Flowers flowing along a river bridge

In this garden, plants galore
Apr. 10, 2013 @ 05:09 AM

Walking around a dozen rock gardens created and built by a group of Lake Lure volunteers on a bridge that crosses the Broad River, Bill Miller was nearly pinching himself on Saturday.

The Lake Lure Flowering Bridge was a vision he received while visiting the New England States a few years ago, but the creation of the bridge gardens is so much more than he ever dreamed, he said.

Last Saturday was the official planting day on the bridge. Although there have been some plantings, including daffodils and other spring flowers, the major planting was done Saturday. 

The bridge was formerly owned by the State of North Carolina, crossed by motorists traveling along US 64/74 from Lake Lure to Chimney Rock.

When the state built a new bridge in 2010-2011 across the river, the Town of Lake Lure was given ownership of the bridge for the creation of the pedestrian flowering gardens.

"This is going to be a great welcome to Rutherford County," Miller said as volunteers separated the flowering plants, bushes and plants for each of the 12 separate gardens that will grow a  variety of plants.

"There will be 600 feet of continuous garden from the west end to east end. This is more spectacular than I ever envisioned. All I had was an idea. They had the vision," Miller said pointing to volunteers. "What they've created is more than I ever thought."

In the gardens are North Carolina Wildflower gardens, both for wet and dry habitat; a songbird garden, herb garden and rose gardens. The Lake Lure Classical Academy has adopted one of the gardens that features a large eagle ornament, symbolizing the school's mascot. The Audubon Society members from western North Carolina provided tips on the types of plants for the songbird garden that will attract birds year-round.

Other volunteers provided expertise on the irrigation system, maintaining the pavers and stone work.

Mike Lumpkin, who lives in Lake Lure and Charlotte, was among thevolunteers at work. He shot numerous pictures and posted some of them on the Friends of Flowering Bridge Facebook page and on the group's website. 

Tara and Manney Melandez of Hendersonville were among volunteers. 

"We want to give back to this town . . . as much as they give to us and we love volunteering," Tara said. The couple's two young children were off in the distance carrying plants.

The gardens will begin blooming soon and many will be in full bloom by the summer. In October the Friends of the Flowering Bridge will host a grand opening ceremony at the bridge where there will be an array of fall flowers.

The bridge will also feature Christmas decor with white lights.

Brick pavers have already been laid at the east entrance to the garden and when all the planting is completed, pavers will be laid all the way through the gardens, allowing pedestrians plenty of walking space.

There will be walkways at both ends of the bridge and  areas off the bridge will also be a part of the garden project and will feature a variety of plants and trees. 

Miller believes the bridge will become a year-round destination for regional tourists.

"This is what people see when they walk through the garden," Miller said, glancing across the bridge toward the mountains of Chimney Rock State Park.

"There is nothing like this flowering bridge in North Carolina or the southeast," Miller said. 

Miller and his wife Ellie, were visiting in Shelburne, Mass. a few years ago when they saw saw the Bridge of Flowers. Since 1929, the Shelburne Bridge has been covered with more than 500 varieties of flowers, shrubs and vines, and has drawn up to 24,000 visitors per year to the area.

Friends of the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge is a community-based 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization that is creating and maintaining the pedestrian bridge. Donations are accepted through the nonprofit group.