Raleigh - The wildflowers blooming along North Carolina's highways are a beautiful sight for travelers. They're also award-winning: each year, the N.C. Department of Transportation honors the state's best-looking wildflower beds at an award ceremony.
The 2015 NCDOT Wildflower Awards were presented by N.C. Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson and The Garden Club of North Carolina at the monthly Board of Transportation meeting Thursday in Raleigh.
The awards, sponsored by The Garden Club of North Carolina, recognize the efforts of NCDOT staff who carry out North Carolina's wildflower program and enhance the overall appearance and environmental quality of the state's highways. Awards are given to the best-looking flower beds in each region of the state, as well as the best overall highway division wildflower program.
"NCDOT has been planting wildflowers for 30 years," said Don Lee, state roadside environmental engineer. "And the benefit is not simply aesthetic. The flowers help sustain the pollinator population, which is vital to the success of the state's agribusiness community."
In 1985, First Lady Dottie Martin, inspired by an article she had read in The Wall Street Journal about Texas' wildflower program, approached NCDOT about initiating a similar program to beautify the highways of North Carolina. This set the stage for the establishment of the Wildflower Program, which is coordinated by the NCDOT Roadside Environmental Unit. Today, the program has more than 1,500 acres of flower beds across the state.
The Wildflower Awards were given for beds that bloomed in 2015. The winners are:
Best Overall Division Wildflower Program:
First Place -Division 13, which includes Rutherford, McDowell, Burke, Mitchell, Yancey, Madison, and Buncombe counties;
Second Place -Division 11, which includes Ashe, Alleghany, Surry, Watauga, Wilkes, Yadkin, Avery and Caldwell counties.
William D. Johnson Daylily Award:
First Place -Division 5 -I-85 Welcome Center in Warren County;
Second Place -Division 13 -I-240 at mile marker 1.5 (Amboy Road) in Buncombe County.
Best Regional Wildflower Planting, Eastern Region:
First Place -Division 4 -US 117 Dudley in Wayne County;
Second Place -Division 1 -US 64 in Martin County.
Best Regional Wildflower Planting, Central Region:
First Place -Division 10 -NC 24 at Old Concord Road in Mecklenburg County;
Second Place -Division 7 -I-40/85 at Mount Hope Church Road in Guilford County.
Best Regional Wildflower Planting, Western Region:
First Place -Division 12 -I-85 Welcome Center in Cleveland County;
Second Place -Division 13 -I-40 at Exit 50 and US 25 in Buncombe County.