Learning is a lifelong creative endeavor.

Adult & Continuing Education Programs at The North Carolina Arboretum invites you to grow in mind and grow in place. A University of North Carolina System affiliate, the Arboretum offers immersive learning opportunities with the Blue Ridge Naturalist and the Blue Ridge Eco Gardener Certificates of Merit.

Scroll down for information on each certificate program with links to course overviews.

Open Enrollment Periods

Spring Term: Mid-December through January

Fall Term: Mid-June through July

Orientation for each new cohort is scheduled in February and August. If you’d like to join the next Blue Ridge Naturalist or Blue Ridge EcoGardener cohort, please come back to this page in mid-December, click “learn more” below for the program of your choosing, and fill out an application and pay the enrollment fee.

We  welcome your interest and appreciate your commitment to stewarding our precious natural heritage in this region. 



Start a quest to deepen your knowledge of one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Join a community of adult learners who are dedicated to understanding the natural sciences, ecology and culture of the Southern Appalachian region through the Blue Ridge Naturalist (BRN) Certificate of Merit program. Classes meet year round online, onsite and in the field. Students complete core and elective courses on ecology, botany, geology and plant identification, animals, lichens, insects and more. Participants in the BRN program also complete a final project centered in service learning prior to graduation.



Ecological gardening is a way of thinking about gardens and landscapes in which they are no longer seen as a collection of plants, but as a thriving ecosystem – one that nurtures harmony and interdependence between plants, soils, structures, wildlife and humans! We encourage an understanding of ecological principles together with the fundamentals of design and site assessment to aid in the creation and management of healthy, self-sustaining gardens and landscapes. Grow in place with us! Participants complete core and elective courses in ecology, botany, permaculture, landscape design and more.