Cullowhee Native Plant Conference Attendees Experience SHR’s Rich Biodiversity during Conference Field Trip

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For nearly two decades, the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference at Western Carolina University has been a long-time favorite educational conference of landscape professionals across the country. With over 20 field trips, this 5-day conference hosts many types of in-depth opportunities to learn about native plants from experts including lectures, workshops, and field trips. The Cullowhee Native Plant Conference is known as one of the oldest native plant conferences in the U.S., attracting attendees from across the nation to visit our region and its rich biodiversity.

SHR staff members Eric Kimbrel and Kyle Meece attended the Conference, noting an increase in attendees from previous years, including many newcomers to the event. Claudia West and Thomas Ranier presented their new publication “Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes,” which illustrated how to implement longer-lasting landscape designs that don’t have to be intensely maintained. They shared valuable lessons in how to create gardens that are easier to maintain, productive, and aesthetically pleasing.

Following the conference, Eric commented: “The Cullowhee Native Plant Conference brings together everyone from the homeowner to the college professor to the avid hiker to students, all gaining knowledge in horticulture and botany. At the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference, people learn there is an alternative to traditional landscape design that is longer-lived, sustainable, lower maintenance and just as aesthetically pleasing.”

The Cullowhee Native Plant conference opens the door to the region’s rich biodiversity through its field trips. According to the WNC Vitality Index, the Southern Appalachian ecoregion includes the Blue Ridge Mountain Section contains “the highest number of federally listed and proposed threatened and endangered terrestrial species in the Southern Appalachian chain. Most occurrences of federally-listed species are associated with rare community groups such as spruce-fir, grassy bald, high-elevation rocky summit, southern Appalachian bog, montane alluvial, and spray cliff communities.” Many of these communities are represented on the Reserve, creating an experiential learning opportunity for plant experts across the country.

SHR was honored to partner with the conference and lead another field trip, providing SHR with a unique opportunity to have large groups of horticultural professionals touring the gardens with us. During the tour, SHR staff shared stories about SHR’s current projects and activities, while learning from our guests as well. Field trip attendees experienced the native plant gardens, Core Park, and extensively observed the Nursery Complex, highlighting the Reserve’s work in red spruce restoration in Western North Carolina.

The field trip is an excellent example of SHR’s efforts to “cross-pollinate” with other horticultural professionals where discussions of best management practices and lessons learned in the field is shared among colleagues in real-time, creating new opportunities for learning and growth.

 

Southern Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative (SASRI) Signs Charter Agreement with SHR for Red Spruce Restoration Projects Across Southern Appalachian Mountains

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Southern Highlands Reserve is proud to announce its formal long-term partnership with the Southern Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative (SASRI) to restore red spruce and the vitality of spruce-fir forests in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. This summer, SHR signed a charter with organizations and government agencies such as The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Forest Service, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission and others. The mission of SASRI is to restore the natural condition of spruce-fir forests in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

Spruce-fir forests of the Southern Blue Ridge ecoregion have been in decline for more than 100 years primarily due to logging activity and wildfires that compounded their ability to recover from human disturbance. These high-elevation spruce-fir “islands in the sky” are considered the second-most endangered ecosystems in the United States and are home to species of conservation concern such as spruce-fir moss spider, and the federally-endangered Carolina Northern flying squirrel, the northern saw-whet owl, brown creeper, black-capped chickadee, and several salamanders.

Restoring red spruce in Western North Carolina provides many ecological, environmental and economic benefits. Red spruce is a foundation species in the Spruce-Fir ecosystem, helping to sustain life for many other living creatures. Restoring red spruce in these spruce-fir forests will help prevent further habitat loss and preserve the rich biodiversity in our region. Red Spruce are also known as one of the species that helps to purify our air and water quality, resulting in clearer skies and cleaner water. Restoring red spruce offers a compounding economic benefit, enticing tourists to visit the region as they clear the air and preserve our long-range viewsheds. These air and water quality services are priceless to the vitality of our region’s communities and tourism-based economy.

With a proven track record of growing high quality red spruce trees from seed, SHR’s role in SASRI is to provide the spruce trees to be planted on all SASRI restoration projects. Over the past few years, SHR has worked with SASRI to plant over 2,000 red spruce trees on public lands. SHR currently has thousands of red spruce seedlings in propagation and hundreds of young spruce trees ready for transplant in its Nursery Complex. The successful restoration of red spruce to public lands in Western NC will ensure the threads within the web of life here in our national forests and along the parkway will be preserved for generations to come.

To support SHR’s efforts to restore red spruce in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, please contact Kelly Holdbrooks at 828-885-2050 or kholdbrooks@southernhighlandsreserve.org. You may also support the red spruce project directly by contributing a donation on our home page on SHR’s website at www.southernhighlandsereserve.org. Volunteer opportunities will be announced in 2017.

Plant with Natives in Your Garden at SHR’s Annual Plant Sale

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Our seasonal Native Plant Sale is coming up just around the corner! Join us on August 19th and 20th and bring home a few of the native plants featured in the gardens of Southern Highlands Reserve.

We will have available many of the azaleas and other shrubs you have seen at the Reserve for sale in either 1-gallon or 4-inch containers. Each plant has been grown with care from hand-collected seed.

Please bring checks made payable to the Southern Highlands Reserve for your purchase. This is a check only event. Thank you!

The sale will be open at the Reserve from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. on Friday, August 19th and from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 20th. 

SHR Announces the Installation of its View Site Sculpture by Wesley Wofford Studios

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This year’s visitor season marks a milestone for SHR – its second art installation in the gardens! Inspired by the maps used by the National Parks Service along the Blue Ridge Parkway to help park goers identify mountain peaks along the horizon, SHR installed a bronze bas relief map naming the mountains seen from the precipice of the View Site. Surrounded by rhododendron and mountain myrtle, the bronze sculpture invites visitors to traverse the landscape down to the lower terraces to capture of glimpse of the mountains along the horizon.

In honor of Betty and Robert Balentine’s vision and commitment to conservation, the sculpture was donated to Southern Highlands Reserve by Vistage, a leadership development and business mentoring group comprised of executives around the world. SHR’s founders and staff had long wished to add a new design element to the gardens, a sculptural art form, that would serve to beautify the gardens and educate visitors.

Over the course of three years, SHR’s founders and staff worked with Wesley Wofford to develop this art piece, employing numerous methods to bring this project to fruition. With the use of USGS topographical maps, tracings using a light table, and digital photo software, Wesley was able to transform a digitally-rendered image into a 3-dimentional work of art.

Thanks to the creative talents of Wesley Wofford, visitors now have a personal connection to the mountains in the distance. The bronze topographical map features the name, elevation and distance from the View Site of the following 15 mountain peaks: Cold Mountain, Rich Mountain Bald, Richland Balsam, Panthertail Mountain, Mount Hardy, Tanasee Bald, Devil’s Courthouse, Black Balsam Knob, Graveyard Fields, Fork River Bald, Mount Pisgah, Looking Glass Rock, Mount Mitchell, Black Mountain, and Cedar Rock Mountain. The sculpture now sits as a crown jewel at the precipice of the View Site, honoring the land and those who ensured it would remain for generations to come.

SHR’s founders and staff are very grateful for the talented work of Wesley Wofford and the generous donation from the Vistage Group who made this art installation possible.

Cherokee Garden Club of Atlanta Coordinates “Partners for Plants” Wetland Revegetation Project at Great Smoky Mountains National Park with SHR, National Parks Service, Volunteers

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On the weekend of June 10-12, SHR founders and staff joined members of the Cherokee Garden Club of Atlanta, Peachtree Garden Club, French Broad Garden Club, public land managers with the National Parks Service, and other dedicated native plant lovers for a special weekend to help revegetate a wetland area near the southern entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This occasion was quite a celebration, as 2016 is the Centennial of the National Parks System.

The target area for planting was determined by the “Partners for Plants” Initiative, a habitat restoration joint program between The Garden Club of America Conservation and Horticulture Committees. Its purpose is to facilitate projects between local GCA clubs and land managers on federal, state, local and other significant public lands. Projects may include the monitoring and protection of rare, endangered and medicinal plants, the propagation and replanting of native plants and the removal of invasive plants.

Guided by the Partners for Plants program, the team’s mission was to plant seedlings grown from seeds collected on site by the National Parks Service and grown by volunteers. Seeds were packaged by members of the Jackson County Master Gardeners and Cashiers Valley Garden Club and sent to SHR and other GCA clubs to grow the seeds. SHR contributed to the project by nurturing a majority of the seed mats that grew the native seeds into young seedlings ready for transplant.

SHR’s Director of Horticulture Eric Kimbrel noted that the project provides significant benefit to the entrance by “allowing nature to be the way it was before the invasive plants took over.”

Cherokee Garden Club member and champion of the Partners for Plants Project, Mary Palmer Dargan, organized a host of activities for volunteers who participated in the revegetation day over the course of a weekend overnight camping trip in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Prior to beginning the plant installation, Cherokee Elder Marie Junaluska from the Eastern Band of the Cherokee conducted a blessing of the plants and the land that was about to receive them. “The blessing of the plants by a Cherokee Elder was the most moving things I’ve ever witnessed,” founder Robert Balentine reflected.

When the installation project was completed, the group foraged for food in the woods and headed back to camp where they were joined by a special guest speaker. Identified as a “living treasure” by Mary Palmer, “Lady of the Woods” Ila Hatter cooked with the group around a campfire and shared her knowledge on foraging in the woods, as featured in the publication Women of the Smokies: No Place for the Weary Kind.

Saturday evening, the group feasted on their foraging delights: spicebush roasted vegetables, elderflower fritters, foraged salad with chickweed dressing, homemade pickled ramps, and coupled these treats with roasted trout and chestnut cornbread, to then finish everything off with a rhubarb berry crisp and a few elderflower cocktails. Yum! Later that evening, the group went to chase fireflies during their peak season.

Like the other participants, SHR Founder Betty Balentine found the entire weekend delightful. “I loved our experience with Partners 4 Plants. We are blessed to have an incredible National Park system in the United States. To help celebrate their 100 anniversary we participated in this project to revegetate an area of the Smoky Mountains National Park that had been overtaken by exotic invasive species. We spent time with Ila Hatter, a renowned naturalist, learning about native plants and their many uses. Knowing that jewel weed can relieve the pain of insect stings and bites came in quite handy!!”

SHR founders and staff would like to thank the Cherokee Garden Club of Atlanta, the Peachtree Garden Club, the French Broad Garden Club, the National Parks Service and all the volunteers who made this project possible, especially the leadership of Mary Palmer Dargan. As noted by Robert Balentine, “even small, grassroots organizations can make a difference when we work together.”

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