Veteran gardener will no longer deck NC legislative halls

Posted December 24, 2013

— Christmas at the legislative complex in downtown Raleigh might never look the same after this year.

The holiday decorations created by master landscape gardener Stan Yelverton have brought joy to tens of thousands of visitors over the decades, but after 36 years of working for the state, he is retiring next week.

Yelverton has spent most of his career in the background, tending the hundreds of flowers and plants in and around the complex, but Christmas has become his time to shine. Holiday decorations weren't even part of his job originally, and then he noticed the Christmas tree at the Legislative Building left a lot to be desired.

"I asked, 'Could I do the tree?' one year, and it sort of ballooned from there," he said Monday.

For 29 Christmases, Yelverton's creativity has amazed lawmakers, staffers and visitors. Each year, he comes up with themes for the different public areas in the Legislative Building and adjacent Legislative Office Building. He's done Dr. Seuss trees, country trees, a tree decorated with cardinals – the state bird – and even a tree inspired by a friend who dressed up as a peacock for Halloween.

"She showed me the pictures of the costume, and I went, 'Hmm. I'm liking those colors,'" he said. "I think the all-time favorite of the ladies in (the Legislative Office Building) was one we did in copper and gold. For some reason, they told me – the ladies told me – it made them want to dance."

No two trees Yelverton has decorated over the years have been alike.

"(Ideas) just come to me. For some strange reason, this year I wanted to do gold and white down here" on the first floor of the Legislative Building," he said. "But the theme this year in this building's second and third floor is the poinsettia."

The flowers are everywhere: big red blooms hanging from the chandeliers, floating in the fountains and forming a giant wreath in the front window.

"It turned out very well. I think, this year, that has been my favorite thing," he said.

Decorating the two buildings takes about two weeks. The plants are then donated to charities, and other decorations are carefully sorted and stored to be used again.

Yelverton won't be using them again, however. At 61, he said it's time to deck his own halls for a change, although he might come back to help the new master gardener next Christmas if asked.

"It's been fun. It's been fun," he said.

Yelverton will be honored with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, one of North Carolina's top honors for people who have served the state, on Dec. 31, his last day of work.


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  • zwamus Jan 1, 2014

    This has to be stupidest story lingering on WRAL web site. This is a one day story with a life of ten and running.

  • Sally1023 Dec 31, 2013

    Job well done! Bet you'll have a killer yard now that you have extra time :)

  • reesesbrewcrew Dec 27, 2013

    Stan is amazing, he has shared his talent and placed many of us in the Christmas spirit for all these years through his beautiful Christmas decorations!! I have told him for many yewars he should open his on business!! Stan we will miss you and best wishes to you in your well deserved retirement!! Reese

  • lwe1967 Dec 25, 2013

    Merry Christmas! I hope that you have a wonderful retirement!

  • Krimson Dec 25, 2013

    Thank you for your service to the State of NC! Merry Christmas!

  • computer trainer Dec 24, 2013

    Thanks sunshine1040. Merry Christmas to you.

  • sunshine1040 Dec 24, 2013

    If you want the job apply for it but I do not think you start as Master Gardner unless you have a lot of friends in government and I sure hope you have experience. Just remember how warm it can get in the summer here in North Carolina

  • computer trainer Dec 24, 2013

    What a shame that this is his last year! I would love to have that job. I am sure that it is a LOT of hard work, but what joy it brings to people.