Summer 2021 EJC Arboretum

Dear Friends of the Arboretum,

The woodlands are alive with the lush verdancy of summer. Everywhere you look there are curtains of green here hanging from sky to forest floor! On a steamy, tropical day, leave your phone behind, and come walk the trails and find relief from the heat. Look for the open sunny areas that have pockets-a-plenty of color and bloom near the pond, herb garden, and education center.

Arboretum Stage Garden

This past year has come with its challenges; staff losses in the middle of a hiring freeze, fewer volunteers coming out, overpopulating ducks wreaking havoc with our pond habitat, to name a few, but also many wonderful outcomes and initiatives. The volunteers we did have weekly really stepped up in a big way:

THANK YOU, to the Forest Stewards, for giving us your time, hard work and your weekly reliability! We couldn’t have done what we accomplished this spring without you. Hurray for helping get us through a challenging spring!

Due to COVID times we’ve reached more people with online programming than we did when we were hosting in-person classes and workshops. Our new offering of a Grab-N-Go online plant sale has been a big hit and provides customers another way to shop without being on-site.

Our herb garden has had an influx of attention, programming and volunteers this past year thanks to Jen Tullo and her commitment to helping us improve this space and to bring the community along with her efforts. You are invited to come out and be a part of the caring for this garden, Mondays, 8AM-10AM. Learn about the medicinal value of the plants there, and participate in harvest days.

We have taken on the challenge of looking deeper into the Arboretum’s organizational structure and how it relates to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion trainings that were initiated last fall that we hope to continue with this fall. If you would like to help the Arboretum better represent the Harrisonburg community, or know those who could help us do just this, please reach out and share your ideas.

The Arboretum serves as an outdoor classroom and this year it’s options for teaching spaces were significantly relevant when sometimes five JMU classes at a time gathered here in the many areas that made for excellent outdoor meeting spaces. From simply sitting on the lawn, gathering in the Children’s Garden or the Stage Garden, to the tree terrace table and fountain wall, or to the sheltered space of the Pavilion, an abundance of learning was happening outdoors this past year here!

Perhaps the best outcome of all is that many new visitors have discovered this woodland sanctuary and now know about the season of spring and the wonderful beauty that is found here in the forest understory. So many more people have come here to find respite from the longs hours at home and this is just the place to unwind oneself, knowing that you can return again and again before getting to know all of the trails, gardens, and resting spots. While most public gardens were closed, due to their entrance fee system of funneling visitors through shared indoor spaces, the grounds here were able to stay open and spacious for many kinds of activities. Visitorship was up significantly and we are grateful to provide just what was needed for many people during these high stress times.

While this native habitat is actively growing we are too. We have plans to make improvements at the Atlantic Union Bank Center entrance-our upper entrance (R-5 Lot), with ample parking, this summer. Look for new split-rail fencing, and a welcome banner with some tweaking of the signage there to make it ever more apparent where to find the Arboretum entrance from this parking lot. In the works to follow later is a design that includes stone columns, an accessible landing pad and a new kiosk.

And for those of you looking for a creative challenge a decision was just made today by Arboretum staff to turn off the waterfall permanently. Because the waterfall is in a flood zone we encounter significant challenges with our waterfall pump when it floods so this decision brings simplicity and fewer maintenance costs due to flood damage from the silt clogging the pump. We are looking for good ideas for the use of this area that is currently surrounded by lovely plantings. Could it be transformed into a base for a sculpture? Perhaps a rock garden with plants that can handle intermittent flooding? Dismantle the rocks and plant it? Remember that it will flood there periodically and some years more often than not. Share your good ideas, whimsical and wild even, in our suggestion boxes on the grounds, or at ejcarboretum@jmu.edu.

Our tranquility gardens are getting care, attention and new plantings again and we hope that you’ll come visit the Mossylog Garden, the Shalom Garden or the Seatwall Garden this summer to sit a spell and relax…..May the Forest Be Your Sanctuary,

Jan Sievers Mahon | Arboretum Director

Summer Photo Gallery

From top to bottom, left to right: Indian Pink, Spigelia marilandica; Daylily, Hemerocallis species; Cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis; Butterflyflower/Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa; Coneflower 'Kismet Intense Orange', Echinacea hybrid; Foxtail Lily, Eremurus 'Orange Marmelade' & Eremurus stenophyllus; Cup Plant, Silphium perfoliatum; Threadleaf Coreopsis 'Zagreb', Coreopsis verticillata; Broad-leaved Helleborine, Epipactis helleborine; Hoary Skullcap, Scutellaria incana; Blue flag iris, Iris versicolor; Comfrey, Symphytum officinale; Rockin' Deep Purple Salvia, Salvia hybrid; Summer Snapdragron 'Angelface Blue', Angelonia hybrid; Garden Phlox 'Nicky', Phlox paniculata.

Become a Volunteer

Have you ever strolled through the arboretum and wondered how the gardens are planted and maintained? Oftentimes the answer is “volunteers”, and you could join them! With 125 acres and dozens of plantings to care for, the Arboretum’s full and part-time horticulture staff have their hands full, and general garden volunteers are invaluable in helping to plant, water, mulch and weed.

If you have a specific skill or interest, there are some special projects that might suit you.

If you’d like to focus on a specific garden area, we are looking for a new caretaker for the Shale Barren Garden. Virginia shale barrens are home to a unique group of plants that can take the severe conditions found in these sites. Our replicated shale bank requires focused attention to establish new additions and keep other species at bay. There is also a special team of volunteers working to restore and improve the Herb Garden. They generally meet on Monday mornings but additional members can help any day.

Floral Arrangements - If you like to cut and arrange flowers, we need at least one more volunteer to make arrangements for the Education Center and sometimes for special events.

Our growing team of Forest Stewards work together to help us tackle larger projects like invasive species removal (a year-round task), underbrush clearing, trail repair, pond planting and many other tasks that arise.

Educators & Tour Guides – We hope to resume children's programs once restrictions ease further, so if you have an interest in helping with these events in the future, let us know and we will keep you informed.

Our volunteers come from all walks of life and have all levels of experience – from students to retirees, from novices who want to learn to master gardeners and master naturalists, from avid home gardeners and birders to teachers and nature lovers. Whether you want to expand your horizons or have a passion that you want to share, you can find a place here.

Volunteer Benefits: Upon completion of their first 25 hours, new volunteers get a free Volunteer T-Shirt and one-year membership in the Friends of the Arboretum. Membership is automatically renewed as long as at least 25 hours per year of volunteer service is maintained. Member benefits include plant sale discounts and invitations to member-only events & pre-sales.

To become an EJC Arboretum Volunteer, you must be at least 18 years of age and attend a brief Volunteer Orientation. Sign up on our website or contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Janis Traas at 540-568-3194 or traasjm@jmu.edu.


Our Most Valued Living Garden Assets in the Landscape

Check out this tool that helps you determine dollar values to your landscape’s most valuable asset, your trees. Kudos to Casey Trees and Davey Tree Expert Co. for making it available to the public. Do note that, unfortunately, habitat services are not included in this calculator so that the five trees most highly recommended to increase your habitat diversity in support of songbirds and mammals; oak, cherry, birch, willow, and pine (Dr. Tallamy), do not have a habitat factor figured into it. And this is most important to consider when looking at what a tree provides in any setting. If you have any of the above trees do be sure to add on your own habitat value (perhaps it’s priceless?) when making your calculations.

Also, two books that come highly recommended by several “Friends of the Arboretum” are shown below. For some summer reading learn more about the intelligence and importance of trees growing all around you.

The Nature of Oaks by Douglas Tallamy

"A timely and much needed call to plant, protect, and delight in these diverse, life-giving giants." - David George Haskell, author of The Forest Unseen and The Songs of Trees

With Bringing Nature Home, Doug Tallamy changed the conversation about gardening in America. His second book, the New York Times bestseller Nature's Best Hope, urged homeowners to take conservation into their own hands. Now, he is turning his advocacy to one of the most important species of the plant kingdom--the mighty oak tree.

Oaks sustain a complex and fascinating web of wildlife. The Nature of Oaks reveals what is going on in oak trees month by month, highlighting the seasonal cycles of life, death, and renewal. From woodpeckers who collect and store hundreds of acorns for sustenance to the beauty of jewel caterpillars, Tallamy illuminates and celebrates the wonders that occur right in our own backyards. He also shares practical advice about how to plant and care for an oak, along with information about the best oak species for your area.

The Nature of Oaks will inspire you to treasure these trees and to act to nurture and protect them.

Read more about it at the link below:

Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest

In her first book, Simard brings us into her world, the intimate world of the trees, in which she brilliantly illuminates the fascinating and vital truths – that trees are not simply the source of timber or pulp, but are a complex, interdependent circle of life; that forests are social, cooperative creatures connected through underground networks by which trees communicate their vitality and vulnerabilities with communal lives not that different from our own. (suzannesimard.com/finding-the-mother-tree-book)

Kind Words

Really beautiful and The trails are really well-maintained. This is a really pretty area and there’s lots of woods to explore. You won’t get lost and the trails are wood chips so they are not muddy, even after a lot of rain. There’s a beautiful creek and when we went, there were no bugs. I would recommend that you go – this is not the typical Arboretum! - Jason C

We vacation at Massanutten resort and come here because its TRULY the best place to relax on a bench or the grass, read a book, or hike the paths. We love the pond. It's so serene here I wish there were more places like this. If you don't wanna sit and picnic on a bench simply hike back to the pavilion or pick a secluded bench off the trails. - Sharoni J


Artist Talk with Valentina DiMilo

Wednesday, June 30 | 12 PM - 1 PM

Meet at the Frances Plecker Education Center

Valentina DiMilo is an artist who divides her passion for art between working in oil, pastel, and watercolor. Each of these techniques allow her to express herself in unique ways. Valentina currently resides in Linden, Virginia where she works as an artist in oil, pastel and watercolor, expressing herself mostly using landscapes and portraits. She enjoys traveling both locally and around the world with her easel and puts whatever charming atmospheres she observes onto canvas or paper.

Her collection of paintings and sketches include the Shenandoah Valley, the Western United States, and even further into Europe and New Zealand.


Sound Bathing

Tuesday Evenings | July 13 & Aug 17 | 6:30 PM - 7:30 PM

$20 Per Session

Join Sound Healer and Yoga & Meditation Teacher Connie Magee for an etheric journey in the woods. Trees provide healing medicine for the soul, and the otherworldly tones of two large gongs and chimes provide a magical soundscape that dances within the sounds of nature. Find a comfortable spot on your yoga mat or lawn chair, settle into a guided mind-body meditation, and drift away. You'll notice the birds and woodland creatures connecting to the vibrations, and you will deeply relax and tune in simultaneously.

Meet at the Arboretum Pavilion


Pilates & Barre Fusion - 7 Week Series

Thursdays, July 8 - August 19 | 9:30 AM - 10:30 AM

This class combines the mind/body connection and deep core focus of Pilates with the muscle toning intensity of barre in order to strengthen the entire body. Each class will be different and may sometimes include tabata, HIIT, and other cardio styles along with traditional fitness movements. Options are offered for all fitness levels.