The Southern Highlands Reserve is a native plant arboretum and research center dedicated to sustaining the natural ecosystems of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We accomplish this mission through the preservation, cultivation and display of plants native to the region, and by advocating for their value through education, restoration and research. Located in Western North Carolina at an elevation of 4500 feet, the varied topography and forest types found on our 120 acres allow us to emulate many of the plant communities found in the higher reaches of the Southern Appalachians.
Plan Your Visit!
Southern Highlands Reserve offers tours for individuals, small and large groups by reservation.
Genius Loci: Southern Highlands Reserve
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Dean, College of Environment & Design
University of Georgia
At the Southern Highlands Reserve (SHR), Robert and Betty Balentine, Director Kelly Holdbrooks, and SHR staff members are engaged in an atypical but highly important type of philanthropy: providing for the future of the region and the planet through stewardship, research, and advocacy about sustainable landscape practices.
When you visit, you will find that intended purpose subtly linked to an amazing garden experience of native plants, water features, trails, and vistas. Those stewardship lessons have also become the basis of an annual symposia series in which renowned horticulturists, landscape architects, scientific researchers, and others present their work and comment on the importance of the SHR vision.
W. Gary Smith
FASLA Landscape Architect
for SHR Masterplan
More than any garden I know, at the Southern Highlands Reserve, it's almost guaranteed that you will make a personal connection to nature. When we made this garden, all we had to do was pause, listen, and put our egos out of the way - and that's what allowed us to tap into the deep inner spirit of this place.
Through design we abstracted and intensified the beauty, joy, and inspiration. It was almost as if we all were under some sort of magic spell. Even though everyone put in a huge amount of effort, in the end it was as if the place had made itself. As a designer, I can't imagine there will ever be another experience like it.
Dr. Allan Armitage
Professor Emeritus of Horticulture
University of Georgia
I am one fortunate fellow. I have traveled throughout the world to some of the most beautiful gardens, preserves and parks. I am constantly asked, "What are your favorite places to visit?" Without a moment’s hesitation, I mention the Southern Highlands Reserve. Without sounding melodramatic, I can honestly say visiting SHR provides natural beauty, tranquility and serenity unlike anywhere I have ever traveled. And thanks to the dedication and hard work of the founders and staff, I will be able to visit for many more decades to come.
Put on the tropics, put on the far reaches of the world, put on any dream you have – but be sure you put the Southern Highland Reserve on your bucket list. It is too wonderful too miss.