Serenity. Harmony. Peace. The garden of Southern Highlands Reserve offers a sense of belonging rarely found anywhere else. Here, the patient tempo of nature slows our pace, and the gentle hush of wind through the trees calms our minds. Birdsong and footsteps become our soundtrack, and we go to a time long shuffled away in memory. We remember our place in nature, embracing the duality of permanence and change.
Chestnut Lodge & Green Roof
The Chestnut Lodge invites nature right to its front door, incorporating native azaleas, rhododendrons and mosses into the design of the garden room known as the Chestnut Lodge Green Roof.
A gnarled Freeman maple marks the entrance to the Reserve, defiantly claiming its improbable existence on the mountaintop. This tree is the product of a red maple and a silver maple, yet the closest silver maple is found many counties away and several hundred feet lower in elevation.
The Maple Entrance leads visitors into the vestibule of the Core Park, the Woodland Glade. From this flower-covered path, you can follow the stone steps to access other areas of the Core Park like the Wildflower Labyrinth and the Azalea Walk or stroll down the path to the Vaseyi Pond and Viewsite.
The Wildflower Labyrinth, located in the heart of the Core Park, is vibrant with color throughout every season, from the pale yellows and light blues of spring to the rich hues of bright gold and deep purple in summer. Based on a traditional seven-ring labyrinth, Landscape Architect Gary Smith designed the plantings to emulate life’s journey.
Blooming native azaleas called Gregory Balds grow in abundance, planted according to bloom color along the Azalea Walk. Through a centuries-long process, the hybridization of these native azaleas produced blooms of deep scarlet red, brilliant orange, yellow, and even light pink.
The Vaseyi Trail & Vaseyi Pond
Every twist and turn of the Vaseyi Trail is a visual festival, full of pillowy pink blooms perched atop craggy branches of the rare Rhododendron vaseyi. This is truly an enchanted spot – whether in spring when the azaleas are in bloom or in summer when the dark tunnel under the azaleas is enlivened with the white spires of blooming Galax.
High atop Toxaway Mountain waits an astonishing view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. At the terraced Viewsite, visitors can see Lake Toxaway and more than 16 distinct mountain peaks.
Waterfall & Cliff Communities
Majestically cascading down the Blue Ridge Escarpment, our waterfall and spray cliff communities are home to many rare botanical treasures. The light spray from waterfalls in these communities invites an array of moisture-loving plants such as liverworts and mosses. Plants are often found tucked away in shallow soil in crevices between rocks. As a nationally significant Natural Heritage Area, these fragile microclimates must be vigilantly preserved.