It’s bloomin’ time

It’s garden season in Western North Carolina. While festivals, plant sales and the like abound in the Asheville area, nearby Waynesville has its own event — the ninth annual Whole Bloomin’ Thing, to be held in Frog Level on Saturday, May 7, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. (For the uninitiated, this national historic area lies where Richland Creek and the railroad lines skirt downtown Waynesville; before the railroad arrived in 1884, the area was “essentially a swampland,” hence the name.)

Haywood County’s premier spring festival, the Bloomin’ kicks off the growing season with an offering of beautiful flowering baskets, vegetable and herb starts, berry bushes and potted ornamental plants. And local artisans will feature a wide range of nature-inspired gifts and crafts, such as baskets and birdhouses, soaps and stemware, pottery and jewelry, metal sculptures and flower planters and more.

Food vendors will be on hand with fresh cheeses, homemade preserves and jellies, barbecue, burgers, veggie wraps, ice cream and desserts all day long.

Live music features local musicians and dancers, including Chris Minick, Caleb Burress, Lorraine Conard, Bostic Yard, Josh Fields, Ian Moore, The Ross Brothers & Cousins and cloggers the Smoky Mountain Stompers.

And don’t forget Frog Level businesses, which offer a diverse range of products and services including antiques and antique repair, fine art and home furnishings, massage therapy, tattooing, gourmet coffees and foods and much more.

Haywood County Master Gardeners will also be present to answer all of your gardening questions, and there will be numerous children’s activities such as face painting and seed planting.

Parking is available at Haywood Builders, St. John’s Catholic Church, the VFW upper parking lot and the public parking deck on Branner Avenue.

Harvesting that agritourism green

Need information about agritourism for your farm? On Thursday, May 19, there’s a workshop in Henderson County at Coston Farm. The event is cosponsored by the Agritourism Networking Association and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Agritourism is a "commercial enterprise at a working farm, ranch, or agricultural plant conducted for the enjoyment of visitors that generates supplemental income for the owner," according to the state’s new agritourism website. “Other terms often used for this segment of farming are agri-tainment, farms to visit or entertainment farming. Agritourism is growing in popularity because consumers are interested in farm experiences or connecting with their local source of farm products.”

Agritourism enterprises include:

• On-farm direct sales (u-pick, roadside stands, CSAs)
• Educational tours, demonstrations and school groups (wineries, animal fiber spinning, cheese making, cooking classes)
• Seasonal activities or festivals (corn maze, sleigh rides, hayrides, barn dances)
• Nature-based tourism (birding, hunting, fishing, ecology, garden walks)
• Outdoor recreation (horseback riding, hunting, fishing, trapping, shooting)
• Rural or heritage tours and demonstrations (Historic re-creations, antique farm equipment, etc.)
• Hospitality services (”haycations” or farm stays, weddings, bed and breakfasts, guided tours)

These activities are a way for farmers to market themselves as well as their products. Inviting customers on the farm for various farm-related activities can result in the sale of additional farm products.
For more information, see wncveggies.blogspot.com/p/agritourism.html. For May 19 registration information, see ncagr.gov/markets/agritourism.

A camellia a day keeps winter at bay

If you’ve ever pined for camellias, well, pine no more. New cultivars have arrived in Western North Carolina and they are tough, cold-resistant and dazzling.

Local nursery B.B. Barns held a seminar one recent Saturday, and I went to check it out. I associate camellias with warmer climes in the Deep South, where it blooms in late winter. But the flowering tree is an Asian native that’s related to the tea plant (C. sinensis), and there are cold-hardy varieties, I learned at the seminar. With names like April Tryst, Pink Icicle, Snow Flurry and Carolina Moonmist, my desire to plant this winter bloomer was well whetted. All total, 60 varieties of camellias have been identified that tolerate the zone 6 mountain climate here in the Asheville area. — Cinthia Milner
For B.B. Barnes seminars, see bbbarns.com.

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