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Native plants garden dedicated to Wes Burlingame

A dedication ceremony was held at the new Burlingame Native Plants Garden on Saturday, April 9, located at the information kiosk at the intersection of the Oklawaha Greenway and the Patton Park trail.

Designed by horticulturalist Hank Bruno, the garden celebrates the life of Westcott “Wes” Burlingame III, a local nurseryman, lecturer and environmentalist who died in 2019 at the age of 73. Featuring more than 30 varieties of native shrubs, trees, grasses, wildflowers and ferns, the garden will serve as a peaceful rest stop along the Oklawaha Greenway and with its plant labels will educate visitors about local plants and especially those that grow well in a flood-prone area.
Burlingame moved to Hendersonville with his young family in 1978, eventually owned and operated Laurel Spring Nursery and enthusiastically promoted the use of native plantings in private and public gardens throughout Henderson County. He considered horticulturalist Robert Bullington a mentor and, upon retirement, Wes was a frequent volunteer at Bullington Gardens, which was established as a public garden after Mr. Bullington’s death.
A member of Hendersonville Tree Board for a number of years, Burlingame led many walks along the greenway describing the native trees, and along streets in historic neighborhoods to discuss landscaping and the value of large, mature trees in urban landscapes. Most of the pollinator beds along the Oklawaha Greenway were designed and installed by Burlingame and his group of volunteers.
Friends of the Oklawaha Greenway organized the dedication ceremony, and the memorial native-plant garden was created as a community effort, with plants contributed by Conserving Carolina, Bullington Gardens, the Hendersonville Tree Board, Asheville Botanical Garden and Chatooga Gardens, along with many private gardeners. Speakers included Hendersonville City Councilwoman Debbie Roundtree and Suzanne Hale, chair of Friends of the Oklawaha. John Perkins, a popular, local singer-songwriter and a neighbor of the Burlingames, provided the music.
“We are here today to dedicate this garden in honor of Wes and his devotion to native plants and public gardens,” said Bruno, the garden designer. “I think Wes saw all his planting as a public service, regardless of property boundaries. City streets, schoolyards greenways, and back yards were part of one large canvas for him. Wes provided plants, labor, and perceptual guidance with exuberant generosity.”
In her comments, Hale thanked Mayor Barbara Volk, City Council and city staff for their enthusiastic support and assistance in the garden installation. She also thanked the many donors who contributed funds and time to create the peaceful, educational, lovely memorial spot along the greenway.
For more information about the Burlingame Native Plants Garden or to make a donation, visit the Friends of the Oklawaha website at To volunteer for the ongoing upkeep of the garden, email