The 2018 Mountain Music Symposium is scheduled for June 21, 2018


Our 2017 Symposium was a success!

12th Annual Jan Wyatt Symposium

“The Heirloom Gardener”

The Heirloom Gardener Symposium: Plants for Use & for Delight June 21, 2017

Heirloom gardens harken to our forefathers’ collection of plants for use and for delight. Plants to cure family illnesses, provide food for the table and produce were vital to families during hungry months of late winter. These early American gardens were treasure troves of native and cultivated herbs, shrubs, flowers, fruit trees and vegetables, historically known as “kitchen gardens”.

The morning symposium presents three nationally recognized experts speaking into types of heirloom plants cultivated in western North Carolina, the design of gardens in which they were grown and how our great-grandparents prepared delicious wild-crafted and cultivated meals.

In addition to informative lectures, demonstrations complement each speaker’s presentation and feature seed saving, practical garden design or wildcrafted meals. In addition, interpretive displays provide a self-guided experience about “What herbs, vegetables, fruit trees and shrubs were available in 1850 for use in the Zachary-Tolbert House Garden”, “How might The Zachary-Tolbert House Garden Look?”, and “Native plants available to the Zachary-Tolbert families.”

Wondering what plants our forefathers grew in their gardens?

Eric Jackson, horticulturist, is the head gardener of the Horticulture Program chair at Old Salem Museum and Gardens. This historic Moravian village near Winston Salem, NC dates to 1753. The Horticulture Program was established in 1972 to sustain and cultivate open-pollinated heirloom plants, seed saving and sustainability practices. Eric discusses “Heirloom ornamental herbs & flowers, fruit, and vegetables”. The CJ Cabin provides a demonstration table on seed saving and the accompanying interpretive exhibit provides a self-guided tour of “What herbs, vegetables, fruit trees and shrubs were available in 1850 for use in the Zachary-Tolbert House Garden?”


Did our forefathers collect seasonal plants from the woods?

Ila Hatter, featured in Women of the Smokies as “our lady of the woods” is a wildcrafting expert. Wildcrafting is a term for the age-old practice of collecting plant materials in their natural habitat for food medicine and craft. Nature was originally the only grocery store, medicine chest and hardware store, available to man. Ila teaches at the Smoky Mountain Field School and her books include Edible Plants of the Cherokee, Wild Edibles and Medicinals of Appalachia and Mountain Kitchen. Her topic is “Wildcrafting Heritage Meals : Heirloom Drinks, Heritage Salads & Pies”. Her whole presentation is on food preparation, and the accompanying interpretive exhibit provides a self-guided tour of “Native plants available to the Zachary Tolbert families.”


How did our forefathers successfully nurture their collections of specialty plants?

Mary Palmer Dargan, landscape architect and botanist, is the author of two books on early kitchen gardens, the first garden of cultivated plants known to mankind. Research into the early American kitchen garden from rare books housed at The Cherokee Garden Library resulted in this symposium. The topic, “Grandmother’s Kitchen Garden: For Use & for Delight”, is illustrated with a demonstration garden constructed next to the Kitchen. An interpretive exhibit, “How might The Zachary-Tolbert House Garden Look?” provides an historical overview of early American kitchen gardens.



Heritage Gardening Crafts, Demonstrations & Plant Swap 

Visit vendors with heirloom plants for sale, hand-crafted herbal products, drink-making demonstrations and a plant & seed swap.

The Apple Grove next to the CJ Cabin is hoppin’ with demonstrations. Check out the Seed saving table, Mead making, chestnut beer, and Cider apple vinegar demonstration. 

Then venture over to the Plant Exchange. Parking is free and located across the street.

What is a Plant & Seed swap ? Meet the Plant Exchange! Have fun by bringing your favorite plant offspring to trade with a new friend. A Plant Swap is an event where users can offer plants, cuttings and bulbs for trade and make requests for what they are seeking. Items for sale are not permitted.

Bring plants divided from your garden beds and additional container plants to share. While you’re at it, pack up anything else you might like to swap, including gardening books you’ve already read or tools you no longer need. Bring your tips, too.

A plant-swap party saves money, introduces people to new plants and provides a great excuse to gather on a balmy day.