Newsletter of the Foundation of the State Arboretum                 Spring 2016
Watch for
Preview Night
FOSA members will receive an invitation by email to join us for Preview Night Friday, May 6, from 5-7:30 p.m.
Members enjoy first pick of Garden Fair plants at Preview Night, as well as music, refreshments, and free admission to Garden Fair all weekend long.
Preview Night admission is $28 per person in advance, or $38 after May 4 or at the door.

or call 540-837-1758 Ext. 224 from 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Docent Training Begins in April
We often receive requests for Arboretum tours and programs from garden clubs, community and senior centers, service organizations,
nonprofits, and others.

We accommodate as many as possible, but there are times when we have to say no or suggest a different time for a visit. One way around this dilemma is to have volunteers -- docents -- trained and available to assist with or lead tours and to help with programs. A small group already does this, but we'd like to increase the number of volunteers eager to share what they know and love about Blandy.
Beginning in April, a series of four training sessions will be offered. We will cover key aspects of Blandy's collections, gardens, and cultural and natural history. Training will include guided walks, short presentations on select topics (e.g., pollinators, the Arboretum collection, Blandy history, perennial gardens), and relevant reference materials. The goal is to make us informed guides, not experts on Blandy and its plant and animal residents.
Training sessions will include four two-hour meetings as a group, with additional time available as requested by participants. Dates and meeting times will be determined by those who express interest.
Whether you've spent years walking Blandy's grounds or are a recent enthusiast of our landscape and collections, if you love the natural world and would like to share what you know with visitors, please contact Steve Carroll (, 540-837-1758 Ext. 287). Somewhere out there is a tour group with your name on it!

27th Annual Garden Fair Is May 7 & 8
Annual Sale is Highlight of Mother's Day Weekend
Virginia's best garden party returns for its 27th season as Garden Fair marks Mother's Day Weekend, May 7 & 8, from 9 to 4:30 both days.

Garden Fair is the Foundation of the State Arboretum's largest and most important annual fundraiser. Nearly 100 vendors will offer native plants, small trees, herbs, annuals, perennials, berry bushes, boxwood, and much more. Fine items for home and garden and several food booths will also be among the vendor lineup.

FOSA members will receive an email invitation to Preview Night, Friday, May 6, from 5-7:30 p.m. Members enjoy first pick of plants as well as music, refreshments, and free admission to Garden Fair.

Garden Fair proceeds support programs and events all year long. It's a great way to support your Arboretum and find some new additions for your garden and landscape.

Admission is $15 per car, but you can save 20 percent by paying online in advance through the Arboretum's secure online payment site.

Garden Fair is underwritten by BB&T. For more information call 540-837-1758 Ext. 224 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or email

Spring Gardening Season Begins
Join Us in the Gardens 9 a.m.-Noon
The 2016 gardening season gets under way at the Arboretum beginning March 30. Shake off the winter blues by joining us in the gardens!
Here's the schedule:

Herb Garden, Tuesdays starting April 5
Native Plant Trail, Wednesdays starting March 30
Perennial Garden, Thursdays starting April 7

No experience is necessary, and we'll provide tools. Come meet new friends, learn new skills, and put your expertise to work. You'll see why we say "We grow more than just plants!"

For more information and to register, contact Koy Mislowsky,
Volunteer Coordinator, at 540-837-1758 ext. 246 or
Artist's rendering shows new greenhouse next to the existing lab.

Construction Begins on New Greenhouse, Cottages
Limited Space Hinders Growth of Research Program
By Dave Carr
Director, Blandy Experimental Farm
It is finally happening. Earlier this week construction began on projects that have been years in development. A contract was awarded to Nielsen Construction of Harrisonburg to build a new research greenhouse and two new cottages. Project completion is expected by 29 July 2016.
The new greenhouse will replace the failing 75-year-old facility that has been my research home at Blandy since I arrived. I won't miss the leaking roof, the crumbling walls, or the deep shade that confounded my efforts to grow my plants. The new greenhouse will have the same square footage under glass (about 2,000 sq. ft.), but its design will allow for a much more efficient layout of the benches, providing almost 50 percent more growing space. In addition to the growing space, the new facility will include a 500 sq. ft. head house where we will store soil and pots and conduct the work that doesn't require plants to be under glass. The new research greenhouse will be funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation's Field Station and Marine Lab program.
Built in 1999, Blandy's two cottages have been full every summer since then.
The two new cottages are designed to allow for growth in our research program. The original two cottages were built in 1999 and have been full each summer since. The lack of additional housing on site has limited our ability to attract summer research faculty to Blandy, and, unfortunately, we have had to turn down requests in recent years. The ability to serve faculty from other institutions is an important part of Blandy's mission and is essential for our reputation as a national resource. This reputation not only allows us to attract novel and high-quality research to Blandy, it helps make the case for continued support from national funding agencies like NSF. One of the things that attracts researchers to field stations like Blandy is the sense of community among people with shared interests, and doubling our number of cottages will move us closer to our goal of creating a "Research Village."
Although construction will carry on through the spring and most of the summer, we anticipate minimal disruption to normal Blandy activities.  Nielsen is dedicated to ensuring a safe work environment as well as providing us high-quality buildings that will help launch a new era of research at Blandy.
Arboretum Petiquette: Teach Your Pet Proper Manners
Pets Should Be Leashed Near Buildings and Parking Areas
Blandy wishes to thank our many visitors who come here on a regular basis to enjoy our grounds with their canine companions.  
Pets Blandy is one of the very few public places in our area with a policy that permits dogs to be off leash on parts of the property.  

We recognize how much dog owners value this rare privilege, and we are grateful that they are working with us in observing the leash restrictions (anywhere within 200 yards of our buildings) that make our overall policy possible. Also, pet waste stations are located near the main parking lot, and at some loop drive stops. Please pick up and dispose of pet waste properly.
Our goal is to ensure a safe, enjoyable, and educational experience for all of our visitors, including those with four legs.
See our website for a full description of Blandy's pet policy. 
2016 Marks 30 Years as State Arboretum
Renew Your Membership at Garden Fair and Save 30%
By Martha Bjelland
Director, Foundation of the State Arboretum
As FOSA's Director, I am so pleased to share that 2016 is the 30th anniversary of the State Arboretum of Virginia designation. We will be marking this milestone throughout the year. During Garden Fair (May 7 and 8) FOSA will offer 30 percent off new and renewal membership rates. We hope you will take advantage of this 30 percent savings in person at Garden Fair, because on July 1, 2016, we have to increase rates to help with increasing expenses. FOSA has kept its rates the same for well over 10 years, but not so for our growing expenses. Your membership helps FOSA contribute to the upkeep and outreach here at the State Arboretum at UVa's Blandy Experimental Farm. Thank you for your support! And stay tuned for more on our 30th anniversary Treasure Hunt in June. 

Spring Programs Feature Literature, Film, and More
Photo Workshop Will Focus on "Macro in the Garden"
By Steve Carroll
Director of Public Programs
March may or may not go out like a lamb this year, but either way, by month's end we will have enjoyed the first four public programs of the spring season. But don't go anywhere -- there are many more to follow!
Click the image for the complete brochure.
This spring we explore nature in a variety of ways. We'll do some walking: on a free arboretum tour April 6th, in a guided walking meditation workshop, on a field trip to the Thompson Wildlife Management Area, and on a full moon walk in May.
We will explore nature through literature during Andrea Wulf's third visit to Blandy on April 17th, when she will share with us her latest book, The Invention of Nature. And on the third Thursday of each month (except November and December), we examine and discuss the natural world at our Blandy Book Club gatherings.
We will also view nature through photography and film. Doug Graham and Tim Farmer offer their third photo workshop May 10th, this one titled "Macro Photography in the Garden." Two days later, T'ai Roulston hosts a program that will feature the Smithsonian film, "Secrets of the Hive," which was shot in part at Blandy and features T'ai and his students.
We wrap up spring with "Backyard Pharmacy," an examination of common herbs and backyard plants by Registered Medical Herbalist Geo Derick Giordano on May 15th; and a second spring full moon walk May 22nd.
See something you like? Register online anytime or by calling 540-837-1758 Ext. 224 Monday through Friday 1-5 p.m. 
If Gardens Could Talk...
Gardens are a Mirror of Life's Tragedies and Triumphs
By Steve Carroll
Director of Public Programs
The Blandy Community Garden begins its ninth season this spring. Much has happened during those years -- in the world, at Blandy, and in the gardening and personal lives of those who tend our plots.

A tragic death
The birth of a child
Illness and poor health
New and close friendships
Plants destroyed by moles, squash bugs, and Japanese beetles
County Fair Blue-Ribbon winners
Deleted photos
Professional filming
Lost tools
Found objects

Blood and blisters
Bigger muscles
Support from local businesses
Donations to local service groups
Gardeners worn down by the long season
Help from enthusiastic, knowledgeable volunteers
Total failures
Wild successes
Shared harvests
Our first pot-luck dinner
Come watch us grow!
Blandy's Summer Nature Camp Begins in June
Campers Explore Science and Nature
Blandy's Summer Nature Camp is taking on a whole new look!  This year we offer full day and half day camps, with three fun-filled weeks of science activities, games, nature exploration, and an opportunity to learn from camp leaders and our undergraduate researchers!

Our first two camps, for rising 2nd-4th graders, cater to younger scientists. Our third camp, for rising 5th-8th graders, is more investigative.

Wetland Wonders, June 27-29, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Rising 2nd-4th grade
In this three day camp we will spend six hours per day "wading" through the world of wetlands! We'll discover creatures above and below the water's surface and explore their aquatic habitat. Come learn about Blandy's wetlands through games, crafts, hands-on investigations, and more!

Eat or Be Eaten, July 11-15, 9 a.m.-Noon
Rising 2nd-4th grade
Predator! Prey! Hunter! Gatherer! Campers will explore the world of predators and prey in an exciting week of solving puzzles, finding clues, and observing nature in action. Get an up-close look at Blandy's habitats and learn how organisms hunt, hide, escape, and survive.

EcoExplorers, July 18-22, 9 a.m.-Noon
Rising 5th-8th grade
Did you know Blandy is an Ecological Field Research Station? This means that we have scientists conducting research and experiments on site. Join us this week and begin research of your own! Student scientists work in pairs and under the guidance of our staff to identify a question, design a field experiment, and collect and analyze data. On the last day, our young scientists present their results to campers, Blandy staff, and family members.

See us on Facebook (search Blandy Summer and Winter Nature Camp) for photos, descriptions, and more information and updates. Visit under "Programs & Events" for details and a link to the registration page. Space is limited, so register early. Scholarships are available. For information call 540-837-1758 Ext. 224 Monday through Friday 1-5 p.m.
Eastern Redbud: More Than Just A Pretty Face
Early Flowers Mark the Beginning of Spring
By T'ai Roulston
The eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) is well loved, commonly planted, and native to most of the eastern United States. It has few detractors, mainly contrarians that denigrate anything common and literalists who find the buds and flowers not sufficiently red to earn the name. Aside from these minor blemishes, it is a plant to behold, propagate and appreciate, from both an aesthetic and an ecological viewpoint.
As a wild plant, it is home in open woodlands, especially the edge where forest yields to field or roadside, lots of light but not too dry. As a small tree, it goes unnoticed until just before bloom, when the rose-pink flowers burst from clustered buds along the stems. Their sprays of color stand out even more when the backdrop is leafless trunks of oaks and maples, a wispy pink before a wall of gray. As much as we appreciate it, we are not their biggest fans. The eastern redbud is a key floral resource for many of our bees. 

When the redbud blooms, in March or April depending on the spring, bumble bee queens have just emerged from a hole they dug last fall and seek to start a colony. At first, they feed themselves on nectar and pollen and then they search the ground for an abandoned mouse nest or some other hidden cavity to rear their young. When that is found, they collect nectar and pollen to feed their first workers, which they alone must rear for several weeks. It is a dangerous time to be a bumble bee queen. They must leave their nest to forage, leaving no protection for their developing offspring. They themselves are large and plump, a tempting morsel for a hungry bird, so each time they leave the nest they risk their own life and that of their offspring. So at that time of year, finding plants with lots of flowers rich with pollen and nectar is key: the more flowers in the landscape, the less time they and their offspring are exposed.

Redbud is a great plant for them to find. All of the six common bumble bee species at Blandy forage on redbud. In the woodland section of the Native Plant Trail, they link the redbuds with their flight, moving tree to tree like hikers who hop on stones to cross a river. Whole trees are full of them, their legs swelling with pollen as flower petals fall below. In our area it may be the most important tree for bumble bees, ensuring success for the colonies that will later converge on milkweed, bee balm and our garden vegetables. Many other bee species use it too. The blue orchard bee, a native species that helps pollinate our fruit trees, has been shown to collect mostly redbud pollen in Virginia before the orchards bloom. A study that examined how many warm days in spring it takes the blue orchard bee to emerge from its nest concluded that it seems to use the same temperature cues used by redbuds to flower, thus always emerging at a good time to find redbud in bloom. When you see the redbuds this year look to see who found it first.
The eastern redbud is widespread in the eastern United States. It hits all states outside New England (I too, no longer tolerate that cold). To the west, it skips the northern prairie and peters out in the face of the western deserts. A couple of varieties, C. canadensis texensis and C. canadensis mexicana, push the species into Texas but that's about as dry and hot as it wants to go. The western species (California redbud or western redbud) continues the redbud line all the way to the west coast, so almost all of the continental United States has a redbud species the locals can champion.
As a horticultural tree, it is easy to grow. It can take full sun or substantial shade, tolerate soils from alkaline to acidic, and is tolerant of pollutants like ozone, which has helped boost its recent popularity as a street tree. It grows quickly and lives a decent life, 50-75 years. It is not without disease, fungal canker being among the worst, but it still tends to live quite a while even when infected. Old redbuds often grow flowers directly from their trunks, something called cauliflory, a common trait in tropical trees but rare in temperate. Several of the older ones in the Native Plant Trail do this, but it's not known why it happens. Like people, even old trees can grow things in unusual places.
As easy as it is to grow, it still has some enemies in the wild. One of our most serious invasive plants in our forests is the Amur honeysuckle, which often forms dense thickets in the understory where redbud tends to grow. Not only will the honeysuckle steal the light, it also puts allelochemicals into the soil that inhibit the growth of other plants, redbud especially.
Some may know the redbud as the Judas tree. The very similar European redbud, Cercis siliquastrum, is called the Judas tree because Judas Iscariot was said to have hanged himself on the tree after betraying Christ, causing the pure white flowers to become tinged with blood. If you prefer less shame and sacrifice in your selection of ornamental trees, pre-betrayal colors ('Alba') are available in both the European and the American species. Either way, it is an important tree of the forest that also enlivens the yard in spring.
Some Arboretum Residents Have Historical Roots
Dr. White's Worldwide Network Contributed Plants, Seeds
By Chris Schmidt
Arboretum Assistant
Other than the traditional botanical sources, many famous and historical sites were the origin of plant material for the State Arboretum of Virginia. Even though not all of these specimens survived to make it onto the arboretum grounds, it is truly amazing to see the extent to which Dr. White went in order to obtain seed and plant material for his new project.

An entry in the first accession book mentions 100 narcissus plants given in 1930 by a Mrs. Henry of Red Hill, the home of Patrick Henry. Swamp bay plants were brought back in 1939 from Virginia's Dismal Swamp, while crinum bulbs were collected in the Florida Everglades in the 1950s.  Swamp Oak acorns were acquired in 1939 from Orton Plantation which was built in 1735 in southern North Carolina. Lotus plants were brought from the College of William and Mary in 1939. 

Anne Langbein Stiff, a student studying under Dr. White from 1949-1950, mentions in her memoirs lotus blooming in Lake Georgette.  In 1940, one plant of Vinca major was brought from the Governor's Palace Gardens in Williamsburg.  A willow oak grown from acorns Dr. White collected from the estate of James L. Coker, a wealthy businessman in South Carolina whose son became the head of the Botany Department of the University of North Carolina, survived for 50 years (until 1991) at Blandy. Plant material was also collected from the White Mountains in New Hampshire, the Skyline Drive in Virginia, Hillwood, the Washington, D.C., estate of the Postum Cereal Co. heiress, Marjorie Merriweather Post, and "In the Woods," Dr. David Fairchild's Maryland estate.  Dr. Fairchild was a plant pathologist, botanist, and plant explorer for the USDA.  Dr. Fairchild was instrumental in introducing the cherry trees to the city of Washington, D.C.

Dr. Orland E. White
In 1952 Dr. White himself collected Barberia cristata from Ludlow Castle in Dehli. This castle was built in the early 1800s as a home for the British Resident Surgeon for the East India Company.  Unfortunately, the plant was not hardy here. Several plant specimens were obtained from Fruitlands Nursery in Augusta, Ga.  This famous peach nursery was founded in the late 1800s and later became the Augusta National Golf Club.

Many new plants arrived from the western U.S., some from locations that had just recently been designated as part of the national or state park system. Sadly, the last specimen of Fraxinus velutina, velvet ash, was removed from the arboretum in 1990. It had been grown from seed collected in 1949 from Montezuma Castle National Monument, in Arizona, by a colleague of Dr.White's from Morris Arboretum. Ten seedlings of Cherrystone juniper sent from the superintendent of Longhorn Caverns State Park were planted at Blandy in 1937. One still survives near the amphitheater. Plants were sent from Yosemite Park in 1938 and mountain hemlock seed was sent to the arboretum from the same source in 1940.

Dr. White did not leave any plant untried or any location worldwide unexplored for specimens.  He used his various educational and societal connections to acquire plant material from all over the globe.  He was willing to grow specimens from seed, cuttings, or seedlings.  He desired his arboretum to display plants from all over the world, both agricultural and ornamental, and he enthusiastically trialed them all.