The most beautiful garden...

Possibly the most beautiful garden I've ever visited belongs to the Jasmin & Peter Gentling of Asheville, NC. Among other owners, the home was once owned by William Jennings Bryan and President Herbert Hoover's son - Herbert slept here while president!

Hard to capture the house fully,
being surrounded by so much lushness.
It is a terraced mountainside garden just minutes away from downtown Asheville, but it felt more like a mountain retreat where you'd go on retreat to get away from civilization. It was stunning - and I've seen a lot of gardens in my time - probably more than your average bear. (there were no bear sightings, despite the warning that there are a mom and two cubs that enjoy the garden too)

Two dawn redwoods start to form a canopy and frame the view of Asheville below.  The detail all around, from major to minor, was incredible. The trees were all selected for their texture and colors and juxtaposed with each other, eventually blending into the surrounding forest. You get all that from looking up.

I believe the Gentlings are both doctors of some sort.
The human form can be seen in most all of their outdoor art
collection, this one showing some interior parts, I believe.
From looking down, you'll find moss gardens, miniature boxwood gardens, topiary, and a miniature hosta collection. There's a pond, vegetable garden, espaliers, and carefully chosen art pieces spread around the property. Plantings areas were set as a still life painting, or a stage setting - little vignettes that made up the whole of the garden. It was really like visiting a gallery, wandering from room to room admiring the creativity of the gardeners.

The buildings include the large main house, an artist's studio, a propagation hut, a greenhouse, and a guesthouse. Nothing fancy - rather rugged and lived-in, actually - just generous proportions. Together they form a compound that, along with the terraced hillside and requisite stairs, make the structure of the garden.

The Gentlings have lived there since the early '70s and have done all the work in the garden themselves (and a couple of offspring), designing to digging. When they purchased it, they didn't know it was terraced, it was so overgrown. They propagate plants on-site and rework one major garden bed per year. Jasmin Gentling says a garden should be, "...the antithesis of boring." Peter Gentling chooses plants and trees based on its leaves, never flowers - they're too ephemeral.

I would really LOVE to see how they have it lit for nighttime entertaining.

Introducing a garden to the 90+ crowd of,
what my daughter would call, "gardenerds."
We were served a box lunch here and had hours to wander around and discover things on our own. With 90-some, camera-trigger-happy garden bloggers on the prowl this garden did not even come close to seeming crowded.

"Bloggers" sounds like such a dorky word - we all have garden blogs in common, but this group was made up of garden writers (magazine, newspaper columnists, freelancers), nursery owners, garden designers, professional horticulturists, landscape designers, homemakers, and many other trades and professions not related to gardening. A great mix of people of all ages and backgrounds with a love of gardens. Okay, maybe the ages weren't THAT diverse. There was only one teenager (19), the son of a blogger from Canada. He was a trooper, joining mom and all of us for the weekend. You can see him on the left in the photo above.

Some parts of the garden take inspiration from Asian gardens.
There are sitting areas all over the property - each with a different view and personality - and we were encouraged to sit and enjoy by the gracious Gentlings. And we did. As everyone wandered around we popped in on each others conversations, sat for a spell, moved on, joined a different group of garden-gawkers, some sat or walked alone for a bit - soaking it all in.

One of my favorite things from college was the ability to hang in the dining hall and go from table to table of friends, connecting and reconnecting, always welcome - it could go on for hours. This was much like that, joining a group here and there, joining conversations and moving on. Always welcome.

This is how I picture heaven to be - a beautiful garden filled with great art and good people. Always welcoming.
I love me some espalier. I have two different ones myself. Theirs are OLD!
A plant shelf is way more useful than a window box here on the patio. I;m sure it's used for serving food & drink.
I was captivated by the shape, texture, and colors of the trees that were chosen for this patio area behind the house.
Facing glider sitting area.
Learning from one another is one of the greatest aspects of this group of bloggers.
Here, organizer Christopher of Outside Clyde, is pointing out something.
A terrace garden requires stairs. Here they are moss covered stone, others are brick,
pavers, flagstone, finished wood, timbers and earth.
Small-in-stature statues were spread thoroughout the garden.
You had to stumble upon many of them.

Baby espalier. At some point, it will form a fence around the veg garden. I've done the same thing around my veg garden
Campfire sitting area.
A walkway experiment in grass and stone.
A camp-like sitting area.
A weeping cedar defines one side of the vegetable garden.
Entrance to veg garden.

I loved this. Miniature boxwoods and hosta and low ground covers make up a mini-landscape.
You could actually go up and still pluck a string.
Reminded me a a Louise Nevelson sculpture.
Pinhead has had a long and torturous history with Asheville bars. Christopher has the scoop.


  1. This certainly is an amazing set of spaces! I particularly love the use of stone and all the different changes in 'altitude'! Larry

  2. I agree, a great garden and remarkable people caretakers. Nice images too of all the gardens.

  3. Jim, you did a fabulous job of capturing this great garden. You even found some places there that I didn't. I'm so happy we were able to spend such a long, peaceful time there.

  4. I've always thought "blog" was a funky word, same with "bloggers'. As you said, the word doesn't begin to describe the variety of people that came to the fling. (Your photos show lots of nooks and crannies I overlooked at the Gentlings. I think I was just absorbing the entirety of the garden on that beautiful day).

  5. you captured it in words and photos perfectly .
    The Garden Junkie

  6. This garden was fabulous. I could hardly sit down while we were there despite all the inviting places to do so. There was so much texture, art and of course the people to draw one around up and down the garden paths.

  7. Your gardens are just so enchanting! would love to have you share over here at Thursday's Garden Party???? (crossing my fingers) xoxo, tracie

  8. This is crazy but I don't think I even noticed the art pieces - what is wrong with me???

  9. I am so glad you included some of the history that was shared when we first got there....I was still coming down the driveway-- taking pictures and being in awe of all that I saw. Maybe I should just link your posting on my blog...this is a great overview of this wonderful garden.
    I like the analogy of the dining hall in college...very much like that.

  10. Larry, This garden has to be seen to be believed. I am now a fan of terracing. Unfortunately, there is no altitude changes in my own yard.

    Donna, Thanks - I assume you got home safely and such? I don't think I saw much of you in this particular garden. I miss it!

    Jean, Thank you. I'm trying to get around to everyone else's posts - but it's hard! There are a few photos on other sites of places I didn't see while there!

    DJ/Meander Mountain, "bloggers" doesn't sound serious, like it's a hobby or frilly side activity. Some of these people are serious gardeners, writers and business owners with different reasons for having a blog. That's why I don't like the term - it's too generic and doesn't encompass the variety of views blogs feature.

    Chick-er-doodles/Melody, Nice to have met you (and sped some time with you in this garden).

    Lisa at Greenbow, Maybe it was the people and the relaxed atmosphere that made this stand out as a favorite.

    Fishtail Cottage, These are not my gardens. I wish!

    Phillip, We're not sure what is wrong with you - but your photos of this and other gardens are exquisite. I've started to make more adjustments to photos before I post them now after talking to you!

    Janet, I had to do some Googling to get some of the history right! I didn't write things down and was relying on my memory (always a grave error).

  11. This was my favorite garden, too. After our first day of whirlwind tours of several gardens, I wondered how we could spend 3 hours in one garden--once we arrived, I realized we could have spent the whole day! Thanks for a great post--I completely missed the vegetable garden. But I did climb up to see the "10-foot man"; I'd love to hear the story of all those pins:)

  12. After seeing so many pics of Pinhead, I so wished I have made the walk up the hill. I think I missed a lot by not taking that hike. But then again, I spent a lot of time sitting on the front porch visiting with Bloggers. Yes, I said that word proudly. Blogger. Ha…

  13. hey jim - i really enjoyed this garden as well. loved the history of the place. leave it to gardenerds to appreciate the archeological nature of unearthing and renovating a garden from the wilds. i can only imagine what fun they had.

  14. Skeeter, I was amazed at how short the walk was up he hill, I had anticipated a hike. I too wished I'd spent a little time on the porch hanging out, but there was no time in this garden not well-spent wether sitting or hiking.

    Unless it were my full-time job, I'm not sure I'd have ever taken on a garden the size of theirs - and some of i being a restoration. They were quite impressive gardeners.

  15. nothing like having some slopes to play with. What an incredible garden. Always so jealous of folks who have the climate for Blue Atlas Cedars. But this post made me think that you could put those tiny boxwoods in the cement square garden you are working on. So you'd have circles and squares. They are called Morris Midget and around here they are about $5 or $6. I've probably got 10 of them and love 'em.


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