It turns out that Asheville and surrounding area is the Southern hippie hotspot. Typically, everyone is chatty and pleasant, but there is a higher proportion of tattoos, cold pressed juices, and electric vehicle charging stations. That aside, Biltmore Estate is still the number one (traditional) tourist destination in town and employs 1800+ people. We made the pilgrimage and the house is undeniably beautiful inside – the attention to detail is very impressive – but the gardens lack a similar impulse. Or maybe it is that they stick too close to the original plan and what I read as slightly dull is in fact a commitment to maintaining the historical integrity of the gardens.
Regardless, the drive into the estate is a beautiful introduction to a cultivated woodland and that is continued in the azalea garden that leads into the bass pond. The native azaleas and mountain laurel were blooming, along with some later magnolias, and the first of the stewartia – all things that we don’t see at home. And the diversity, size and sheer number of trees was stunning.
In fact, everywhere the trees were outrageous. I’ve never seen so much forest in my life. You get the sense that towns are veritably hacked out of the overgrowth and it is an effort to maintain open spaces. Plus it is really hilly around there. The Appalachians are no joke. You could not pay me to hike the Appalachian Trail – six months in dense forest with a lot of ascents and descents, plus snakes and bears, sounds like a nightmare.
Back to our trip though. #1 activity? Asheville Pinball Museum. $10 = unlimited plays on all manner of machines. I favored Pinbot, Popeyes and Breakshot. Mom got pretty into Phantom of the Opera and Dad really liked Spiderman. Only $2000 and one could be yours guys!!!
The tree love continues here after a great day trip to the Gold Coast of Long Island. We hit up Old Westbury Gardens and Planting Fields Arboretum. The Arboretum was undoubtedly my favorite, although my friend, a fan of Great Gatsby, was more taken with Old Westbury. Baby B, who also came along for the ride didn’t express a preference towards either, but had mixed reviews about the traffic back into Manhattan. As did we all, B, as did we all.
Sometimes I cross Park Ave on 71st or 73rd on my way to the park and immediately transport to London. It’s all grand townhouses, fancy European shops and the trees looming in the distance. Tonight the air was heavy with the scents of late afternoon rain, linden and honey locust. I wandered to the Shakespeare Garden in honour of the occasion.
I think this time of year is most romantic – the lush spring green of the newly-leaved trees returns softness and intimacy to the landscape. I love them more every day.
Another day, another garden expedition. We didn’t know much about these gardens and as we pulled around the bend it immediately became evident we were in for quite a spectacle at the Steinhardt garden. There were camels and zebras to the left, guys in uniform directing traffic to the right and amazing views of acres of trees. Turns out the Steinhardt garden is 55 acres, with one of the largest private zoos in North America (albino wallabies are my new gold standard for private estates) and thousands of different plants and trees (350 kinds of maples over 7 acres alone). I’m actually glad we didn’t google this one before heading out – it made our experience that much more surreal. I didn’t take a lot of pictures, there were people everywhere and I think much of the garden probably doesn’t come into its own until the summer, but the maples were gorgeous and underplanted with all kinds of epimediums, hellebores, anemonella, and other woodland delights.
We also visited Page Dickey’s Duck Hill, which was a delightful inspiration for small scale gardeners (i.e. the other 99%). I loved the chicken coop and was happy to wander the woodland. I didn’t spend any time looking at the Broken Arrow nursery plants after I spotted some darling anemonella. JUST SAY NO.