RALEIGH — Wildflower plantings not only offer a pleasant diversion while traveling along a major highway, they also have brought statewide recognition to Surry County.
The county figures prominently in the latest round of the N.C. Department of Transportation Wildflower Awards program, with Surry part of a DOT division named one of the state’s best.
A wildflower planting along U.S. 52 at Pilot Mountain played a key role in that selection.
Also, a planting on Interstate 77 near Pine Ridge won first-place regional honors.
The annual awards, sponsored by The Garden Club of North Carolina Inc., recognize efforts of the DOT staff to carry out the agency’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 divisional wildflower program.
Division 11, which includes Surry, Yadkin, Wilkes, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell and Watauga counties, garnered honorable-mention recognition in the category of Best Overall Division Wildflower Program, the top award given.
Division 4, made up of Edgecombe, Halifax, Johnston, Nash, Wayne and Wilson counties, won first place in the best-overall category, with second-place honors going to Division 7 (Alamance, Caswell, Guilford, Orange and Rockingham counties).
The state has 14 highway divisions spread among its 100 counties.
Meanwhile, a wildflower planting in Surry was good for first place in the Western Region, one of three regions in North Carolina. The location of that planting is along Interstate 77 near the state weigh station. The local display edged out one in Buncombe County, which won second place.
The wildflower awards, 11 in all, were given for beds that bloomed in 2012. They were bestowed during a recent ceremony led by Gov. Pat McCrory.
Former Gov. Jim Martin and First Lady Dottie Martin also were recognized for their contributions to the state wildflower program.
It originated in 1985, when Mrs. Martin was inspired by an article she read in the Wall Street Journal about a similar effort in Texas. She then approached the Department of Transportation about establishing a program to beautify North Carolina’s highways, which set the stage for what is in place today.
The state now has more than 1,500 acres of flower beds, which are coordinated by the DOT’s Roadside Environmental Unit.