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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What They Are Saying

Dan Nadenicek

Dan Nadenicek

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.

Gary Smith

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.

Allan Armitage

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.

What's New

4 days ago

Southern Highlands Reserve

Freezing temperatures outdoors bring us in to catch up on other activities including seed cleaning in order to propagate. Our Gardener Kyle Meece was cleaning these Gregory Bald azalea seeds. It’s always amazing to see nature under a microscope!

Fun fact-- the seed is not actually the first stage of life for a plant! Seeds are only the containers for the embryo. Sometimes found in a bud rather than a seed, plant embryos burst our when conditions are right, and from the seed comes the seedling.

These azalea seed embryos look like an almost imperceptible whitish dot in the center of the seed. We sort these, keeping only those with the embryo (the only possibly viable seeds).

#natureupclose #FunFactFriday
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Southern Highlands Reserve 5-Day Forecast

Real-time forecasts from the Southern Highlands Reserve weather station


Support the Reserve

Your donation will make you a part of a group working toward a vision of education, restoration, and research in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The Southern Highlands Reserve is a nonprofit organization under the IRS code section 501(c)(3).