The Quilt Garden, located near the Heritage Garden is a unique interpretation of traditional quilt block patterns with plants, representing the close ties between heritage crafts and gardening and the contemporary art and craft of quilting in the Southern Appalachian region.
Designs in the quilt garden change seasonally ~ each quilt pattern appears in several iterations.
The garden consists of 24 in-ground beds divided by gravel and slate foot path walkways. Visitors enjoy exploring the gardens up close via the path walkways as well as from an observation area that provides a stunning overview of the entire garden.
The Quilt Garden pattern for 2014 and 2015 is "Rail Fence."
Historical context for pattern
The Rail Fence Quilt Block developed in Colonial times as families gathered around home fires telling stories and reading to one another. The simple pattern with straight lines was one of the first taught to children as they began learning to piece fabrics together. The pattern was commonly formed by piecing three different fabrics in contrasting colors which made the pattern distinct and easy to see. Quilting history records that the Rail Fence pattern had symbolic significance and it was used to send information to escaping slaves on the Underground Railroad. Different quilts displaying various patterns were hung outdoors over fences or clothesline to convey different meanings. Rail Fence, Wagon Wheel and the Star and Crossroads patterns were commonly used. Rail Fence patterned quilts indicated the correct path for the traveler.
Traditional Rail Fence patterns utilized Americana colors of red, white and blue fabrics and the blocks were often turned to create a zig zag look over the entire quilt. Another variation of the pattern called Roman Stripe alternates four light and dark stripes of fabric and when arranged into a quilt, also create a zig zag design.
The 2014 Arboretum Quilt Garden, now in its 19th season, will feature a variation of Rail Fence pattern showing the variability and adaptation of geometric patterning to the garden.
Plant selection criteria
Plants are selected based on seasonal appropriateness, hardiness, garden performance and design. Spring season plants must be able to withstand late spring frosts and fluctuations in temperature. Summer plants must withstand heat, full sun exposure and meet maintenance best practices and tolerances. Plants selected for fall must, as in spring, be adaptable to light frost and fluctuations in day and nighttime temperatures. In general plants selected for the Quilt Garden must flower continuously without need of deadheading (removal of spent flowers) or have outstanding foliage color and/or texture, have compatible water needs, withstand full sun conditions, have moderate growth rate allowing growth to stay within bounds of the pattern and have little to no exceptional maintenance requirements and/or treatment for known pest or disease pressures. Planting schemes are changed for each season in early April, mid May and mid September. In 2012, we plan to plant a winter planting scheme using plants hardy in this climate zone (Zone 6).