Golden Anniversary Gardens
In June 1963, Constance Stallings and her friends in the Blue
Ridge Garden Club stood proudly during the grand opening of the Daniel Boone Native Gardens.
Through their hard work, a three-acre tract next to the Horn in the West amphitheater had been transformed into a home for more than 200 different species of plants, flowers, ferns and trees.
This year, the Daniel Boone Native Gardens celebrates its golden anniversary. A number of special events this summer will mark the 50th anniversary of one of the High Country’s most beautiful public spots.
“We are in the process of installing new signage with QR codes on them that will link visitors to informational web pages,” said Sarah Gilley, newly elected vice chairwoman of the board that oversees the running of the gardens.
The Daniel Boone Native Gardens was founded as a project of the Garden Clubs of North Carolina, an organization that now has more than 6,000 members, Gilley said.
Constance Stallings died in 1982, but her son, Andy, and his wife continue to be actively involved with the gardens.
Today, the Daniel Boone Native Gardens features a bog garden, fern garden, rhododendron garden, rock garden, rock wishing well, vine-covered arbor and a pond, alongside the historic Squire Boone Cabin.
Recently, the Blowing Rock Garden Club awarded the Daniel Boone Native Gardens a $500 grant for the purchase of new plants and other items.
Most of the work done at the gardens is provided by volunteers, more than 80 of whom have “master gardener” status from N.C. Cooperative Extension. During 2012, those volunteers put in more than 2,800 hours of work in the gardens.
According to Gilley, a number of special events are planned for the garden this summer to mark its golden anniversary.
On June 8, the High Country Horticultural Symposium at Appalachian State University will take a field trip to the gardens.
On July 21, a 50th anniversary party for the gardens will be held, featuring a “wedding reunion” for all couples who have been married in the gardens.
On Aug. 10, the third annual Evening in the Gardens will serve as the organization’s largest single fundraiser. It will feature a number of local artists.
In 1957, noted North Carolina landscape architect H. Stuart Ortloff of Hickory recommended that a small area near a school with a botany department be reserved for studying native plants.
At the 1959 convention of the Garden Club of North Carolina, Ortloff’s project was adopted, and an eight-acre lot on the hillside adjoining Horn in the West was leased from the town of Boone for a period of 49 years at a cost of $1 per year.
Green Construction Company was hired for the initial groundbreaking in 1961. Construction workers created stone walls, walkways and a pond. When it was time for planting the native plants, Aldridge Nurseries of Crossnore managed the installation, with help from garden clubs throughout the state, which sent in seedlings from their particular regions.
The gardens officially opened in 1963 and were dedicated as part of the tercentenary celebration of Daniel Boone’s crossing of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Squire Boone Cabin in the gardens is more than 100 years old and was formerly located in the woods below Grandfather Mountain. It was built of hand-hewn logs by Jesse Boone Cragg, a great-great-grandson of Jesse Boone, Daniel Boone’s youngest brother.
The stone gatehouse at the garden’s entrance was designed by Wilkesboro architect Aiji Tashiro in 1967. From there, visitors walk down the stops to the wide grassy allée (a walkway lined with trees or tall shrubbery), extending from the north entrance to the south entrance. The allée is marked with massive wrought iron gates forged by Daniel Boone VI, a direct descendant of the town’s namesake. It is in the allée portion of the gardens where most of the outdoor weddings are held.
Last Friday, the gardens had visitors from near and far.
Sylvia Barbosa and her daughter, Suzy, of Yuma, Ariz., walked through the gardens with their traveling companions, José and Ana Helene Machado from Socorro, a small town outside of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
“When I was a little boy, we lived in the country where there was no electricity,” José Machado said. “When I was 6, my dad got a job in town, and we moved into a house with electricity. That was when I was first able to watch television. My favorite show was ‘Daniel Boone.’ That is one of the reasons I wanted to visit a town named in his honor.”
Machado said that prior to visiting Boone, he and his wife had visited Fess Parker’s winery in California. Parker was the actor who played Daniel Boone in the popular series.
“José was born on the Fourth of July, so he always felt connected to the United States,” Sylvia Barbosa said. “What a thrilling circle of life for him to visit Boone and see the nature of his childhood dreams. From the point of view of a foreigner, they are amazed and delighted with the American care that has been given to protecting and restoring our heritage.”
The Daniel Boone Native Gardens is located at 651 Horn in the West Drive in Boone. For more information on the Daniel Boone Native Gardens, visit http://www.danielboonenativegardens.org or call (828) 264-6390.