NC Arboretum springs into 2017 with additions, upgrades

SPECIAL FOCUS ON BUTTERFILES — The NC Arboretum is continuing its efforts to raise awareness for pollinators with a 2017 focus on butterflies. Pictured is the Arboretum's Quilt Garden, planted in a butterfly motif.

The North Carolina Arboretum has many new items popping up this spring. Since its inception in 1986, the 434-acre public garden has expanded its cultivated gardens to 60 acres, developed more than 10 miles of groomed hiking and biking trails, hosted dozens of art, science and natural history exhibits, and developed education programs that serve more than 26,000 youth and 5,000 adults annually. Over the next three months, the Arboretum, which is located just south of Asheville inside the Pisgah National Forest, will add several garden enhancements and a new seasonal butterfly exhibit, as well as a variety of facility upgrades.

Focus on butterflies

To continue its efforts to raise awareness for pollinators, this year the Arboretum will place a special focus on butterflies. From April through October, the Arboretum’s seasonal landscape garden exhibits will feature many plants and flowers that attract and support butterflies, and its signature Quilt Garden will be designed in a butterfly quilt block pattern. In addition, its Forest Meadow garden will add several new butterfly-focused plantings, as well as new interpretive signage about butterflies and other pollinators. On May 13, the Arboretum will open its new Winged Wonders seasonal exhibit in its Baker Exhibit Center Greenhouse. This indoor butterfly exhibit will feature a butterfly nursery and walk-through butterfly house where visitors will meet a variety of local butterfly species, including monarchs, swallowtails and more. On that same day, a new metal sculpture entitled “Life of the Monarch” will be unveiled in the Forest Meadow. Created by Waynesville artist Grace Cathey, the sculpture is a colorful, upright kaleidoscope design featuring different stages of the monarch butterfly life cycle.

“We are excited about the new garden offerings and exhibits coming to the Arboretum this spring,” said George Briggs, executive director of The North Carolina Arboretum. “In nature, new growth often leads to new opportunities for plants and animals. With these additions, we hope that we can continue to grow our mission of connecting people with plants, and provide more opportunities to educate our visitors, members and students.”

Upgrades and updates

In addition to its horticulture and landscape improvements, the Arboretum is making several upgrades to its facilities. The Education Center, which hosts its café, adult education programs and youth classrooms, recently renovated its restroom facilities on both levels of the building. Additionally, a new front gate system is being installed, which will help administer faster access for visitors and member cardholders. To adhere to the Arboretum’s commitment to the environment, almost all indoor lighting fixtures now use LED (light-emitting diode) lights, which use 80 percent less energy than conventional lights, and a majority of the campus’ outdoor lighting has been converted to LED bulbs.

“As an affiliate campus of the University of North Carolina, we work hard to ensure that all of our facilities adhere to the needs of our guests and staff, while being safe and sustainable,” Briggs said. “As part of this goal, we’ll also be adding six more call boxes along our trails to help hikers and bikers communicate directly with our campus police should a problem or need arise.”

To sustain these new upgrades and create opportunities for future enhancements and jobs, the Arboretum will increase its basic per vehicle parking fee by $2. Starting March 1, 2017, parking rates for personal vehicles will be raised to $14. Rates for passenger vans, motorhomes and commercial buses will remain the same, and the Arboretum will continue to offer its half-price parking special the first Tuesday of every month for personal vehicles. Access into the property for pedestrians, bikers and members of The North Carolina Arboretum Society will remain free.

“The year ahead promises many new features and opportunities, and we look forward to introducing these new additions to our visitors and members,” said Briggs.

For more information, call (828) 665-2492 or visit