Native Gardens sow seeds of change
by Anna Oakes
As the Daniel Boone Native Gardens prepare to celebrate a 50-year anniversary in 2013, volunteers are working to cultivate greater interest and support for the garden with a new organizational structure and new programs.
Located on property off of Horn in the West Drive leased from the town of Boone, Daniel Boone Native Gardens was established in 1963 as a project of The Garden Club of North Carolina. In spring of this year, the garden incorporated as an independent organization, and it received nonprofit tax status this summer.
"This allows us to accept major gifts and move forward on plans for our 50th anniversary next year," said Rebecca Kaenzig, chairwoman of the garden's Board of Governors. "The community may now benefit from tax-deductible contributions to help the gardens."
Created and maintained over the years thanks to the dedicated efforts of local women, Daniel Boone Native Gardens feature more than 200 species of native plants, including trees, wildflowers and ferns. The mission of the three-acre garden is to educate the public and to conserve rare or endangered species.
"It's a legacy of this town," said Sarah Gilley, a garden board member. "It was a life for these women -- it was a source of pride."
The gardens are open daily for tours from May to October and are often utilized for weddings and other events. But over the past year or so, Daniel Boone Native Gardens has partnered with other organizations to bring additional programs and activities to the scenic site.
The High Country Audubon Society, for example, hosts monthly bird walks at 8:30 a.m. on second Tuesdays from spring to fall. Also during warmer months, Karma Krew offers free yoga classes on Saturday mornings. Area artists visit the gardens to paint outdoors.
Appalachian State University biology classes have recently conducted botany labs at the gardens, and alumni of the Watauga County Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener program held a reunion at the gardens this year.
"We're forging relationships with other groups in the community," said Gilley.
The board hopes to increase educational opportunities for children and the general public, Kaenzig and Gilley said. They noted that native plants are a current trend in home landscaping -- and the garden often receives requests for advice.
"We're well positioned to attract people," Kaenzig said, adding that perhaps a list of frequently asked questions and resources could be assembled on the garden's website. Another idea is to place QR codes throughout the gardens, which can be scanned by smartphones and linked to informational videos and guides.
Several events are planned next summer to celebrate Daniel Boone Native Gardens' 50th anniversary. On June 8, 2013, the gardens and the ASU Department of Biology will co-host the inaugural Wildflower and Native Plant Horticultural Symposium. Featuring many experts in the field, the symposium will focus on information for the home gardener.
On Sunday, June 30, the garden will host a Wedding Reunion for the many couples married at Daniel Boone Native Gardens over the years. And on Sunday, July 21, the community is invited to the garden to celebrate with a birthday party.
To help raise money for garden improvements and new programs, the board has established a new Friends of Daniel Boone Native Gardens group, with annual memberships ranging from $30 to $2,500 or more.
"We need to raise money to make this garden a better place," said Kaenzig. A number of the gardens need to be dug up and replanted, she said, because some plants are overgrown and non-native species have spread into the area. That takes more time and money than the gardens' current stable of volunteers can provide.
"People are misled thinking that it's a public park," said Gilley, noting that the town of Boone does not maintain the gardens.
If you'd like to get involved with Daniel Boone Native Gardens, consider becoming a board member, becoming a business sponsor or joining the new Friends organization. Volunteers are always needed, as are donated tools and supplies such as trimmers, shovels, wheelbarrows and benches.
And if your construction project might disturb a section of rare, native plants, contact the gardens -- someone will help you relocate them.
For more information about Daniel Boone Native Gardens, call (828) 264-6390 or (828) 264-1440 or visit http://www.danielboonenativegardens.org.