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Landscaping labors, glorious grounds spark spring fever at Lake Junaluska


During Western North Carolina's spring months, Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center's glorious grounds burst with seasonal renewal. From bright blooms in the 16 gardens and numerous flower beds to the botanical bounty of annual plant sales, spring at the lake is an exciting time.

"I love it when the Japanese maples first start to develop their leaves, and they still have the red color of winter on their stems," said Lake Junaluska Landscaping Manager Melissa Tinsley. "Those little things get me so excited about spring at the lake.”

In recent weeks, Tinsley, her team of two full-time landscapers, and a host of volunteers have been hard at work weeding, clearing and mulching beds in preparation for the spring planting season.

Lake Junaluska contracts a landscaping company to help with planting. Tinsley and her team lay out the plants in the beds to which they are assigned and the contractors follow behind, putting them in the ground.

“Last year we did the planting in record time — a week,” said Tinsley. “It’s amazing to go from 10,000 plants in the greenhouse to an empty space.”

Tinsley, a graduate of Haywood Community College’s horticultural program, has worked as a Lake Junaluska landscaper since August 2017. She stepped into the leadership role following longtime landscaper Roddy Ray’s retirement in March. This year is her first at the helm of the spring landscaping efforts.

"Melissa's doing an amazing job," said Don Ebaugh, Lake Junaluska Director of Property Management. "Working with Roddy, she already learned all she needed to know about the lake, and now she's bringing in new technologies and techniques.”

May is traditionally the time when the Lake Junaluska landscapers plant the thousands of coleus, annual and perennial plants they raise each year. They grow the plants from seeds and plugs in the Lake Junaluska greenhouse and raise extra for their annual plant sale. The sale’s proceeds go to the maintenance of the grounds and gardens for all to enjoy.

Thanks to communal landscaping labors and generous charitable donations, upon which the lake’s landscaping budget relies, visitors can expect to see an incredible variety of blooms in April and May.

Highlights include the Junaluska apple tree at the main entrance, giant oriental lilies at Inspiration Point, hardy ice plants in The Terrace's front bed, witch hazel and lilac around Memorial Chapel, purple-leafed cotton at the Biblical Garden, weeping cherry trees at the Susanna Wesley Garden and wildflowers at the Butterfly Garden, part of the Lake Junaluska Monarch Waystation for migrating butterflies.

Visitors will also discover popular spring favorites such as azaleas, crab apples, grape hyacinths, hollyhocks, hydrangeas, lupines, mountain laurel and phlox in the conference center's gardens and beds.

Each of the conference center’s gardens is tended and maintained by a dedicated volunteer group of Lake Junaluska residents and friends who contribute their time and talents throughout the year. The national organization Nomads On a Mission Active in Divine Service was also on campus in early April to help mulch the famous Rose Walk, composed of more than 200 hybrid tea, grandiflora and floribunda roses. The group has worked with Lake Junaluska on a number of hands-on projects through the years.

"It's wonderful to have the volunteers working with us," said Tinsley. “It’s because of their contributions that we can all enjoy spring at the lake.”

This year, the annual plant sale takes place Friday-Satuday, April 26-27, and Friday-Saturday, May 3-4, from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Lake Junaluska Greenhouse, 82 Sleepy Hollow Road, Lake Junaluska. A variety of annuals and perennials ranging from packages of six to hanging baskets will be available. Purchases can be made with checks or credit cards.

The Corneille Bryan Native Garden plant sale also takes place on May 4 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the top of the garden, at the intersection of County Road and JB Ivey Lane. Primarily perennials will be available. Purchases can be made with cash or checks. For more information about the native plant sale, call 828-778-5938. 

For more information on Lake Junaluska landscaping and the annual plant sale, contact Melissa Tinsley at or 828-454-6774.

To learn more about Lake Junaluska's gardens and places of meditation, visit


Mary Bates
Lake Junaluska
PO Box 67, Lake Junaluska, NC 28745