The Quilt Garden at the Arboretum requires a commitment to gardening not unlike what Victorian era gardeners called “carpet bedding” or floral plantings in masses of harmonious or contrasting colored foliage and flowers. In the 1870s, new plant species arriving from South America, Africa and Asia were of great interest for growing in mass in outdoor beds for a particular season. Tender annuals of colorful leaves and flowers were prized for great and ostentatious displays of wealth. In 1875, London’s Crystal Palace Park featured beds with large patterned butterflies. American gardens and gardeners of means followed this trend in a never ending search and yearning for the newest plants. Maintaining these gardens was constant work, including planting, clipping and deadheading (removing spent flowers) throughout the growing season. The term “bedding plant” is derived from this historic garden practice.
Elaborate designs of this era left little room for lawn space as beds were carved out of lawns and terraces. Terraces and balustrades had become popular extensions of the house, where people spent time outdoors. The excessive geometry of garden beds led to clipped hedges and enclosures that created the concept of a garden “room” and ultimately sparked a re-enthusiasm for topiary – the practice of trimming a plant into an ornamental shape. The mixtures of plants to create elaborate, intricate, geometrical-designed gardens of contrasting colors consumed copious amounts of resources.
The Arboretum’s signature Quilt Garden is one that consumes similar needs and is enjoyed by our guests for its sheer magnitude of flowers and the modern interpretation it lends to the traditional art and craft of quilting.
Similar to the Victorian era’s constant horticultural care and maintenance, the Quilt Garden also requires periodical reconstruction work. Currently, the garden is closed to visitors for renovation, and while there are no plants in the garden just yet, we can’t wait to see the improvements and plants it will showcase when the work is completed in early April.
As part of the renovations, we will frame the traditional six-over-four planting bed squares with precast colored concrete sections, and we will establish inner pathways in a corresponding hard surface. We will also check the irrigation and drainage for necessary repairs or replacement. We will add new soil to the planting beds, and will upgrade the entire wide pathway around the garden to a hard-surface exposed aggregate and broom-finished concrete for greater accessibility. The improvements are being made possible by generous donations to The North Carolina Arboretum Society.
The 2016 Quilt Garden pattern is “butterfly.” The pattern is created by shapes fashioned to look like the wings of a butterfly fluttering on a blue-sky background. Flower and foliage colors will vary by season (the garden is planted in spring, summer and fall), and plants are chosen to best represent the selected pattern. This year’s seasonal landscape exhibits theme is Planting for Pollinators, which focuses on supporting pollinator insect and bird species in the garden. The butterfly pattern exemplifies this theme, providing pollen- and nectar-laden plants for pollinator feasting.
Join the effort to renovate the Quilt Garden – including a current matching gift challenge – by clicking on the link below.
Carpet Bedding Photo Credit: Flickr