The JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University's mission is "to introduce, display, distribute, and promote plants that diversify the American landscape, benefiting our communities economically, environmentally, and aesthetically, and to provide educational experiences for the general public, students, and the green industry." Traditionally, much of that mission is accomplished on-site through events and programming. Daily visitation offers the opportunity for the public to see new plants, be inspired, and to learn through interpretive signage and interaction with staff and volunteers.

During the JCRA's closure since mid-March, the Arboretum's staff has done a heroic job of continuing our mission through other channels. Already this year more plants have been distributed than in any recent year through plant sales, germplasm exchanges with researchers and breeders, distributions to nurserymen, and giveaways including over 6,000 plants given away free to our members. In addition, Green Industry professionals from small one-person nurseries to some of the largest U.S. nursery operations have been able to access the JCRA collections by appointment and following safety protocols.

The education mission has continued unabated switching mostly seamlessly from in-person to virtual with weekly free programming, in-depth multi-session offerings, hands-on workshops, symposia, professional trainings, and tours. An unforeseen but added benefit of offering these programs virtually means that most are recorded and available on the JCRA's YouTube channel for consumption that fits any viewers schedule. These virtual offerings have also widened our membership base as we bring our mission well beyond central North Carolina. NC State classes that use the JCRA as a living laboratory as well as faculty whose research relies on our collections continue to have access to the grounds.

Necessity being the mother of invention, the JCRA Children's Program has teamed up with NC 4-H to develop subscription Grow Boxes which contain tools, plants, experiments, and activities delivered right to a child's door. This program's initial mailing reached children in 32 N.C. counties bringing a bit of the Arboretum to even the most remote parts of the state. Free classroom content is also being developed and recorded to help supplement the amazing work N.C. elementary school teachers are doing under such difficult circumstances.

The JCRA staff would very much like to see the return of the public to our gardens but we also have a responsibility to be a safe space for our visitors, our staff, our volunteers, and our collections. To properly and safely re-open will require taking focus away from our mission delivery rather than adding to it. With that in mind I, with the support of the Department of Horticultural Science and College administration, have made the decision to remain closed through the end of the year. We will continue to re-evaluate our opening date which will take place in 2021.

We understand that a garden is a visceral experience and not a virtual one. However, this year has shown us that the garden is only a part of what makes the JCRA so meaningful. When we do re-open our gates, rest assured that we will be a stronger organization even more capable of continuing to deliver impactful results throughout North Carolina and across the country.

Thank you for your continuous support of the JC Raulston Arboretum.

Mark Weathington
Director, JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University