Education Outdoors

Master Plan Reimagines the Future for Bullington Gardens

Bullington Gardens

Fairy Garden at Bullington Gardens. Photo by Karin Strickland

By Natasha Anderson

Bullington Gardens, a horticultural education center and public botanical garden in Hendersonville, announces plans to redesign and expand the usability of its grounds to enhance the organization’s mission. More than 20 years ago, as Bullington was in its earliest stage, director John Murphy and landscape architect Matt Sprouse imagined ways the grounds could be used by both the students and residents of Henderson County. Since then, Bullington Gardens has become a popular destination for gardening enthusiasts, tourists, families and students.

“As more and more folks discover Bullington, we see the need to add guest services like public restrooms and adequate parking areas,” says the Gardens’ administrative director Annie Higgins. “Many of our guests and students are differently-abled, and this plan will focus on adding walkways and parking that will enhance their experience of the gardens, and a new traffic pattern for large events.”

In developing this plan, Bullington’s leadership is imagining how the next 20 years might look for programming and usability of its 12-acre property. At the heart of these plans is Bullington Gardens’ mission to educate and inspire children and adults in horticulture, the natural sciences and integrated disciplines. Bullington offers programs for students that take their classroom lessons and apply them in the gardens. Elementary school programs focus on hands-on activities that correspond with the science curriculum. The Bullington Onsite Occupational Student Training (BOOST) program works with high school students with specific needs to help them learn basic job skills while they work on the grounds and gardens at Bullington. A horticultural therapy program engages middle and high school students with developmental challenges in nature-based activities to provide them with a sense of joy and belonging.

Bullington Gardens

Herb garden

“Nature provides a classroom that gives students the hands-on opportunity to learn,” says Higgins. “This plan will support that by helping us to utilize more areas of the gardens.”

A grant from Dogwood Health Trust (DHT) assists in funding the comprehensive planning. The Trust is a North Carolina not-for-profit corporation with the sole purpose of dramatically improving the health and well-being of all people and communities across WNC.

“DHT was excited to support Bullington Gardens during COVID-19 through an Immediate Opportunities and Needs grant,” says Dogwood’s interim CEO Dr. Susan Mims. “Their uptick in visitors reinforced the need for expansion so that people might be encouraged to get outside and move more as part of a healthy lifestyle even after the pandemic ends.”

Landscape architect Sprouse is again onboard to reimagine Bullington’s future. Together with Amy Fahmy of Siteworks Studios, this creative team is designing a comprehensive plan to utilize undeveloped parts of Bullington’s grounds, improve accessibility, and add more areas for outdoor events and parking. The latest phase of the project is a design by Siteworks Studios with construction drawings including a site layout, grading, drainage and details for parking and roadway access.

Bullington Gardens’ master plan is made possible with the support of Dogwood Health Trust; Amy Fahmy and Matt Sprouse of Siteworks Studios; and Bullington Gardens’ planning committee: John Vining, Jane Davis, Ron Rich, Connie Smith, Mary Martin, Joellen Johnson and Nancy Gilchrist.

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