JARS v48n1 - Bonnie Blue Ridge 1994

Bonnie Blue Ridge 1994
Barbara Leypoldt
Glenville, North Carolina

The attendees of the national Annual Convention in Asheville, N.C., in May 1994 will have a variety of exciting experiences. At an elevation of more than 2,200 feet and surrounded by mountains, Asheville has long been a mecca for tourists seeking an invigorating climate. Warm spring days are capped by cool nights. Wildflowers abound and the blooming dogwood makes hillsides appear like drifted snow. The homes wear mantles of azaleas, rhododendrons, and early perennials. Farmers prepare fields for planting and cattle graze in green meadows. It is a picturesque sight.
The pioneer settlers arrived on horseback at the turn of the 19th century over the faint trails through the dense woods. The Buncombe Turnpike was completed in 1827 which permitted the herding of livestock from northern farms to southern plantations. The railroad was finished in 1879 after coping with rough terrain and the embezzlement of funds. Expansion of the city was guaranteed.
Choosing which convention tour to take is always a problem, especially when both tours are terrific. Opt for the Dean/Kehr/Larus tour if you are a "leafafeeliac" as all of these gardens are well planted with indumented species and hybrids that invite touching them. On the flip side, the Braswell/Owen/Hutchens garden tour will present a lush city garden, a native plant locale and the home of the Asheville-Dexter hybrids. Charles Owen Dexter sent his cousin, Charles Dexter Owen, many seedlings which were planted here. Many of the plants maybe some of the original seedlings.
Meanwhile, back at the hotel, there will be four lectures by qualified speakers, in the areas of arranging your blooms (Curtis), plant sex life (Mellichamp), insect pests of rhododendrons (Baker) and Asiatic rhododendrons (Creech).
Friday's choice of tours is even more difficult. Tour "D" takes you to the North Carolina Arboretum where you will visit the new facilities, hear a lecture about landscaping (Briggs) and explore the assortment of native eastern plants. Then you will be whisked along the Blue Ridge Parkway with superb views and an opportunity to see the R. vaseyi in its rocky native locale. Tour "C" will spend the day at the Biltmore House, Garden and Winery, a most popular destination for visitors. Reams can be written about its design, lavish furnishings and art. The gardens range from breathtaking formal displays and the greenhouse to informal rambling paths through beds of blooming shrubs and azaleas.

Biltmore Estate
The Biltmore Estate - House, Gardens and Winery.
Photo courtesy of the Biltmore Estate

With space limited, reserve early for the good ol' barbecue dinner Friday night. The entertainment that follows promises to make this a rollickin' evenin'. No difficult choice here.
Saturday's tours are a choice between Tour "E", with the floriferousness of the Killian and Hyde gardens, and Tour "A", which is repeated. Should you prefer to remain at the hotel, Dr. Bir will give a demonstration on the latest techniques of propagation. The afternoon's lectures will cover evergreen azaleas (Clark) and new companion plants (Shadow).
The banquet is always a feature with awards and the announcement of the winner of the wall hanging. After all the "hoopla" of the dinner, Dr. Raulston will present a discussion of the factors of plant hardiness.
Sunday brings the convention to a close with the Breeder's Roundtable. Dr. August Kehr began this segment 20 years ago and will be the moderator. Why not plan to "sit-in" on this exciting topic, even if you are only a hobbyist. The latest trends in hybridizing will be discussed.
What else is there to do? Beaucoup. For shopping, there are three malls including an outlet mall. Gem "mines" are frequent in Franklin, N.C. and Spruce, N.C. Many nice treasures have been found. Would you like to hike? The mountains abound with trails; many are in the easy to moderate category, with auto access to them. Several of our members could guide you on trails with special interest. Be sure to watch our bulletin board for the announcement of "chalkboard" tours.
The format of the convention has been designed to allow time for relaxation. Garden tours are timed to permit browsing. The lecture schedule has time for stretching and refreshments. Lunch and dinner hours are spaced for eating without rushing (or reaching for Rolaids). You will enjoy the leisurely pace, lovely scenery, and healthful climate. Come and join us.