Petal to the metal

Photo courtesy of Western North Carolina Orchid Society

“Orchids are not difficult to grow, just misunderstood.” That’s the description of the opening discussion at the annual Western North Carolina Orchid Society Show and Sale, scheduled for Saturday, March 26, and Sunday, March 27, at the North Carolina Arboretum.

The event features three presentations each day, from the 11 a.m. opener to Sunday afternoon’s “Repotting Your Orchid.” Presenters include Linda Wilhelm, Hadley Cash, Mark Reinke, Shan Nassar, Cynthia Gillooy and Linda Thorne.

Of course, a key part of the event is the display of hundreds of orchids. There will also be orchid paintings by Gary Gessford as well as music by Western Carolina University’s Gamelan Gunung Biru (Gamelan is an Indonesian-based musical form involving xylophones, gongs, flutes and other instruments).

Arboretum members get a preview on Friday, March 25, from 4 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday’s public events start at 11 a.m.
For more information and directions, visit the website

Vegetable gardens 101

A variety of resources are available for beginner gardeners and those who want brush up on their knowledge. Here are a few:

How much mulch? has a handy calculation for determining the quantity of mulch, topsoil or pine straw needed to cover a given area: “1 cubic yard of mulch will cover 100 square feet to a depth of 3 inches. That's enough to fill the bed of a midsize truck. Bagged, you'd need 13 of the 2-cubic-foot bags or nine 3-cubic-foot bags. One cubic yard of topsoil will add a 2-inch layer over an area of 100 square feet. A bale of pine straw is enough to cover about 35 square feet.”

If that’s too much math, go to the online calculator at (Source: Carolina Country, distributed by the North Carolina Electric Cooperative.)

How to start a vegetable garden: The Buncombe County Extension Center on Coxe Avenue offers a beginner’s class, Thursday, March 28, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The class fee is $5, and advance registration is required (Call 255-5522).

Master Gardener Spring Garden School: Offered on Saturday, April 9, at A-B Tech’s Ferguson Auditorium, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., this program is intended to provide participants with the resources to grow in Western North Carolina. The instructors are the master gardeners of the area — the experts when it comes to making your soil more fertile, picking native plants (and others suitable for our region), creating an edible landscape, gardening in small spaces and (my favorite) choosing plants that can make gardening less work.

There’s also Q&A at the end, and participants are encouraged to ask master gardeners their toughest questions.

Registration runs from 8:30 to 9 a.m. The fee is $12.
For more information, call 255-5522. The Buncombe County Extension Center is located at 94 Coxe Ave. in downtown Asheville.

Kids’ stuff at the Botanical Gardens

April showers mark the beginning of kid season at the Asheville Botanical Gardens. On April 16, the Garden Science series begins with a session for kids age 5 to 11. “How does the weather impact our ecosystem, plant life, animals and the seasons? We will learn the answer to these questions and make a weather station to take home,” the description reads.

Next up, on May 21, is a “Forest Floor” workshop in which “participants will explore the Botanical Gardens’ wooded areas for signs of life and look under leaf litter, rocks and logs to see life forms in the woods.”

The series continues into the fall, from “Frogs and Toads” to “Don’t Take Rocks for Granite.” The curriculum is designed to “engage kids in the observation and investigation of living and non-living things using their senses and simple tools,” organizers say.

All programs take place at the Botanical Gardens (151 W.T. Weaver Blvd., adjacent to UNCA) on Saturdays from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.
For more information, contact the BGA office administrator at 252-5190. The cost is $7/per child per activity. Each session is limited to 12 participants.

— Send your garden-and-farm news to or call News Editor Margaret Williams at 251-1333, ext. 152.

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