The Wamboldtopia Garden Dragon

This past weekend I attended a garden bloggers meet-up, "Spring Fling 2012" in Asheville, NC. It was three full days (with 85 other garden bloggers) of touring gardens from the impeccable and productive to the visually masterful and curated to Wamboldtopia, which defies description. Located on Wambold Street, the garden belongs to an artist, Damaris, and a stone mason, Ricki, that thinks he's a pirate. More posts on the garden and skeleton-oriented masonry in the future, I promise.

There were hundreds of clever & fanciful uses of found objects as art throughout the hillside garden, but I think this was my favorite feature. The dragon of rusted metal wheels and gears crawls along the front stair to the property, escorting scaliwags and scoundrels to the main house and upper gardens.

There were so many other things to see (fairy castles, skulls, artwork in the masonry, plants, fairy portals, statues found & made, to name a few) that I didn't take much notice of the dragon on the way in. Usually, when I visit a garden, I like to go through it the way a gardener intends - through entrance and exit - and then go back the opposite way to pick up what I hadn't noticed before. And the dragon is even more imposing when you're walking down the stairwell. We were also allowed up on the roof of the lower part of the house and had a great view of him there. I assume it's a male dragon anyway.

I got to spend a little more time with Damaris when I met with the organizers of the West Asheville Garden Stroll (WAGS) on Sunday evening. I had dinner with them at Brotherhug and Janet's house (two of the organizers) and explained how Garden Walk Buffalo works and I quizzed them on how they operate. They're doing a lot right and I hope our talk keeps them growing stronger and in the direction that's good for their tour and city. A unique feature to many Asheville gardens (other than great art incorporated into gardens) is the front yard vegetable gardens, or vegetables grown with ornamental plants in front yards. One of the organizers is from Buffalo - grew up right here in the heart of the Garden Walk area, just two blocks away from me.

I can't see growing vegetables in my front yard. But I will not rule out a dragon.


  1. Nice shots of the dragon!

    It was good to see you again, Jim. When I woke up this morning, one of my first thoughts was that I need to sit down today and look at the info you gave me on garden tours. Then I started mentally picking my committee...:)

    See you in San Fran next year!

  2. Love those shots of the entrance and the house!

    What a remarkable creation Wamboldtopia is -- and it was special to be able to meet Damaris and Ricki, too -- amazing artists in diverse media -- so much of it reflected in their garden.

    Glad we had a chance to visit in Asheville.

  3. Your pictures are almost as good as being there. Very creative and I can see veggies handing from those cone planters by your front steps....ha!

  4. What a fascinating place!

    Sorry that I couldn't be there, but pre-wedding events for our son's wedding required my attendance. Someday!

  5. Susan,
    I have high hopes for you! The right people doing the right tasks is essential. I was not around the first couple years of our tour - it was mostly one guy doing nearly everything. The more people involved at the onset, the stronger it'll be. It was great to see you again. Onward to San Fran!

    LKW (Lisa),
    Visiting Wamboltopia was like leaving the planet for just a little while. I['s as much about the people as anything else in that garden.

    No. The photos are NOT as good as being there. And where were you, may I ask? Your presence was sorely missed.

    I was hoping to have finally met you. Alas, not this time. We've probably been in gardens at the same time together on the other side of the earth and not known it. There's only a few bloggers out there that cover "garden destinations." You had a good excuse though. Congratulations on your son's wedding.

  6. You know what they say about the blinding glimpse of the obvious? How in the world did I overlook the dragon???! I think I was so overwhelmed by all the minutiae that I missed some of the big picture. Thanks for sharing what I so sadly missed! Lovely photos!

  7. Like the others have said, your dragon shot is great!! I think we all could walk through that garden again and not take the same pictures we did the first time, and still come away with a lot of photos!
    Nice meeting you in Asheville, hope your trip home was a good one.

  8. lovely post!thanks for sharing the photos.

  9. There was so much to see, I felt I was racing through every corner. But glad I took the time to talk a little bit to Ricki and Damaris. Such a fun, creative space, and I love your shots of it. I keep looking at all my Asheville pictures and thinking: I wish I could go back and compose that one again.

  10. I was so captivated by the stone work that I totally missed the Dragon! I saw the belly but not the neck and head! Thanks for pointing that out to us non noticing folks. Wamboldtopia was such a fun garden to explore. I like your idea of walking a garden tour backwards to see what you missed the first go round. I shall remember that hint in future gardens…

  11. Jim, it was a pleasure to meet you, thanks so much for taking time to talk to our West Asheville Garden Stroll gang! I really appreciate you highlighting the metal dragon out front. You know, at first I didn't like it at all, it didn't start out as a dragon and Ricki welded those gears together up on the wall, things felt so loaded and heavy. But as the shapes trailed up the wall and he added the dragon head, well, what's not to like? And he even built in a little gate, don't think we got to demonstrate! On the second photo you can see the rebar piece on which the gate with the two circles above pivots, and about 18" of railing swing right with it, therefore offering an easy access through the wall to the bed that Tapper is supervising! Very thoughtful of Ricki, otherwise I'd have to take up rock climbing to go weed...

  12. I really really wanted to see this garden! Love the dragon. LOVE the stonework! Maybe someday I'll get the chance to see it. Thanks for highlighting this, Jim! (I missed you, too. *sniff*)

  13. It was so nice to get to know you at the fling. Dinner at the tapas restaurant was great (I love it when someone orders for me), and dinner at the Masonic Lodge was hysterical. So nice of you to help Asheville with their tour. They have a lot of great gardens to show off. Carolyn

  14. your post is proof positive that we can't possibly see everything in one short garden visit - i admired the gears at the front entry to wamboldtopia, but had no idea they were the body of a dragon! i would love to go back someday to take a class from damaris or ricki in their respective media... there's an idea for the next blogger trip. hmm...

    you must've felt honored to be asked to consult with the west asheville garden stroll on how to improve their walk... if not, i hope you did! the buffalo garden walk has inspired so many people. right on.


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