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About Us

Arborcrest Gardens was established in 1989 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit botanical garden, set up for horticultural research within a western North Carolina mountain community. We began with a small vegetable garden and a landscaped ornamental garden covering about 5 acres, then gradually expanded to 26 acres. Plants in the garden are labeled with the scientific name, cultivar and common name.

While we celebrate Arborcrest Garden’s 35th anniversary in 2024, we look ahead to the next 35 years! We are on the path to grow a sustainable, self-sufficient 501(c)(3)non-profit research and educational botanical garden. Since we do not charge admission during our tour days, we rely fully on donations and grants. Please join us as we PLANT (Protect, Learn, Amaze, Nurture, Teach)

We are recognized by national and worldwide organizations for our research and conservation. Read more!

A Little History

In 1976, Ron & Cheryl Stanley moved to Boone, and a few years later purchased a 5-acre tract from James Councill, located at the base of Howard's Knob. The Stanleys built their home in 1979 and began gardening and landscaping the grounds surrounding their home. In 1985, when the remainder of Mr. Councill’s property was auctioned, the Stanleys purchased additional tracts, expanding their property to 50 acres.


As Dr. Stanley experimented with various plants in his vegetable garden and ornamental beds, he read gardening books, consulted with local nurseries — and learned about horticulture through his own research and “trial and error.”


One book Dr. Stanley found most helpful was “Crockett’s Victory Garden,” by James Underwood Crockett — the first host on the PBS show, “The Victory Garden,” produced by WGBH in Boston.


In fact, in 1984, the Stanleys’ vegetable garden was featured on the television show, after Dr. Stanley submitted pictures of the garden for a contest. Their garden was chosen as one of six featured nationwide on the show.


During the early days of his landscape and vegetable gardening in Boone, the doctor kept meticulous records of his methods and of the performance of the plants — building a valuable database for local landscape design (now totally more than 15,000 species and varieties!).


Part of Dr. Stanley’s duty as a physician is educating his patients — a role he finds both essential and rewarding. As he gained gardening expertise during his free time, Dr. Stanley discovered a desire to share that knowledge and information as well.


The neat layout, raised beds with walkways, and integration of flowers caught the eye of the judges when the Stanley's vegetable garden was featured on the PBS show, "Victory Garden," in 1984.


In 1989, Dr. Stanley took the first step toward sharing his gardening resources with others by setting up Arborcrest Gardens as a non-profit botanical garden. He continued experimenting with different varieties of plants and trees, recording his findings over time.


As he expanded his gardens and database, he began to share his knowledge and recommendations with other gardeners.


Over the years, Dr. Stanley has hired a staff to help him maintain the landscaping and managed various projects around the property, although he did much of the clearing and planting himself. In 2009, he decided to build a trail.


The doctor and his staff cleared about 20 acres of land, installed and later paved 2.5 miles of trails, built bridges, and cultivated plant beds. A deer fence was built around the boundary of the gardens to protect plants from hungry wildlife.


Dr. Stanley designs each area, choosing and marking the location for every individual plant. “I love designing, creating,” he said. He estimates he has chosen, purchased and planted or staked off over half a million plants since expanding Arborcrest to its current size.


While he has visited botanical gardens all over the country, Dr. Stanley said his main inspiration was Walt Disney World. “When we visited there, I noticed their landscape designs. The plants were in big sweeps, overlapping, curving and meandering around,” he said.


Dr. Stanley said he sketched some of the designs to use as a springboard for ideas once he returned home. “I knew I couldn’t use the same plants, of course, because they wouldn’t grow in the mountains, but I wanted to create gardens that were as neat and perfect as those at Walt Disney World,” he said.


Arborcrest differs from most other botanical gardens in that it has been conceptualized, designed, funded and managed by one person. Currently, Dr. Stanley spends about 40 – 60 hours a week working in the gardens and managing projects for his staff.


Clearing, planting and refining has been an ongoing process. While open to the public by appointment for many years since its inception, Arborcrest Gardens began welcoming visitors on a regular schedule in 2019, open on Fridays by reservation.

Read more about the Stanley Family.

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