As winter comes to an end in Western North Carolina, we are now welcoming warmer temperatures and seeing some early signs of spring out in the gardens. In addition to the bright yellow blooms of daffodils and the budding pink flowers on cherry trees, there are also many new items “popping” up at the Arboretum. Over the next three months, the Arboretum will be adding a new seasonal butterfly exhibit and several garden enhancements, as well as a variety of facility upgrades.

Spreading its Wings

Building on last year’s pollinators theme and efforts to conserve monarch butterflies, the Arboretum will place a special focus on butterflies during 2017. From April through October, the Arboretum’s seasonal landscape garden exhibits will feature many plants and flowers that attract and support butterflies, and the Quilt Garden will be designed in a butterfly quilt block pattern. In addition, the 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 the 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, N.C., artist Grace Cathey, the sculpture is a colorful, upright kaleidoscope design featuring different stages of the monarch butterfly life cycle. The new piece is made possible by a donation by Carey O’Connor Kolaja and her family, to honor her mother, Louise T. O’Connor.

Facility Facelifts

In addition to its horticulture and landscape improvements, the Arboretum is making several upgrades to its facilities for the spring. The Education Center recently renovated its restroom facilities on both levels of the building, and it will reopen to the public on March 15. 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.

Looking Ahead

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, 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 and cyclists is free, and parking is always free for members of The North Carolina Arboretum Society.

Spring has truly sprung here at the Arboretum, and the year ahead promises many new features and opportunities for visitors and members!

For more information on the Arboretum’s hours, parking fees and driving directions, please click here.