On Tuesday morning, I had the opportunity to present a gardening program, Making the Most of Shade, at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville, just a short 90-minute drive up the mountains west of Greenville. I always look forward to a visit to NCA, which offers superb education programs and exhibits in addition to its gardens and hiking trails. Plus, I can always count on discovering something new or exciting.
On Tuesday, I did both. Upon arrival, I immediately bumped into an old and much-missed friend, Forsythia sage (Salvia madrensis), which I grew in my previous garden. This very large and vigorous salvia is a late-bloomer that grows to mammoth proportions, reaching 5 to 8-feet tall and spreading roughly half as wide. In the Upstate, it begins to flower in late September and carries on until frost, but in lower Florida and other frost-free areas of the South, it blooms until spring. For those in the Piedmont who want to give it a try, the cultivar ‘Dunham’ is more hardy than the species.
Equally exciting was the warm welcome of a new and dear friend, Louisa, who traveled to Italy with me in June and surprised me by attending my program. It was a thrill to see Louisa again and a great comfort to have a friendly face with me in the classroom.
On departure, a stroll through the garden provided other pleasures. The Arboretum’s well-known sculpture, A Hedge Against Extinction, by artist Martin Webster, was graced with the pink, cloud-like blooms of muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris). And the quilt garden, a great favorite of every visitor, was near the peak of its autumn glory.