Winter Newsletter 2019 Edith J. Carrier Arboretum

Dear Friends of the Arboretum,

As I write this the Arboretum is shining brightly white, in a soft blanket of the year’s first snowfall, and the milky-topped pond is creaking and cracking from its newly frozen depths. We went from unusually warm, spring-like, “I gotta get outside!” kind-of-weather to true winter in a matter of days recently; both compelling scenes but vastly different in feel. Not likely to run into other people or animals while walking in below-freezing temperatures one is treated to the deep stillness and dormancy of the now quiet landscape.

I am happy to announce that the Arboretum turns 30 years old this year in 2019! The Arboretum officially opened to the public in spring of 1989, and we invite you to come out and celebrate with us, The Year of the Trees! We commence the year's celebrations with our February Litten Botanical Lecture, No Tree Is An Island, with celebrated educator and arborist, Joe Murray, who is sure to delight and inform you about the amazing world of trees and how they communicate with one another in the forest. See details below

In conjunction with our 30th Anniversary we have unveiled our new Arboretum logo with tagline and our vision statement that we feel is a more visible, contemporary fit.

"To inspire outdoor engagement in a woodland sanctuary."

Look for a version of this logo to grace I-81 and ramp corridors at Harrisonburg exits to the Arboretum this winter!

Though many of our trees and forests are increasingly under attack by puzzling diseases, climate change shifts, and expansive new housing and commercial developments there are many new knowledge fronts coming to the attention of many researchers, conservationists, designers, and educators that are informing a new wave of tree and forest habitat protection, a deeper understanding of forest growth and it's inherent inter-dependency, and the replanting of tree colonies. Reforestation by our national agencies is in decline but individuals and organizations are understanding with an increased urgency the environmental imperative of protecting our forests, whatever the size, and reforesting those areas that are struggling to remain vigorous and self-sustaining. See story below

An important friend of the Arboretum, ex-volunteer, and staff person, Ron Brown, passed away in December just before Christmas. I liked to tease Ron and call him Ronny Appleseed, because he planted and scattered wildflower seeds here in the Arboretum by the thousands, and planted his favorite plants by the hundreds. It always brought a smile to his face. He left behind a legacy of plant sharing, a showcase for native and exotic spring wildflowers, both here and in his home hillside garden, and a love for propagating azaleas and rhododendrons. See In Memoriam below

Cheers for a healthy winter ahead. Come and walk the trails for seasonal beauty and stop in to see the wondrous current art exhibit, Plant Cell Patterns. In February, attend a house plant workshop and trade or purchase house plants and share stories with other gardeners, or learn about your favorite trees and their ID by their bark and buds. We hope to see you this season.

Jan Sievers Mahon

In Memoriam

Ron Brown, October 23, 1929 - December 22, 2018

Ron Brown (left) with Dr. Norlyn Bodkin (right)

Ron Brown was an integral part of the development of the gardens and plantings in the Arboretum over many years of the Arboretum's early history. He was a consummate plant lover, plant propagator, and giver of plants. He volunteered with Dr. Norlyn Bodkin in the early years of the arboretum in the 90’s, and eventually was hired for three years from 2000 to 2003 as a garden assistant to Dennis Whetzel. Ron’s contributions to the gardens here includes planting and spreading the wildflower plants, especially Trillium and Virginia Bluebell, via seeds collected from his own garden collections, locally and from his property in WV. Today bluebells cover the upper and lower wooded areas of arboretum due to Ron’s early work here. He also brought plants here from his WV property and transplanted them into the arboretum.

It was Ron’s membership in the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society and connections there that enabled the Arboretum to acquire our current rhododendron and azalea collections. Ron, Noryln Bodkin and Dennis Whetzel clocked thousands of miles on the road between the valley and Tidewater to dig over 500 donated mature rhododendrons and azaleas, some over 20 years old, from Le-Mac Nurseries, owned by Ken and Sandra McDonald. This gift represented almost 70 years of Le-Mac Nursery history and four generations of McDonald family history. Some of the Le-Mac land was being sold so this was a rescue operation of these cultivated beauties. The rescue included a large collection of Rhododenron prunifolium, plumleaf azalea, the rarest of the eastern native azaleas that continues to grace our gardens in early to mid-summer, sometimes lasting into fall, as the latest blooming rhododendrons found here. The entire collection here, now 20+ years old, is home to rhododendrons that are over 40 years old!

Rhododendron prunifolium

Ron assisted with the construction of a many tiered rock wall hillside in the open sunny side of the Arboretum, currently The Sinclair Garden, to provide a holding nursery for many of these plants newly dug out of the sandy soil from the coast. The McDonald Azalea and Rhododendron Garden was created in 1994 and dedicated in 1996 due in large part to the vision and efforts of Ron, and Norlyn, and other rhododendron society members, and the many volunteers who helped them plant them. The MAC-ARS even awarded Ron a bronze medal on Sept. 12th, 1996 in Richmond for his many years of service to the Arboretum and for this project that was such a huge rescue of so many species of rhododendrons. He was recognized as Honorary Arboretum Director that day.

A tree peony lover and propagator, Ron also started many new peony plants here in the Arboretum that he’d raised from seed in his own gardens. When one stops to gaze at one of these enormous voluptuous spring flowers in their prime display here you can be sure that it is due to Ron Brown’s dedicated attention to the Arboretum’s landscape and gardens.

Arboretum Tree Peony grown from seed by Ron Brown

Ron planted many other plants not mentioned here and many likely lost to overgrowth and shade as the gardens matured over the years. At least one row of straight species redbuds were planted by him that now line the service road to the nursery, and many other herbaceous perennials and bulbs were planted that continue to spread as groundcovers here in the woodland understory.

We nod our head to Ron’s passing and send him our gratitude and thanks for the countless hours in labor and knowledge that he gave for so many years in service to the beautification of these grounds. Hats off to Ron for his generous nature and for openly sharing his love of plants with so many for so many years here and at his home! Visitors, students, and faculty of all ages continue to enjoy these gardens created long ago as they stroll, learn, and tour the grounds and gardens here.

Thank you to everyone who has kindly donated to the Arboretum in Ron's name!

Thank you to Sandra McDonald and Emily Branscome for contributing to this piece.

13th Annual Frances Litten Botanical Lecture

No Tree is an Island

Presented by Joe Murray

Tuesday February, 19 | 7 - 8:30 PM | Festival Ballroom | Free

In keeping with our 30th year celebration of the Year of the Trees, the Frances Litten Botanical Lecture will focus on a special tree-themed topic. Trees are gregarious organisms that have formed mutualistic relationships with members of all five kingdoms of life on earth. Discover the Wood Wide Web, and its interacting communication systems as you come to see the forest as "organism". Learn how trees can become more resilient to stress factors and climate change when humans assist them in establishing their interconnected webs, above and below ground, creating a more sustainable landscape.

Joe Murray has a Masters of Science in Plant Pathology from Virginia Tech, Masters in Teaching from the University of Richmond, and a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Radford University. He is an educator extraordinaire with a flair for humor and a deep understanding of trees and their biology. He is also a certified arborist, certified utility arborist, and has studied at Findhorn Foundation in Scotland. In the vein of understanding that you find in current books and videos about trees, Hidden Life of Trees, The Forest Unseen, How Trees Talk to Each Other, Joe travels around the United States teaching and learning about trees and people.

What's in Bloom

During last year's website overhaul, we had to postpone our beloved What's in Bloom page. We are now thrilled to announce that months January - June are up and running (with the remaining months very soon to follow). You'll see the pages are now categorized by month for easy navigation!

Take a look!

Archangel Ancient Tree Archive

A non-profit organization renamed Archangel Ancient Tree Archive (formally the Champion Tree Project International) was formed in 2008, and in 2011 they went international, with on-going projects all over the world cloning old growth trees (one thousand year old and older trees) from champion trees that are revered and honored, with a strong interest in reproducing and replanting the same strong genetic material that these ancient trees still carry either in living tree form or living stumps still connected to other trees.

A new project in the UK at Windsor Castle works with old oaks, while other projects take them to New Zealand and Ireland; even having to track down Druids to lead them to the old-growth oak trees on the island. Fifteen years ago this team came to Virginia and worked with Mt. Vernon to collect genetic material allowing them to clone 11 trees planted by George Washington. Other universities had tried without success to clone these trees before Archangel Ancient Tree Archive arrived. Their coastal redwood projects are also fascinating and the links below take you to articles written about their projects in CA and OR which include recent 2018 plantings and another planting from a few years prior.

Did you know:

- Old-growth redwood forests in CA are still actively being cut down for timber and being sold to China and other foreign countries

- Only 4% of the redwood old growth forests are still alive

Article Links

"World's First Planting of a Champion Redwood & Sequoia Forest" (Archangel Ancient Tree Archive Blog, 2012)

"Redwood Clones Coming to the Coast" (Mail Tribune)

"Conservationists plant a 'super grove' of redwood trees cloned from ancient stumps" (Mother Nature Network, 2018)

Thank you for your kind words!

"The staff was so friendly and helpful! This visit was our first time and we loved all that the arboretum had to offer. Even in the off-season, when most of the flowers are not in bloom, it's a lovely walk. We especially enjoyed the opportunity to hang an ornament on one of the trees for the holiday season - how fun! Looking forward to seeing it all in bloom someday!" ~ Victoria

"What a lovely arboretum. The plantings, walking trails, art-in-place, and natural spaces all delight." ~ Kirsten

"So beautiful that I proposed to my wife here. The arboretum does a great job of focusing on native plants and the sales are a great opportunity. The landscaping is enchanting and regularly updated." ~ Steven

Congratulations to our Photo Contest Winners!

November Photo Contest Winner, Lois Weber
December Photo Contest Winner, Joshua Pettit



Houseplant Swap & Clinic

With Sustainability Matters

Wednesday, February 13 | 12 - 1:30 PM | Free

Just in time for Valentine's Day, fall in love with a new houseplant. Join us for a brief presentation on houseplant care, tips and tricks, followed by Q&A with experts and the SWAP! Bring plants, divisions or cuttings to share, and go home with new and exciting finds. Meet at the Frances Plecker Education Center. Advanced registration required.


Valentine's Carriage Rides

Saturday, February 16 & Sunday, February 17 | 1 - 4 PM

Tickets | $18 Adult | $12 Child | $75 Private Carriage

Celebrate Valentine's Day and the winter landscape with a horse-drawn stroll through the Arboretum! Our friends at Classic Carriage LLC will be providing rides on two dates. Reservations are highly recommended as this event is often sold out in advance. Please call us at (540)-568-3194 during our business hours, Monday-Friday from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm to reserve your space! Carriages depart from the Frances Plecker Education Center every 20 minutes.


13th Annual Frances Litten Botanical Lecture

No Tree is an Island with speaker, Joe Murray

Tuesday, February 19 | 7 - 8:30 PM | Festival Ballroom | Free

This year, in celebrating our 30th year as the Year of the Trees, the Frances Litten Botanical Lecture will focus on a special tree-themed topic. Discover the Wood Wide Web, and its interacting communication systems as you come to see the forest as "organism". Learn how trees can become more resilient to stress factors and climate change when humans assist them in establishing their interconnected webs, above and below ground, creating a more sustainable landscape.


Holistic Tree Care Workshop

Instructor, Joe Murray

Wednesday, February 20 | 9:30 AM - 11:30 AM | $20 Registration

Continuing with the previous evening's presentation learn strategies for deciding what kind of care is most needed and beneficial for your trees, and when mulching, pruning or irrigation are in the best interests of your trees. Learn some basics about soils, organic matter, and permaculture as it relates to tree care, and how to replicate the "forest" habitat so that your trees will not just survive but thrive in place for many years to come.

**For a comprehensive educational experience, we strongly recommend all workshop participants attend the Frances Litten Botanical Lecture the night before.**


Winter Tree ID: Walk & Talk

With Sustainability Matters

Wednesday, February 27 | 12 - 1:30 PM | $10

They all look the same without their leaves, don't they? Join Sustainability Matters and Edith J. Carrier Arboretum for a guided walk and ID primer by Virginia State Forester Jordan Herring. We'll learn how to recognize trees by bark, buds, leaf scars and other characteristics. There will be time for Q&A and chat in the Frances Plecker Education Center afterward. Bring your own lunch if you would like (can be left in the FPEC during the walk); light fare and beverages will be provided. Dress for the weather!

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