SHR Presents its First Feature Film: “Genus Loci: Southern Highlands Reserve”

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During this year’s Symposium, SHR premiered the final version of “Genus Loci: Southern Highlands Reserve,” a 17-minute feature film three years in the making. Featuring interviews with the Reserve’s founders Betty and Robert Balentine, landscape architect Gary Smith, and consultants, artisans, and key partners, the film the story of how the Reserve was created.

As the film’s title implies, thoughtful design, reverence for nature and respect for the land in its natural state were the guiding principles upheld by the Reserve’s design team. The film informs viewers about the Reserve’s past, present, and future, highlighting milestones in the Reserve’s development. Founder Robert Balentine hopes “viewers will gain a sense of the majesty of God’s creation and the role man can play creating a manipulated landscape to further evoke an emotional response to that creation.” For many, the film is an opportunity to see a window into the hearts and minds of those who chose to be a part of SHR since its inception as they wrote their signature on the land.

An overarching theme of the film is conservation; the need to not only preserve wild places like the land on which SHR is founded, but also to restore balance to the health of ecosystems threatened by activities of man. The organization’s conservation-based mission is featured in the film’s spotlight on SHR’s activities to help restore health to endangered high-elevation Spruce-Fir forests of Western North Carolina. Through its involvement with the Southern Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative, SHR actively contributes to conservation of the Spruce-Fir forests by growing Red Spruce in its Nursery Complex and partnering with federal and state agencies to plant spruce seedlings on public lands.

Through the film’s carefully selected interviews, cinematography and moving musical score, the Reserve’s founders and creators invite viewers to join in the Reserve’s mission in conservation today and tomorrow. Further, Executive Director Kelly Holdbrooks notes the video serves to allow “free media to cultivate the story of SHR to a wider audience. We are by design a remote location and not for the faint of heart in visiting a garden. Therefore, this video creates a window to the heart and soul of SHR and how it began and continues to flourish today.”

The film can be viewed on SHR’s YouTube page at the following location: https://youtu.be/vebvTM50mPk.

 

 

Native Plant Experts Speak at Southern Highlands Reserve’s Annual Symposium: “Balance and Function: The Role of Native Plants in our Ecosystems”

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On Saturday, May 14th, horticulturalists, gardeners, landscape designers and plant lovers gathered on Toxaway Mountain at Southern Highlands Reserve’s Native Plant Symposium to learn about gardening with plants that are native to the Southern Appalachian Mountains. This year’s theme “Balance and Function: The Role of Native Plants in our Ecosystems” showcased how native plants provide valuable services to our everyday lives. Through their collective experience spanning 75 years, native plant experts provided examples through field studies and best management practices on how we can use native plants in landscaping projects of any scale.

Keynote Speaker Larry Mellichamp, former Director Emeritus of the Botanical Gardens at UNC-Charlotte, shared his insights from a recent botanical study in Madagascar, comparing native plants of Madagascar’s island ecosystems to the rare native plants in hot spots of biodiversity in Western North Carolina. Guest Speakers Matt Sprouse and Amy Fahmy from Sitework Studios in Asheville shared numerous examples how to weave native plants into the design of any landscape, large or small. These case studies demonstrated using native plants in the landscape can be orchestrated to provide ecological benefit as well as aesthetic quality.

Based on the feedback from attendees, SHR’s founders and staff were pleased to see the Symposium exceeded expectations of our guests. “It was exciting to see how engaged the audience was in seeking practical ideas they could use in their gardens. The speakers had a positive influence in creating a broader vision of the interconnectivity of the natural world,” reflected founder Robert Balentine. SHR’s Executive Director Kelly Holdbrooks commented, “I thought the content was inspiring and informative. The speakers were some of the best in the profession regionally and offered insight to attendees about two very different topics.” When asked about her overall impression about the Symposium, Kelly noted, “We accomplished our goals in educating about the use of native plants, and the overall impression was a grand slam by SHR to provide an outstanding education event for the public to attend.”

A special highlight of this year’s Symposium was the premiere showing of SHR’s Film entitled “Genus Loci: The Southern Highlands Reserve.” Featuring interviews with the Reserve’s founders Betty and Robert Balentine, landscape architect W. Gary Smith, and consultants, artisans, and key partners, the film the story of how the Reserve was created. As the film’s title implies, thoughtful design, reverence for nature and respect for the land in its natural state were the key guiding principles upheld by the Reserve’s design team.

As a result of watching the film, SHR founder Robert Balentine hopes “viewers will gain a sense of the majesty of God’s creation and the role man can play in creating a manipulated landscape to further evoke an emotional response to that creation.” The film is intended to give visitors not only an experience of the Reserve’s past, present, and future, but also foster a spiritual connection to nature.

Following the Symposium’s lectures and film showing, attendees enjoyed a picnic lunch in the gardens and then gathered for a Garden Tour led by SHR staff and its Founders. The Symposium Garden Tour is the only tour during the year where visitors get to hear the story of SHR from the founders as they reflect on their conservation efforts at the Reserve.

Southern Highlands Reserve Participates in National Public Garden Day Celebration with Gardens Across the U.S., Gives Native Plant Seedling to Visitors

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Visitors to Southern Highlands Reserve on May 3rd celebrated National Public Gardens Day with a garden tour and took a part of the garden home with them. Every year, gardens like the Southern Highlands Reserve celebrate National Public Gardens Day to raise awareness about the importance of environmental stewardship and conservation.

This year, Southern Highlands Reserve participated in the celebration by offering every visitor a seedling grown in the Reserve’s Nursery Complex. Visitors had the option of taking home a Gregory Bald azalea, a pinkshell azalea, or a red spruce seedling. The Reserve’s staff concluded the seedling giveaway was an exciting moment for visitors, as they gathered around Executive Director Kelly Holdbrooks awaiting their turn to select the newest addition to their home gardens.

The May 3rd Visitor’s Day tour enjoyed a glimpse of the delicate Pinkshell Azaleas (R. vaseyi) blooming in the gardens, creating an illusion of pink clouds dotting the forest landscape. The Woodland Glade was covered in Sherwood Purple phlox blooms, creating a carpet of lavender flowers on the forest floor. Several varieties of Trillium were in bloom, including Nodding Trilliaum, Wake Robin Trillium and Catesby’s Trillium. Also blooming in the gardens were Bleeding Heart, Clinton’s Lilly, Leucothue, Crested Iris, Pink Ladyslippers and Yellow Ladyslippers. Photos of the tour can be viewed on the Reserve’s facebook page via this link.

Southern Highlands Reserve offers Visitor’s Day tours the first Tuesday of every month and private group tours by reservation. All visitors may may make a reservation for a visitor’s day or group tours on the Reserve’s website: www.southernhighlandsreserve.org/events.

Native Plant Experts to Speak at Southern Highlands Reserve’s Annual Symposium: “Balance and Function: The Role of Native Plants in our Ecosystems”

Posted Posted in SHR-News

On Saturday, May 14th, horticulturalists, gardeners, landscape designers and plant lovers will gather on Toxaway Mountain at Southern Highlands Reserve’s Native Plant Symposium to learn about gardening with plants that are native to the Southern Appalachian Mountains. This year’s theme “Balance and Function: The Role of Native Plants in our Ecosystems” will showcase how native plants provide valuable services to our everyday lives. Through their collective experience spanning 75 years, native plant experts will provide examples through field studies and best management practices on how we can use native plants in landscaping projects of any scale.

Compared with non-native species, native plants are more effective in providing critical services such as water purification, flood mitigation and disease control. Native plants also are essential to supporting the food chain on all levels, providing food for insects and animals above them that are also native within the ecosystem.

Keynote Speaker Larry Mellichamp, former Director Emeritus of the Botanical Gardens at UNC-Charlotte, will share with the Symposium his insights from a recent botanical study in Madagascar, comparing native plants of Madagascar’s island ecosystems to the rare native plants in hot spots of biodiversity in Western North Carolina. Guest Speakers Matt Sprouse and Amy Fahmy from Sitework Studios in Asheville will discuss how to weave native plants into the design of any landscape, large or small.

The Southern Highlands Reserve is a non-profit organization dedicated to sustaining the natural ecosystems of the Blue Ridge Mountains 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 high elevation forests of the Southern Appalachians.

The Native Plant Symposium will be held at the Southern Highlands Reserve in Lake Toxaway, NC on May 14th from 8:30 – 3:00 p.m. Advance registration is required and tickets can be purchased on our website at www.southernhighlandsreserve.org/events.

For more information, please contact Holly Spencer at 828-215-8548 or hspencer@southernhighlandsereserve.org.

Southern Highlands Reserve - Cherokee Garden Club

Wet and Wild: A Partners for Plants Wetland Revegetation Weekend and Optional Camping Trip

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June 10 – June 12

Cherokee Garden Club Presents: “Wet and Wild: A Partners for Plants Wetland Revegetation Weekend and Optional Camping Trip”

As a member of Garden Clubs of America, the Cherokee Garden Club is pleased to present “Wet & Wild: A Partners for Plants Wetlands Revegetation Weekend” to be held on June 10-12, 2016 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the National Park System.

The purpose of the event is to revegetate a marshy site cleared of invasive exotics in 2014 with genotypes of native sedges, rushes, alders, swamp roses and other select native plants collected by the National Parks Service.

The June 10-12, 2016 revegetation weekend with optional camping includes installation of the coir mats, conservation discussion with NPS staff, native plant identification on field trips, wildcraft (edible plants) display and foraging feast with guest speaker, Ila Hatter, a wildcrafting expert. Synchronous fireflies will display, if weather permits.

The collaboration is among multi-zonal Garden Club of America members (growers/installers), the National Park Service(genotypic seed collection), Jackson County NC Master Gardeners (mat sack assembly for easy sharing/mailing to GCA members), the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians (youth education/propagation workshops) and the Southern Highlands Reserve, a native plant arboretum research station (greenhouse support).

The revegetation site is adjacent to four geographic interfaces:

1) southern entry to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
2) terminus of Blue Ridge Parkway
3) Qualla Boundary of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation
4) confluence of the Raven Fork and Oconaluftee Rivers.

The cleared site is 5 acres near Cherokee High School, Cherokee NC.

For more information, please contact Mary Palmer Dargan, Zone VIII Conservation/NAL Representative & Cherokee GC member:  mpdargan@dargan.com.

Click here for the full event invitation

From Seed to Forest: Restoring Red Spruce in the Southern Appalachia

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On Tuesday, January 19th, members of the grass-root organization Southern Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative (SASRI), joined the Reserve’s staff in cleaning red spruce cones and preparing their seeds for germination in the Reserve’s Nursery Complex. Nine volunteers joined four SHR staff members, all contributing a total of 44 hours of labor, cleaning an estimated 53,000 seeds from 22 collections of red spruce cones in the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains.

High elevation spruce-fir forest ecosystems in areas like the Southern Highlands Reserve are considered by ecologists as “islands in the sky.” These pocket ecosystems, now found in fewer areas of the Blue Ridge mountains, have a unique set of native plants and animals that can thrive in these environments.

Today these forests face increasing pressures from acid rain, rising temperatures, poor management and drought. Spruce-fir forests have become the second most endangered ecosystem in the United States.  These high elevation forests are home to federally endangered species like Spruce-fir moss spider and the Carolina Northern flying squirrel. Other species of conservation concern such as the Northern Saw‐whet Owl, the Black‐capped Chickadee, and several salamander species also call these forests home.

Together with The Nature Conservancy, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the NC Wildlife Resource Commission, and the Forest Service, Southern Highlands Reserve is working to help restore red spruce in Western North Carolina. Along with other stakeholders, these core partners are developing the Southern Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative (SASRI), a formal partnership with a strategic action plan to restore red spruce in these endangered spruce-fir forests.

Since 2009, the Reserve has propagated red spruce seedlings in our Nursery Complex. In partnership with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, thousands of seedlings have been reintroduced and planted in the Unicoi mountains, one area of only nine known populations of the endangered Carolina Northern flying squirrel. Reintroducing red spruce in these areas is a critical step towards preserving the endangered squirrel’s habitat.

In the spirit of the Reserve’s mission to protect and conserve native plants and their ecosystems, we are dedicated to providing the solution to the decline of spruce-fir forests. Due to our high-elevation location, our Nursery Complex is uniquely poised to grow red spruce seedlings successfully. Currently, there is no other facility in the southeastern US growing red spruce for restoration, which makes the Reserve’s ability to continue these propagation efforts for this partnership very important.

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Photo credits: Gary Peebles, US Fish and Wildlife Service