This Cottage Garden

The beauty of a cottage garden is its artful irregularity. There’s nothing pretentious or disciplined in these small plots of land, but they are ingenuously designed nonetheless. I can picture a gardener throwing seedlings wildly from the threshold of her humble cottage where these self-sowing wonders create a magical kaleidoscope of perennial beauty. At least this is the vision for creating my own cottage garden.

The ’secret’ garden next door to our cottage attracts hordes of visitors as it turns out. Botanists, biologists, and students of all ages spend lazy afternoons studying the vast collection of plants. A photographer arrived every morning last week at precisely the same hour to capture the slow motion arrival of one particular flower. Bird watchers linger indefinitely, and folks from all around town make regular visits to watch the season unfold.

Virginia bluebells, yellow wood poppy, white dwarf crested iris, flame azalea, yellow lady’s slipper and several varieties of trillium bloom in spring, but there’s more than 500 different plant varieties that make an appearance throughout the year. There’s also a mixture of mature oak, black walnut, locust trees, an umbrella magnolia, and a rare bigleaf magnolia.

The Corneille Bryan Native Garden (I took the pictures this week with my iPhone):

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Plants that have been precariously positioned at the edge of extinction have been brought to this low-lying ravine next door. Half of the world’s known shortia, a threatened herbaceous perennial, went underwater when the nearby Jocassee Reservoir was filled during the early 1970s. A species of grass of Parnassus, a flowering perennial, disappeared from Waynesville after a road-widening and repaving effort. A society of naturalists gave the garden 10 endangered conifers of the Torreya taxifolia species. All of these species now live in the garden.

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There are also two rock-encased springs that were once used to keep food cool in the heat of summer. This one is at the base of the stream just before it reaches the lake.

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Volunteers have identified every plant in the garden. The trillium, poppies, woodland phlox, and ferns are some of my favorites.

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The garden had extended onto our property over the years, but the volunteers re-worked things a bit to give us enough room to add a driveway. This photo was taken from our front porch.

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Natural Haven: Inside the spiritual retreat of Lake Junaluska, Appalachia’s most threatened plant species find a place of refuge.

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