Newsletter of the Foundation of the State Arboretum Fall 2017
The second annual 5k Walk for Blandy kicks off Saturday, Oct. 14, at 8:30 a.m. at the Peetwood Pavilion. It's a great way to show your support for the Arboretum and also enjoy the rolling terrain of the Arboretum grounds. The cost, which includes free admission to ArborFest all weekend, is $20 in advance or $25 the day of the event. Teams are encouraged and dogs on leash are welcome. For more information call 540-837-1758 Ext. 221.
ArborFest is Oct. 14 & 15
Fall Festival is an Arboretum Favorite
ArborFest, the Arboretum's popular fall festival and plant sale, is set for Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 14 & 15, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. The event will feature dozens of plant vendors from around the region as well as music, children's activities, guided tours, and new this year, a dog agility demonstration. H
ay rides, hard cider tasting, and live alpacas are some of the other attractions. The cost is $10 per car, but you can save 50% and pay just $5 if you register and pay online by Oct. 13. You can take advantage of this great deal through our website anytime at
or call 540-837-1758 Ext. 224 1-5 M-F.
The End of an Era
Bob Arnold to Retire Aft
er More than 42 Years
By Tim Farmer
Public Relations Coordinaor
At the end of October, Blandy Arborist Bob Arnold will retire and leave the place that has been not just his job, but also his home for more than 42 years. Bob is the longest-serving employee ever to work at Blandy, at least as far as anyone here can determine. He's lived a
t Blandy the entire time, first in the Quarters before later moving into the curator's home.
Farming has always been at the center of Bob
Arnold's life. His father, grandfather, and a great uncle all farmed the fertile ground of eastern Maryland, near Upper Marlboro. A neighbor's farm bordered Belt Woods, described as the last stand of virgin hardwood in the mid-Atlantic region.
Bob and his two brothers helped their father grow 10 acres of labor-intensive tobacco on their 25-acre farm. It was the early 1970s, and because of rapidly encroaching development, many farms were selling out. Many families quit farming altogether and found work elsewhere.
"My father leased land from over a dozen farmers and we had more than 800 acres of corn and soybeans in production. We also grew wh
eat and lespedeza hay. We baled and sometimes cut other peoples' hay. We had two combines and two grain trucks we used to harvest over 1,000 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat, oats and rye for other farmers." It was a major operation, but times were changing. Land values were skyrocketing, and development pressure was intense.
hen Lion Count
ry Safari bought his father's farm, his dad purchased a 300-acre cattle farm along the North River in Delray, W.V. Bob was sent ahead alone to care for 108 head of cattle. He also cut, baled, and stored that year's hay and repaired fences and buildings. Once his dad and two brothers finished winding down farming operations in Maryland, the rest of the family joined Bob in West Virginia. But more changes were rattling the marketplace. In 1973 angry mothers and activists called for a beef boycott aimed at bringing meat prices back down to 1967 levels, President Richard Nixon announced price ceilings, and American farmers complained that they could not make a living.
It became clear to Bob's family that there would no longer be a family farm operation involving three sons on a cattle farm in West Virginia.
Such was the environment when Bob Arnold went to the Virginia Employment Commission and was referred to a place called Blandy Experimental Farm that needed a groundsman.
"Since we also had a farm in West Virginia, I'd driven past this place for years," Bob says. But his first visit was for his job interview in March of 1974.
He arrived to find a line of impressive white pines along the one-lane gravel entrance road, and a complete conifer allee from a corner of that small road to where the Peetwood Pavilion is now.
During that interview, Bob recalls sitting across from Blandy Director Tom Ewert and Arboretum Superintendent Russ Edwards, both with their dogs in tow. There were large potted orange and coffee trees inside the library. A fire in the fireplace took the chill off the early March day. "They asked me what I thought of the place," he says. "I said I thought it would be an interesting place to work." He was right, and it was the only place he would work for the next 42 years.
He was hired as a "groundsman," at a salary of $6,900 a year. He worked on tractors and other equipment, and spent a lot of time cutting grass and brush. He also did building maintenance, painted roofs, fixed plumbing, and rebuilt stone walls.
Blandy was a working farm at that time, and Ewert had established a relationship with Lord Fairfax Community College, to allow their students to use some of Blandy's 700 acres to raise cattle and sheep. Blandy also raised cattle as well as feed crops for the livestock. The operations were separate, but both benefited from the shared experience.
Ewert saw a larger picture though, and worked extensively to open Blandy to the public. He established programs with local schools and garden clubs. Bob remembers using Blandy's 1974 dump truck to haul a gazebo to garden shows at the National Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., Tyson's Corner, Springfield Mall, and Front Royal. "We set up in church halls in Mount Jackson and Flint Hill, fire halls, school gyms, wherever there was some kind of garden show. Nobody knew anything about Blandy, so we were trying hard to spread the word. I'm sure we did more than 20 of these events."
Blandy had no real public programs at all, and with a staff of just five, no one to present programs if they did have them. But if a school bus pulled up Bob would dutifully lead the group on a tour; if there were two buses he would recruit a co-worker to help. "But it was nothing like it is today, with multiple buses coming several times a week, he said."
It seems that nothing is ever like it was "back in the day," whenever that day was. "It's sad to see the farm part of thi
ngs change," Bob says. Blandy leases a portion of its 700 acres to a neighboring farmer for cattle and feed production, but since UVa doesn't have an agriculture or horticulture program, Blandy has no academic involvement in those areas of study.
"I do have to give credit for the expansion of the research program," Bob says. Early on he shared greenhouse space not only with Blandy researchers but also Lord Fairfax students and occasionally a volunteer with a particular project. "It was pretty tight," he says.
With his interest in science and a degree in chemistry from Shepherd University in West Virginia, Bob says the research has always been most interesting to him. Bob helped with some of the research early in his career, and he recalls putting out smudge pots filled with kerosene to try to keep alive through a cold snap the leaf miners that Director Ed Connor was studying.
In the 1950s, Blandy faculty conducted research into the effects of radiation on plants, particularly corn. A chain link fence still surrounded the concrete-lined pit when Bob arrived at Blandy, but the cobalt radiation source had been removed years before. "I sent off for irradiated seeds as a kid, so to then see the radiation pit here was really neat."
Most recently Bob has been removing trees from Blandy's two chestnut test plots. Nearly 500 trees were thinned to about 24 that appear healthy even after being inoculated with the chestnut blight fungus. Those 24 may one day provide seed that could become the blight-resistant hybrid chestnut that researchers hope to produce. "It's nice to be a part of something like the chestnut research. I think something good - something tangible - will come from it," he says. "I'm proud to have been a part of that."
Blandy's colorful history has always fascinated Bob, and he has collected artifacts found on the grounds over a 40-year career. He has hand-made signs and pieces of pottery, but the history doesn't all just sit on a shelf attracting dust. Bob still uses an ancient contraption to stamp out the stainless steel plant tags that da
ngle from thousands of trees and shrubs in the Arboretum collection. "I'm fascinated by the history of the place," he says.
He also has collections of catalogs from other arboreta and botanic gardens, sources for unusual seeds that were once traded internationally through the mail. Blandy sent and received seeds to and from other institutions in Iraq, Korea, Japan, the Soviet republics, and other countries around the world. "At the time it was fascinating because there was no internet, and sometimes the requests wouldn't even be in English." One of the favorites he recalls receiving was an exploding cucumber. "I planted it and it grew. And yes, it exploded." The odd plant is always something that attracts Bob. He planted banana trees in his yard, next to the eastern end of Dogwood Lane, just for fun. He's been told many times banana trees won't grow in the region, and they die back every year. But every spring they come back. "It's just something different and odd and neat to see if you can get it to grow."
With more than 5,000 trees under his care, Bob has naturally developed a few favorites. One is the Japanese Umbrella Pine near his house. The other is a Dawn Redwood planted by Tom Ewert. "It's right next to my house. I have a nice view of it." He also wryly notes that it's near his septic system, and he feels like he's contributed to its development over the years.
Soon Bob will trade that house and that view for a home in Winchester. He says he will miss the quiet early mornings, before throngs of visitors and busloads of schoolchildren overrun his private oas
is. He'll also miss the connections he's made, especially with other plantsmen who have visited Blandy, some with national or international reputations.
But he'll enjoy setting his own hours and planting a garden and maybe planting a few trees of his own, just for himself.
Bob's fellow Blandy employees threw a retirement party for him Thursday, Sept. 14. At Bob's request it was a small affair, but included a cake decorated to look like a tree and cookies decorated to look like miniature tractors. Blandy Director Dave Carr presented Bob with an artist's proof of a Eugene Smith print
of a Blandy scene. Curator T'ai Roulston presented Bob with a dedication label for the Umbrella Pine close to his house that reads "Bob cared for all trees but even he had a favorite."
Since Blandy has a tradition of naming physical objects to honor individuals, two staffers discretely obtained self-adhesive lettering and stenciled "Bob" onto the side of his favorite tractor.
The staff also pooled their money to purchase a teak bench with a tag highlighting one of Bob's famous quotes. Perhaps better than anything else, the quote distills Bob's world view into a few words:
"There is never a bad day at Blandy,
just different levels of good."
Fall Public Programs: Brought to You by the Letter "M"?
By Steve Carroll
Director of Public Programs
Fall has arrived, with approaching programs on mindfulness, the full moon, movie night, a make 'n take, and more.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of our fall program series co-hosted by FOSA and Shenandoah Unive
rsity's Department of Environmental Studies, and beginning in 2015, by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. This year we emphasize stream health and restoration in a talk by Richard Starr, from Ecosystem Planning and Restoration. Join us Tuesday, Oct. 17, 7-8:30 p.m., in Stimpson Auditorium, Halpin-Harrison Hall, on the SU campus.
Other 2017 programs range from Guided Walking Meditation to an air plant terrarium workshop to a movie night. For details, check out the
fall programs brochure.
Mindfulness in Nature: Guided Walking Meditation, with Shell Fischer of Mindful Shenandoah Valley, Monday, October 23, 5:45-7:45 p.m.
Make 'n Take Air Plant Terrarium, with Carrie Whitacre, Saturday, October 28, 10 a.m.-Noon. Design and construct your own terrarium to take home.
Full Moon Walk for those 16+, Sunday, November 5, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Blandy Movie Night: Just Eat It. A Food Waste Story, Thursday, November 16, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Blandy Bird Count and Family Festival, Sunday, December 17, 2-4 p.m., co-hosted by the Shenandoah Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists.
We hope you
see something here that you just can't miss. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and the web to learn of other programs, events, and opportunities.
Summer Residents Have Blandy Bursting at the Seams
Researchers, Visiting Faculty Bring Facilities Near Capacity
By Kyle Haynes
Despite two newly built cottages and a new greenhouse, Blandy was overflowing with researchers this summer. The bounty of researchers was due to several factors including professors from other universities spending the summer at Blandy. Dr. Rebecca Forkner, an ecologist from George Mason University, and Dr. Jose Fuentes, a meteorologist from Pennsylvania State University, both recently started carrying out summer research at Blandy. Both of them also mentored undergraduate students taking part in Blandy's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program in Ecological and Evolutionary Biology, which is supported by a recently renewed grant from the National Science Foundation.
Eleven undergraduates from across the country participated in the program. This was the first chance many of the REU students had to carry out a research project of their own, as the program recruits a number of students from colleges without research programs. The REU students carried out research on a wide range of organisms and topics, from Mathew Gladfelter's (Rowan University) study of the effects of historical land use on turtle populations to Wadriann Horne's (Howard University) research on effects of parasitic flies on bumblebees. Elizabeth DiBiase (Elizabethtown College) won the Tom
Callahan Award for best presentation at the summer-ending Research Forum, for her research on the effects of nighttime light pollution on the growth of common milkweed. The Callahan Award for most creative research went to Paige Stephens (Southern Oregon University), who studied how plant roots spread through soil to forage for nutrients.
Blandy also hosted seven University of Virginia graduate students throughout the summer. Two students, Kate LeCroy and Ariel Firebaugh, were based at Blandy but carried out research across the Commonwealth of Virginia. Kate studied the invasive spread of orchard bees that are not native to North America and Ariel examined the effects of varying degrees of light pollution and urbanization of landscapes on firefly populations. For more information about research activities at Blandy, check out the "Research" tab on Blandy's home page (blandy.virginia.edu).
New Training Program Focuses on High School Students
Interns Learn Science While Contributing to Blandy's Research
By Dave Carr
Director, Blandy Experimental Farm
Training the next generation of researchers is central to Blandy's mission, and we have published many Arbor Vitae articles about the accomplishments of the undergraduate and graduate students who spend their summers here. In the summer of 2017 we experimented with a new research training program, one that focused on high school students. This unique opportunity supported two rising juniors who acted as field and laboratory assistants for several of the summer research projects.
Addie Pratt (John Handley High School in Winchester) and Emmy Thompson (James Wood in Frederick County) spent seven weeks pinning bees, collecting soil samples, potting plants, and most of all, learning what it is like to be a scientist. Science and "the scientist" are such mysterious things that a typical high school student does not or cannot see that they could take a path that could lead them in that direction. Addie and Emmy got the chance to work side-by-side with undergraduates not much older than they were who were working on complex science projects themselves. They went out in the field with graduate students who are now training for careers in science, and they worked with faculty who have been career scientists for many years. It was an immersive experience in which they became vital and contributing participants.
Asked whether it was now easier to see herself as a scientist someday, Emmy replied "This internship has answered the question of whether I truly want to do research for a living or not, and I do. From the countless bees I have helped pin, to soil coring, and even just listening to how everyone set up their experiments, I could definitely see myself doing this for a living." Addie also answered with an enthusiastic "Yes! To begin, the environment was very welcoming, so I wasn't afraid to ask questions, and this allowed me to learn things about working in the sciences."
The high school interns learned that science requires hard work. They spent some hot afternoons sweating in the field and long hours sitting at a lab bench, but they learned that all of this was a part of the scientific process. Addie felt that by the end of the summer, she "really understood how much work and effort a project takes ... and while it was tedious at times, I am glad I got that experience." She also learned how important imagination and problem solving are to produce good science. "To work in science, one also has to be creative and a bit of an engineer no matter what you go into." It is discovery that drives scientists, and the interns got to experience a bit of that this summer too. "One of the most fascinating things I learned this summer was the sheer variety of species that most people never see, but that are there." said Emmy. "One of the most abundant bees that I pinned for Kate I had never seen in my 16 years of existence, and it turns out they burrow in the ground."
The Foundation of the State Arboretum's Board of Directors suggested this program after visiting another University of Virginia field station (the Anheuser Busch Coastal Research Center) on the Eastern Shore last fall and learning about their high school program. The Foundation sought donors for the program, and by spring 2017, we were able to accept applications for two $3,000 fellowships to high school students from Winchester and Clarke and Frederick Counties. We hope to secure funding for the summer of 2018 to offer this tremendous opportunity again. When asked if she would give the program her seal of approval, Addie declared "I'd definitely recommend this to quite a few friends! In fact, two of them said they want to apply for this next summer."
What Do Teachers Do When the Students Aren't in School?
Blandy Education Program Had a Busy Summer
By the Blandy Ed Team
It is obvious how the Education Team spends its time during the school year; we engage over 7,000 PreK-12 students in wonderful outdoor learning experiences. Sometimes, we are asked, "What do you do when students are not in school?"
Though the majority of students are on an academic break, our schedule remains filled with teacher professional development workshops, sharing our program innovations at education conferences, reviewing and updating our curricula and supplies, and seeking our own professional development opportunities to maintain our leadership role in education. For the past three years, we also have received requests for our programs from summer schools and camps.
This summer we planned and led a three-day residential environmental literacy academy for Virginia school principals, two all-day environmental literacy workshops for elementary teachers in Loudoun County, and a half-day end-of-the year professional development for Clarke County elementary school teachers. Each of these workshops was customized to meet the needs of the individual group in their specific location.
We keep current with education trends and engage in professional development to remain relevant in our science knowledge and teaching strategies and to nourish our enthusiasm as learners and educators. This summer, Blandy Educator Lil Ledford served for a week as a mentor teacher with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. As the teachers explored several Virginia marine and riverine habitats, Lil helped them build connections between these field experiences and their subject areas. Lead Educator Emily Ford attended a two-day workshop in Baltimore to enhance her statistic knowledge and learn strategies for incorporating more mathematical learning into our programs for middle and high school students. Blandy Director of Education Candace Lutzow-Felling learned about trends in STEM (science-technology-engineering-mathematics) education in the United States at a three-day STEM Forum in Orlando.
As environmental education leaders in the mid-Atlantic region, it is important for us to nurture and grow the relationships and networks we have among our formal and non-formal education colleagues. Although we foster these relationships year-round, we especially focus on developing and nurturing our partnerships during the summer. This summer we:
- wrote and submitted six workshop proposals for three education conferences;
- joined other environmental education professionals to draft plans for a Virginia environmental educator certification course;
- participated in a national focus group to discuss challenges for implementing citizen science programs with K-12 classrooms; and
- joined a mid-Atlantic group that is developing resources to help K-12 teachers implement active watershed education programs.
Summer also is the time we analyze our education program data for the past year and prepare annual reports that we submit to Blandy's Director, to FOSA, and to granting agencies for our externally funded projects. We submitted reports to NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) for our watershed education program for Frederick County 6th grade students and their teachers, to VRUEC (Virginia Resource-Use Education Council) for our June Principal Academy, and to the Clarke County Education Foundation for our integrative teaching strategies project with Clarke County Public School's grade 3-5 teaching teams.
Because our summers are busy with so many activities, we limit our education program bookings to two in July and two in August. This summer we engaged at-risk readers in outdoor investigations as part of a reading enrichment program run through Shenandoah University and taught outdoor environmental science programs for the town of Leesburg and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.
We are also active collaborators with Blandy's Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, an 11-week project that consumes many hours of Blandy's three research faculty's time. In addition to serving as the REU program evaluator, Candace plans a training workshop for the REU students. This training helps them develop the skills and confidence necessary to create and conduct an activity designed to share their research with Blandy's campers.
This R&D and outreach time is essential for providing high-caliber programming when school is back in session and for serving as leaders in environmental education. Please join us in welcoming the 7,000 students who will visit Blandy in 2017-2018 for enriching and exciting outdoor education experiences.
Did You Hear the News?
New Audio Trail Describes Arboretum Features
Soon, visitors will be able to appreciate Blandy in a new and exciting way by accessing a just-developed audio trail. This trail will feature 11 stops highlighting our history, collections, gardens, wildlife, and more.
The audio trail centers on high-quality recordings produced by UniGuide, which
has developed hundreds of audio tours for museums, gardens, historic sites, and other destinations across the U.S.
Once finalized, visitors will be able to download a free app to their smart phones that will provide access to the recordings and a map. Visitors can walk from stop to stop and listen to the clips in order, or they can choose to visit select stops. The tour can also be downloaded ahead of time and can be accessed by visitors to the area who are looking for places to visit.
Blandy is beautiful no matter how you choose to experience it -- and soon, you will have yet another option as you wander our 700-plus acres.
Look for information about our new audio trail on your next visit.
Thousands of Native Plants at Your Fingertips
Flora of Virginia Releases New App
The Flora of Virginia Project has introduced a new app for learning about the plants of Virginia, whether a wildflower from a weedy roadside, a shrub from a coastal dune, or a tree from a deep Appalachian hollow. The app does not need an Internet connection to run, so you can use it no matter how remote your wanderings take you.
The Flora of Virginia app is based on its predecessor, the Flora of Virginia book published by the Flora of Virginia Project in partnership with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. It is the first comprehensive flora offered for Virginia in more than 250 years. The app and the book describe nearly 3,200 plant species native to or naturalized in Virginia in nearly 200 families.
The Flora of Virginia app combines information from several other ecological data sets with the Flora's own data, including moisture regime, light regime, level of invasiveness, state and global rareness rankings, and listings as rare or endangered.
The app costs $19.95 and is available for Android or iOS devices. For more information read the announcement here.
The Flora of Virginia Project was initiated in 2001 to steer creation of the first comprehensive reference work on the native and naturalized plants of Virginia. For more information about the Flora of Virginia Project, visit www.floraofvirginia.org.
Blandy serves as the statewide headquarters for the Virginia Native Plant Society. FOSA and Blandy supported efforts to develop the Flora of Virginia book. The app was developed by High Country Apps, which has also produced apps for several other states. For information visit www.highcountryapps.com.