Asheville Garden Bloggers Fling: Wamboldtopia, an artists’ garden

Skulls, skeletons, gravestone fragments, gargoyles, and other eerie tokens are tucked into nooks and crannies…

…and dangle from the eaves throughout Wamboldtopia, an art-filled garden (or garden of art) and stonemason’s paradise located off Wamboldt Avenue in west Asheville.

The Goth accents…

…are countered by a slew of whimsical fairy houses…

…stone maidens and other garden guardians…

…and life-affirming messages.

Light and dark, life and death—

It’s all represented in this joint creation by artist Damaris Pierce…

…and dapper stonemason Ricki Pierce…

…aka the Rock Pirate.

Hood ornament on Ricki’s truck

Formerly a couple but still friendly collaborators, Damaris and Ricki jointly created the hillside garden that is their home (each has a house on-site), office, experimental play space, and art gallery.

Our first stop on last week’s Garden Bloggers Fling, Wamboldtopia was our introduction to Asheville gardens, where recycled and handmade art often stand on equal footing with the plants that mingle in a lush tangle and cascade down steep hillsides.

From the street, a stairway rises through a brick arch, leading up to the houses and into the garden. The arch spells out “Wamboldtopia.”

I’m sure the owners, who are gracious and welcoming, are often surprised to find unannounced visitors poking through the fantastical garden. What a nicely worded sign asking for a little advance notice.

Handmade sculpture adorns the garden at every turn. This one is reminiscent of Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings, with a vaguely floral sexuality, don’t you think?

The stonework has a hobbity, fantasyland appeal.

This gravestone fragment is simultaneously Goth and life-affirming.

A jeweled scepter

Rock cairn

An old boot turned into a planter

OK, so I’m still on the entryway. I love this repurposed hoop installation along the stair rail, which seems to be bouncing down the stairs.

There’s Dee of Red Dirt Ramblings at the bottom of the stairs. The back of the arch spells out “You are loved.”

Drooling gargoyle? No, that’s a spiderweb catching the morning light.

As you reach the main level of the garden, the part that surrounds the two houses, you see this pretty fish pond at eye level as you ascend the stairs.

Rustic seating offers a place to sit and admire the view.

That’s what Buddha’s doing.

I love this groundcovering plant with big leaves with a red eye at the center and rosy undersides. Update: It’s Begonia grandis, or hardy begonia. Thanks to Jenn, Les, and Lisa for the ID.

A tiny circular patio, like a fairy ring

Another guardian face

The back of the garden is fenced with chain link. Damaris and Ricki have taken a creative approach to disguising it, by plastering a concrete-like mix onto a chicken-wire framework and making a fantasy-scape of belltowers…

…fairy houses and archways.

The marriage of recycled and handmade art…

…and a naturalistic hillside garden made for the perfect introduction to Asheville’s arty-hippie scene and great natural beauty.

For a look back at the Curve Studios garden, which blends lovely plant combos with recycled metal hardscaping, click here. Next up: A snapshot of the Burton Street Community Peace Garden and Sunny Point Cafe garden.

All material © 2006-2012 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

14 Responses

  1. Skeeter says:

    You saw things my eyes did not! Loved this garden and the wonderful friendly two that created it. I did not want to leave this garden!

    That’s the great thing about reading everyone’s posts—you see all the things you missed. Now if I could just find the time to read them all… —Pam

  2. jenny says:

    Now that really was a fun garden to visit. I think I’ll just pop out and look for some more rocks!

    They are very creative people, Jenny. There was something interesting at every turn. —Pam

  3. Jenn says:

    That ground cover looks like a begonia?

    Yeah? Any idea of the species name, Jenn? —Pam

  4. Heather says:

    That hoop installation is amazing. I feel like this kind of work can so easily go kitschy but they totally nailed it.

    The hoop rail was one of my favorite features of the garden, Heather. The stonework was incredible too. —Pam

  5. Frances says:

    An amazing and magical place, dark and light, well represented in your fine photographs, as always, dear Pam. There is much to see at Wamboldtopia, with so much hidden and tucked away. It is a masterpiece.

    What a great start to the Fling it was. Thanks for your part in making the Fling such a success, Frances. —Pam

  6. Les says:

    I am sorry I could not make the fling, especially to see a one of a kind garden like this one. I believe your groundcover is Begonia grandis, which is often called hardy begonia, and it is for me.

    I did hope to meet you there, Les. Maybe next year! Perhaps you’ve nailed the ID of the mystery groundcover, although the online photos I looked at seemed a little different. Maybe there are various cultivars? —Pam

  7. Always love seeing things through your eyes. Nice Fling “booster shot.”

    I’ll have more boosters for you next week, Vicki. ;-) —Pam

  8. Wasn’t that the most splendid place? I could have stayed there all day.~~Dee

    I know I missed a lot of its secrets. I’d barely explored the lower garden before I realized it was almost time to go. That’s what I get for dilly-dallying. —Pam

  9. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    That plant is a hardy begonia. I bought one to try at home. I will be pushing the zones but it will be worth it if it survives our winters. Love your take on this garden. I could have stayed around longer to look for all of those little touches that were tucked here and there.

    Thanks, Lisa. That confirms it for me. You’re the third person to ID it as hardy begonia. —Pam

  10. Totally missed the jeweled scepter! This garden called for a longer visit, I missed so many things.

    I am certain I did too, Janet. We need to go back. —Pam

  11. Laura says:

    Wish I could have gone. What a wonderful place…How long had they been working on it? I love these personalized unique gardens.

    According to their website, here’s the history of their garden: “The garden began to evolve in 1999 after Damaris purchased the house with a bare backyard. Starting with a geometric herb garden, she was determined to transform the grassy and weedy hill into something beautiful and alive. When Ricki came into her life three years later, they knew they had found their path!” —Pam

  12. Cat says:

    What a magical place! There is so much to see, I’ll come back to this post again. It’s such a wealth of inspiration.

    You’d have loved this one, Cat. —Pam

  13. Pam, wish I could give you some of the hardy begonia. (Mine needs thinned out – it loves moisture and has exceeded its alloted space). I used to have the white blooming version, but it disappeared somehow. Loved your descriptions and photos of Wamboldtopia.

    What a kind wish, DJ, but your hardy begonia wouldn’t be happy in my hot, dry climate, I imagine. I’ll have to admire it from afar. —Pam

  14. Damaris says:

    Dear Pam, thank you so much for your wonderful post! The photos are exquisite and the kind words. I truly enjoy seeing Wamboldtopia through your eyes, you really captured much of its spirit in what can fit in a blog post.
    The contrasts of light and dark/heavy and life and death are wonderful reminders of the full spectrum of experience we have available to us, it’s fun to explore so many different angles of expression.
    Much of my own work is very much a reflection and interpretation of the sexuality that exists in our human experience but of course all over the floral world… Years ago, Ricki would ask when he saw me on a seed-themed sculpture “oh, another vagina?”
    The hardy begonias are on my top top list of favorite plants. Especially on the hillside, their red veins below glow in the evening sun, the foliage is stunning all season long and later there will be pink blooms. They’re so easy to grow here and come back every year, strong enough to keep most weeds out. Very rewarding!
    Such a pleasure to meet you and to have you experience our world!

    Dear Damaris, thank you for dropping by and giving me more of the story of your garden. It was such a magical start to the Fling. Thank you for being so welcoming in sharing your garden with us! —Pam