2010 Dixie Regional: Hostas in the Mountains
Don Dean, Ramsey, Minnesota

   Approximately eighty hosta enthusiasts from fourteen states gathered for the Dixie Regional meeting July 15th through 18th in Waynesville, North Carolina. The event was entitled "A Blue Ridge Weekend;" it was hosted by the North Carolina Hosta Society. Attendees were treated to a tour of a tissue culturing teaching lab, garden tours, speakers, an auction, vending, and, of course, wonderful food, all set in the picturesque surroundings of the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. Southern hospitality is alive and well in the new millennium.
   The festivities began Thursday evening, July 15th, marked by check in at the Waynesville Inn, a country club and golf resort snuggled against the mountain backdrop. Attendees reconnected or made new hosta friends after registering and enjoying snacks in the "hostatality" room.
   A caravan of cars departed Friday A.M. for a day of activities located in the nearby cities of Asheville and Canton. The first stop was at Haywood Community College for a tour of their tissue culture instructional lab. The instructor lead the group through an informative mini-lecture of the tissue culture process, precautions regarding success and safety, and examples of the process focused upon a few genera, including hosta. The session ended with a demonstration and opportunity for audience participation.

       

One of the Famous Biltmore lions.

   Two garden tours, a break for attendees to grab a lunch on their own, and a third garden tour completed the car caravan portion of the day. Vending was set up at Rux Gardens, a member’s full line nursery located close to the inn. Attendees were free to shop at their own discretion.
   Friday evening brought attendees back together at the inn for "Heavy Hors d’Oeuvres" which amounted to a meal of savory treats. A well-humored, lively, auction followed, conducted by Bob Solberg, Tom Micheletti, and Don Dean. Hospitality rounded out the day’s events.
   Speakers filled the morning of Saturday, July 17th. Don Dean began with a PowerPoint presentation about his path to hybridizing hostas and photos of current and future introductions, as well as many that are being strongly considered for the near future. He encouraged taking a fresh, close look at the flower scapes of hosta, because color in the flower scapes just may be the wave of the future.
   Peter Loewer, published garden writer, spoke on small gardens and container gardens. His presentation was packed with photos of traditional, whimsical, and unusual containers. An old car that had been positioned on the owner’s property, filled with soil, filled with plants or planted, beyond whimsical by some standards.

Tom Micheletti, Bob Solberg, Don Dean Peter Loewer
   The final speaker session was a Q&A panel. Bob Solberg, Tom Micheletti, and Don Dean availed themselves to the audience for questions. Topics ranged from hosta virus to whether flower scapes should be cut or not to reserve energy for plant growth. There was something for the expert to the novice.
   The morning concluded with a buffet lunch, more gardens to be toured within Waynesville, and vending.
   A banquet was held on the grounds of the inn Saturday evening. Bob Solberg was the keynote speaker. The talk included the challenges faced by southern gardeners and the means to combat them. Several points were addressed to deal with a very long growing season, which promotes hosta going dormant (stop growing) well before the season ends- the need for water and then more water, advantages of growing in containers, and concern over the demise of hosta gardens in the south, namely foliar nematodes, since they appear so much earlier in the growing season. Northerners in attendance received new insights into their Southern friends’ challenges. Southerners received helpful advice.
   Good-byes began after dinner or in the hospitality room, as this concluded the regular schedule of the weekend gathering. Sunday morning still had an optional tour available to attendees that signed up in advance.
   A caravan of cars formed at 8:30 for the optional tour Sunday morning. Twenty-two attendees traveled east to the Biltmore House and Gardens. Those that chose to join the group were treated to a peek into the early 1900’s at the Vanderbilt Estate. The home was amazing, the group appreciated the grounds that were both extensive and beautiful, and a sense of the power and wealth of that time period was gleaned from the experience.
   Southern hospitality is alive and well! A heart felt invitation was extended to all for future gatherings. The next Dixie Regional will be in 2011 in Birmingham, AL.
  The AHS National Convention will be held in Nashville, TN, 2012, so there will be no regional meeting.

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