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Horticulturist Thomas Ranney Gives Virtual Talk

Dr. Thomas Ranney has a wide breadth of research expertise and introduced hydrangeas with flowers in bright shades of pink.

Asheville – The French Broad River Garden Club Foundation is inviting the public to an open virtual meeting to hear Dr. Thomas Ranney discuss and explain the process of creating a mountain bald at his private residence. High elevation fields are known as balds, and there are many found in the Smoky Mountains, such as Siler Bald at 5,215 feet in Franklin and Grassy Ridge Bald with an elevation of 6,189 feet.  Often these balds offer an extraordinary viewing of flora and fauna, not to mention the panoramic scene from the mountain ridge. 

Dr. Ranney, the JC Raulston Distinguished Professor of Horticultural Science at NC State University, leads a research program at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River, NC. Over the years, he has made some extraordinary contributions to the world of horticulture. He has developed new nursery and bioenergy crops with greater adaptability, pest resistance and commercial potential.  He has enhanced the production efficiency and quality of crops. And he has done basic research in plant science, cytogenetic and reproductive biology.

This virtual meeting will take place on Friday, March 12, at 10 am – via zoom.  One must register with the following link by Monday, March 8th.  https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAqde-rqjIoGdYarWrKsuShcNtD8cEGotnV.    It should be mentioned that this meeting will be capped at 500 participants on a first-come, first-serve basis.  A confirmation email with login logistics will be sent to registrants on Thursday, March 11th.

At the home of the speaker, Dr. Thomas Ranney, you will find a field of incredible blossoms. Amira Ranney is standing with various deciduous azalea hybrids.  Photo courtesy of Thomas Ranney.
At the home of the speaker, Dr. Thomas Ranney, you will find a field of incredible blossoms. Amira Ranney is standing with various deciduous azalea hybrids.

Over the past 28 years, Ranney and his team have developed and introduced nearly 30 new plants among them, large, bold ornamental grasses  bred not to spread where they are not wanted, hydrangeas with flowers in bright shades of pink, and compact, evergreen dogwoods.  To see a fascinating YouTube on his plant breeding, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2eUOo7JFCw.   It was at the Research and Extension Center that Ranney experienced an epiphany regarding his rather mundane home landscape inspiring him to tear out his front yard and build a beautiful rocky, grassy mountain bald in its place, which will be the focus of his lecture on Friday.

Ranney has received many honors for his research and scientific contributions. He has been a faculty member at North Carolina State University since 1989 and is currently a Professor of Horticultural Science. He lives, works, and plays in the mountains of Western North Carolina where he leads a research program at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River, NC.   In 2017, he received the American Horticultural Society Luther Burbank Award for extraordinary achievement in the field of plant breeding. Just this past December, two NC State faculty members have been named fellows of the National Academy of Inventors, with Ranney being one of them and Behnam Pourdeyhimi, the other in textiles. This is a very high honor indeed.  Their formal induction will take place at a ceremony in June.  2021, in Tampa, Florida.

The Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station

North Carolina State University has maintained a high level of visibility in western North Carolina for over a century. Around 1949, what is now known as the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station was started on leased land in the Mills River valley in Henderson County. A permanent station was established in 1959 at its current location to serve the developing horticulture industry in the mountain sections of NC. The first NC State University departmental research faculty, consisting of an entomologist, a soil scientist, a plant pathologist, a horticulturist and a pomologist, were assigned to the station.

In 1985 the State Legislature appropriated funding to establish the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center to be built on the MHCRS property. Construction on the 23,500 sq. ft. facility, comprised of 6 laboratories, office space and a 200 seat auditorium, was completed in 1987. The Center now encompasses the research station operations and has grown to 397 acres. The Center is home to research and extension faculty and staff from several academic departments in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the College of Natural Resources. In addition, there are District administrative offices for N.C. Cooperative Extension housed at the Center, as well as the Mountain Satellite Office of the Science House. This information was taken from the MHCRS website; for more information,  go to: https://mountainhort.ces.ncsu.edu/about-mhcrec/

The French Broad River Garden Club Spring Plant Sale

Annually the French Broad River Garden Club Foundation has held an outdoor plant sale with many vendors and plants from members\’92 gardens at 1000 Hendersonville Road in Asheville.  The sale features landscaping plants, including annuals, perennials, conifers, and herbs. Fanciful and lovely garden accents and accessories are available as well, from a number of vendors. Proceeds from this sale support conservation and horticulture scholarships at area schools, such as Warren Wilson, Haywood Community College and UNCA. 

Unfortunately due to Covid 19, the plant sale this year has to be virtual, with buyers purchasing the live plants and/or accessories online from April 1st until April 16th.   On April 24th they can come to Clems Cabin at 1000 Hendersonville Road to pick up their purchases.  The website will have many descriptive photos from the dozens of vendors who are participating.   Many of the nurseries that have participated in the past will show their products online. The website,  www.plant-sale.com/plant-sale, will become live on April 1st.  Customers can order, pay for them online and come to pick them up on Saturday, the 24th of April. 

A Member of the Garden Club of America

The French Broad River Garden Club Foundation (FBRGCF), located in Asheville, North Carolina, was chartered in 1927 and was admitted to the Garden Club Of America in 1930. The garden club is committed to promoting the conservation, development and intelligent use of the natural resources of North Carolina and elsewhere.  FBRGCF welcomes visitors to tour their gardens at Clem’s Cabin at 1000 Hendersonville Road in Asheville.  The gardens are managed and maintained by the club members.  French Broad River Garden Club has a limited amount of funding available to support horticultural or conservation projects/education in the community.  Applications are due May 1st.

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