West Asheville gardens open their gates

West Asheville's small and varied plots are full of gardening possibilities. Turn a corner to find wild roses spilling over onto the sidewalk. Peek behind a stone wall and plants of all shapes and sizes reveal themselves. On Saturday, Sept. 14, the public is invited to see approximately 15 of these gardens — and meet their devoted caretakers — as part of the West Asheville Garden Stroll.

The stroll brings together some of the most unique gardens in the neighborhood for a day of discovery and exploration. Over the past five years, the self-guided tour has been revamped to make it more walkable. This year's stroll focuses on “East West Asheville,” a burgeoning residential and business district between downtown and West Asheville that's full of hidden gardens and passageways.

One of the tour's highlights is Almosta Farm, located at 23 Deaver St. This "micro urban farm" features everything from a straw-bale garden to raised beds made from recovered construction debris. The garden aims to create habitats for wildlife and beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and praying mantis, as well as other farm staples like chickens and bees.

Janet Marrs, who cares for the garden with Lori Shields, jokes that visitors can see the region's largest collection of garden-eating insects during the tour. The rainy season may have brought out the pests, but that hasn't stopped the pair from keeping a good sense of humor, and a remarkable mini-farm.

The stroll's kickoff will be held at Christopher Mello's garden at 307 Waynesville Ave. (You may remember his unusual backyard from the July 31 Xpress story Secret Gardens.) Mello's garden inspired this year's theme of "Playing in the Garden." The Whee Ahh Faerie Kin performance troupe will add to the morning's merriment and Bee City USA will share information on creating habitats for pollinators.

One of the goals of the stroll is to encourage neighbors and visitors to meet and mingle. "West Asheville has so many little neighborhoods within neighborhoods," says organizer Katie Doan. She is thrilled to help share the "hidden corners that are tucked away … that you otherwise might never see."

The participating gardens aren't released until the day of the tour to discourage overly enthusiastic visitors from arriving unannounced. But all will be revealed at the stroll's kickoff ceremony in Mello's garden at 10:30 a.m. If you miss the morning event, volunteers will hand out maps at Mello’s garden until 3:45 p.m. The stroll will be held Saturday, Sept. 14, from 11 a.m.-4p.m. The tour is free, thanks to the support of Haywood Road corridor businesses.

If you'd like your block to be just as stunning as the rest of the tour, the stroll is offering seed grants for the 2014 season. Ordinary citizens and community groups are encouraged to apply for beautification projects that can be seen from the street.
      Find out more on the stroll’s website, westashevillegardens.com, or at the kickoff party.

Start your own orchard

U-pick season is upon us, but why travel to the orchard when you can bring the trees closer to home (other than the cider doughnuts, of course). A class on fall fruit trees, with renowned local expert Bill Whipple, will cover everything from selecting the right trees for your backyard to the rhythms of soil ecology.

Spring is the time to plant many perennials, but fall is the best time to plant fruit trees, according to Reems Creek Nursery. The nursery will host the class at 70 Monticello Road in Weaverville on Saturday, Sept. 14, at 10 a.m. The class is free, but registration is required: http://www.reemscreek.com or 645-3937.

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