Bullington Gardens – Hendersonville, NC

Notes: A photo journal follows the summary. Always check with a garden’s website to find the most current information.

Visited:  April 1-2, 2021 (temperatures dipped at this time, causing some freeze damage to blooming apple trees in the area)

Location:  95 Upper Red Oak Trail, Henderson, NC

Website:  bullingtongardens.org

Admission/parking fee:  Free admission and parking.

Accessibility:  Accessible parking is beside the main building (house). Almost all of the garden is very accessible, but not the sloping woodland nature trail.

Gift shop:  None

Coolest (to me): The impressive older plant specimens, planted decades ago. Discovering little-known plants in the display gardens and Woodland Garden.

Nearby: Take time to go into tree-lined downtown Hendersonville, very pedestrian and full of art galleries, museums, and great places to eat. Do not miss the Hendersonville Visitor Center, where the friendliest people will help find the best area places and activities for you. From downtown, take the winding drive to Jump Off Rock for a panoramic view of several states.

Linda’s Plants & Shrubs (256 Stepp Acres Lane, Hendersonville) is a large garden center with a great view and knowledgeable staff. They grow a large selection of very healthy, full plants. I went home with several perennials, including 3-4 new varieties of ajuga to add to my collection.

Do not miss the Flower Bridge, which I would describe as a North Carolina High Line.

Fairfield Inn & Suites Hendersonville Flat Rock (exit 53 of Interstate 26 West) was a perfect location to head in many directions and the staff could not be better. It is highly rated and, although we didn’t use it, the indoor pool with an accessible chair lift was enticing.

Photo journal:

This garden was started by Bob Bullington, who retired, moved from NYC to Hendersonville, NC, in 1979, and created a nursery and plant collection. Ten years later the land with his house and nursery was given to the county. Bullington Gardens is now an impressive non-profit 501C that works closely with the county’s Cooperative Extension and public schools.

Educational Director John Murphy at the base of a huge Sargent’s Weeping Hemlock tree, probably planted by Bob Bullington in the early 1980s. It doesn’t take long while talking to John to see his love of plants is matched by a dedication to the many area schoolchildren that experience hands-on learning in this garden.

At first the plaza looks like a pleasant place for photos or to sit and chat – and it definitely is…

… then you see the many planting beds, projects, work areas and notebooks of an active school program.

Follow the nature trail through the Native Woodland Garden, maintained by the Western Carolina Botanical Club, to discover Bloodroot, Oconee Bells and more.

Bloodroot blooming in Early April.

I was impressed by the many plants in bloom on the First of April, when I was bundled in a scarf and jacket. I saw many wildflowers, bulbs, flowering almond, Pieris, Helleborus, lungwort…)

The Herb Garden was in its winter state and obviously the Fairy Garden needed to warm up. The popular Fairy Garden opens in June to the delight of many. Warm season plant collections include daylilies and dahlias.

Check the website before visiting. Unlike many public gardens, Bullington Gardens is open Mon-Sat and closed on Sundays.


New accessible path to the Middle Oconee River at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, Athens

In late February, 2021, Mike and I visited the new accessible path to an overlook viewing the Middle Oconee River.

Paved pathways through the State Botanical Garden of Georgia’s many display gardens are accessible, even the hillside Shade Garden, built before the ADA Act. A new pedestrian entrance with an elevator provides access from the main parking area, plus an overlook to the Visitor Center, new Center for Art and Nature Porcelain and Decorative Arts Museum, and the lower entry plaza that unites both. A visitor can borrow a scooter or wheelchair while the visitor center is open to discover the buildings and gardens.

But this new path brings accessibility into natural areas and the river that forms one boundary of the 313-acre botanical garden. The path led us from a small parking lot into an open area flanked by tall trees, through grassy lowlands with some standing water (there had been rain earlier that week, but the raised walk was dry), and to an overlook with a view of the Middle Oconee River.

Mike’s scooter comes apart and fits into our trunk – so useful for garden visits and discovering new places. He had spent time in town on the scooter before coming, so it only had enough battery life left to get to the overlook and back from the small parking lot below the Shade Garden, quite a distance.  I heartily suggest discovering this feature from the small parking lot at one end of this new trail. I would then move the car to accessible parking near the main pedestrian entrance to enjoy the display gardens and buildings.

Both Mike and I have worked at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia; I recently retired after 16 years there. So as we walked this path we understood how much work had been done over the years to reclaim some of this area from invasive privet and create this lowland habitat. There is still a lot of privet in the area, as can be seen from the network of over five miles of unpaved nature trails that connect to the overlook and small parking lot, but the botanical garden is doing an admirable job reducing privet and other invasives from natural areas. Invasive plants are a very formidable adversary.

One of the most charming features of the small overlook is the number of people who come off the trails here or pass by during their trail runs. Whether you only catch their eye or chat a bit, there is a moment of warmth and friendliness.


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