The Rhododendron Garden At Haywood Technical College
Haywood Technical College
Clyde, North Carolina
Entering the grounds and campus arboretum of Haywood Technical College you first travel under a grand allee of willow oak (Quercus phellos) on Freedlander Drive. From the first parking area, midway up the slope, there is a magnificent panorama westward of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The campus is just west of the village of Clyde, North Carolina, near the eastern entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You are some 25 miles west of Asheville, North Carolina, via Interstate 40.
Shifting your view from the parking lot toward the central campus, you see in the wooded rhododendron area a mixture of flowering plants, native stone structures and winding trails. The largest of the buildings, the rock cottage, is the nearest one and bears the entrance sign, "Rhododendron Garden", as a welcome to guests visiting this botanical paradise. 'Nova Zembla' rhododendrons are seen on both sides of the entrance walls and at the front corners of the rock cottage.
The Rhododendron Garden at Haywood Tech is one acre in size with its initial stage of development completed and some 500 rhododendron plants of 75 varieties in bloom in the Spring of 1986. Eventually twice that number in 100 varieties will be planted - species and hybrids. Eastern hybrids represented in the collection include Dexter's 'Ben Mosley', 'Dexter's Spice', 'Janet Blair', 'Todmorden', 'Tom Everitt', 'Westbury' and 'Winning Ways'; Gable's 'Anne Glass', 'Beaufort', 'County of York', 'Hopewell' and 'Moonshot'; Shammarello's 'Holden', 'Lavender Queen', 'Rocket', 'Tony', 'The General' and 'Yaku Princess'. Some other Eastern hybrids planted in the Rhododendron Garden are Edmund Amateis' 'Dora Amateis', Weldon Delp's 'Lanny Pride', Edmund Mezitt's 'P.J.M.', Henry Yates' 'Shazaam' and Ernest Yelton's 'Joe Brooks'. These are intermingled with ferns and other plantings.
"When they showed me the place," said landscape architect Doan Ogden, "I knew it was ideal because of the way the campus is maintained. It's just the right size, large enough to have not only rhododendrons but also bulbs and other things. Using the same soil and groupings, rhododendrons are primary, but many other plants continue to be added that are of interest...ferns, wild plants, and evergreens."
The vision of the garden dates back to June of 1981 when thirty-five rhododendron enthusiasts met to propose the development. They took the idea to the college Board of Trustees the following month. The trustees endorsed the idea and voted to reserve a forested tract and to ask Ogden, who originally designed the layout for the campus, to draft a plan for the garden. Ogden gladly accepted and finished his design the following November. Construction did not start until November 1983 after private funding was secured.
Haywood Tech, a member of the North Carolina Community College System which enrolls more than 1,000 students in a variety of technical and industrial career programs and hundreds more in off-campus continuing education courses, has students in horticulture, forestry management, carpentry and electrical curricula who participated in the development of the Rhododendron Garden. This lowered costs significantly and provided valuable practical training for the students.
Much of the work on a project such as this is, of course, not visible to the casual visitor. Grounds preparation was a major task. Unwanted trees that did not mesh with the garden design were removed. Grading was done for trails and structures. Underground electrical and irrigation systems were installed, the latter with automatic pop-up nozzles that spray a mist throughout each section of the garden and then disappear when not in use. Chat was laid along the paths and the beginnings of the rhododendron collection was planted, mostly bordering the path system, so that the garden was ready for the dedication and grand opening on October 12, 1984.
Now continue your walk through the garden. Although it is only one acre in size, the trail system is one-third mile in length with a surprise around every bend!
|Photo sent by John Palmer|
First you go by a bulletin board naming donors and containing an orientation map and at the first bend is a plaque declaring "He plants trees to benefit another generation," bordered by large rhododendron hybrids donated by Arnold Hyde. As the serpentine path continues you see a grouping of plants donated by Russell and Velma Haag, Ted and Ann Richardson, and Larry Presnell. Next you reach a garden shelter in which to picnic, escape from a surprise shower, or take a nap. The shelter is topped with a weathervane forged in the shape of a rhododendron leaf. Outside the shelter is the start of a golden chain tree (Laburnum x watereri 'Vossii') arch tunneling over a rock-walled resting place.
Back on the path, you proceed to the center of the garden where an outdoor classroom centers on a millstone donated by the landscape architect. This Ogden Circle is surrounded by columnar boxwoods (Buxus sempervirens 'Columnar'). After a lengthy pause in the circle, you reenter the path system and progress to the memorial plaque area. There is a short alley flanked by a twisting, split-rail fence, and the plaque on a large white quartz boulder dedicates the garden in memory of the parents of Mr. and Mrs. William Hall whose gifts made it all possible.
|Drawing sent by John Palmer|
The trail leads next to the rockery, a collection of lichen and moss covered stones from a nearby mountainous area, across from which are three benches fashioned by a crafts curriculum graduate. Northward you proceed past an ancient short-leaf pine (Pinus echinata) then wind around downhill via the outer perimeter trail, passing by an unusual "orange" rock, a large twin white oak (Quercus alba) and another bench designed with a permanent wheel attached which was inspired by a similar bench in Trewithen Garden in Cornwall, England, built by another Haywood Tech crafts graduate. You are now back at the starting point, exiting to the parking lot amid a windbreak planting of white pines and hemlock.
Supervising the project was John G. Palmer, director of the Campus Arboretum and adjunct forestry instructor, who looks on the Rhododendron Garden as one of several centers of floral attractions on the 80-acre college grounds. The campus itself, from its recent beginnings, has had as its guiding inspiration the words of industrialist benefactor A. L. Freedlander, "To strive to become one of the most beautifully landscaped grounds in Haywood County - and to serve as an exemplar for managed outdoor beauty.
Mr. Spears is the public information officer at Haywood Technical College. Many of the garden supporters are active in the Southeastern Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society, based in Asheville, North Carolina.