropy: providing for the future of the region and the planet through stewardship, research, and advocacy about sustainable landscape practices.

When you visit, you will find that intended purpose subtly linked to an amazing garden experience of native plants, water features, trails, and vistas. Those stewardship lessons have also become the basis of an annual symposia series in which renowned horticulturists, landscape architects, scientific researchers, and others present their work and comment on the importance of the SHR vision.

Gary Smith

W. Gary Smith

FASLA Landscape Architect
for SHR Masterplan

More than any garden I know, at the Southern Highlands Reserve, it's almost guaranteed that you will make a personal connection to nature. When we made this garden, all we had to do was pause, listen, and put our egos out of the way - and that's what allowed us to tap into the deep inner spirit of this place.

Through design we abstracted and intensified the beauty, joy, and inspiration. It was almost as if we all were under some sort of magic spell. Even though everyone put in a huge amount of effort, in the end it was as if the place had made itself. As a designer, I can't imagine there will ever be another experience like it.

Allan Armitage

Dr. Allan Armitage

Professor Emeritus of Horticulture
University of Georgia

I am one fortunate fellow. I have traveled throughout the world to some of the most beautiful gardens, preserves and parks. I am constantly asked, "What are your favorite places to visit?" Without a moment’s hesitation, I mention the Southern Highlands Reserve. Without sounding melodramatic, I can honestly say visiting SHR provides natural beauty, tranquility and serenity unlike anywhere I have ever traveled. And thanks to the dedication and hard work of the founders and staff, I will be able to visit for many more decades to come.

Put on the tropics, put on the far reaches of the world, put on any dream you have – but be sure you put the Southern Highland Reserve on your bucket list. It is too wonderful too miss.

What's New

The #AppalachianMountains were formed roughly 490 million years ago during the Ordovician Period. Originally, they were as tall as the Rocky Mountains, but have eroded due to natural process over time, leaving the more rounded peaks familiar to those in the eastern US. This was the first of several mountain-building plate collisions that ended in the construction of the supercontinent Pangaea, with the Appalachians near the center. While still connected, they were part of a mountain chain—the Central Pangean Mountains— that extended into current-day Morocco and Scotland. By the end of the Mesozoic Era, the Appalachians had eroded to an almost flat plain and only acquired their current topography (every-changing, slowly) when the region was uplifted during the Cenozoic Era.

They have been called a “microcosm of the earth” because they hold evidence of nearly every geological event the earth has gone through. As a result, the area contains an exceptionally diverse natural system. The southern Appalachians run south from the New River and include the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Eastern Continental Divide runs along the mountain chain from Pennsylvania to their end in Georgia.

#TBT
... See MoreSee Less

The #AppalachianMountains were formed roughly 490 million years ago during the Ordovician Period. Originally, they were as tall as the Rocky Mountains, but have eroded due to natural process over time, leaving the more rounded peaks familiar to those in the eastern US. This was the first of several mountain-building plate collisions that ended in the construction of the supercontinent Pangaea, with the Appalachians near the center. While still connected, they were part of a mountain chain—the Central Pangean Mountains— that extended into current-day Morocco and Scotland. By the end of the Mesozoic Era, the Appalachians had eroded to an almost flat plain and only acquired their current topography (every-changing, slowly) when the region was uplifted during the Cenozoic Era.

They have been called a “microcosm of the earth” because they hold evidence of nearly every geological event the earth has gone through. As a result, the area contains an exceptionally diverse natural system. The southern Appalachians run south from the New River and include the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Eastern Continental Divide runs along the mountain chain from Pennsylvania to their end in Georgia. 

#TBT

A recent rainy morning gave us time to clean these #rattlesnakemaster seeds! Somewhat intimidating of a name, it comes from its use in treating rattlesnake bites!

Also commonly called button snake-root (Eryngium yuccifolium), it is a member of the parsley and carrot family (Apiaceae). Unlike others in the family, it has basal rosettes of parallel-veined, bristly-edged, sword-shaped, medium green leaves (to 3' long) resembling those of the yucca and a greenish-white prickly-looking bloom. The durable leaves were used by American Indians and European settlers for their fibers and woven into baskets, bags, shoes and cloth.

This herbaceous perennial is native to Zones 3 – 8 in the US, grow to between 4 – 5’ tall and peaks in our #Wildflower Labyrinth and Sunken Garden in August. They are easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun, and prefer dryish, sandy soils. They will self-seed in optimum growing conditions.

#WildflowerWednedsday
... See MoreSee Less

A recent rainy morning gave us time to clean these #rattlesnakemaster seeds! Somewhat intimidating of a name, it comes from its use in treating rattlesnake bites!

Also commonly called button snake-root (Eryngium yuccifolium), it is a member of the parsley and carrot family (Apiaceae). Unlike others in the family, it has basal rosettes of parallel-veined, bristly-edged, sword-shaped, medium green leaves (to 3 long) resembling those of the yucca and a greenish-white prickly-looking bloom. The durable leaves were used by American Indians and European settlers for their fibers and woven into baskets, bags, shoes and cloth.

This herbaceous perennial is native to Zones 3 – 8 in the US, grow to between 4 – 5’ tall and peaks in our #Wildflower Labyrinth and Sunken Garden in August. They are easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun, and prefer dryish, sandy soils. They will self-seed in optimum growing conditions.

#WildflowerWednedsday

 

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I want some Seeeds!!!

These tiny bits of green life are the newly emerging native #azaleas in our seed chamber in the Chestnut Lodge! They were planted in early January and will finally be strong enough to be moved into individual 2” pots by the end of March. Initially, they are so delicate that they cannot withstand being relocated, and we even water them with only a gentle mist until then. We gradually give them increasing amounts of fertilizer as they grow. Eventually, they will be potted-up into 1-gallon pots and then ready for planting in the ground next fall.

#plantnatives
... See MoreSee Less

These tiny bits of green life are the newly emerging native #azaleas  in our seed chamber in the Chestnut Lodge! They were planted in early January and will finally be strong enough to be moved into individual 2” pots by the end of March. Initially, they are so delicate that they cannot withstand being relocated, and we even water them with only a gentle mist until then. We gradually give them increasing amounts of fertilizer as they grow. Eventually, they will be potted-up into 1-gallon pots and then ready for planting in the ground next fall.

#plantnatives

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Support the Reserve

Your donation will make you a part of a group working toward a vision of education, restoration, and research in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The Southern Highlands Reserve is a nonprofit organization under the IRS code section 501(c)(3).