Happy New Year from The North Carolina Arboretum! As we go into the new year, we want to take a look back at 2023. It was a BIG year here at the Arboretum!

Bloom with a View

We launched an all-new event in partnership with IGMPR. The inaugural Bloom with a View was a huge hit! Over 29,000 guests attended, raising valuable support for our programs year round! The innovative floral display featuring 1,500 hydrangeas and 20,000 lilies showcased in custom-built displays. 

Winter Lights

We celebrated ten years of Winter Lights! This year’s event featured a new design in the Quilt Garden, larger than life butterflies, and an all-new Cocoa Cabin. 

Volunteers

But it wasn’t all fun and games! Our team worked hard all year long to keep the Arboretum beautiful. 

Our group of 350 volunteers donated 11,300 hours of their time! They lent a hand wherever they could – from preparing floral displays for Bloom with a View to having a hand in every aspect of programming the Arboretum hosted this year. They truly are the heart of the Arboretum!

Horticulture

Our horticulture crew took on new projects and tackled challenges all year long! 

In January, our Natural Landscapes Crew added spring ephemerals and stones to get the Willow Pond Trail ready for spring! In March, they were busy building benches, laying stones, and mulching the Azalea Garden. 

It was a group effort to get ready for the holiday season. Installing the big tree in front of the Baker Visitor Center took some serious heavy lifting! 

We also launched our first ever Azalea Day, an celebrating our Azalea collection! Guests enjoyed educational programming, tours of the garden, and a visit from Asheville Plein Air Painters.

 

Membership

Our membership team hosted a variety of events all year long, welcoming over 17,000 members and raising over 1 million dollars for our mission based programming! Our annual Spring and Fall Plant Sales featured over 40 local businesses and vendors, live music and the celebration of Monarch Day in Fall. 

Our second annual Garden Party featured a Midsummer Night’s Dream theme. Members and donors frolicked with the fairies and made their own petit bouquet, got a strand of fairy hair and enjoyed the evening glow of the summer gardens. 

In October, our four-legged friends got to join in on the fun! The second annual “Pawllinators”  Dog Parade was well attended by costumed dogs and humans alike (and one very patient cat made an appearance!) Members and guests walked the parade with the Master of Ceremonies and enjoyed locally donated prizes. 

Development

Thanks to YOU, our philanthropic giving totaled over $1.6 million in 2023, including restricted and unrestricted giving, tributes, planned gifts, community partnerships, sponsorships and grants. We are sincerely grateful for the transformational support that allowed us to do what’s possible at the Arboretum.

In September, we launched a new name for the Arboretum’s annual fund, The ONE Fund, which supports the highest and greatest needs across the organization. ONE stands for Organizational, Natural and Educational – the pillars that uphold our mission and vision. 

In November, our first Giving Tuesday campaign was a huge success, raising over $81,000!

The philanthropic support that you, our visitors, members and donors, provided in 2023, allowed thousands of lives to be impacted in the most meaningful ways. 

Youth Education

We learned a lot this year! Youth Education hosted over 3,500 students from Western NC, South Carolina, and Tennessee, for immersive, learner-driven field trips

Discovery Camp capacity increased from 4 to 5 camps per week, and were able to welcome 438 campers! We also increased the number of camp scholarships, so more families were able to attend! 

But we didn’t just hang out here at the Arboretum! Our youth educators went out into surrounding communities (and the internet!) to bring environmental education to kids across North Carolina. 

Project EXPLORE has continued to expand its statewide presence, training educators to be Project EXPLORE coaches serving an area of 46 counties! This statewide growth has empowered educators across the state to bring the wonders of outdoor science education to more teachers and students than ever before! In 2023, Project EXPLORE served a RECORD BREAKING number of 9,349 students. 

In 2023, ecoEXPLORE participants shared more than 20,000 photo observations with iNaturalist, surpassing 70,000 total community science observations since the project began! 

ecoEXPLORE continued to expand partnerships with parks, libraries, and nature centers to deliver more than 190 nature programs for 5,000+ participants across North Carolina. These include monthly events on the Qualla Boundary in collaboration with Eastern Band of the Cherokee scientists and storytellers. ecoEXPLORE continued to expand access by addressing language barriers and highlighting diversity in science through delivering bilingual virtual programs, in collaboration with NASA GLOBE Observer and the Museum of Life and Science.

Project PEACE (Promoting Environmental Awareness through Community Engagement) continued its third year. The program engages historically and currently underserved communities in environmental education programming to encourage inquiry-based exploration in a welcoming environment. By partnering with local communities and organizations, Project PEACE hopes to deliver sustainable, long term programming. Some highlights this year include:

  • Spanish Bilingual Programming:
    • We continued to offer Spanish bilingual programming in partnership with community organizations. From a spring music in nature afterschool program to bilingual creek explorations, guided hikes, and even opportunities for fire building and s’mores, we ensured engaging experiences for all. Participants also learned how to harvest river cane and create their own natural wind chimes.
  • Sustaining Ongoing Community Collaborations:
    • Throughout the year, we sustained community after-school programs, camp initiatives, and other guided activities at the Arboretum. By collaborating with organizations, we delivered high-quality science and nature connection programming, specifically tailored to underserved youth, ensuring they had access to enriching experiences. Some examples of our programming this year included: survival skills, such as shelter building and tending campfires, wildlife observations and identification skills, geocaching and team-building skills, turtle telemetry and animal meet-and-greets with Arboretum education animals like Willow the box turtle.

Adult Education

But learning isn’t just for the kids! Adult & Continuing Education offered over 250 learning opportunities during 2023, extending the Arboretum’s educational outreach to adult students ages 18 to 80+. Our in-person, field-based, online live-time gatherings and our online on-demand attracted over 3,000 participants.

We extended numerous free programs to a wider audience, including walks, talks and online tutorials as well, collaborating across departments at the Arboretum. Our expert instructors offered free classes to attendees at our spring and fall Plant Sale and Markets, Bloom With a View, the Great Backyard Bird Count and Monarch Day. 

Collaborations

We’re lucky to have great partners! In 2023, we were able to collaborate with a number of local organizations to bring the Arboretum to more people than ever before. 

Honoring Long Man Event with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

Through an ongoing collaboration, including seven new collaborating organizations, we engaged over 50 students in educational programming during the annual Honoring Long Man event. Our focus included water quality, conservation, and culture with a deep appreciation for the wonders of water. Participants had the opportunity to do activities including listening to Cherokeeing storytelling, look at aquatic life under microscopes, learning about local restoration projects, and get their feet wet learning about aquatics habitats. 

New Kituwah Academy

An exciting new partnership this year began as Project EXPLORE and New Kituwah Academy in Cherokee, NC completed the introduction program to an ongoing community science project focused on monitoring bird populations. Throughout the school year, students and teachers in 7 classes at New Kituwah Academy will continue to work with Arboretum educators to observe birds in their schoolyards and share the data they collect with scientists of the Eastern Band of Cherokee’s Department of Natural Resources.

Bonsai as Fine Art

Adult Ed helped produce and host Bonsai as Fine Art in June, a ten-day celebration of bonsai that attracted astonished viewers to an exhibition at Asheville’s premier art gallery, Blue Spiral 1, and to culminating events at the Arboretum that included bonsai styling demonstration with professional bonsai artist Bjorn Bjorholm, garden tours with Arboretum Bonsai Curator Arthur Joura, a bonsai pottery vendor market, and a show featuring Blue Ridge Bonsai Society members’ trees and accent plants. 

Aquatic Adventures with Asheville Parks and Recreation

With an exciting new collaboration with Asheville Parks and Recreation, we brought youth participants from various community centers to the NC Arboretum, immersing them in a hands-on learning experience about aquatic habitats. Activities this year included searching for macroinvertebrates and studying insect life cycles, fostering a deeper understanding of the delicate ecosystems that thrive in our waterways.

Hemlock Restoration Initiative 

Natural Landscapes Crew received training from Hemlock Restoration Initiative to treat our hemlocks and protect against hemlock woolly adelgid. 

Arboretum Reads 

For our Arboretum Reads program, we hosted Florence Williams, acclaimed author of The Nature Fix: How Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative, for a visit in April that included a packed-house for a public talk and a guided Forest Bathing experience for a small group in the Arboretum’s forest. Adult Education joined with Reems Creek Nursery & Garden Center, Asheville Wellness Tours and Malaprop’s Independent Bookstore in a unique educational collaboration to bring Williams to the Arboretum.  Blue Ridge Public Radio’s science correspondent Helen Chickering covered the events, highlighting the stress-reducing, awe-enhancing benefits of time spent among trees. 

 

Thank you for making 2023 one of our best years yet!