life-on-south-toe

Looking for NC Wildflowers in the Spring

One of my favorites things to do each spring in NC is hunt for wildflowers. From when the first crocuses and snow drops appear in February, I eagerly anticipate the coming flurry of emerging life below the tree tops. All through April and May, I go out into the wet woods every couple of days to check who has joined the party. Each year, it feels like greeting old friends.

What are spring ephemerals?

NC wildflowers: crocuses

Trees take some time in the spring to come out of dormancy. Meanwhile, the herbaceous life on the forest floor gets busy right away. It takes advantage of the brief window of warming earth and sunlight before the leaves emerge to block out the sun in the canopy above. These small flowering plants are known as spring ephemeral wildflowers, and are as short lived as their name suggests. In less than two months, they must leaf out, flower and set seed, before dying back to their roots.

The flamboyant colors, shapes and sizes attract native bees, flies and other insects who rely on these wildflowers as a critical source of food. Nectar from flowers like Dutchmen’s breeches ensure that bumblebees survive until summer. Trout lilies and spring beauties each feed varieties of miner bees that have specifically evolved for that one type of flower. Wild ginger lays its tempting flowers on the ground for flies and gnats crawling through the leaf litter. Plants like bloodroot do not produce nectar, but their pollen is food for bees instead.

Several of spring ephemeral wildflowers have evolved a mutualistic relationship with ants. Violets, spring beauties, trout lilies, and bloodroot, among others, add a blob of a nutritious substance to their seeds called elaiosome. Ants bring the seeds back to their nests, consume the elaiosome, and then discard the seed in their compost. This provides the seeds an ideal environment to germinate next year. Other plants, like mayapple, encase their seeds in tasty fruits. When box turtles come to eat the “apples,” their seeds are dispersed through the forest.

Getting a NC wildflower guide

As a farmer, I have learned to pay attention to the subtle messages of the earth. By watching the plants, I can learn about the quality of soil, variations in weather, and more. Every year, I take note of when and where I first notice each plant emerging and blooming. While the order remains the same, when I compare dates from year to year, some springs are clearly “early” and some are “late.” I let these wild plants, whom the forest tends without our help, inform how and when I cultivate my own garden.

There are many ways to learn about the wildflowers around the Celo Inn. Despite it’s outdated scientific names, my favorite guidebook is Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide for both it’s thoroughness and ingenious key system. Even better, however, is a tour with a knowledgeable guide. Tal Galton of Snakeroot Ecotours lives right down the road from the Celo Inn. Through careful attentiveness to the wonders of nature, he has cultivated a deep knowledge of the diverse ecosystems in western NC. His naturalist walks, guided hikes, and weekend retreats offer an eye-opening experience for both expert naturalists and nature-curious visitors alike. And, he knows where all the best wildflowers are.

by Kavita Hardy


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Why Be an Innkeeper?

Life doesn’t always follow the path you expect it to follow. If you asked us ten years ago, neither Kavita nor I would have predicted we would be innkeepers. Kavita graduated from Swarthmore College with a double major in Chemistry and Economics. I went to James Madison University to be a technical writer. While neither of us followed the obvious career paths of our degrees, we were at least putting them to some use as teachers at Arthur Morgan School, the local private middle school. Kavita taught science, math and farming. I taught Language Arts. It worked. Now we are about to start a new chapter in our life as innkeepers. What do chemistry and writing instruction manuals have to do with innkeeping? Very little we imagine. But this new adventure isn’t about what’s in our minds. It’s about what’s in our hearts.

The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants

Kavita loves to grow and prepare food. What makes it really worth it though is when she gets to share it with other people. At AMS, being the Farm and Garden Coordinator as well as the Kitchen Coordinator was a perfect fit for her. While she put considerable talent to designing engaging lessons, where she really came alive was in the fields and the kitchen.

My interest has always been in taking care of others. I used my English and social studies classes to help students examine themselves, to help them explore their emotions and how they wanted to engage with the world around them. I also spent time as the Maintenance Coordinator, and enjoy the work of creating spaces that are functional and inspiring.

Putting Your Passions to Work

As we prepared to leave AMS and thought about next steps, we had a decision to make. Should we follow our skill sets and attained knowledge? I could have put all the years of admissions experience to work by finding another school to work for. Kavita thought about using her science background to become a medical professional. However, as we thought about it, we knew while lucrative neither of those paths would make us happy.

At the Celo Inn, Kavita and I get to spend our days doing what we love. Kavita will continue the Inn’s beautiful garden. She will make delicious baked goods every morning and share them with our guests. With some of the changes we are making, she will also be able to share her family’s heritage through special monthly dinners, frequently featuring Punjabi food. I get to take care of our guests, hopefully building deeper connections with them each time they visit.

An Easy Decision

In some ways, being innkeepers was a very easy decision. We are excited for a life that will continue to allow our passions to be a part of our everyday lives. Creating beauty to share, whether it’s in the garden, on a breakfast dish, in a peaceful room, or in the caring interactions we have with others, feels like a life worth living. We can’t wait to meet you all.

Nick Maldonado


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We ask all new guests to review our reservation policies.

Then, email or call us for more information, to request a reservation, or arrange for a gift certificate!


A New Beginning

Dreams really can come true. When Nancy approached us in the summer of 2020 about purchasing the Celo Inn, we were immediately excited about the idea. But we did not want to get our hopes up. There were so many reasons, including ones in our own heads, it seemed like it would not work out. Becoming Celo Community members, learning all the idiosyncrasies of the building and grounds, keeping a loyal customer base while building a new one–these tasks felt huge. And we were going to need to do all this while raising our two teenage sons and a toddler daughter. Yet here we are, a year and a half later, and everything seems to have fallen into place.

New Innkeepers, New Inn

The Celo Inn will open for its 39th season on April 1st, 2022. Nancy and Randy, who know every inch of the Inn inside and out, have helped us prepare to continue the Inn’s legacy (and thankfully have offered to continue to be on call for help this year!). We look forward to hosting people, whether they have been coming to the Inn for years or whether they are just finding out about us. We are also excited about making it ours.

While much of the Celo Inn will remain the same, we do plan on making some changes. Some of the décor will be updated and Wi-Fi will be available throughout the building. A complimentary continental breakfast will now be included with your stay with the option to purchase a more substantial meal from our newly expanded menu if so desired. We will have a hot water heater, microwave, and small refrigerator in the upstairs common area for guests to use. Guests can also purchase a picnic lunch to take with them on their daily adventures.

We also will be offering a monthly dinner for our guests. On the last Saturday of each month, Kavita will be preparing a prix fixe meal for any guests who reserved a stay with us. If you are local and want to join us for a meal, you are still welcome. Just become a Celo Inn dining member so you can reserve a spot.

Introducing Our Sliding Scale

We are going to raise the Inn’s rates a bit to help with all the changes we are making and help the Celo Inn stay with us for many more years to come. However, just like Randy and Nancy, we are committed to making the Inn a place for everyone. So we are introducing a sliding scale system for guests who need it. Some of our rooms and the cottage will be offered at on a pay what you can model. We want everyone to have the opportunity to relax and vacation and we hope this new system facilitates that.

Life on the Corner

Anyone who has spent much time with Nancy has heard her refer to her time at the Inn as “life on the corner.” Usually said with a small knowing smile, it’s a phrase that encapsulates all the joys and challenges of being at the hub of a small community. As we have been preparing to take on this new chapter in our life and keep the lnn’s legacy alive, we have also found ourselves saying the phrase to one another. Sometimes it’s in excited anticipation and at other times it’s in the knowledge that we have big shoes to fill. We are now the ones living on the corner. We hope that we carry the torch forward and continue to run an Inn that serves its guests as well as the community around it. However it goes, we can’t wait for our lives here to start.

Nick and Kavita


Ready to Make a Reservation?

We ask all new guests to review our reservation policies.

Then, email or call us for more information, to request a reservation, or arrange for a gift certificate!