2 photos of elementary schoolers, photo of a monarch caterpillar, photo of a plant sale

Affiliate Spotlight: Hendersonville, North Carolina

Guest blogs by Kim Bailey, City of Hendersonville Environmental Sustainability Board member and Bee City USA – Hendersonville coordinator from 2015 to 2021 and Patrice German, Bullington Gardens staff member/volunteer and current Bee City USA – Hendersonville coordinator.


Guest blog #1 by Kim Bailey


The Bee-ginning

On May 7, 2015, Hendersonville, NC became the 7th Bee City USA affiliate in the nation! As we now approach the 7th year anniversary of our certification, we realize more than ever how partnerships have been critical to our success.  From 2015 to 2021, the city’s Tree Board took the lead on planting projects while its Environmental Sustainability Board headed up educational projects. Both boards worked with scores of local organizations and businesses to achieve Bee City USA program objectives. Below are highlights of our accomplishments over the past years with a special emphasis on some that can easily be replicated in other communities. As we enter 2022, we are excited about a new partnership the City of Hendersonville has just formed with a local nonprofit organization to manage the leadership committee, handle program administration, and coordinate educational efforts.

Pollinator Habitat:  Over 7 Acres Planted Along Our Greenway!

Before Hendersonville was even certified as a Bee City USA affiliate, our Oklawaha Greenway landscape plan included plantings of approximately 500 native trees and 2.3 acres of flowering meadows. After certification, the Tree Board worked with volunteers to plant additional trailside “pocket meadows.” Starting in 2019, the city’s Engineering Department partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Asheville Ecological Services Field Office to begin planting an additional 4.7 acre pollinator meadow. Our desire to utilize these meadows for outdoor education prompted the creation of a Pollinator Exploration Kit now used to lead “pollinator safaris” along the Greenway and in other natural areas. The kit contains insect nets, bug boxes, magnifying glasses, field guides, educational cards and posters, tuning forks (to demonstrate buzz pollination), refractometers (for measuring sugar concentration of nectar), and more. The kit is available for loan to teachers, naturalists, park rangers, camp counselors, environmental educators, home-school parents, or anyone else interested in leading outdoor investigations of pollinators and their habitats.

Aerial map of a greenway, photo of a table covered in colorful outreach materials
The desire to use pollinator plantings along the City of Hendersonville’s Oklawaha Greenway as outdoor classrooms led to the creation of a field exploration kit including all the tools needed to investigate pollinators in their habitats. The kit is available for loan to others and has been used by local 4-H groups, public gardens, camps, and children’s museums. Credit: Bee City USA – Hendersonville
Monarch Month & Mayor’s Monarch Pledge
In addition to organizing Pollinator Month in June and numerous other pollinator education events scheduled through the year, Hendersonville has always coordinated a series of events for Monarch Month in September. In 2018, we partnered with organizations across the county to bring Estela Romero, a monarch butterfly expert, from Angangueo, Mexico to embark on a 3-week multi-state “Monarch Education Tour.” While in NC, Estela presented multiple programs at seven different schools plus four public programs.  One of these public presentations provides yet another example of the power of partnerships. The Blue Ridge Community College Bee Campus USA program (#16 in the nation!) provided their auditorium at no cost; MountainTrue paid licensing fees to show the “Flight of the Butterflies” movie; Conserving Carolina provided free native milkweed plants to attendees; the Environmental Sustainability Board paid Estela’s stipend; Henderson County Beekeepers Association volunteers staffed a butterfly craft table for children; and Hendersonville Mayor Barbara Volk provided a warm welcome to all. We knew our efforts were paying off when, in 2021, a member of the community made a presentation requesting the City to sign the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge to further support monarch and pollinator conservation. Hendersonville made the pledge on March 17, 2022.
2 photos of elementary schoolers, photo of a monarch caterpillar, photo of a plant sale
Estela Romero visits with elementary school students during the “Monarch Education Tour” of 2018. Other Monarch Month events have included milkweed and pollinator plant sales at the North Carolina Arboretum, educational presentations about protecting monarchs and their habitats, and movie screenings such as “Flight of the Butterflies.” Credit: Bee City USA – Hendersonville
Symbolic Monarch Migration
In 2018, Hendersonville began participating the Symbolic Monarch Migration program and has steadily increased involvement since then. As part of the program, our students join more than 25,000 children from across the United States and Canada in creating paper butterflies to send to Mexico for the winter. The symbolic butterflies’ fall flight is timed to correspond with the living monarchs’ actual journey south. As the real-life monarchs arrive in Mexico for the winter, the symbolic butterflies are delivered to schools in the surrounding the monarch sanctuary region. Sometime in March after the living monarchs’ departure from Mexico, groups of paper butterflies also return north, carrying special messages from the students in Mexico. United by the monarch butterfly, children across North America learn authentic lessons of conservation, cooperation, and ambassadorship. This is a program that would be very easy and inexpensive for other Bee City USA affiliates to replicate in their own communities. We will be happy to share details for how we encourage participation by classrooms/groups as well as individual students in our community. Again, the key has been partnerships with local organizations including Hands On! Children’s Museum, Hola Community Arts, El Centro de Henderson County, Milkweed Meadows Farm, and Bullington Gardens.
Photos of smiling kids and their colorful monarch butterfly drawings
Students in Mexico show off their ambassador monarchs sent from children across the USA and Canada. Hendersonville, NC Mayor Pro Tempore Lyndsey Simpson signs the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge (March 17, 2022) as local Symbolic Monarch Migration participants display their butterfly artwork and offer support for the initiative. Credit: Symbolic Monarch Migration and Bee City USA – Hendersonville
Pollinator Trail
Recognizing the need for more outdoor activities that individuals or small groups could experience on their own schedules during the pandemic led to the creation of a guide to local destinations that celebrate pollinators! The self-guided trail features eco-friendly gardens, public artwork, green spaces, farms, markets, restaurants, and other local destinations that highlight the importance of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. The Pollinator Trail is available in PDF format as well as an online map-based. For other affiliates who may be interested in creating something similar, the best part is it costs nothing but time to produce!
Map with pins, text listing bee-related events, Pollinator Trail photos
Stroll through bountiful gardens brimming with colorful blossoms and teaming with life. Experience the rich flavors of local honey, artisanal beverages, and farm-fresh foods found in our majestic mountain region. Take in the beauty of local artwork inspired by bees and butterflies. Whether at a seasonal festival or a local garden center, discover native plants to help create your own homegrown paradise for pollinators! Credit: Bee City USA – Hendersonville
The Good of the Hive Mural & Pollinator Gardens at Hands On! Children’s Museum
The level of collaboration taking place across our community is perhaps best exemplified by the initiative to bring The Good of the Hive to paint a bee and pollinator mural in downtown Hendersonville. Initially inspired by murals being painted in other NC communities certified as Bee City USA affiliates (Carrboro, Durham, Gastonia, and Raleigh), we first began searching for possible mural sites in 2016. It took three years to find the perfect location on the exterior wall of Hands On! Children’s Museum located in the heart of downtown. Beginning in the spring of 2019, nearly 70 sponsors and countless other donors eventually raised over $40,000 to bring the mural, adjoining demonstration pollinator gardens, and related educational programs to fruition. Artist and founder of The Good of the Hive, Matt Willey, painted for 5 ½ weeks in the fall of 2020 then returned for 6 ½ weeks in the spring of 2021 to complete the mural. Organizing fundraising and educational activities during the pandemic was a challenge, but with commitment and creativity, we and our many partners pulled it off by holding outdoor events, virtual presentations and field trips, and greater numbers of events for smaller groups of people. We actually had so many events, we didn’t even have enough space to include them all in our 2020 and 2021 annual reports! As hoped, the mural and gardens are now helping to inspire new initiatives to create healthy habitats for pollinators and raise awareness of the importance of pollinators throughout our community. It is also thrilling to see how many of these new projects have been initiated by community members themselves! A few examples include a pollinator garden planted at an inn located just a few blocks from the mural site, the Nature Connections children’s book series including stories featuring Hendersonville’s Bee City USA program and The Good of the Hive mural, a new sidewalk mural called “The Hendo Beeline” that features four seasons of plants to support pollinators, and even more in the works!
Drawing of the mural, photo of people gathered in front of mural, and photo of purple flowers in front of mural
Years of planning, fundraising, and collaborating with community partners resulted in the creation of The Good of the Hive mural painted by artist Matt Willey and demonstration pollinator gardens planted at the Hands On! Children’s Garden in the heart of downtown Hendersonville. As hoped, the mural and gardens are now inspiring new initiatives to help protect pollinators! Credit: Photos from Bee City USA – Hendersonville, Illustration from the Nature Connections book series by Elle Travis (Author) and Jenny Camp (Illustrator)
A New Partnership for the Future
In late 2021, recognizing Hendersonville’s Bee City USA program had reached the limits of what could be accomplished within its current organizational framework as part of local government, the City initiated a new partnership with a local nonprofit to allow expansion of the leadership team and related activities. In February of 2022, the City contracted with Bullington Gardens to continue the momentum built over the past 6+ years. This new partnership closely follows the model established by the very first Bee City USA affiliate (Asheville, NC) whose program is coordinated by the nonprofit organization, Asheville GreenWorks. A new Bee City USA – Hendersonville leadership committee has now been formed and just held their first meeting on March 21, 2022. The new team includes representatives from crucial past partner organizations such as the City of Hendersonville Tree Board, City of Hendersonville Environmental Sustainability Board, Blue Ridge Community College Bee Campus USA, Henderson County Environmental Advisory Committee, Henderson County Beekeepers Association, and Henderson County Cooperative Extension & Master Gardener Volunteers as well as several community representatives. We are also now very interested in networking with other Bee City USA affiliates whose leadership committees are housed within nonprofit organizations.
Guest blog #2 by Patrice German

Bullington Gardens is, as of February 2022, the new “home” of Bee City USA – Hendersonville in the mountains of western North Carolina. We are the “Garden With Heart”, a nonprofit public garden open to all. In providing horticultural therapy and science-based education to a wide range of children and adults in our community, we serve many, as well as welcoming visitors travelling from distant places. Folks come to Bullington Gardens to experience and learn about nature in all its aspects. Now, having the Bee City USA – Hendersonville program focus presents an opportunity to increase our scope as we pursue an even broader pollinator awareness outreach within a strong educational framework.

The twelve acres of gardens at Bullington include a daylily display garden with many forms and colors coming into peak bloom during June. Our pollinator and perennial garden is a haven for birds, bees and butterflies with native plants such as Carolina phlox, goldenrod, mountain mint, bee balms and Joe Pye weed. Our shade and native woodland garden trails feature plants that may be used in home gardens. A healthy population of the federally protected Oconee bells (Shortia galacifolia) shines along portions of the trail that leads to old growth stands of native rhododendron alongside a quiet stream. Our rain garden features native plants that do well in wet/dry conditions: turtleheads, cardinal flower, witch hazel and our very own North Carolina “bubby bush”, also known as sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus). Is it any wonder we were chosen to partner with Bee City USA – Hendersonville?

When one visits our sunny herb and therapy gardens it is easy to see they are designed to make gardening more accessible for folks of all ages with limited mobility. The herb garden is handily organized by practical application: medicinal, culinary, fragrance/dyeing and herbs from biblical times. The therapy garden features seasonal color and plantings for our visiting gardeners and students to get their hands dirty while enjoying the sound of a trickling waterfall feature and the resident, sometimes boisterous bullfrog close by. There are also many large and somewhat exotic plant specimens throughout the property that were brought here by the gentleman who started it all.

In 1971 a police officer from the state of New York decided to retire to these lovely North Carolina mountains. That is when Bob Bullington and his wife Sally built their home on this bucolic 12-acre parcel in the Henderson County countryside. Over the next two decades, Bob created an innovative nursery, Flora Knoll Farms, and became known for meticulous care of his land. When Bob passed on (Sally predeceased him), a close friend and fellow nurseryman fulfilled Bob’s wishes to have the property preserved as a center for horticultural education. Eventually, Bullington Gardens became the property of the Henderson County Education Foundation. Students came to study and work in this “living laboratory” and the property was known as the Bullington Horticultural Learning Center.

After many years of hard work and tender loving care, largely provided by a strong volunteer corps and our current Director of Horticultural Education, John Murphy, Bullington Gardens has expanded and grown its curriculum to include:

  • Elementary School Programs, such as Plant Explorations, Invasive Plants, Soils, Inheritable Traits, Plant Math, Wildlife Interactions and School Gardens. Many of these programs help fulfill Bee City USA affiliate requirements – an added bonus!
  • BOOST, the Bullington Occupational On Site Training program has run continuously since 2003 for high school sophomores in the Occupational Course of Study (OCS) at all four county high schools. Staying on task, being productive, working cooperatively, putting forth good effort and accepting feedback are the focus. As part of the larger OCS curriculum, the goal is to have students develop independence by the time they graduate.
  • Horticultural Therapy, based in the Therapy Garden greenhouse, this program uses gardening and plant activities with special needs students in middle and high schools. Approximately 40 students participate each year on a weekly basis. Goals include fostering success, improving self-esteem, developing communication skills and motor skills in a situation where physical and developmental abilities of the students can be wide ranging.
  • Classes for the general public are offered for a fee throughout the year on topics such as gardening, landscape design, meadow gardens, pruning, natural gardening practices, art classes and more. Tours of the gardens and pollinator walks are also given for specific groups.

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, Bullington Gardens does a lot of fundraising, most of which is brought about by our very dedicated volunteer group, under the direction of Annie Higgins, Administrative Director and our indefatigable coordinator of volunteers, Joellen Johnson. Spring and Fall plant sales, a holiday craft fair, Fairy Trail Days, Wine and Dahlias and other events all help fund our programs and development. All of these events will provide opportunity for Bee City USA – Hendersonville to reach out to the community and beyond. Tabling events onsite at Bullington Gardens for native pollinator education have already been scheduled for 2022. Also, we will “bee” promoting pollinator awareness and care at Garden Jubilee during Memorial Day weekend, which has been called the largest festival of its kind in the Southeast United States. The Hendersonville Farm Market and Mills River Farm Markets will be hosting Bee City USA – Hendersonville during Pollinator Month in June. Pollinator walks and talks are planned for the month of June at Bullington.

“As I have worked on getting the word out for Pollinator Month events over the past few weeks, it has been super gratifying to me that so many are ready and willing to participate”, says Patrice German, the new program coordinator for Bee City USA-Hendersonville at Bullington Gardens. “We just had our first Leadership Team meeting and I feel like it is all coming together quickly. After all, there is an urgency in our message to bring back the pollinators.”

“Going forward, I would like to expand the outreach of Bee City USA – Hendersonville . . . but goodness knows, Kim Bailey (my predecessor) has set the bar really high. This first year will be partially spent learning the balance between Bullington and Bee City and how they will best work together. I am so glad for this opportunity to make a difference for our pollinators. As the late E.O. Wilson said: ‘If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish the environment would collapse into chaos.’”

Photo of landscape with tree trunks, evergreen and yellow leaved tree

Photo of wood structures behind a walkway surrounded by pink tulips.
Bullington Gardens was recently selected as the nonprofit partner to manage the leadership committee, handle program administration, and coordinate educational events for Bee City USA – Hendersonville. Credits: John Murphy

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