Although it nurtures a keen sense of its own history, West Asheville has seen enormous changes in the past 10 years, from Haywood Road’s exploding restaurant and brewery scene to residential construction trends that are incorporating new architecture styles into old neighborhoods. And the West Asheville Garden Stroll wants to celebrate all of it.
The annual event marks its first decade on Saturday, Sept. 8, with the theme of “Welcome Old and New,” showcasing the neighborhood just north of Haywood Road bordered by I-240 and Craven Street. “There are a lot of old homes in Asheville and a lot of new homes with small footprints being built on marginal land, infill. And what we’re saying is we embrace it all; we welcome all of it,” says organizer Scott Miller.
Designed to pull people off the main drag to explore West Asheville’s residential areas, the 2018 stroll traces a self-guided 2.5-mile loop that invites guests to explore — whether on foot, by bike or by car — 13 gardens cultivated by neighborhood homeowners. Both older homes and new construction will be in the mix, with gardens featuring everything from a handmade cob sweat lodge to an Alice in Wonderland theme.
Throughout the tour, various stops will highlight creative rock and water features, eco-friendly and upcycled structures and designs, and pollinator-friendly plantings. The resident gardeners will be on hand at each location to interact with guests and answer questions.
Miller notes that admission is free, and organizers encourage families to come out for the event. “My whole thing about this is to get kids involved in gardening. I want them to know that all the food doesn’t just come from Ingles, it doesn’t just magically appear in the grocery story,” he says, noting that some of this year’s featured gardens have chickens, rabbits and fish. Also, he adds, The Hop Ice Cream Café owners, Greg and Ashley Garrison, will have their home featured on the tour, and when they’ve participated in the past, they’ve offered ice cream for sale.
Miller says another aim of the stroll is to promote gardening as a way for people from all walks of life to find common ground. “Maybe you’re from Detroit, and you’re from California, and, oh, you grew up here, were born at Mission Hospital, but we’re all gardeners,” he says. “And it’s funny how immediately that breaks down any sort of barriers. Gardeners don’t care what religion you are, they don’t care what school you went to — this is where we coexist.”
The stroll kicks off with a 10:30 a.m. ceremony at Asheville Primary School featuring the Faerie Kin stiltwalkers and runs 11 a.m.-4 p.m. A map with descriptions of the featured gardens will be available throughout the day at the school along with gardening resources and information about the WAGS Seed Grants, which provide $300 awards to fund community-focused garden projects.
“Come out, walk around with a bunch of people you never met before under one main umbrella of gardening, get a little fresh air, meet some people,” urges Miller. “It’s all about gathering people and sharing a common love.”