Spring 2020 EJC Arboretum

Dear Friends of the Arboretum,

In such uncertain and challenging times the Arboretum staff and I want to extend our understanding, and our shared disappointments and grief with the unfolding situation around the world, and right here in our own communities. Whether it's fear, panic or heartbreak that shows up for you I invite you to take a deep breath and find your ground. Sit or lie in the grass in your yard and feel the sun on your face. You are here and whole, and strong enough to carry such a heavy heart. Allow this grief, if you are a sensitive one. Allowing your feelings helps move it through your body.

We encourage you to take walks and get exercise, and when your own space is not enough the Arboretum has 125 acres of woodland sanctuary perfect for practicing social distancing via walks, runs, or mindful labyrinth contemplations. Steer clear of the more popular areas and look instead for a seat by the creek, or in one of our tranquility gardens. Consider bringing your own chair along if you can. Your mindful use of the spaces here will help keep the Arboretum open for everyone to enjoy. If you arrive to an overcrowded scenario please consider returning later or finding another outdoor destination to visit.

Simplicity often pays off and we are lucky to find ourselves in a situation that allows the Arboretum to do what it does best; provide comfort and a sense of normalcy through an infusion of nature available to any visitor, dawn to dusk. Because we do not have a pay-for-use garden that requires an indoor gateway to enter, we are able to close down our small education center and still provide what you come here to enjoy most. Many other public gardens that do not have such a welcome center design have made the difficult decision to close to prevent visitors and staff from sharing indoor spaces. Nature is unfolding the season here as it does each spring, and has always done, and it is a sight to behold.

For those of you who choose to keep your walks closer to home during this time please enjoy some virtual garden experiences through the videos below! The first is a quick introduction to many expansive formal gardens found throughout the world that you may want to learn about.

The next video below has wonderful ideas for repurposing items found in your home, attic or outdoor storage spaces into colorful and fun garden sculptures.

And lastly, the video below is an interview with a master container gardener at my favorite garden, Chanticleer, outside of Philadelphia in PA.

Now while you are at home is a great time to begin working on your containers. Consider consolidating several plants into one finished container, or adding seeds to empty containers and those with gaps to fill them up. Maybe try some vegetable seeds this year in your containers. (Best Vegetables to Grow in Containers)

We will miss seeing you at our spring plant sales this season. Please know that as soon as we are on the other side of this pandemic our plants will be available at the building for sale, or by appointment. If it’s an option we’d love to invite you to a big plant sale before spring is over in June to celebrate a return to our familiar ways of daily living!

For now, simply enjoy slowing down, and being with your loved ones, while finding opportunities right before you like ripe fruit ready for the picking. You know best what they are: rediscovering unfinished home and yard projects, starting a new garden, drawing or painting, cooking with wild plants from your yard, reading, simply being, watching the birds or flowers or both, tinkering, writing.... binge-watching your favorite old movies or unseen new Netflix series, crafting, sewing, quilting, or organizing your photos on your phone or the tools in your toolboxes. The options are endless for enjoying a simple life from home.

And for those of you still working and serving to carry the many of us, or some of us through this time we thank you and send our gratitude and blessings for good health to you.

Our good news is that we've had two generous gifts that were given in March. In the middle of this upheaval we received two directed gifts: one anonymous gift that will help us begin the shift from gasoline powered landscape equipment to battery powered equipment such as blowers, weed-eaters, edgers and a mower. We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to provide a fume-less, noise-reducing, lighter-weight option for the staff, for our visitors, and for the environment! Soon our staff may be so low-profile when working in the gardens that you may not notice the change at all.

I want to thank Dr. Deanna Bowman (JMU '62, Mathematics) for her generous gift of $5K to provide us with new ceramic planting containers and assist with plant purchases for our tranquility gardens. THANK YOU, Dr. B., you are our JMU Giving Day angel that showed up for the Arboretum in spite of an event cancellation!

If you are able and haven’t become a member of the Arboretum yet please consider doing so during this time to help support ongoing operations here that will take a significant loss this spring without our many fundraising events and programs to provide for the rest of the year.

The early spring and unseasonally high temperatures have set in motion a colorful menagerie of wildflowers blooming all at once right now. Bloodroot and bluebells, along with golden ragwort are blooming alongside one another amidst the many wildflowers expected to bloom this time of year. Along with them are the wood poppies with blossoms so short that they have barely risen above their green leaves; shining bright as golden lightbeams up from the forest floor. Trillium grandiflorum, along with the Toad-shade trilliums are blooming alongside one another and even the hostas and mayapples have begun their show. The blooming trees, magnolias, redbuds, serviceberries and even some emerging dogwood blossoms are all showing themselves together this year.

The Viburnum carlesii with its immensely fragrant globes are enticing noses right along with a show of purple and pink rhododendron flowers that you wouldn't normally find until late April or into May. Never in my life have I seen such a compressed woodland wildflower symphony of color and form emerge in unison! They are busy soaking up light before the shade blocks out their precious opportunity to complete their biological directive; reproduction. This memorable season of 2020 is highly unusual in many ways.

Whether you come to the Arboretum to leave your daily shelter-at-home for a breather, or to sweat it out; whether to weep your grief, or to skip or sing, and enjoy extra time with your family and children, you can find respite and solace in this woodland sanctuary. May you witness and remember the glory of spring whether by firsthand exploration on the ground or through the gallery of photos shared here. And may wellness and health be your best ally as you celebrate this truly unique and long-to-be-remembered spring.

Jan Sievers Mahon | Arboretum Director

Welcome Hannah!

EJC Arboretum Social Media Intern

Hannah Wangler, JMU 23'

We would love to give a warm welcome to our new Social Media Intern, Hannah Wangler! Hannah is a Shenandoah Valley native from Fishersville and a freshman Foreign Languages Major.

Hannah has had an interest in photography for years and knows the Arboretum well! She has brought this joy and enthusiasm to her work and we are thrilled to have her as part of our team!

Photo by Hannah

Spring Emerging at the Arboretum

The JMU Seed Library

Author: Hannah Wangler

Arboretum Social Media Intern

Imagine going to the library, but instead of borrowing books, you’re checking out seeds! At the Carrier Library at James Madison University, this idea becomes a reality. Co-founded by Liz Chenevey and Sarah Pritchard in February 2020, the Community Seed Library came to life.

The purpose of the Community Seed Library is to provide: free access to all, programming to share knowledge and skills relating to growing gardens and saving seeds, and relevant resources and information. At Carrier Library, you’ll find a filing cabinet filled with seeds arranged by plant families in alphabetical order, along with educational gardening brochures and envelopes to check out the seeds with. Types of seeds include vegetable, herb, and flower, particularly those that are heirloom or open-pollinated seeds and plants that are adaptable to Shenandoah Valley growing environments.

To borrow seeds from the Community Seed Library, take an envelope from the top of the filing cabinet and fill out one for each type of seed you plan to take. Instead of using a library card to check out seeds, there is a Seed Stamp to officiate the transaction. Simply stamp the envelope once it is filled out and take two or three seeds for each plant you intend to grow this season.

This library is run by the community, so donations are greatly accepted and appreciated. To donate, use the Seed Stamp and take an envelope for each type of seed you are donating or returning. Place the seeds in the cabinet alphabetically by family behind the proper divider.

For questions or bulk donations, please email seedlibrary@jmu.edu

**Please note - JMU Libraries are closed due to COVID-19 until further notice. Save the idea of a seed library visit for another month**

At Home Gardening Ideas

Wondering how you can improve and get to know your garden better during this time of quarantine? Here are some great go-to projects that you can do at home right now!

  • Organize your gardening tools and take inventory of what you have
  • Collect fallen branches to create a trellis for vining plants and vegetables. (How To)
  • Start seeds inside using old egg cartons
  • Forage edible wild plants from your backyard. Common species in our area includes - Spring Onions, Violets, Garlic Mustard Greens, Wood Sorrel and Chickweed. (Some resources: The Virginian Pilot, Good Housekeeping, Wild Edible)
  • Create a compost Pile (Getting Started)

April's At-Home Photo Contest

Photo by Hannah Wangler

We're changing things up for our April Photo Contest! Since we are all spending more time at home, we want to see how spring is unfolding in your garden! Send us up to 3 images taken within the month of April from your garden, your neighborhood walk, or even your windowsill - we want to see it! Submit pictures to our Facebook page below!


While our April & May events have been cancelled or postponed, we encourage you to visit our website for available resources including:

For the Kids!

Please keep in mind

The Frances Plecker Education Center and restrooms are not currently open to the public.

Please use the R-5 parking lot for overflow parking at the top of the Arboretum on busy days. Remember to honor 6' social distancing. Thank you!

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EJC Arboretum