W. Gary Smith Design

Southern Highlands Reserve Master Plan & Garden Design

Lake Toxaway, North Carolina

The Southern Highlands Reserve is a botanical garden and native reserve that demonstrates ecologically sustainable land preservation and landscape design for the Blue Ridge Mountain region of Western North Carolina. At its core, a ten-acre woodland garden was created in a design vocabulary abstracted from local ecosystems.
Honor Award, American Society of Landscape Architects New York Chapter

Masses of rhododendrons surround the Maple Entrance. The steps are single granite slabs.

The Vaseyi Trail passes beneath a ten-foot-high canopy of fragrant pinkshell azaleas.

The Vaseyi Pond is for beauty as well as education, and also provides the Reserve’s irrigation water.

Watercolor sense of place studies.

To begin the design process I wandered through the woods, sketching scenes that attracted my interest.

In these sketches I stopped every 50 paces to sketch whatever the woods presented to me.

The woods had many existing clumps of fragrant flame azaleas.

In the Azalea Walk, we connected existing clumps of flame azaleas with a serpentine path, and simplified the ground plane with uniform sweeps of ferns.

Adjacent to the Chestnut Lodge, an outdoor “living room” occupies the roof above the maintenance garage.

The Wildflower Labyrinth is built above a drainage field.

The moss covered Betty Bench is embedded in a retaining wall.

School groups study the aquatic ecosystem in the Vaseyi Pond.

Layers of Blue Ridge Mountains recede into the distant view.