Quarterly Newsletter of
Friends of Jensen - Olson Arboretum
Winter Issue December 2018
Quarterly News and Updates
In this issue: so many photo highlights...it's a DOUBLE ISSUE!
Bugs, and Bears, and Poisonous Plants - all part of the rich garden experience
Bears, bears, and...more bears
Naming 2018 the Year of the Bear at the
Jensen-Olson Arboretum would be an understatement. We were literally overrun with bears visiting the mountain ash trees ( Sorbus aucuparia) feeding on the abundant berry crop. A poor fish year coupled with poor native berry production in the forest left our bruin friends looking for a food source to help them bulk up for their long winter sleep. Over the course of 5 weeks, a total of 8 bears visited (one day included 5 simultaneously feeding!) the grounds round the clock. On Labor Day Weekend, I decided to close the Arboretum to keep both our bears and visitors safe. Unlike the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, we have neither the staff nor the infrastructure to keep people and large wildlife safely separated. I consulted wildlife specialists on how best to deal with bears in our trees. All agreed it was a good idea to haze the bears letting them know that the Arboretum is a “people place” and not a spot to spend the day leisurely feeding. I found that the best instrument to shoo them along was our leaf blower. They hated the sound and the associated wind in their faces while feeding, and would almost immediately vacate the trees and head back into the forest. I never thought that I would be a bear herder!

Most people understood and respected the decision for closing for 4 weeks and fully cooperated. I’m just glad it was only bears and their associated damage to the trees that we faced this year. Public gardens around the country have had to close for much more serious reasons in the last couple years. In 2017, wildfire roared through the Ventura Botanical Garden in California. Almost the entire plant collection was burned to the ground as well as many of the structures. They have just recently re-opened after an 11-month closure… Also in 2017, Hurricane Irma struck the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in southern Florida. Significant damage to the trees and shrubs forced its closure while post-storm cleanup took place.
So while our bears have damaged every mountain ash tree on the property, it’s not the first, nor will it be the last time…our ongoing mitigation strategy is to replace severely bear damaged trees with non-fruiting species to alleviate the problem and to increase the diversity of the plantings. However, this approach can’t be implemented all at once. Since our founding in 2007, 10 mountain ash trees have been removed, and about 30 non-bear attracting trees have been added to the grounds. This winter, 4 mountain ash trees are slated for removal and replacement trees are ordered for spring planting. With adversity comes the prospect of something new; come visit next year and meet the new kids on the block.
Merrill Jensen
A photo recap of 2018...(2 of 2 recaps)...enjoy!
BugDay! 2018 - a brief recap
BugDay! - by the numbers...
A sold out! event
  • 35 kids and their designated adult celebrated 3 hours of bug learning culminating in a Certificate of Bugology for each participant
  • On-site celebrities included Liza the Ladybug and Clive the Caterpillar (special thanks to John Gitkov and Jane Hawkin); USFS Entomologist Liz Graham, Biotechnician Isaac Davis and a visiting intern; 8 Bug Station attendants (many thanks to all the volunteers who took up Bug Station posts); and JOA Education Coordinator Michelle Warrenchuk, and of course, the BugDay! participants!
  • Participants also enjoyed a special visit from live, hissing cockroaches shared for BugDay! by USFS, as well as a take-home magnifying glass for each participant to continue studies at home

Many thanks to the Juneau Empire for reporting on the day's educational activities and for sharing photos with the community.
We are already planning for next year's BugDay! event...stay tuned and register early!
Poisonous plants and their place in a public garden
In late summer, one of the questions that I’m frequently asked is “Do you know that plant over there with the red berries is poisonous?” Of course the answer is, “Yes”. I wouldn’t be at this point in my career if I didn’t know that plant (and a few others in the collection) is toxic…. The plant in question is red baneberry, Actaea rubra. This common plant can be found growing across much of North America and is available for sale from a handful of native plant nurseries. Its particular toxicity comes from a potent class of chemicals that can cause cardiac arrest. Eating as few as 6 of the beautiful, shiny red berries can prove fatal to an adult and fewer berries yet for a child to be affected. Thankfully, they have a quite bitter and foul flavor; nature’s way of warning the unknowing. There have been no known reports of accidental deaths in North America. So why the frequent concern with the toxicity of this particular plant? And what does that mean for the public garden’s mission of plant identification and visitor education? 

Baneberry is one of the few readily-known toxic plants that can be found in the garden. When people inquire about it, I take it as a teaching moment to point out many of the other plants they are standing near in the garden that are just as toxic if ingested. Rhododendron, lily-of-the-valley, yew, foxglove, hydrangea and daffodil are just a few to mention – most of which come as a surprise. Monkshood, another favorite garden plant, contains toxins which do not require ingestion to produce adverse effects; they can be absorbed though the skin just by handling the plant (always, always wear gloves and long sleeves when working with this plant!). This plant is included in a group which causes problems for humans just at the touch – a topic too large for this article. For an interesting perspective on this topic, take a look at The Poison Garden at Alnwick Garden as written up in the Smithsonian.

Public gardens are uniquely situated to display and identify toxic plants for educational purposes; in fact, it’s a responsibility we take seriously as part of our mission. Over the next couple years, look for new signage and interpretive information about the dangers that can lurk behind the beauty of some plants in the collection.
Merrill Jensen
Support Friends of Jensen - Olson Arboretum while you shop...

Just in time for the holidays, we are pleased to announce that FJOA has joined AmazonSmile
Simply start your shopping at smile.amazon.com and select Friends of Jensen - Olson Arboretum as your organization of choice. If you already have a bookmark or
quick link for Amazon, you'll need to update it to the smile.amazon.com address.

Your eligible purchases will generate a donation of 1/2 percent to the mission and programs of Friends of Jensen - Olson Arboretum.

Happy shopping and THANK YOU for your support!
~ Look for these highlights in the Spring issue of TWIGS ~
* Alpine Bed Renovation * Dry-stack rock wall: a unifying garden element 
*Arboretum 2019 Calendar of Events...look for it in March...

Ready to set up your 2019 Annual Membership?
Visit our website to renew today!
Arboretum Wish List

Thank you for asking, and for considering a donation. We appreciate it!
Donations may be dropped off during visitor hours at the Arboretum with a staff member.
* Don Abel gift card (any amount) - where we purchase a specific type of compost
* Glacier Gardens gift card (any amount) - where we purchase some of our plant material

         Mission Statement              
  The vision of the Arboretum is to provide the people of Juneau a place that both teaches and inspires learning in horticulture, natural sciences and landscaping - to preserve the beauty of the landscape for pure aesthetic enjoyment - to maintain the historical and cultural context of the place and its people.
                                                                                                                         Caroline Jensen 
     Friends of Jensen - Olson Arboretum Partners  
Juneau Garden Club

Juneau-Gastineau Rotary Club
   Friends of Jensen - Olson Arboretum Board Members  
*Pat Harris, President *Morgan Humphreys Davis, Vice President *Kim Garnero, Treasurer 
Members at Large: Chiska Derr, Pat Hartman, Mary Mathisen, Pat White
Ex-Officio Member: Merrill Jensen
Newsletter Editor: Kelly Jensen
TWIGS - a quarterly publication 
Spring/March ~~ Summer/June ~~ Autumn/September ~~ Winter/December

Friends of Jensen - Olson Arboretum
friendsjoa@gmail.com | friendsjoarboretum.org
Friends of Jensen - Olson Arboretum is a 501(c)3 charitable organization.
Contributions to FJOA are tax deductible.
Caring for Caroline's Garden
Jensen - Olson Arboretum
23035 Glacier Hwy       Juneau, Alaska 99801    907.789.0139
Visitor Hours: Wednesday - Sunday, 9am - 4:45pm, year round

Nationally Accredited Plant Collection TM of the genus Primula
Merrill Jensen, BS Ornamental Horticulture
Arboretum Manager and Horticulturist