We’re talking Asheville



It’s a big blind date without the pressure. You get to meet the people whose posts you’ve been reading and you get to tour at least 3 days worth of beautiful gardens.  This year’s garden blogger meet-up takes place in beautiful Asheville, NC, May 18-20. It’s organized by—among others—Chris C./Outside Clyde and Frances/Fairegarden. The hotel rooms are only being held through 2/15, so if you’re thinking of attending, the time to sign up is now. Follow the first link to do so.

We had some questions (in itals, below) for Chris C. regarding what’s in store at Fling 2012:

If there was just one thing you could mention—just one item—to entice bloggers to attend the Asheville Fling, what would it be?

The wild cultivated gardens on the low spot of a North Carolina mountaintop. The combination of forces at play here have created something very distinct. For twenty years, two gardeners with over-sized appetites and more space than they could fill have planted things in the forest. In the absence of a real budget to speak of and with limited time to spend on the mountain, nature has had an equal say in the garden. Ample native wildflowers have been allowed to remain or added to the mix.

Imagine hiking along the Appalachian trail and all of a sudden you come to a ridge top where the number of plant species around you increases a hundred fold. What was a cool mostly green shaded forest is now carpeted with an array of hundreds of flowers and many more shrubs. You keep walking and it just keeps on going for a couple hundred yards. The forest and the feeling of being in wild nature is just the same, but you know something is radically different about this particular place because of the plants you are seeing. [Chris is referring to Bonnie Brae and Ku'ulei 'Aina, his own two mountain top gardens, which will be toured on Sunday afternoon.]

As for the rest of the weekend, there will be funky urban homesteading in older neighborhoods as well as the posh landscapes of well-to-do gardeners who also have the sickness.

Are you at all trepidatious about the prospect of hosting a large group of demanding (mostly) women for a whole weekend?

No my wife has me well trained. Ha. Other than that I don't believe I am really in control in this life. I could not have asked for a better planning team. Frances G, Helen Yoest, Lisa Wagner, Nan Chase, Rebecca Reed and Charlotte Germane have done a lot of the heavy lifting putting this together. The garden owners, the vendors, and the sponsors have been willing, helpful and most pleasant. Our team will arrange things the best we can and then things will happen the way they happen.


What would you say is utterly unique about gardening in North Carolina?

I think gardening in North Carolina for the most part is fairly typical zone 6 and 7 gardening with the usual site-specific issues everyone has to deal with. What is more unique in is when you get into high elevation gardening. The zone you may or may not be in can change on a daily, monthly, or annual basis. The steep terrain presents other gardening challenges unique to the mountains. Sure, you can plant a garden there, but can you get to it in order to maintain it?

I'm sure the gardens are great and all that, but what about the food in Asheville? What should we absolutely be sure to have when we are there?

Well I am not a real foodie and maybe not the best person to ask because I will eat anything you put in front of me—except Lima beans and Brussels sprouts. I'm gonna feed you 12 Bones BBQ, so that’s covered. I love downtown’s Tupelo Honey Cafe for the Southern Fusion cuisine. You get a taste of real Southern cooking with a more modern and healthy approach. Asheville is a noted food mecca and the types of restaurants within walking distance of the hotel pretty much cover the world's major cuisines. There are restaurants for vegetarians, vegans and the gluten intolerant. In Asheville it is all about local and farm-to-table food. I do hear a lot of chatter about The French Broad Chocolate Lounge, or is it the Chocolate Fetish? One of those two.

Is there a bar in the hotel?

Yes there is a bar in the hotel and three or four along Broadway in the closest block to the hotel. There are more bars on Lexington the next block over, a bar or two around the corner from there and a few more down the street. I have no idea how many craft breweries there are in downtown now. Seems a new one opens every couple of months. Asheville beat out Portland, Oregon for Beer City, USA or some such unscientific online voting poll. There is even an annual Brewgrass Festival. Plenty of beverage choices in Asheville.

Will there be dancing?

Ani and I plan to escort you to some dancing on Saturday night.

Will we meet Bulbarella?

Yes you will meet Bulbarella. Don't ask her what the name of anything is and expect much beyond a common name. She only cares about pretty. You can ask all about her gardening methods and how she has managed to create all this exuberant chaos. Some of the answers may surprise you.

My father, the Building Contractor, was the codependent gardener on this mountain for the last twenty years and is equally responsible for the wild cultivated gardens. He was very much looking forward to this and would have loved all these woman fawning over him. Unfortunately, he died on us last April. His garden lives on and his love of gardening and his gardener genes were passed on to me.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. I can vouch for the mountaintop garden being a startling spot in the midst on indescribable wild beauty. Asheville is simply amazing. Do not miss this opportunity to experience it as the locals do!


    ps, thanks for those kind words, Christopher, but you have done all the heavy lifting on this event. I look forward to the dancing, too.

  2. I can’t tell you how relieved I am that you have asked the most pertinent questions…I leave it to you to figure out which. Can’t wait for this event. Fling is always an adventure. Kudos to the Fling 2012 team. As this event grows there is always more to consider making it a greater challenge. Thanks to all involved for taking on the technicalities and planning of this event.

  3. “Is there a bar?” Ha, right down to business! Great interview with Christopher, our man of the hour. Can’t wait to attend the Fling and see Asheville again!

  4. Great city and excellent beer! I know it well since my family is from the area and my mother now owns the old home place that my grandfather built. Maybe I will take the challenge and start to garden it once my mom moves into it.

  5. Never been to Asheville? It’s a slice of heaven on a plateau in the Smoky Mountains; a walkable downtown full of Art Deco architecture, great restaurants, brew pubs, and my favorite bookstore. Christopher and the committee have sifted through the lush gardens of Asheville and come up with the choicest picks.

  6. I can’t make it, but if you are mulling it over, don’t wait, go! Asheville is one of the most liveable small cities in the country with lots of good food choices, it’s funky, it’s hip, it’s fun and it has its own castle too. Plus you will be in good hands.

  7. One more interesting thing, The Organic Growers School wil be held March 3-4. About 1,000 attend. Good programs, very extensive and hands-on. Check it out at: http://www.organicgrowersschool.org/

    And there’s so much more: Wild herb crafting and culture, etc.

    Everyone will really enjoy it.

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