Green Flag
Newsletter of the Foundation of the State Arboretum                                            Summer 2012
Upcoming Events
This fairy swing was made during last year's Annual Meeting.
FOSA Annual Meeting & Member Picnic is June 23
The Foundation will host members and visitors for the Annual Meeting and Member Picnic beginning at 3 p.m. June 23. Hamburgers and hot dogs are on the menu, and children can build fairy houses in our enchanted forest.
The Banana Express Band will perform folk and bluegrass music in the amphitheater beginning at 5 p.m. The public is welcome to join us for the concert for $7 per person. FOSA members attend the concert at no charge.


Bring your own beverages and a blanket or chairs, as the amphitheater provides a beautiful spot for an outdoor concert but no seating is provided. In case of rain the concert will move inside.


Reservations are encouraged and may be made by email to or by calling 540-837-1758 Ext. 224.

Summer Programs

At the Arboretum


Your garden is planted, there isn't a weed in sight, so what to do with your free time? Simple -- take a look at upcoming public programs at Blandy, many perfect for the whole family!


July and August are bookended by full moon hikes, which have proven popular. We never know exactly what we'll see, hear, or smell, but these walks are a great opportunity to appreciate the natural world at night. This summer will also offer a "march" through some of Blandy's more interesting habitats. On July 6, we bring back a popular program from last summer that begins with a short introduction to our butterflies, then moves outside, binoculars in hand.


Next we move to a "Celebration of Bats," in which we'll hear about the health and welfare of Virginia's bats, then learn of threats such as white nose syndrome. We'll have books and bat houses on hand, and we'll end (weather permitting) with a look at bats on the property. Along the way we will demonstrate our new bat detector, which converts a bat's ultrasonic communications to frequencies we can hear.


Moving to daylight and closer to the ground, we'll have a program about dragonflies, then again head out on a search. Blandy is home to several species of dragonflies and damselflies, which can usually be found patrolling their territories over our ponds.


We end July with a movie, a summer tradition. This year we'll watch The Clean Bin Project, which documents a challenge between two friends to see who can generate less trash over the course of a year. The ends they go to are quite amazing and often funny -- but their good-natured rivalry points out real issues in our consumption of goods and generation of trash.


We turn the corner into August with a workshop in which we will create our own backyard field guides. Bring your ideas and creativity and leave with the beginnings of a field guide that you and your family can add to as you encounter birds, mammals, insects, plants, or whatever else finds its way to your yard, whether you live in town or on hundreds of wooded acres.


Surely there is something here to interest you! Have a look at the summer program brochure then call the Blandy office (540-837-1758 Ext. 224) to register.


See you this summer!

Fairest of the Fair
FOSA Board Vice President Sylvia Wilson tends a small garden plot on the Clarke County Fairgrounds in Berryville, where she placed an Arboretum brochure box to alert Fair visitors about the Arboretum.
This year's Fair is set for Aug. 12-18.
We think the garden plot is the belle of the ball and the "fairest" of them all. Thanks Sylvia!
Do You Hear Voices? We Do!

Nine of the Arboretum's trees now have their own phone numbers, and each has a story to tell.


Visitors can call a tree to learn why the British forbade the cutting of white pine by colonists, which tree is used to make pencils, where the ashes of the Arboretum's founder are buried, what is the most shade tolerant tree of the eastern forest, and much more.


You will encounter the first dial-a-tree directly south from the archway at the Quarters. Just look for a small sign with the symbol of a telephone and call the number or scan the QR code and hear a one-minute story about the cultural or ecological importance of the tree.


The five readers of the stories were among 100 people who submitted auditions to be the voice of our trees. The voices belong to Don Richards, Marsha Moseley, Mike O'Dell, Mary Jane Kirkland, and Katherine Kahler. Thanks to each of them for their effort.


It was great to have so many people wanting to speak, and now there is something to hear. Please come, and bring your phone!

FOSA Hosts 23rd Annual Garden Fair

Garden Fair 2012 will likely be remembered as one of the most successful events in Arboretum history. Throngs of visitors lined the event field, filling their Garden Fair wagons with plants and returning for more.


Some vendors said this was their most profitable Garden Fair ever, and the parking area was convincing evidence of the numbers of visitors. Cars were parked in the farthest corners of the field, well beyond the area normally used to park visitors.


With some vendors occupying two or even three booth spaces, more than 100 vendor spaces filled the field with an outstanding selection of annuals, perennials, native plants, small trees, and shrubs, as well as garden art, copper sculptures, photography, garden tools, hats, and much more. Vendors from as far away as Michigan and Ohio sold their goods at Garden Fair.


Garden Fair is underwritten by BB&T with additional support from Bartlett Tree Experts, Impressions Plus, Nancy Sanders Video Production, Panera Bread, and Shade Tree Farm. A massive landscape display was at the center of Shade Tree Farm's booth, along with a huge tree spade that workers used to move two large pine trees as a demonstration during the weekend.


Preview Night, the traditional Friday night kickoff to Garden Fair, saw the largest crowds in anyone's memory. Nearly 300 visitors enjoyed first pick of plants as well as light hors d'oeuvres and beer and wine. The festive atmosphere provided the perfect setting to enjoy an evening at the Arboretum.


Garden Fair is FOSA's largest and most important annual fund-raising event. Proceeds support virtually every aspect of the Arboretum from plant collections to programs and educational activities.


More Garden Fair photos here.

Student Researchers Arrive for Summer

Now that the academic year is over, some 27 undergraduate and graduate students have arrived at Blandy to kick off their summer research projects. The biggest and most visible group of students is participating in the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program. The program, funded by the National Science Foundation and private donations, admits college students primarily from institutions where the student has little or no opportunity to conduct research. During the 11-week program, students select a mentor whose research interests align with their own and then carry out an independent research project. In addition, the students participate in a diversity of workshops focusing on scientific practices and skills necessary for a professional environmental biologist.

What the Heck is That? 


It's a gypsy moth trap. Graduate student Jonathan Walter and Blandy Associate Director Kyle Haynes use the traps to determine how far male gypsy moths travel in search of mates, and also to measure the population densities of gypsy moths.


The 10 students participating in the REU program this summer hail from colleges and universities scattered around the country. One of our REU students, Staige Davis, studies at University of Virginia. Two students, Kristen Ocasio and Patricia Repollet, have joined us from two different University of Puerto Rico campuses. Other students who travelled many miles to arrive at Blandy include Amy Moorhouse from Minnesota State University at Moorehead, Casey McCabe from Earlham College in Indiana, and Dawn Ruiz from Central Florida University. In addition, we are joined by Calyn Harrigan and Karis Norwood from Howard University in Washington, D.C., Megan Grandinetti from Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, and Monika Hayleck from Elon University in North Carolina.


Nine graduate students are also conducting research at Blandy this summer as part of their masters or doctoral studies. Zhe Bao, a Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech, has returned to Blandy for her second summer. She has constructed a large research plot enclosed in deer fencing in order to study the effects of a nonnative invasive tree, known as tree of heaven (Ailanthus), on the native flora. The eight remaining graduate students all study at University of Virginia. Gerry Woodworth, for example, is examining the impacts of white-tailed deer on native plants and Rea Manderino is busily identifying the moths she collected last summer in a study aimed at learning the effects of gypsy moth outbreaks on the native moths in our local forests.

New Lab Transforms Blandy

The new Blandy Field Lab officially opens this month. We have been moving in for the past couple of weeks, and faculty members have been giving tours to our new students, the Blandy staff, and a number of visitors. Since not everyone will be able to tour the lab in person, this newsletter provides an opportunity to provide a virtual tour for all Arbor Vitae readers.


The tour starts on the outside of the building. The lab's 4000 square feet include an expansive porch that is intended to be working lab space. As many of you know, most of the researchers who come to Blandy conduct a large part of their research in the field, but almost all of them bring samples back to the lab - water, soil, plants, insects, etc. The first chore is often clean-up, and the lab porch is furnished with 2 sinks, electrical outlets, and we'll furnish it with tables so that researchers can clean and sort specimens outside before bringing dirt and debris into the lab.


Once you walk through the The Processing Room with one of the Controlled Environmental Rooms at the far endlab doors you enter the processing room. This room is designed to prepare specimens for storage or further analysis. The room contains sinks, drying ovens, refrigerators, freezers (both standard and cryogenic), herbarium cabinets, and insect cabinets. One of the design features of the lab was to house the equipment that produces a large heat load (primarily the ovens and freezers) in a single room to make it easier to keep the building at a comfortable temperature in a cost-effective manner.


Continue the Tour

Undergraduate Researcher Kellen Paine helps Nature Camp students during last year's program.
Kids Become Scientists at Summer Nature Camp

As the calls and laughter of children fade with the end of the school year, reinforcements are close behind, for Blandy's Summer Nature Camp soon begins. We'll offer three, week-long day camps, two for rising 1st-4th graders and one for rising 5th-8th graders. The first two will take advantage of our newly redesigned Peetwood Pavilion, while camp for the older kids is based in the Parkfield Learning Center (PLC).


Summer Camp kicks off with "Animals without Skeletons" (July 9-13), in which we will investigate the world of our smallest residents, from earthworms and snails, to butterflies, beetles, and water fleas. We have no plans to include ticks. Activities will include observing, collecting, identifying, and maintaining habitats for our most abundant residents.


In "Living in Nature" (July 16-20), we'll investigate how organisms use and modify their environments, and we'll consider how humans do the same. Both camps include observation, experiments, crafts, games, and more, and we provide drinks and snacks.


In the third camp (July 23-27), our EcoExplorers take a more experimental approach, identifying a question, figuring out a way to answer it, collecting field data, and presenting their results on the last morning. Parents and others are invited to this wrap-up to a week of hard work and fun.


As ArborVitae nears completion, final preparations are underway and only a handful of openings in camp remain. Stay tuned to hear what amazing things we discover along the way.


For more information about Summer Nature Camp, call 540-837-1758 Ext. 224 or visit the Summer Nature Camp web page.

 Blandy Purple Martin Colony Thrives

Ted Saunders and Kaycee Lichliter recently  added two new Purple Martin houses  to the Shenandoah Audubon/Blandy Purple Martin Colony near Lake Arnold.  It was so very exciting because within 10 minutes of lifting the first new house into place, purple martins began landing on it and checking it out. 


Purple martins gather at one of the martin houses at Blandy.

Kaycee said last season  she remembers counting 14 purple martins at one time; this season, there are so many purple martins, she could not get an accurate individual head count.  Guessing, she said there are more than 50.  Check out the purple martin colony and try to get your own count and let her know what you think.


The pair also placed a 4x4 pressure-treated post at the center of the colony for the signage.  Kaycee will order a purple martin crossing sign from the Purple Martin Conservation Association and a small plaque indicating the purple martin colony is a project of Shenandoah Audubon.  She will also order two plaques that will be placed on the two new houses in memory of Greg Baruffi, a past-president of Shenandoah Audubon who lost his life in a car accident in 2007. 


Ted and Kaycee observed that one particular martin house seemed to be the "community roosting spot" for many of the purple martins.  The two are already discussing plans for growing this colony.   


It is simply delightful to stand below a swirling mass of birds.  If your spirit needs uplifting, give it to the wings of a purple martin and you'll be assured of walking with a lighter step.