Give the Gift of
FOSA Membership

Searching for a last-minute gift? A membership in the Foundation of the State Arboretum is a great gift and the perfect way to show your support for the Arboretum.

Individual FOSA membership starts at $42 or just $30 for seniors over age 65. A family membership is $60 ($48 senior) and your business or nonprofit org can become a member for $60.

FOSA members enjoy a 10% discount in Our Shop, as well as discounts to FOSA programs and reciprocal benefits at other arboreta and public gardens.

Give a gift membership online, click FOSA Membership New/Renew, we'll email a printable card you can give or send. Or, call 540-837-1758 Ext 224 M-F, 1-5 pm  Happy Holidays!

Participants in last year's  exchange browse the wide variety of seeds available. 
Swap Seeds, Books, and Advice
Seed Exchange Set For Jan. 27

Gardeners will again gather in the library for our annual seed exchange Saturday, Jan. 27, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This is a free event.

Participants are encouraged to bring seeds, plants, roots, or cuttings to exchange with other gardeners. Native plants are especially encouraged, and no plants or seeds on the Arboretum's list of invasive plants are allowed. 

The event, which is sponsored by FOSA and the Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardeners, will also feature a book and magazine swap. Master gardeners will be on hand to help with gardening questions.

For more information call Elaine Specht at 540-459-9657 or visit
Mildred "Midge" Wilson: A Tribute
By Dave Carr
Director, Blandy Experimental Farm

The Blandy family was saddened to hear of the passing of our neighbor and friend, Mildred Dunn Wilson. Mrs. Wilson owned the Tuleyries, the estate to which the Blandy property once belonged. Her late husband, Orme Wilson Jr., was the nephew of Graham Blandy, who bequeathed 700 acres of his Tuleyries estate to the University of Virginia in 1926. This acreage, of course, became the Blandy Experimental Farm in 1927.


 As we all know, the research collection of trees and shrubs developed by Blandy's first director eventually became the State Arboretum of Virginia. In the early 1980s, Orme Wilson Jr. helped create the "Friends of Blandy" (now known as the Foundation of the State Arboretum or FOSA) and served as its first president. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson's daughter, Elsie Wilson Thompson, has served as a FOSA board member and officer for many years.


Although she was less directly involved with Blandy and FOSA, Mrs. Wilson always took a keen interest in our success and wellbeing. She attended many of our public programs, and she welcomed Blandy researchers onto her property whenever we made a request. Her love for Blandy was probably never more evident than in 2011 when she hosted the 25th anniversary celebration of the State Arboretum of Virginia at the Tuleyries. Watching the address from University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan with Mrs. Wilson seated next to the lectern is one of my favorite Blandy memories.


I had many conversations with Mrs. Wilson over the years. Almost every time I ran into her, she would ask me what the "Turtle Man" was discovering these days (David Bowne, now a professor at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, had done part of his dissertation research on painted turtles on the Tuleyries property). She never lost her sense of curiosity. I talked to her for what turned out to be the last time on a hot afternoon  back in July. Again, I was asking her if turtle researchers could come onto the property, and again she was as welcoming as always. Our conversation bounced around to other topics, and she told me about spending summers in the mountains of Bath County as a girl. The nights were cool, and you would need a jacket or a sweater, she told me, but added, "It's not like that now. You do believe in climate change, don't you?" I loved that this woman, five years shy of a century on this earth, could see so plainly, what some refuse to see at all. We need more people like that, and it is very sad to lose one.

Did You Know?
You Can Make Your Own Blandy Calendar
Did you know you can create your own Blandy calendar on our website?

You can choose a standard calendar that's complete with photos and ready to go, or you can upload your own photos, captions, and important dates to include on your own custom calendar.

Best of all, FOSA receives a portion of the proceeds of every sale, up to $10 per calendar. Get started now right here. It's easy and fun!
Third Time and Counting...
Rob Humphrey is FOSA Volunteer of the Year

Rob Humphrey
Rob Humphrey
Congratulations to Rob Humphrey, FOSA's 2017 Volunteer of the Year! Rob has been a FOSA volunteer for eight years.  

This is his third time as Volunteer of the Year, which is not surprising when you consider all that he does for FOSA. He works with the Native Plant Trail group on Wednesdays, the Perennial Gardens on Thursdays and volunteers to clear low hanging branches from the Bridle Trail as needed.  

Rob is also a member of the setup crew for ArborFest and Garden Fair and is always available to lend a helping hand when needed. He regularly helps with countless event duties like lifting and toting items and is always available for the clean-up.

The Foundation and Blandy are very fortunate to have Rob as part of the Blandy family.  Thank you Rob!
Winter Family Programs Aim Sky High
Pop-up Planetarium Brings Night Sky Indoors
By Steve Carroll
Director of Public Programs
Winter may slow us down a bit as we deal with cold weather and an occasional snowstorm, but every now and then you just have to get out. Why not join us for a winter public program? Our family programs are designed for those six years and older.

First up, on the heels of the new year, we will explore the night sky in a pop-up planetarium in the Blandy library. Join us as we view projections of the moon, planets, and stars, and hear stories and myths about the constellations of the northern sky. There will be two shows (10-11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.) on Saturday, January 6. Sign up for one or the other, but don't procrastinate-space is limited.

Most wildlife observations come during the day, but so much in nature happens after dark. In "Creatures of the Night" (January 20, 4-6 p.m.), we will explore the fascinating world of nighttime animals, from bats and owls to the evening chorus of frogs and insects. Through games, crafts, and activities, we will come to a better understanding of our creatures of the night. We will end with a night walk, so dress for the weather and bring a flashlight.

The natural world is beautiful at all times of year. On Saturday, February 10, we will offer a family program combining art and nature that will include both individual and group projects. Watch our web site and Facebook page for details.

Most of our programs are scheduled during the warmer months, and 2018 will offer additional exciting opportunities, but why not start the year right -- with a family program at Blandy.
Connecting With Nature Through Books, Photos, and Art
Book Club, Photo Club, and Sketch Group Offer Something Different
By Steve Carroll
Director of Public Programs
Programs and events at Blandy range from illustrated talks and guided tours to hands-on workshops and weekend-long plant and garden sales. Humming along through all this are three groups that meet monthly to explore the natural world through books, photography, and art.

The Blandy Book Club, youngest of the three, began in the spring of 2014 as a way for participants to read selected books on natural history, ecology, environmental issues, and related topics. Selections, which are mostly nonfiction, are decided by club members. 

On the reading horizon are Andrea Wulf's, The Invention of Nature (January), Charles Darwin's, The Voyage of the Beagle (February), and Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants , by Robin Wall Kimmerer. 

The complete reading list for 2018 can be found here.

Book club meetings are the fourth Thursday of the month (except November and December) and are free and open to the public. Call Steve Carroll (540-837-1758 Ext. 287) with questions.

Tim Farmer
The Blandy Photo Club meets the first Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. in the Blandy library.

The Photo Club began meeting in 2008 and includes a range of ages and experience levels. Monthly meetings frequently feature a speaker or program on topics of interest to photographers. Members also get to share their work during regular Member Showcase sessions, with fellow photographers offering feedback and shooting tips.

While many photo clubs offer regular competitions between members, Blandy Photo Club members encourage collaboration rather than competition. Members can take part in an annual photo show and sale. The club meets in the library for most sessions. Dues are $20 per year. For more information email

   Buckmarsh Barn by Sally Summerall
The Blandy Sketch Group was formed in October 2001 by students from various art classes offered at Blandy. Students decided to continue meeting regularly and working together.

The group now gathers monthly at Blandy the first Thursday of each month beginning at 12:30 p.m.

Monthly programs of sketching, painting, workshops and presentations are planned by the group each year to foster creative growth and share ideas. The Blandy Sketch Group is open to any artist, beginner or professional. The group holds an annual art show and sale.

Dues are $10 per year. For more information on the Blandy Sketch Group visit or email

There are so many ways to connect with, and benefit from, the natural world. Care to try one more way amidst friendly, like-minded people? We'll save you a seat!
Erica Schwabach Joins Blandy Education/Outreach Team
New York Native Brings Experience and Enthusiasm
By Candace Lutzow-Felling
Director of Education
Erica Schwabach
We are pleased to announce the newest member of the Arboretum's education and outreach team, Erica Schwabach. Erica's chosen career path is Environmental Education. Erica began her environmental education career while pursuing her Bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies at the State University of New York's College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse. She gained initial experience through internships with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation and with Baltimore Woods Nature Center in Marcellus, NY.   After graduation, Erica continued to pursue her environmental educator career, gaining diverse experience guiding outdoor learning experiences for rural and inner city youth.  

Erica stood out from the many applicants who applied for this position because of her various experience developing and teaching programs designed for schools, youth camps, and families. In addition to her environmental science knowledge and teaching experience, Erica brings her joy of teaching and enthusiasm for learning to the job.  We are thrilled to welcome her to our team.

Erica will work with the Director of Education during our busy spring and fall school seasons and with the Director of Public Programs in the winter and summer. Erica began working at Blandy Oct. 30; she jumped right into her teaching duties with our preK-12 programs, enthusiastically teaching floral structure and insect, bird, and mammal adaptations to elementary students. She also assisted programs with middle and high school students while they conducted investigations in tree identification, water chemistry, and invasive species ecology. 

We look forward to the winter family and summer camp programs she will develop in 2018. When you see Erica around Blandy's grounds or leading a group of students and youth, please say hello and join us in welcoming Erica Schwabach to our Education Team.
Blandy's PreK-12 Education Programs: Fall Highlights
Collaborations With Schools Pays Dividends for Students
By Emily Ford
Lead Environmental Educator
This autumn, Blandy's Education Team provided field experiences to nearly 2,000 students with our on-site programs. Our education programming has diversified, reaching a greater range of grade levels each school year. This fall, 43 percent of the students engaging in our field investigations were from the middle and high school grades. In comparison, during the spring, only 6 percent (2017) to 23 percent (2016) of students have been from upper grades.

How do our middle and high school field investigation programs differ from those offered to elementary students? While all our programs incorporate outdoor investigations and use integrated content to examine the natural world, the upper grade investigations have a lower student-to-educator ratio, increased instructional time, and are customized to meet specific learning goals and student needs as communicated by the teachers. Here are some highlights of our fall middle and high school investigations.

AFDA students discuss data collection methods.

Several years ago, the Blandy Education Team collaborated with Frederick County Public School's mathematics curriculum supervisor and teachers to develop a real-world field investigation for their 10th-12th grade students enrolled in the Algebra, Functions & Data Analysis (AFDA) course. Students conduct an ecological investigation in our succession fields during which they develop practical math and science skills useful in various careers (including biologist, natural resource specialist, surveyor, and mason). One AFDA teacher commented, "The students were actually challenged to do above and beyond...This allowed the students to become fully immersed in the (plant) collection, grouping and analysis activities."

For our high school Science Explorations program, the Blandy and school educator-to-student ratio is 1:7. This lower teacher to student ratio facilitates in-depth, five-hour science investigations during which student field ecologists delve into the process of science, exploring and conducting their own research and observations about the natural world. Through these customized field studies, students develop research skills in field ecology and deepen their understanding of humans' roles in natural systems.

The Young Ecologists program, developed for seventh grade, combines indoor and outdoor components in which students synthesize observations from science, math, and social science to develop an understanding of ecological systems, their components and interactions.  In the Arboretum's American and Chinese chestnut groves, students learn the history of the American chestnut and contemplate the ecological impacts of the chestnut blight that caused a wide-spread die-off of these forest trees in the early 1900s.  Next, students explore The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) backcross experiment by examining American, Chinese, and hybrid chestnut  leaves, measuring and making observations about the leaves, and using math skills to study the TACF backcross experiment. 

Investigating skulls for our Young Ecologist program.

At Lake Georgette students are challenged to investigate several biotic and abiotic factors that affect an "unknown" organism's ability to live in a habitat and determine if the system at Lake Georgette can support the organism. If students conclude that their organism can survive in or around Lake Georgette, they attempt to locate that organism. 

In the Parkfield Learning Center, the seventh graders examine the teeth and eye positions on animal skull replicas to predict an animal's diet and role in Virginia ecosystems. They then use a dichotomous key to identify the skulls.   

Our once slower-paced autumn season has shifted and has become nearly as busy as our lively spring season because more middle and high school educators are taking advantage of the outdoor learning opportunities provided by the Blandy Education Team. We look forward to 2018, a winter filled with teacher workshops, activities associated with our on-going collaborations with Clarke and Frederick County Public Schools, and all our young scientists who will visit in the spring. Thank you FOSA, staff, and volunteers for your continued support of our environmental education programs!
 Visitors relax is shade of a yellowwood tree during Garden Fair 2017.

Yellowwood:  The Rare Tree Showing Up Everywhere
You'll Need This Tree in Your Home Landscape Soon 
By T'ai Roulston
Arboretum Curator
In the wild, yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea) is a rare tree, most frequently perched on calcareous cliffs of Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina, but sometimes nestled in moist forest coves as well. Its scattered populations occur as far west as Ohio and as far south as Alabama, but few people have seen it the wild, and fewer still in late spring when the trees drape wisteria-like flower clusters across their branches.  Despite its rarity in the wild, it is now a common tree in the mid Atlantic region. Yellowwood has become a popular street tree in the last decade, inhabiting sidewalks, medians and parking lots, and on a prolific flowering year everyone notices. This past year was spectacular, the best I've seen.  At Garden Fair, as plant vendors sold their wares amidst the arboretum's blooming yellowwoods to people who had just driven yellowwood-lined streets to get here, many people asked about purchasing them. And almost no one had them, given so little demand in previous years. I purchased mine eight years ago and it is the highlight of the yard, overhanging our front walkway with bumble bee bedecked flowers in spring, then long seed pods and yellow foliage in fall.

It may seem unlikely that a rare tree restricted to a few habitats in the wild could transition to life as a thriving street tree.
It may seem unlikely that a rare tree restricted to a few habitats
in the wild could transition to life as a thriving street tree: limestone outcrops to supermarket parking lots. If it can take the abuse life throws at it in our streets then why is it rare? Hard to say what limits it in the wild, but plants often do not need the type of environment where they most commonly occur. One glaring example is bald cypress. It is a tree of southeastern swamps, often inundated year round, and yet it thrives as a 
street  tree, even in upland sites without abundant water. So no need to turn your yard into a limestone cliff to grow yellowwood.
Although yellowwood is in the legume family, producing typical pea flowers and fruits, and compound leaves, it lacks one feature that legumes typically have: the ability to house rhizobia bacteria in root nodules to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere.  That is what makes legumes like clover and vetch great cover crops for farmers: Through their nitrogen-fixing bacteria, they take nitrogen from the air and bring it to their roots, enriching nutrient-depleted soils. Most leguminous species have them, even trees like black locust. But not yellowwood. It is not known why they are unable to do it. The nodules are not found in free-living plants and even intentional inoculations fail. So, for all its glory as a street tree, don't count on yellowwood to turn sidewalk soil to agricultural loam.
But do count on it as 30-40' tall lollipop-shaped tree that grows fairly quickly in the right spot (moderate shade to full sun) and puts on a spectacular show of flowers every few years (it blooms most, but not all years). Its rise to fame has been quite sudden, so you may or may not have a nursery at hand that carries it in stock, but it is readily available in the trade. How quickly has its fate changed? In 1977, Kenneth Robertson wrote in the journal for Harvard's Arnold Arboretum that the tree was rare in cultivation and "is not for mass planting as a yard or street tree." While I agree that it is worth pausing to admire them individually, go ahead, let them flourish in the streets!