Course Descriptions

Core Courses

All the core courses are offered at least once each year. Botany is offered at least twice a year.

Basic Botany (9 hours)– Plant kingdoms, structure and function, life stages, populations and ecotypes, flowers and plant reproduction will be covered. This course will give the student a working vocabulary and understanding necessary for the remaining courses.

Basic Ecology (12 hours)–This course covers the basic principles of ecology, the study of interactions between organisms and their environments emphasizing the way plants interact with their environment. This core course is taught in lecture-discussion format.  The book “Bringing Nature Home” by Doug Tallamy is recommended reading prior to the start of the class as will introduce you to ecological concepts and how they relate to gardening. Prerequisite: Basic Botany

Basic Horticulture (9 hours)– Plant growth, environmental factors, diurnal cycle, propagation, and basic plant culture will be covered. Prerequisite: Basic Botany

Plant Identification (Spring/Summer) (18 hours) – Plant and flower structure, use of keys, and field identification of primarily herbaceous plants will be covered. Prerequisite: Basic Botany

Tree Identification (Fall) (9-12 hours) – Leaf and twig structure, keys, field identification, and habitats will be covered. Prerequisite: Basic Botany

Principles of Natural Landscaping (12 hours) – This course is meant to bring together all you have learned from the other core courses and apply that to the practical realm of landscaping with native plants. Basic landscaping principles will be covered and each participant will complete a simple design project. Prerequisites: Botany, Horticulture, Tree ID

Insect-Plant Interactions -This course will be a brief introduction to the biology of insect-plant interactions, structured around application and investigation of interactions such as pollination and herbivory related to native plants and plants of economic or aesthetic interest to humans. The focus will be on biodiversity and ecology of beneficial and harmful insects, but will include a brief primer on insect identification. Some discussion of invasive insects and plants may take place.

Elective Courses

Electives are offered on a variable schedule, but at least 4 will be offered per year. Course descriptions will be added for electives as they are scheduled.

Attracting Birds to Your Garden: Will focus on local bird identification, their different seasonal food preferences, and native plant selection for attracting birds. Also will provide guidance on how to make your property a certified wildlife habitat. Pre-req: Botany

Drawing from Nature: Focus will be on using a variety of simple drawing techniques to train your powers of observation and hence your ability to record what you see in creative ways. For everyone – no former experience required.

Fantastic Fern Foray (12 hours) – Ferns are fascinating and much-loved woodland plants – and yet, how does one begin learning to distinguish between the many species that are native to the Carolinas (there are actually more than 65!) This class and field trip combination will serve as a primer to fern characteristics and identification techniques, plus be a great opportunity to see many species in the wild. We will focus on about 20 species, including many of the most easy and desirable to grow. The field trip will include 3-4 great fern sites in the mountains of North Carolina – in the Brevard, Looking Glass Falls, and Mt. Pisgah areas. Pre-req: Botany

Forest Management: Descriptions of forestry techniques for existing woodlands; planning timber harvests for sustainable production; identifying the economic and environmental importance of forests and their products; understanding of the various natural habitats on your property. Pre-req: Botany and Ecology

Insect Identification: Identification of insects, both beneficial and harmful with emphasis on their interactions with native plants. Pre-req: Botany and Ecology

Soils of the Piedmont: Learn about Piedmont soil types, their properties, structures, and how they relate to plant growth and habitat development. Pre-req: Botany

Weeds and Invasive Exotic Plants: Will focus on the basic biology, ecology, and identification of weeds and invasives. Will include a local field trip and discussion of native alternatives to invasive landscape plants. Pre-req: Botany and Plant ID

Wildflower Photography: We will learn digital camera essentials—aperture, exposure, ISO, white balance, metering and lens choice. Fundamentals of photographic composition, field techniques, and managing images to edit and catalogue sharp, detailed wildflower photographs will be covered. For everyone – no former experience required.

Winter Tree Identification: Learn to identify leafless, dormant trees by their winter twig characteristics and bark. We will use the booklet “Winter Tree Finder” in this class.Pre-req: Botany and Tree ID

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