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North Carolina

A Gardener’s Delight: The Private & Public Landscapes of Asheville

Program No. 21968RJ
Come to Asheville to witness some of the nation’s most renowned gardens and landscapes as you explore the Biltmore Estate, North Carolina Arboretum and several private gardens.
Length
6 days
Rating (4.94)
Activity Level
Starts at
949

Your well-being is our #1 priority

To make your experience as safe as possible, we require all participants to be fully vaccinated. See our Safety Roadmap

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Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
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itinerary
Please Note:
The itinerary for this program is different on certain dates.
Select your type of room
Price will update based on selection
Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Apr 16 - Apr 21, 2023
Starting at
949
Itinerary Note

Lecture topics may vary by date. Be sure to review the itinerary for the week you choose.

Apr 30 - May 5, 2023
Starting at
949
Itinerary Note

Lecture topics may vary by date. Be sure to review the itinerary for the week you choose.

May 14 - May 19, 2023
Starting at
949
Itinerary Note

Lecture topics may vary by date. Be sure to review the itinerary for the week you choose.

May 21 - May 26, 2023
Starting at
949
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Lecture topics may vary by date. Be sure to review the itinerary for the week you choose.

May 28 - Jun 2, 2023
Starting at
949
Itinerary Note

Lecture topics may vary by date. Be sure to review the itinerary for the week you choose.

Aug 13 - Aug 18, 2023
Starting at
949
Itinerary Note

Lecture topics may vary by date. Be sure to review the itinerary for the week you choose.

Sep 10 - Sep 15, 2023
Starting at
949
Itinerary Note

Lecture topics may vary by date. Be sure to review the itinerary for the week you choose.

Sep 17 - Sep 22, 2023
Starting at
949
Itinerary Note

Lecture topics may vary by date. Be sure to review the itinerary for the week you choose.

Apr 14 - Apr 19, 2024
Starting at
949
Apr 28 - May 3, 2024
Starting at
949
May 19 - May 24, 2024
Starting at
949
May 26 - May 31, 2024
Starting at
949
Sep 8 - Sep 13, 2024
Starting at
949
Sep 22 - Sep 27, 2024
Starting at
949
Sep 29 - Oct 4, 2024
Starting at
949
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Apr 16 - Apr 21, 2023
Starting at
1,149
Itinerary Note

Lecture topics may vary by date. Be sure to review the itinerary for the week you choose.

Apr 30 - May 5, 2023
Starting at
1,149
Itinerary Note

Lecture topics may vary by date. Be sure to review the itinerary for the week you choose.

May 14 - May 19, 2023
Starting at
1,149
Itinerary Note

Lecture topics may vary by date. Be sure to review the itinerary for the week you choose.

May 21 - May 26, 2023
Starting at
1,149
Itinerary Note

Lecture topics may vary by date. Be sure to review the itinerary for the week you choose.

May 28 - Jun 2, 2023
Starting at
1,149
Itinerary Note

Lecture topics may vary by date. Be sure to review the itinerary for the week you choose.

Aug 13 - Aug 18, 2023
Starting at
1,149
Itinerary Note

Lecture topics may vary by date. Be sure to review the itinerary for the week you choose.

Sep 10 - Sep 15, 2023
Starting at
1,149
Itinerary Note

Lecture topics may vary by date. Be sure to review the itinerary for the week you choose.

Sep 17 - Sep 22, 2023
Starting at
1,149
Itinerary Note

Lecture topics may vary by date. Be sure to review the itinerary for the week you choose.

Apr 14 - Apr 19, 2024
Starting at
1,159
Apr 28 - May 3, 2024
Starting at
1,159
May 19 - May 24, 2024
Starting at
1,159
May 26 - May 31, 2024
Starting at
1,159
Sep 8 - Sep 13, 2024
Starting at
1,159
Sep 22 - Sep 27, 2024
Starting at
1,159
Sep 29 - Oct 4, 2024
Starting at
1,159

At a Glance

Since Frederick Law Olmsted designed the landscape for George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate in the late 19th century, the people of Asheville, N.C. have prided themselves on the gardens and natural beauty of the region. Join local experts as they share their botanical knowledge and lead explorations to public spaces including the Biltmore Estate, the North Carolina Arboretum and the Botanical Gardens at Asheville. Then, enjoy guided visits to several private gardens owned by local residents.
Activity Level
On Your Feet
Walking up to one mile over uneven terrain.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Spend an afternoon at the North Carolina Arboretum and admire its many gardens, including the Bonsai Pavilion — home to the largest collection of bonsais in the Southeast.
  • Enjoy guided visits to several private gardens in Montreat and Asheville, and walk the impressive grounds of the Biltmore Estate.
  • Admire the flora of the Botanical Gardens at Asheville, home to 600 species of plants native to the Southern Appalachian region and 50 rare plants including Pale Yellow Trillium.

General Notes

The Retreat Difference: This unique, often basic and no-frills experience at a Road Scholar Retreat includes opportunities for early morning exercise, interaction with the local community for insight into local life, an authentic farm-to-table or locally sourced meal, a live performance or event, and a value-priced single room. Opportunities are available for traveling companions to attend a different program at Montreat during the same week.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Steven A Frowine
Steven Frowine is a professional horticulturist who has been an avid gardener since he was a teenager. Holding Bachelor's and Master's degrees in horticulture and plant science from Ohio State and Cornell, Steve has worked in senior positions with several top botanical gardens and companies in the horticultural world. The author of five books on orchids, “Gardening Basics for Dummies,” numerous articles and lectures, and a frequent guest on radio and TV, Steve greatly enjoys sharing his love of plants and gardening with others.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Steven Frowine
Steven A Frowine View biography
Steven Frowine is a professional horticulturist who has been an avid gardener since he was a teenager. Holding Bachelor's and Master's degrees in horticulture and plant science from Ohio State and Cornell, Steve has worked in senior positions with several top botanical gardens and companies in the horticultural world. The author of five books on orchids, “Gardening Basics for Dummies,” numerous articles and lectures, and a frequent guest on radio and TV, Steve greatly enjoys sharing his love of plants and gardening with others.
Profile Image of Sarah Akin
Sarah Akin View biography
Sarah began work at the Montreat Conference Center in July of 2016. She started as a member of the Sales Department; in August 2018, she joined the Program Department. As a programmer, she is responsible for organizing partner conferences and assisting with Road Scholar programming. Raised in the south, Sarah has an appreciation for good food, warm hospitality and country music. She loves hiking, front porches, rocking chairs, and visiting museums and historic sites.
Profile Image of Tracy Bailey
Tracy Bailey View biography
Tracy has been on the program staff of Montreat Conference Center since 1986. She began working with Elderhostel programs in 1989, and in 1997 assumed the additional role of on-site coordinator. A native of the area, she graduated from Asheville-Buncombe Technical College in 1981. Her favorite hobbies are hiking, pottery and reading. Tracy married Sam in 2007, and added three daughters to her family. In addition to her own grown children, she and Sam have been foster parents since 2010. They have four grandchildren.
Profile Image of Bobbie Pell
Bobbie Pell View biography
Bobbie Pell, a trained naturalist with a degree in Outdoor Environmental Education, shares her love of nature, conservation, and everything floral. Her award-winning fiction and poetry include imagery from the natural world. A professional artist for more than 15 years, Bobbie blends artistic design elements with information gained from research, professional readings, and garden courses by Audubon, National Wildlife Federation, and the North Carolina Arboretum. She offers students opportunities to make holistic, artistic connections with nature, sculpting home gardens into spaces of serenity and beauty.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
A Clearing in the Distance, Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the 19th Century
by Witold Rybczynski
In a brilliant collaboration between writer and subject, Witold Rybczynski, the bestselling author of Now I Sit Me Down, illuminates Frederick Law Olmsted's role as a major cultural figure at the epicenter of nineteenth-century American history. We know Olmsted through the physical legacy of his stunning landscapes—among them, New York's Central Park, California's Stanford University campus, and Boston's Back Bay Fens. But Olmsted's contemporaries knew a man of even more extraordinarily diverse talents. Born in 1822, he traveled to China on a merchant ship at the age of twenty-one. He cofounded The Nation magazine and was an early voice against slavery. He managed California's largest gold mine and, during the Civil War, served as the executive secretary to the United States Sanitary Commission, the precursor of the Red Cross. Rybczynski's passion for his subject and his understanding of Olmsted's immense complexity and accomplishments make his book a triumphant work. In A Clearing in the Distance, the story of a great nineteenth-century American becomes an intellectual adventure.
Gardening Basics for Dummies
by Steven A. Frowine
You’re now officially out of excuses for not planting the garden of your dreams. Even if you’ve never sowed a seed nor pulled a weed, Gardening Basics For Dummies contains everything you need to know about flowers, beds, borders, trees, shrubs, and lawns to create your own private paradise. This friendly and informative guide also covers all of the tools and additives available to make gardening easier. You’ll discover: Clear definitions and descriptions of the different types of plants Tips on choosing the type of garden you want How to create a garden plan Easy-to-follow instructions for soil preparation Advice on planting, growing and caring for annuals and perennials Step-by-step plans for organic and edible gardens Plans for butterfly and children's gardens Packed with helpful tips on controlling pests safely, managing weeds, and correcting common gardening problems, Gardening for Dummies turns your brown thumb green in a hurry.
Biltmore Estate, The Most Distinguished Private Place
by John Bryan
"The most distinguished private place" - that is how, in 1893, the great landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted described Biltmore Estate, perhaps the most ambitious private building project of America's Gilded Age. It was only five years earlier that George Washington Vanderbilt purchased the first parcel of what would become his 125,000-acre estate in Asheville, North Carolina. Along with Olmsted, he commissioned the preeminent architect of the day, Richard Morris Hunt, to design the estate. The house, modeled in part on the chateaux of the Loire Valley, has become one of the greatest and most important in American architectural history. Its 255 rooms, with spectacular and finely crafted interiors, opulent furnishings (some designed by Hunt), and furniture and decorative arts objects collected by Vanderbilt from all corners of the world, have made it a rich national treasure. The estate served as the cradle of the profession of forestry in America. With Olmsted's advice and expertise, it became the first working model of a scientifically managed forest and played a critical role in the creation of our national parks. This meticulously researched book accompanies an exhibition organized by The Octagon, the Museum of the American Architectural Foundation; it chronicles Biltmore from inception, development, and construction through its Christmas 1895 opening celebrations, and into the present. Original architectural drawings, sketches, plans, presentation drawings, nineteenth-century photographs, and vibrant new color photography complete this portrait of a great landmark. Today Biltmore Estate belongs to George Washington Vanderbilt's descendants, who have opened the house to the public and have made it one of the most visited in America.
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6 days
5 nights
15 meals
5 B 5 L 5 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Montreat, NC
D
Assembly Inn

Activity note: Inn check-in from 4:00 p.m. Remember to bring your nametag (sent previously).

Afternoon: Assembly Inn check-in 3:00-5:30 p.m. Pull up to the Assembly Inn porch to unload, then park your vehicle in any designated spot close to the Inn or by the lake and check in. Program Registration. After you check in and have your room assignment, join us at the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Feel free to relax in your room, meet and enjoy fellowship with other participants in the beautiful lobby, or stretch your legs with a walk around the campus before dinner.

Dinner: 5:30-6:30 p.m. in the Galax Dining Room, or if you prefer, outside in the Tea Garden or on Wharton Porch (weather permitting).

Evening: Orientation: 7:00 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. We will also meet the instructor. We will have opportunities for early morning stretch sessions led by a member of our staff. On some evenings, there will be entertainment such as a concert, dance, or storyteller followed by opportunities for fellowship in the lobby of the Inn. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. We’ll finish up around 8:00 p.m. with some “get to know you” activities and then have refreshments and fellowship in the lobby. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Creating Your Own Garden of Eden, NC Arboretum
Montreat, NC
B,L,D
Assembly Inn

Activity note: Coffee out at 6:30 a.m. 7:30 a.m. early morning stretch session. Getting in/out of vans; driving about 100 miles round-trip, approximately 2 hours total.

Breakfast: In the Galax Dining Room.

Morning: Professional horticulturalist Steve Frowine will give us a presentation on how to create our own “garden of Eden.” We will learn how to plan our gardens for sunny or shady exposures. After refreshments and break time, we’ll return to the classroom for a presentation about the history, development, and gardens of the beautiful North Carolina Arboretum. The arboretum sits in the middle of a 434-acre public forest and garden located within the Bent Creek Experimental Forest, surrounded by lush folds of the botanically diverse Southern Appalachian Mountains. It was established in 1986, nearly a century after Frederick law Olmsted — the “Father of American Landscape Architecture” — envisaged a research arboretum as part of his legacy and plan for the Biltmore Estate.

Lunch: In the Assembly Inn dining room.

Afternoon: Next, we will hop into vans for a field trip to explore key areas of the North Carolina Arboretum. Its acres of cultivated gardens include some of the most beautiful, botanically-diverse plants in the region. One of the most popular exhibits is the Bonsai Garden with more than 100 specimens that draw inspiration from bonsai traditions within the form of contemporary, Southern Appalachian influences, set in a charming, specially designed pavilion that salutes their classic beauty. We will then visit the lovely Quilt Garden that is re-designed twice a year, once for spring and once for fall displays. To learn more about the arboretum, visit www.ncarboretum.org. After our Arboretum field trip, we will visit Steve Frowine’s personal garden and see what can be done a small space. From there, we’ll ride on to the WNC Farmer’s Market before returning to the Assembly Inn.

Dinner: In the Assembly Inn dining room.

Evening: An evening program with a storyteller or musician will entertain us as we relax after a busy day. The remainder of the evening is at leisure, with opportunities for fellowship in the lobby of the Inn.

DAY
3
Garden Plants, Black Mountain Garden Visits, Olmstead
Montreat, NC
B,L,D
Assembly Inn

Activity note: Coffee out at 6:30 a.m. 7:30 a.m. early morning stretch session. Getting in/out of vans; driving about 10 miles round-trip, approximately 1/2 hour total.

Breakfast: In the Assembly Inn dining room.

Morning: We will gather with Steve Frowine for an illustrated slide presentation showing a broad range of plants we can add to our gardens. We will have a break with refreshments, then hop into our vans and ride into Black Mountain to explore the Black Mountain Community Garden. Founded in 1997 by Dr. John Wilson, about 75% of the garden plots are available for individual rentals; the other 25% are used to grow crops solely for donation. Additionally, each member grows 10% of her/his plot for donation, resulting in 3,000 pounds of food grown annually for donation within the community. Food is distributed through a local food pantry and a weekly meal site. The garden also includes more than 100 fruit or nut bearing trees, bushes, and vines. A greenway trail encircles the garden and connects with the greater greenway system of Black Mountain. Along one border of the garden and paralleling the greenway is a 300-foot long native plant and medicinal at-risk species trail. The trail is on the United Plant Savers national registry of Botanical Sanctuaries. We will return to the Inn after our field trip.

Lunch: In the Assembly Inn dining room.

Afternoon: After lunch, we will venture back to Black Mountain for two more private garden visits, then return to Montreat where Steve will give us a presentation on the fascinating and amazingly productive life of Frederick Law Olmsted, America’s first landscape architect.

Dinner: In the Assembly Inn dining room.

Evening: We'll have another relaxing evening with a musician or a storyteller.

DAY
4
Blue Briar Gentling Garden, Free Time, Movie
Montreat, NC
B,L,D
Assembly Inn

Activity note: Coffee out at 6:30 a.m. 7:30 a.m. early morning stretch session. Getting in/out of vans; driving about 50 miles round-trip, approximately 1 hour total.

Breakfast: In the Assembly Inn dining room.

Morning: Steve Frowine will give us an introduction to Blue Briar Gardens at the home of Peter and Jasmin Gentling. The home, founded in 1906, has a rich history populated with figures such as William Jennings Bryan and Herbert Hoover. When the Gentlings became stewards of Blue Briar Cottage in 1971, they began cultivating a unique garden landscape connected to the forest with its trees and flowers, animals and birds. We will then board our van and ride to Blue Briar where we’ll see native plants mingling with woodland evergreens, pruned boxwoods, espaliered fruit trees, and much more.

Lunch: In the Blue Briar garden, we’ll have box lunches.

Afternoon: Next, we will ride to see the private garden of a retired math teacher and enthusiastic horticulturalist who enjoys growing Japanese maples, fothergillas, and golden larches, among others. Randy Harter’s outstanding collection of trees and shrubs is about 15 minutes from the Gentling gardens in Asheville. We’ll learn about his collection. Returning to the Inn, the remainder of the afternoon is free. Take this opportunity to see and do what interests you most.

Dinner: In the Assembly Inn dining room.

Evening: At leisure. We will have an opportunity to view a movie, with a garden theme of course!

DAY
5
Gardens of the Biltmore Estate, Shady Slope Garden
Montreat, NC
B,L,D
Assembly Inn

Activity note: Coffee out at 6:30 a.m. 7:30 a.m. early morning stretch session. Getting in/out of vans; driving about 40 miles round-trip, approximately 1.5 hours total.

Breakfast: In the Assembly Inn dining room.

Morning: We will gather with Steve Frowine for a presentation on the conservatory and gardens at the Biltmore Estate. We’ll then hop into our van and ride to Biltmore Estate where we’ll explore the conservatory and gardens with Steve and the Biltmore Estate staff. Note: Entry into Biltmore House itself is not included in our field trip. Completed in 1895, the Conservatory displays an extensive variety of exotic plants framed by tall, arched windows. There are more than 30 acres of gardens—formal and informal—adjacent to Biltmore House. The estate’s horticultural experts are always at work maintaining, preserving, and enhancing Frederick Law Olmstead’s vision and George Vanderbilt’s legacy of environmental protection.

Lunch: On the Biltmore Estate grounds, we’ll have box lunches.

Afternoon: Next, we will ride to Shady Slope Garden in Asheville belonging to Judy Hamrick. Judy, an Extension Master Gardener volunteer, will tell us about the garden developed, how the need to remedy a drainage problem created an opportunity to build a recirculating waterfall, and show us more than 60 named hostas. Some are planted in pots in the soil to ward off damaging vole activity. En route back to the Inn, we’ll stop at the B.B. Barns Garden Center and plant nursery.

Dinner: In the Assembly Inn dining room, we’ll have a farm-to-table meal featuring locally-produced and locally-sourced foods.

Evening: We’ll gather for an activity such as a concert, dance, or storyteller followed by opportunities for fellowship in the lobby of the Inn or a movie on the big screen.

DAY
6
Botanical Gardens at Asheville, Program Concludes
Montreat, NC
B,L

Activity note: Coffee out at 6:30 a.m.. 7:30 a.m. no early morning stretches today. Getting in/out of vans; driving about 90 miles round-trip, approximately 2 hours total. Inn check-out 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: In the Assembly Inn dining room.

Morning: We’ll gather with Steve Forwine for an introduction an orientation to the Botanical Gardens at Asheville. Please plan to check out of the Inn before we leave for our field trip. We’ll then hop in the van and ride to the 10-acre sanctuary next door to the University of North Carolina at Asheville. This independent, non-profit organization is dedicated to the study and promotion of native plants and habitats. Hundreds of native plants grow in a garden of peaceful walkways, all saluting the wonders of the world of plants found in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, one of the most diverse temperate ecosystems in the world. To learn more about the Botanical Gardens, visit their website: http://www.ashevillebotanicalgardens.org. We will return to the Inn in time for lunch together. Box lunches will be available for those who choose to leave from the Botanical Gardens (please pick up from the kitchen before you leave Montreat).

Lunch: In the Assembly Inn dining room. This concludes our program.

Afternoon: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.