By Dasha Morgan
Bullington Gardens is holding its annual spring plant sale for three days, this year, April 25-27th from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Bullington Gardens, once the nursery of Bob Bullington, is a public botanical garden on 12 acres of rolling land providing hands-on education in horticulture and other sciences to students, youth clubs and adults. These gardens incorporate some of the many unusual mature trees that Mr. Bullington collected and introduced to the area. Bullington Gardens is located at 95 Upper Red Oak Trail in Hendersonville.
This year’s sales event has been extended to better accommodate customers. The sale will feature a wide variety of native and non-native perennials, more than 20 varieties of tomatoes plus other vegetable starts, herbs, unusual annuals, and small trees and shrubs.
The Pollinator Packs, a collection of native plant seedlings nurtured from seed at Bullington Gardens will be available again. These “Instant Pollinator Gardens” include three plugs each of four native plants chosen specifically for the Western North Carolina habitat. This year, customers can choose specific plant plugs to customize their Pollinator Packs. Information sheets about the plants are provided. Extension Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions.
Growing plants and maintaining Bullington’s 12 acres of gardens and grounds is managed by a team of almost 90 volunteers. “We call this special place a ‘garden with a heart’,” says Joellen Johnson, volunteer coordinator. “This event is our single largest fundraiser for the year,” added John Murphy, Bullington Gardens’ director. “All proceeds benefit our mission to educate and inspire children and adults in horticulture, the natural sciences and integrated disciplines.”
This spring a number of classes are being offered in afternoon sessions, such as propagating and growing Dahlias, using perennials in the landscape and container gardening with vegetables, Brian Killingsworth, Bullington’s Dahlia guru, will discuss and demonstrate how to grow these spectacular plants in your garden. You can bring last season’s clumps of tubers to see how to divide them into individual tubers on April 10th ($12). Or on April 23 Crissy Dzielak of Landmark Landscapes will highlight great perennials for Western NC, especially ones that are lower maintenance, and how these plants can be used in the landscape.( $14). For more information, call Bullington Gardens at 828-698-6104 or visit bullingtongardens.org.
Bob Bullington was a NY City policeman, who had a true passion for horticulture which he finally pursued full time after retiring when he moved to Hendersonville with his wife Sally and founded Flora Knoll Farms in 1979. He operated the ornamental nursery until his passing in 1989. He had a vision for introducing new and unusual plants in to the nursery trade that included native azaleas, new varieties of mountain laurel and trees from Asia, mature examples of which can be found in the gardens such as a variety of Japanese maples, Tanyosho Japanese red pine, Kousa dogwoods, Japanese stewartia, paper bark maple and Japanese pagoda tree. Other specimen plants include a Sargeant’s weeping hemlock, double flowering dogwood, big leaf magnolia and yellowwood.
Visitors are welcome to visit and enjoy the wide array of gardens and facilities. The grounds include a head house with 2 greenhouses, hoophouses for growing plants for sale, an amphitheater, a pavilion and gazebo and the former Bullington residence, which now houses HCEF offices and a multipurpose room for classes, meetings and events. The multipurpose room is available to rent for private events. There are many spots to explore on the grounds. One can stroll through the herb garden, see the butterflies in the pollinator garden and listen to the birds, as you enjoy an afternoon outside. There is no fee to tour the garden, but donations are gratefully accepted. For more information, contact John Murphy.
After his death, the Bullington property became the Bullington Horticultural Learning Center, owned by the Henderson County Education Foundation (HCEF) and leased to Henderson County Public Schools (HCPS). Today Bullington Gardens is a partnership of HCPS and the NC Cooperative Extension. There are extensive courses given and an active school program offered.
Horticultural Therapy (HT) engages people in gardening and plant-based activities to promote well-being and rehabilitation. Bullington Gardens uses HT to improve the lives of children and adults whom we serve. Special needs children and young adults in Henderson County Public Schools have been the primary focus of these efforts. Seniors in our area residential and day facilities are also encouraged to participate.The Gardens offer programs that pinpoint specific populations, such as those with disabiling conditions in order to broaden their wellness experiences.
In addition, a variety of programs based on science curriculum standards are given throughout the year to Henderson County Public School students without charge. These programs take place both at Bullington Gardens and at individual schools. They can include: Plant Explorations, School Vegetable Gardens, Plant Math, Journey North, Invasive Weeds and Wildlife Interactions. Contact the Gardens for a flier on programs offered this school year. Other groups are welcome to participate as space is available with a $4/student charge.
BOOST (Bullington Onsite Occupational Student Training) is another program that Bullington Gardens offers. This is a program for sophomores in the Occupational Course of Study in four county high schools, which focuses on imparting basic job skills as students work on the trails, gardens and grounds. The culminating activity is a garden competition where students design, budget, grow plants and plant based on their chosen theme. The Best Garden is awarded at the school year’s final celebrations as well as Most Valuable Workers from each school.