2015 Fall Newsletter 
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  1. Kelly Holdbrooks Appointed as SHR's Executive Director
  2. A Message from the Executive Director
  3. 2015 Symposium Recap
  4. What's Blooming at SHR? 
  5. Gardener's Corner
  6. On The Horizon
  7. Reflections



F O L L O W on F A C E B O O K
F O L L O W on I N S T A G R A M
E M A I L our S T A F F
V I S I T our W E B S I T E

Kelly Holdbrooks Appointed as SHR's Executive Director 

A Message from Betty and Robert Balentine

In 2002, we established the Southern Highlands Reserve with the goal to create a native plant arboretum and research center dedicated to sustaining the natural ecosystems of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Over the years, many talented staff and artisans have helped bring that dream to reality.  During the summer of 2011, we had the good fortune to meet Kelly Holdbrooks, an accomplished graduate student at the University of Georgia’s College of Environment and Design.  Kelly joined our staff as an intern, working under the leadership of our founding director, John Turner, and we immediately fell in love with her.  The following year, upon graduation with a Masters degree in Landscape Architecture, she joined SHR full time as Director of Programs.   

Since then, Kelly has demonstrated a strong passion for the mission of Southern Highlands Reserve and a deep commitment to this institution. She has broadened our educational and research initiatives through partnerships with the University of Georgia and The Nature Conservancy, launched our annual Symposia series, enhanced our plant records and propagation efforts and managed the staff and budget with aplomb.  And the gardens have never looked better!  In recognition of Kelly's leadership and many accomplishments, she has been named Executive Director.  Congratulations Kelly – under your very capable leadership, we’re confident that Southern Highlands Reserve will continue to thrive! 


Betty and Robert Balentine
Founders, Southern Highlands Reserve

Message from the Executive Director

On Vision and Leadership at SHR

Since I first walked onto the Reserve, I was awestruck by the grandeur and beauty found in this land. Today, I am humbled and grateful the Balentines have entrusted me to carry out their vision for these inspiring gardens. 

The Balentines and I are working to develop long-term goals for the Reserve based on the principles of organizational sustainability, communications, public education, and ecological restoration. Over the next few years, we plan to create a membership structure through which friends of the Reserve, like you, may access the Reserve and help become a part of its legacy. Our educational programs like the Symposia will continue and we are expanding our vision to include other educational and engaging events in the coming years.

Promoting the propagation of native plants will continue to be our primary horticultural focus. In addition, we are strengthening our role the Southern Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative (SASRI), cultivating Red Spruce in our Nursery Complex to be planted in public lands across Western North Carolina. Finally, you will read more about all our efforts through a new enhanced communications plan which includes a quarterly newsletter and an active presence on social media. Please forward our newsletter to your friends - we invite you to join us on our social media pages, linked above. 

Short term, we are increasing our technical capacity and working towards a seamless integration of our hardware and software to better support our systems and plant database. I am pleased to announce we are working with web designers OrangeAxis to upgrade our website and improve our "curb appeal" on the web.  

Last and most certainly not least, it is my pleasure to announce Eric Kimbrel, a fellow staff member here at SHR for two years has recently been promoted as our new Director of Horticulture. We are pleased Eric shares with us his dedication and experience in horticulture with the Reserve. 

I'd like to thank everyone who joined us on garden tour or at an event this year. Please join us next spring for the 2016 Visitor's season and bring your friends. For those of you who took home plants from our Plant Sale this September, thank you for helping us fulfill our mission to propagate native plants throughout our region. I hope to see you in the gardens next spring. 

Best regards, 

Kelly M. Holdbrooks
Executive Director, Southern Highlands Reserve

"Designing with Natives"

A 2015 Sympsosia Series Recap


On May 30th, 45 attendees gathered at the Southern Highlands Reserve from across the southeast to hear from native plant experts on the significance of native plans in landscape design and in the restoration of regional ecosystems. Attendees experienced these principles during their afternoon tour of the SHR gardens. 

Our Keynote Speaker was Gary Smith, FASLA, an award-winning landscape architect known for his work around the country with public gardens. He designed the master plan for Southern Highlands Reserve in 2002 and worked with founders, staff and local artisans to implement the gardens we see today. Gary lectured about the relationship between design and art and how each are connected to garden design. 

Our second speaker was Sarah Ross, President of the Wormsloe Institute of Environmental History. Sarah's lecture discussed gardening for pollinators, specifically the relationship between butterflies, native bees and biodiversity.

According to our post-symposium evaluations, our attendees felt the event met and exceeded their expectations. The experience provided audience members education through new, practical information and a renewed inspiration for gardening. Some evaluators overflowed with positive feedback such as what an "amazing, inspirational" experience it was to be at Southern Highlands Reserve. 
Longwood Gardens, the Children’s Garden at Winterthur, the Naples Botanical
Garden, Lost H

What's Blooming on the Reserve? 

With fall in full swing, we are seeing berries budding and critters crawling! This lovely Clintonia (below) is showing off its deep indigo berries at the entrance to the Reserve. Ruffed Grouse (bottom right) are foraging and fattening up in time for winter. Crawling in the mosses, we spotted a Blue Ridge Two-Lined Salamander (bottom left), one of the many salamander species that enrich our region's biodiversity. 
Photo credits: Clintonia: SHR, Grouse: Carolina Bird Club, Blue Ridge Two-Lined Salamander: Flick River. 

Gardener's Corner 

With SHR's Director of Horticulture Eric Kimbrel

In the gardens, staff members are busy aerating our lawn areas to allow oxygenation to plants' root systems for the fall. We are fertilizing and seeding our grassy areas to encourage an extra growing season for our grass this fall. 

Due to last year's deep freeze on the mountain, we lost about 10% of our rhododendron in the Woodland Glade. This fall, we are planting new rhododendrons to take their place. We are also planting perennials and Red Spruce to enhance the gardens. 

In the Nursery Complex, we are potting up Red Spruce, Gregory Bald Azaleas, Flame Azaleas, and Vaseyi "Pinkshell" Azaleas into larger pots. 

We are also collecting seed for propagation, cutting perennials that have browned and collecting leaves for shredding which we will turn into mulch to be used on site. 

On the Horizon

In our continuing efforts to restore Red Spruce within the Southern Appalachia, the Southern Highlands Reserve is partnering with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and Haywood Community College to plant over 500 Red Spruce seedlings throughout public lands in Western North Carolina. These seedlings will help restore the habitat of the federally-endangered Northern Flying Squirrel. 
Kelly Holdbrooks of the Southern Highlands Reserve gives Chris Kelly, NC Wildlife Resources Commission over 500 Red Spruce seedlings 


SHR is pleased to announce a Sculpture Project that is currently underway. Thanks to a generous donation from members of Vistage 150, we have commissioned a bronze topographical map identifying the 15 mountain peaks that are seen from the view site from local Academy-Award winning artisan, Wesley Wofford. With so many curious minds gazing out over the rolling mountains from one of the most beloved garden rooms in the Core Park, visitors will now be able to satisfy their curiosities with a visual aid to connect them to the mountain landscape. An information plaque will include the name, elevation and distance from the site. 
Photo identifying the peaks to be included in the Sculpture Project


The Southern Highlands Reserve, a private, non-profit native woodland garden, is dedicated to sustaining the natural ecosystems of the Blue Ridge Mountains through the preservation, cultivation and display of plants native to the region and by advocating for their value through education, restoration and research.

Please consider supporting our research programs and conservation efforts as a Native Plant Arboretum and Research Center. Your donations help advance our mission. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All donations are tax deductible.
Make a Donation for the Reserve
Copyright © 2015 The Southern Highlands Reserve, All rights reserved.

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