Communities Outdoors Recreation

Discover West Asheville’s Gardens at 14th Annual Stroll

Mark Bollick’s pond. Photo courtesy of WAGS

By Amie Cooke

The West Asheville Garden Stroll (WAGS) will return this year on Saturday, September 9, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The 14th annual stroll includes 15 gardens along a two-and-a-half-mile route between Hall Fletcher Elementary School and Hanover Street, showcasing gardens ranging from small to nearly an acre in size, tidy to more wild and established to new. “The gardens feature creative hardscaping, water features and rain catchment systems, unique berry trellises, mushroom logs, chickens and all kinds of native and exotic plants,” says WAGS coordinator Sarah Rubin. Stroll-goers can even see a Japanese tea garden and a tree house or two. The rain-or-shine event, which is free thanks to business sponsors, begins with a family-friendly kickoff program at 10:30 a.m. at Hall Fletcher Elementary School.

The garden stroll focuses on a different neighborhood each year, and Sarah Davis, a WAGS site team coordinator and garden owner on this year’s stroll, says she has been waiting for WAGS to come to her neighborhood for a long time. “When you spend so much time and energy on your garden, you want to share it with other gardeners and garden enthusiasts,” Davis says.

Lloyd’s hidden Japanese garden. Photo courtesy of WAGS

Davis bought her house in 2005, and she says she and her garden have grown up together. Today there are pecan trees, a shade garden, summer blooming perennials, smaller trees and a dry stream bed, and she removed grass last year to clear space for more plants. In 2017 Davis and her husband bought property across from them to expand their garden, and they even have a treehouse, tree swing and hillside slide. To Davis, one thing that makes the stroll special is that it reflects its West Asheville location. “Gardens on the West Asheville Garden Stroll tend to be less perfect, a little funky and have a lot of heart,” she says.

The 2023 stroll theme, “every garden is a universe,” encourages visitors to see backyards as a part of the whole ecosystem. “It’s not just about beautiful flowers or yummy tomatoes, but how do our gardens sustain pollinators, birds and the whole web of life?” Rubin says. This year’s stroll will also include a talk by Bee City USA founder Phyllis Stiles at the kickoff program, tips on pollinator-friendly gardening and games to teach about native plants and pollinators.

“On stroll day, the sidewalks are full of friendly gardening enthusiasts, with lots of smiles and spontaneous conversations among friends and strangers,” Rubin says. “True to West Asheville’s vibe, many of the gardens have eclectic art and make creative use of recycled materials.” Guests are encouraged to walk or bike along the route, and stroll guides with a map and garden descriptions will be available at the school until 3:30 p.m.

Hall Fletcher Elementary School is located at 60 Ridgelawn Road, Asheville. For more information, visit  Amie Cooke is The Laurel’s summer intern and a student at UNC-Chapel Hill.

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