The Genius of Birds

The fog is lifting. I can begin to make out the undulant curtain of the Blue Ridge Mountains across the valley, purpled by the haze. From a grove of trees nearby comes the piercing zeet of a chickadee. One has only to consider the extraordinary genius packed tightly into that tiny puff of feathers to lay the mind wide open to the mysteries of a bird’s knowing — the what and the why. These are wonderful puzzles to keep around on our intellectual bookshelf, to remind us how little we still know.

— Jennifer Ackerman, The Genius of Birds

February reminds us daily to take heart in the promise of spring and to love with abandon.

Look to the cheerful snowdrops, tune into birdsong, and breathe in earth. Train all your senses while making connections in nature through the Arboretum’s programs for adult learners.

Registration opens for our February and March classes below.


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For more information, please contact Adult & Continuing Education Programs at

February 2023 Classes

  • ONLINE | Asynchronous Class Open Through April 30 

    Six+ hours of recorded lectures and course materials. Includes two live-time discussion sessions with instructor. 

    The Southern Appalachian Mountain region is quite diverse in the many different species of vertebrate animals that make their home here. Learn the basic identification and natural history of many of our mountain wildlife species in this unique online offering taught by Naturalist Carlton Burke. All six lectures of Part I will be released asynchronously – or on demand – on January 30 and will be available through April 30. This class is a core requirement of the Blue Ridge Naturalist Certificate of Merit program.

    Videos and assignments for Part I will focus on different groups of vertebrate animals – fish, amphibians, and reptiles. Continue on with Carlton in March with Vertebrate Zoology of the Blue Ridge Part II to learn about the region’s birds and mammals! 



  • ONLINE | Asynchronous Class Open February 13 Through April 30

    Six+ hours of recorded lectures and course materials. Includes two live-time discussion sessions with instructor. 

    The Southern Appalachian Mountain region is quite diverse in the many different species of vertebrate animals that make their home here. In this series of classes, students will learn the basic identification and natural history of many of our mountain wildlife species taught by Naturalist Carlton Burke. All six lectures of Part II will be released asynchronously – or on demand – on February 13, 2023, over Schoology and will be available through April 30. On-demand delivery allows participants to view the lectures at times most convenient for them, to pause and absorb the knowledge from the videos in ways best suited to different learning styles!

    Videos and assignments for Part I will focus on different groups of vertebrate animals – fish, amphibians, and reptiles. It’s still open for registration above. Videos and assignments for Part II will focus on different groups of vertebrate animals – birds and mammals. 


  • Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto by Tricia Hersey | ONSITE | Thursday, February 2, 2 – 3:30 p.m.

    Connect to the liberating power of rest, daydreaming, and naps as a foundation for healing and justice. 

    Tricia Hersey, aka The Nap Bishop, asks what it would be like to live in a well-rested world. Hersey casts an illuminating light on our troubled relationship with rest and how to imagine and dream our way to a future where rest is exalted and our worth does not reside in how much we produce. Informed by her deep experience in theology, activism, and performance art, Rest Is Resistance is a call to action, a battle cry, a field guide, and a manifesto for all of us who are sleep-deprived, searching for justice, and longing to be liberated from the oppressive grip of Grind Culture.


  • ONSITE | Saturday, February 4, 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. 

    Native plants are beautiful, low maintenance, ecologically beneficial and bestow a distinct sense of place to cultivated landscapes. This class will guide students in planning a native garden to serve multiple purposes, including great native species for cut flowers, ornamental value, edible gardens, butterfly host plants, and more! Pictured is a member of the monarda genus, a beautifully elaborate and entirely useful native beebalm. Learn more in class with us! 

    Online registration is closed. Contact regarding availability of onsite registration. 


  • Two Sessions:  ONLINE, Thursday, February 9, 1 – 2:30 p.m. | ONSITE, Saturday, February 11, 1 – 4

    Wild edibles represent an array of hundreds of species of plants that grow without any human inputs and are freely available for harvest. Ethnobiologist Marc Williams leads this immersive overview that allows for time in the virtual classroom as well as in the Arboretum forest. The initial online session will cover the essentials of proper plant identification and the major families of wild edibles, including examples of plants that have been previously harvested and a sampling of value-added products that can be made from them. If you want to gather some practical experience foraging, a second session in the field follows with a plant walk to see plants in place that can persist even through the cold of winter. 




  • ONLINE | Wednesday, February 15, 1 – 3 p.m.

    Is this twig smooth or wooly, this end bud hairy, leaf scars narrow? Speak the language of Winter Tree ID in this immersive learning opportunity with Naturalist Carlton Burke. Trees take on a whole new dimension in winter with the usual methods of identification less obvious. Learn techniques for identifying trees in the winter months based on silhouette, bark, buds, leaf scars, twigs and other distinguishing characteristics. This class is a core requirement of the Blue Ridge Naturalist Certificate of Merit program.


  • ONSITE | Three Sections (Select one only): A: Saturday, February 18, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.; B: Wednesday, February 22, 1 – 3 p.m.; or C: Saturday, February 25, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. 

    Is this twig smooth or wooly, this end bud hairy, leaf scars narrow? Naturalist Carlton Burke teaches you the basics of Winter Tree ID in this immersive in-person learning opportunity. Trees take on a whole new dimension in winter with the usual methods of identification less obvious. Learn techniques for identifying trees in the winter months based on silhouette, bark, buds, leaf scars, twigs and other distinguishing characteristics. Included in this package are two informative methods of learning. 

    The two-hour online Winter Native Tree Identification class and course materials put together by Burke are great preparation for acing an applied field experience set in the Arboretum forest. With both you’re well on your way to impressing friends and family with knowledge of your tree neighbors and becoming the dendrologist you know you were meant to be.

    Please select only one from the options below: 

    A: Saturday, February 18, 10 am – 12 pm

    B: Wednesday, February 22, 1 – 3 pm

    C: Saturday, February 25, 10 am – 12 pm

  • ONLINE | Thursday, February 16, 1 – 2:30 p.m.

    William Robinson, the great English gardener, said that we should banish the idea that “winter is a doleful time for gardens.” Clara Curtis, the Arboretum’s Senior Director for Mission Delivery, presents this online core class, an exploration of the seasonal landscape and the plants that lend beauty and utility in winter. You can register separately for the in-person Garden Walk through the landscape with Clara in each season. 





  • ONLINE | Thursday, February 16, 6 – 7 p.m.

    Birdwatching has increased 300% during the pandemic, and many eyes are newly opened to the wonder of birds! Expand your world view of the wonder of birds in this travelog of birding near and far. We’re going to look at the multiple shapes and colors and variety of birds on the planet. With so much fun and adventure in the world of birds, you don’t have to be a beginner to enjoy this lively presentation by expert birder Simon Thompson.

    Sign on for this engaging online series each month through June and discover the wonder of birding with our expert guides from Ventures Birding Tours. Other topics in the series include Bird Migration, Backyard Birds, Bird Song, and Birding Your Local Patch!


  • ONSITE | Saturday, February 18,  1 – 3:30 p.m. 

    Be present in the moment and deepen your connection in nature and in community with this immersive experience set in the Arboretum forest. Certified forest therapy guide Christa Hebal will extend a series of invitations, instructing participants in mindful practices that encourage deepening levels of awareness of inner and surrounding landscapes. Inspired by Shinrin-Yoku, the Japanese art of immersing oneself in a forest environment, a forest bathing walk can invite healing on many levels, starting within and moving outward in the renewed intention to protect where we are in place and on the planet. It is nature as therapy! Presented through Adult & Continuing Education Programs in collaboration with Asheville Wellness Tours. 


  • ONSITE | Tuesday, February 21, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

    Help bluebirds thrive in your area by learning how to construct and place a bluebird nest box on your property. Bluebirds actually need human intervention in order to compensate for their natural habitats being overtaken by non-native species. Bluebird lover Joe Sanders leads this lively three-hour hands-on class. He provides a history of the bluebird and its lifecycle and guides participants through building their own cedar nest box of the type that has proven popular with bluebirds in this region. No carpentry experience is required. You will go home with a completed bluebird nest box, mounting pole, and written information on attracting bluebirds to your property.


  • ONSITE | Tuesday, February 21, 1 – 4 p.m.

    Today hemlock management is simpler and less expensive than ever before! Join Hemlock Restoration Initiative staff in the Arboretum forest to learn the fundamentals of treating hemlock trees to protect them from the invasive insect, hemlock woolly adelgid.  Participants will practice assessing hemlock health to determine the best treatment options, and HRI staff will demonstrate chemical treatment. We will also discuss environmental considerations and hiring a tree care professional. 


  • ONSITE | Thursday, February 23, 4:30 – 6 p.m.

    In 2019, National Audubon released “Survival By Degrees,” a study on the impact of climate change on birds in North America. Audubon scientists took advantage of 140 million observations, recorded by birders and scientists, to describe where 604 North American bird species live today — an area known as their “range.” They then used the latest climate models, mostly generated by climate change scientists located in western North Carolina, to project how each species’ range will shift as climate change and other human impacts advance across the continent. The report concluded that two-thirds of North American birds are at increasing risk of extinction from global temperature rise. Tom Tribble couples a lifelong love of birds with an analyst’s ability to make the data vivid in this talk that summarizes the results of the study and describes how we can help.


March 2023 Classes

  • ONSITE | Friday, March 3, 9 – 11 a.m.

    Enjoy a brisk morning of bird watching and basics at the Arboretum. Get to know your binoculars, field guides, and more with the help of expert birder Simon Thompson of Ventures Birding Tours. If you want to get started in birding, this is the in-person class to take. Warning: Habit Forming.

    Add this class on for some experience in the field to complement our six-part online Birding Basics series ongoing through June and our monthly Meditative Morning series the first Tuesday of every month.


  • ONSITE | Sunday, March 5, 4:30 – 6:30 p.m.

    Walking with an eye toward the wonders around you during an otherwise ordinary walk could have significant benefits for your mental health. Interesting new psychological studies contend that people who take a fresh look at the objects, moments and vistas that surround them during brief “awe walks” experience significant health benefits, not the least of which includes feeling happier and more hopeful

    Step off on this slow intentional walk in the Arboretum forest and Forest Meadow with documentary photographer Susan Patrice who helps you focus an experience of place through new and loving eyes, to see beauty and wonder in your surroundings. Bring cameras or phones to capture what calls to you in the enveloping landscape. A great precursor to our Contemplative Photography series coming up in April.


  • ONSITE | Tuesday, March 7, 8:30 – 10:30 a.m.

    The Blue Ridge Mountains are a beautiful place to be in the spring and this walk has been designed to visit some of the best spots to enjoy early birding at the Arboretum. Bring your binoculars to explore the area’s avian bounty. Open to beginning and experienced birders alike. 


  • ONLINE | Asynchronous Class Opens Monday, March 13

    Bringing dramatic variations in temperature and precipitation patterns, creating disruptions in phenology and even requiring adjustments to plant hardiness zones, climate change is already changing ways of gardening in Western North Carolina. This course will provide an overview of the many new tools that will help gardeners create a climate-resilient garden. Learn about evaluating climate risk, monitoring changes in plant and animal behavior, reducing the garden’s carbon footprint, and managing for the high response and recovery capacity needed to maintain the health of a garden no matter the weather.


  • BLENDED | Three Sessions: ONSITE – Wednesday, March 15 & March 29, 1:30  – 3 p.m.; ONLINE – Virtual Skywatch – Friday, March 24, 8:30 – 9:30 p.m.

    Join Astronomer Stephan Marton on a journey of discovery to explore the literary and scientific richness of the spring night sky through science and nature writing. We’ll read selections from astronomer and award-winning science writer Chet Raymo’s The Soul of the Night: An Astronomical Pilgrimage. Meeting in person at the Arboretum, we can discuss the readings and unpack the science behind the words.  Steve leads a virtual skywatch between the two in-person sessions, helping us turn our gaze upward to the cosmic wonders emerging in this season and join the ranks of poets, scientists, artists through the centuries who have found wonder in the night sky. 


  • BLENDED | Two Sessions: ONLINE, Wednesday, March 15, 2 – 3:30 p.m. & ONSITE, March 22, 2 – 3:30 p.m. 

    Learn creative ways to plan, record and reflect on your journeys through the seasons in your garden and landscape with award-winning garden blogger Lisa Wagner. Keeping a history of the land you steward is an integral part of your story. To help you get started, Wagner asks, “What are the things that you want to be able to remember about your garden later? What inspires you now in your garden?” This two-session approach to blogging or journaling blends an online introduction and discussion with an in-person interactive workshop. Sign on for an encouraging talk on setting up satisfying ways to tell your story in the first class. The second part of the class provides time to experiment combining images and narrative to create reflective and engaging garden posts in your own writing “voice.” Learn about setting up your blog template in a way that suits you, encouraging reflection and observation as you preserve your garden’s story. Bring a tablet or laptop if you want or come analog, bringing an old-fashioned journal! 

    Continue the reflective journey with Wagner’s other classes this spring: “A Growing Sense of Place,” onsite at the Arboretum on Wednesday, April 19, and the two-session workshop “Re-visioning Your Home Landscape,” online in June June 14 & 21.



  • ONLINE | Thursday, March 16, 6 – 7 p.m.

    Registration opens by Wednesday, February 15. Sign on for the session or join us for the full Birding Basics online series! 

    Migration peaks in spring and fall, but, in reality, there are birds migrating 365 days a year. When birds migrate depends on many factors, including bird species, migration distance, travel speed, route, climate and more. Expert birder and guide for Ventures Birding Tours, Aaron Steed has been interested in birds and natural history his entire life. He reveals all in this informative program on how and why birds are on the move! Which birds migrate and which ones nest in place? How do they fare over winter? Which birds are simply passing through? We learn all about when we can expect to see certain species return to the region in the springtime. 


  • ONSITE | Artist Talk – Friday, March 17, 4 – 5:30 p.m.

    Have you ever wondered how Ukrainian pysanky eggs are created, or what they mean? Join us for this free Artist Talk with Andrea Kulish Wilhelm, a first-generation Ukrainian American who learned to make pysanky from her mother when she was five years old. Based in Asheville, Andrea is an artist, graphic designer, and pysanky teacher with a studio in the River Arts District. Her life’s mission is to spread Ukrainian culture through pysanky eggs. She will also talk about her involvement in humanitarian aid fundraising efforts to help Ukraine. She will be teaching a day-long Pysanky workshop Saturday, March 18, at the Arboretum, a beautiful way to call in spring through symbol and story. 



  • ONSITE | Two Sessions: Artist Talk, Friday, March 17, 4 – 5:30 p.m. & Saturday, March 18, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. 

    Pysanky are a lot like Asheville – unique, fun and colorful! In this workshop we will be making beautiful Ukrainian Easter eggs – pysanky. Students will learn the method of batik, also called wax-resist, dying. The designs are made with beeswax, which is melted in the flame of a candle and applied to the egg, using a tool called a kistka. The eggs are dipped into successively darker dyes. At the end of the process, the beeswax is melted off to reveal the beautiful and colorful design. Students may use traditional patterns or make up their own designs, inspired by nature! Bring this meditative and meaningful way of making into your holiday traditions!

    rEGISTER FOR Artist Talk & Workshop

  • BLENDED | Eight Sessions: ONLINE, Tuesdays & Thursdays, March 21 – April 11, 1 – 2:30 p.m. & ONSITE (Optional), Thursday, April 13, 1 – 2:30 p.m. 

    Plants have many amazing abilities:  They make their own food, pull water hundreds of feet in the air against gravity, and trick insects and other animals into helping them reproduce. They track the sun, recoil at a touch, and warn other plants of danger.  Alexandra Holland leads this fascinating class that encourages exploration and discussion of all these phenomena and more as we look at the basics of plant structure, function, evolution, classification, and ecology. Six sessions are delivered in interactive live-time Zoom-based meetings combining lecture and discussion. Online course materials include a handout packet, discussion questions and self-paced quizzes, and exercises for applying concepts and principles that will inspire making observations in your own yard or neighborhood. Included is an optional onsite meeting that includes microscope practice and a Botany Walk with the instructor. Additional Botany Walks are scheduled during wildflower season and require separate registration.


  • ONSITE | Sunday, March 26, 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

    Enjoy a day of respite and reflection at the North Carolina Arboretum. Free from the pressures and distractions of daily life, this small-group immersion into mind-body centering practices will include gentle yoga and qigong, guided meditation and relaxation, personal reflection, a sound bath, and quiet time in nature. All movement-based practices will be gentle and accessible, including the choice to do any seated practice in a chair or with the support of a cushion. Tea and snacks will be provided; participants are asked to bring their own lunch.


  • ONSITE | Thursday, March 30, 4 – 5:30 p.m. 4 – 5:30 p.m.

    Registration opens by Wednesday, February 15. Join us in person for this free community-wide meeting and informative presentation. All donations go to support conservation-based Education Programs at the Arboretum! 

    It’s spring and you know what that means! Warmer temperatures, beautiful flowers and trees blooming, people venturing out to enjoy it all. And it turns out black bears are coming out in large numbers to enjoy the same things that humans enjoy. Learn about the conditions that contribute to the black bear population continuing to thrive in Western North Carolina in proximity to so many people. Tanya Poole, Regional Education Specialist at NC Wildlife Resources Commission, discusses BearWise strategies recommended by wildlife experts that will help people better coexist with these amazing animals.

Asynchronous | On Demand Classes

  • ONLINE Year Round Asynchronous Course Open for Ongoing Registration! 

    The Curator’s Journal by Bonsai Curator Arthur Joura is a year-long course offering the ultimate insider’s view of bonsai at The North Carolina Arboretum. Regular entries chronicle growing an art and growing an enterprise. Subscribers will have exclusive access to all-new original content generated by Joura and will be notified each week when a new entry is posted.

    Preview free entries on the Curator’s Journal site and join us for this learning journey. With Joura as a knowledgeable guide, Journal subscribers forgo the map and travel in time to meet remarkable trees, each with stories and life lessons worth sharing.



    Arboretum Production Greenhouse Manager June Smathers-Jolley leads this engaging and packed-full-of-useful-information class on how to be a good plant parent to your houseplants. June shares on-trend resources from the horticulture industry, popular magazines, and social media that will make you want to adopt a few new family members of the botanical variety. Topics to be covered include selecting the best plants for different locations and conditions in your home, proper watering techniques, repotting, fertilizing, and pest identification/management.



    Want to rejuvenate an older houseplant or share your plant with a friend? Arboretum Production Greenhouse Manager June Smathers-Jolley covers the basics of propagating houseplants through seeds, cuttings, division and air layering in this informative video, produced in-house by the Education Department’s creative team and available to watch “on demand” at your own convenience. Whether you have a colorful coleus, an aging aglaonema, a peppy peperomia, or a savvy succulent, you will pick up some proven techniques for expanding your houseplant collection.




    Correctly pruning woody trees and shrubs improves their general appearance and promotes plant health. In this On-Demand course, professional horticulturist Ben Pick will discuss and demonstrate various types of pruning — structural, aesthetic, regenerative, and corrective — along with tools, techniques and timing, for successful pruning of small trees and flowering shrubs. Though it can be hard to know where to start, what to cut and what to leave, to keep trees and shrubs in your landscape healthy and beautiful, this class will help both with providing a thorough and practical approach while instilling confidence.


Contemplative Practices

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