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Holiday season blooming with Bullington Gardens

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By Pete Zamplas-The holiday season fully bloom this weekend, with hundreds of bright amaryllis plants in Bullington Gardens’ ninth annual Open House and Holiday Sale Dec. 6-7.

The event is 9-4 p.m. on grounds of the Bullington Gardens non-profit, public horticultural education center, near Howard Gap Road in the Clear Creek community.

Bullington Director John Murphy said the sale features several hundred amaryllis, dozens of hand-crafted wreaths and swags, garland and a half-dozen Fraser fir trees from Avery County. Most trees were sold in advance for the second year, with a superb response, Murphy said. “We had such excellent trees last year, that interest in them is up. They’re nicely shaped — full, and fresh.”

Premium-quality amaryllis grown in Bullington’s greenhouse are each sold for $12. “We use bigger bulbs, which means more flowers,” Murphy said. Reds, white, and pink “apple blossom” are again varieties available. Amaryllis will be sold at Bullington as supplies last through Dec. 20, 8-4:30 on weekdays.

These large-flowering plants make natural decorative holiday gifts. They should be watered no more than once a week, Murphy said, with amounts varying by such factors as temperature (ideally in low 70s), humidity and amount of direct sunlight. Murphy said that typically, an amaryllis plant remains in flowering mode for an entire month and each petal lasts a week to 10 days.

Wreaths and swags are made by Bullington volunteers, such as in a recent workshop, while plain wreaths ($15) and garland ($24 for 25 feet) are also for sale. So are a variety of holiday decorations, custom bows and planting containers. Open House sweets, snacks and refreshments are provided by the Forrest Woman’s Club and are a tasty free bonus.

Among upcoming workshops is one for making botanical ornaments out of cones, roots, seed pods and other plant parts. Artist Tamsin Allpress teaches it Tuesday, Dec. 10, 3-4:30 p.m. The fee is $25 per person. Mary Martin will teach on creating terrariums Jan. 16, and living wreath of succulent plants on April 8. Bullington’s annual $35 membership discounts most plant sales by 10 percent and workshops by 25 percent.

Martin is among about 75 Bullington volunteers, mostly retirees, coordinated by Joellen Johnson. “I couldn’t do it without them,” Murphy said. “They’re incredibly talented and generous.” They expand trails and such gardens as herb, butterfly, rain, native woodland, mountain habitat, and perennial border. Murphy lauded a “dedicated cadre of volunteers, staff, funders and partners.”

Three volunteers mentor youth, in the Horticultural Therapy Program. “We use plants to develop communication, socialization, motor skills and decision-making,” Murphy said. “They’ll develop greater confidence and self-esteem, as they recognize their own abilities.” They recently planted vegetables, made scarecrows, and kept journals.

Moriah May, a North Henderson High senior in the program, earned second place for a design at the N.C. Chrysanthemum Society Show in October. In this contest, the Bullington Chrysanthemum Team won second place for schools — for its best finish ever.

“It’s a fun event, and good for developing self-esteem,” Murphy said. The team consists of 10th grade students in BOOST (Bullington Onsite Occupational Student Training) program, in its 11th year. Developmentally-challenged BOOST students learn basic job skills such as following instructions, sticking to tasks and working with others. BOOST high school teams grow gardens at Bullington; elementary and middle schools grow carrots, spinach and other vegetables on school grounds.

The therapy garden will double its high school section, from two to four beds. The vertical (wall) garden will be soon completed, and herb garden flower beds will be raised for greater access by visitors and volunteers, Murphy noted.

The second greenhouse is by the therapy garden. Its ribbon cutting was Nov. 1. Murphy said it is ultimately for “growing students abilities,” via Horticultural Therapy. Compared to the first greenhouse, the new one is a “nicer venue to achieve our goals, with a temperature comfortable for both plants and people.”

Project donors are Glass Foundation, James H. Cummings Foundation and Bea Hicks. Mrs. Hicks recalls renovating the late Bob Bullington’s greenhouse, to help launch the center. She and her late husband Bob gave money a decade ago for the multi-purpose room of the Henderson County Education Foundation, which shares property with Bullington. HCEF sponsors Bullington, along with N.C. Cooperative Extension and local schools.

Bullington Gardens is at 95 Upper Red Oak Trail. To get there from U.S. 64 East, turn north-west onto Howard Gap Road. Go a mile, turn right onto Zeb Corn Road. Go two-thirds of a mile, and turn right. Park at left. For more information, call Bullington Gardens at 698-6104 or check bullingtongardens.org.

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