Thursday, June 7, 2012

Finding Paradise in Asheville, North Carolina

One of the things I most appreciated about this year's Garden Bloggers' Fling was the selection of gardens we visited.  From the whimsical to the formal with everything in between, there was no shortage of inspiration for every gardening style and interest.  Of all the gardens we visited, though, my favorite had to be the one we visited on the Saturday morning of the Fling, the Gentling garden.

Nestled on a hillside on the outskirts of Asheville, the house is reached by traveling very narrow winding roads--so narrow that I was a little worried whether our bus driver was going to be able to make it!  I'm not sure how the driver eventually was able to turn around for the trip back home, but if he hadn't, I would gladly have stayed there the rest of the day, for I had found Paradise.

Peter and Jasmine Gentling frequently welcome gardening tours to their home and are such gracious hosts. They explained how their garden evolved and their philosophy on gardening, including the fact that every year they choose a section of the garden, tear everything out, and completely replenish the soil before replanting. As you can see, their constant activity is a testament to the physical benefits of gardening.  Jasmine also gave us some background on  their home, Blue Briar Cottage, which had an interesting history before they purchased it some forty years ago.  However, after two weeks I've forgotten some of this; besides, other bloggers have already related some of the history, which you can read here, if you wish.  Instead, I'm going to keep my narrative to a minimum today so you can just enjoy the images of this little bit of heaven.

A terraced garden in front of the house contained mixed plantings.

Poppies were in bloom everywhere in Asheville, but none so tall and regal as in this garden.

As another blogger has already pointed out, Rose Campion, though, seemed to be the signature plant of Asheville.  We saw it in nearly every garden we visited.

Indian Pink was another common sight in many gardens.  I'd like to add this plant to my own garden after discovering it's very attractive to hummingbirds.

One of the nice things about touring gardens with a group of such knowledgable gardeners is that if you don't recognize a plant, someone is sure to be able to identify it for you.  However, no one was quite sure what this plant was, although its leaves reminded us of Thalictrum or Meadow Rue.  After an internet search, I am now almost positive that it is in fact Meadow Rue, though I had never seen it with such soft yellow blooms before.  This is definitely going on my plant wish list!

Hellebores grow huge in the Southeast!

Woodland paths invited us to explore beyond the house.

A blooming azalea punctuates the sea of green.

 This large tree is a Dawn Redwood, a variety brought from China in the late '40's.  Several were also growing at the North Carolina Arboretum.  One can only imagine how huge this tree will eventually be.

 One of the reasons I didn't catch all the details in our early introduction to the garden was because I was distracted by the goldfinches feeding outside an upstairs bedroom.

Near the Dawn Redwood I saw my first-ever Eastern Towhee,
 thanks to the sharp eyes of birding friend Lisa.

Along the path, wildflowers were in bloom.

An unusual variegated Ginko caught everyone's eye.

Surprises awaited us at every turn in the path, including this nearly hidden pond.

Lisa takes advantage of one of the many benches placed throughout the area for reflection and simply enjoying the beautiful surroundings.

Now I do have to explain this scene--Peter Gentling called this "The Ten-Foot Man."  I'm not much of a connoisseur of modern art, but Lisa encouraged me to go see this, and after climbing up several steep paths, I had to include it in this post.  Jasmine Gentling warned us when we arrived that the paths were wet and slippery and to watch our step; should we slip, we simply had to use their signal--a "whoo-hoo"--and someone would come find us.  I was very careful going back down after this climb, navigating slippery leaves and uneven stone steps very slowly.  So slowly, I guess, that a much younger blogger asked if I needed help:) Mrs. Gentling also told us that they often had a mother bear and her cubs come into the garden in the mornings.   Thank goodness, I didn't see any bears close by, or I would have hustled down those steps, slippery leaves or not, "whoo-hooing"  all the way! 

There were so many interesting areas to see, there was no shortage of photo opportunities.

A cold frame near the large greenhouse holds plants in waiting.

An art studio above the house provides still another retreat.

I don't know what kind of tree this is outside the studio, but the trunk certainly caught my attention.

More terraced gardens--talk about a room with a view!

After a morning of walking and climbing, the spacious front porch provided a welcome place to relax and chat.  From left: The Garden Junkie, Tina, Jasmine, Skeeter, and Joy.  While we waited for lunch--delicious, I might add--Jasmine entertained us with stories about the house, including the anecdote of two lady visitors who emphasized that they had only one hour to see the garden.  The hour came and went, then another hour, and another hour . . . until they had spent the entire day here!

It's no wonder--I could easily spend a day or more here!  
A big thank-you to the Gentlings for giving us the opportunity to see this corner of paradise they call home.


  1. Rose you did the Gentling's garden proud. Your pictures are great and really capture the essence of the place.

  2. This was a wonderful garden. I so enjoyed it but especially liked sitting and talking with everyone. The story about how the Gentling's got this house is really something else. I can't stop thinking about the kindness of the previous owners and it looks like they choose some fantastic caretakers for the house and gardens.

  3. A great garden tour. My eye caught that stand of Indian Pink, how I would love to grow it. I have tried three times but it never thrived for me. I need to find a good spot to try again, it needs shade I know.

    And that variegated ginkgo also caught my eye. What a lovely garden, especially the stonework and unique hillside greenhouse.

  4. Rose, you got some great photos of their garden. I missed that big redwood. How could that happen??? So much to see here. I also missed the varigated ginko. I reallly need to go back and tour their garden again. It was such a treat.

  5. Hi Rose, So glad that you did not have an encounter with the mama bear and cubs! Mama bears are notoriously unpredictable. This looks like a nice place to have spent the day. The tree by the studio is like a rose bush on steroids! Yellow Meadow Rue! Interesting. I will have to watch for that next time I visit my favourite nursery.

  6. Well Rose, I agree paradise. What an absolutely beautiful garden.
    So naturaly, yet carefully gardened.

    It is a credit to the owners....I can see why you would be happy if the bus could not turn around :)

  7. I loved this garden too. So glad we got to see it!

  8. Oh my goodness, Rose!! Paradise indeed, what an absolutely beautiful garden and so obviously lovingly created. I knew I would love it as soon as I saw the first photo which looked like something from a fairy tale.

    I loved the colourful Poppies and the equally colourful Indian Pink. Then of course it was lovely to spot the nest box along the woodland path closely followed by the Goldfinches and the Eastern Towhee :-)

    Rose, I love visiting you and you always make me laugh about something. This time it was about the 'Ten Foot Man' and the bear and 'whoo hooing', so funny :-) A delightful post, I loved every bit of it! Thank you.

  9. What an amazing garden Rose. Thanks for posting the link to the fling website. I went through and read many of the posts about this garden and it is just spectacular. What a wonderful tour you must have had. I had to laugh at your story about the steep steps and the signal to call for help. If you fell into all that foliage it would certainly be tough to find you.

  10. I can see why that was your favorite--gosh, I really wish I could have been there! Beautiful photos, Rose!

  11. Wow it must have been a dream trip. Thanks for sharing Rose.
    Have a great weekend.

  12. rose,

    i think this would have been my favourite place too. this is such a lovely place to relax and enjoy so many levels of sanctuary. you have made me wish i didn't miss this years fling. maybe next fling i will be able to make it.
    thanks for coming to visit me at thingsilove.

  13. Loved your tour, Prairie Rose. I missed the Gentling garden, but am happy to see it through your eyes. It looks gorgeous.

  14. Rose, it was paradise and I am loving your photos. They are just what I needed to see today...I am rethinking my garden and I have several ideas from this garden! gail

  15. That is stunning. So much work they must put in.

    By the way, your goldfinches differ from ours!

  16. Your Spring Fling looks to have been an amazing trip.
    Gardens and friends a delightful combo!
    Every garden tells a story. My gardens are
    35 years old. It seems as if every year we tear something out, redo the soils and start over....I love the rock walls...

  17. It certainly is an enchanting place. Meeting the owners and learning the history must have made it extra special. I'm wondering if that spiky tree is a Devil's Walking Stick or Hercule's-club?

  18. What a fantastic garden and that big, thorny trunk...... never seen anything like it!
    I would have loved to visit there.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  19. Rose - What wonderful photos of some great gardens. I wish I could have been there - and met you!

  20. It was my favorite too. You did it justice Rose.~~Dee

  21. I missed Pinhead but blame that on sitting and chatting on the front porch instead. It was the most relaxing setting wasn’t it? I would not trade that sit and chat for anything... I was lucky enough to have two sessions of chatting with Jasmin. She is so full of energy and after all these years still enthusiastic about their gardens. I am impressed as to what those two have done with a once overgrown hillside! I do hope to get back up there some day for another visit. They were so welcoming and full of fun stories…

  22. What a gorgeous garden! I especially loved the poppies and the meandering paths. Everything is so green and lush. Thanks for taking us on your tour!

  23. Christopher, Thanks for arranging this tour of the Gentlings' garden--I loved it!

    Tina, I enjoyed hearing about the history of this home, too. I could have sat on the front porch visiting with everyone and listening to more stories about the house for hours.

    Laurrie, I've seen Indian pinks on another blog at some time, but I had never actually seen it in a garden before. I hope I can find a spot for some, too.

    Lisa, There was so much to see here, it was easy to miss some parts. You probably missed the redwood, because you were watching the birds in that area:)

    Jennifer, The bears had been near their house that very morning; I'm glad they decided to keep their distance while we were there:) The yellow meadow rue was just gorgeous--I'm going on a plant hunt, too.

    Cheryl, I wish I could remember just what the Gentlings said, but it was something to the effect that they let nature take its course and that they are just the garden's caretakers. The result, as you can see, is beautiful.

    Phillip, When I saw on the schedule that we were going to spend all morning there, I wondered what we would do all that time. Once I saw the garden, I understood!

    Songbird, I know you would have enjoyed visiting this garden, too. Thanks for the sweet comment--I firmly believe laughter is good for the soul:)

  24. Marguerite, I'm glad you read some of the other posts--it's interesting to see others' perspectives, and there was so much to see that one person couldn't do it justice. I laughed when Mrs. Gentling talked about their distress signal, but afterwards I understood its necessity:)

    Beth, This really was my favorite garden--and to think they've done it all themselves!

    Marijke, The whole weekend was awesome; I'll be thinking back on it for a long time.

    Marmee, Sorry you couldn't make the Fling this year; I would have loved to have met you!

    Carol, Sorry you missed this garden, too. But you went to the Biltmore mansion that morning, right? That was definitely a must-see.

    Gail, I liked the way the Gentlings worked with nature, rather than trying to create a more artificial garden space. I think that's what your garden is all about, too!

    Liz, I've noticed the goldfinches on some other UK blogs and thought the same thing. Our robins are different, too.

    Sherry, It was a wonderful experience. My garden is much younger than yours, but it's already changing. Those rock walls were indeed gorgeous.

    W2W, The Gentlings were such interesting people, and I did enjoy learning about the history of the place. I wish I had photographed the top of that spiky trunk so I could have checked out what plant it was later.

    Maggie May, This home and garden was better than any park I've visited!

    Pat, I wish you could have made it to this Fling, too! I doubt I make it to San Francisco next year, but I'm hoping to make it to Charleston, S.C. in two years.

    Dee, Thanks! It's interesting to read others' posts and see some things I missed.

    Skeeter, I'm not sure the trek up to Mr. Pinhead was worth it:) The Gentlings impressed me, too, with their energy and their gracious hospitality. I so enjoyed sitting on the porch and listening to her stories.

    Sarah, This was a beautiful place to explore.

  25. Rose what a treasure to have had the opportunity to visit this truly amazing labor of love! Oh I don't know what impressed me the most!! For sure the poppy display! The Red wood tree an honor I'm sure to stand beside it!! I hope you gave it a hug...such an elder he his!I saw one a few years ago as I toured a city garden and was in awe how large their trunk base is!! In western Canada in the province of BC Redwoods fill a famous Park called Stanely Park. Garden tours are so much fun especially when you go with a fun group of ladies!


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