Friends of the JC Raulston Arboretum Newsletter

Fall 2017 – Vol. 20, No. 2

Director's Letter

Chrysanthemum 'Brandywine Sunset'

Greetings from the JC Raulston Arboretum

By Mark Weathington, Director

J. C. Raulston closed his many letters with the exhortation to "Plan—and plant for a better world," and we've been following that command ever since. We look to the future to see how our actions at the JCRA today will improve the world in the future. I've recently been thinking a lot about future planning due to the recent loss of a parent.

My father would not have considered there to be all that much to his "estate" and so would likely not have thought too long or hard about estate planning. In my experience of working with donors, this is often the case. But when it comes down to it, a home, retirement accounts, life insurance, and the like can actually be a quite significant amount when all is said and done.

Estate planning is an uncomfortable topic for many of us, but planned gifts from supporters are quite common and have helped the JCRA grow our endowment, programs, and gardens significantly over the last decade. We currently have planned gifts from quite a few of our members and volunteers. While we hope to not see their gifts for many long years, they have the comfort of knowing their plans will help an organization they love to reach its full potential.

The important thing to remember is that to make sure your gift is used in exactly the way you would like, it is helpful to have a conversation with us. We can make sure your legacy will continue our efforts to plant a better world.

Leaf & Limb staff

Staff from Leaf & Limb volunteered the services for a full day in June

Arboretum Update

Italy, Manaco, and France trip participants

Travel with the JCRA

By Mark Weathington, Director

Once again, a fabulous time was had by all!  Thirty of my (now) good friends traveled with me to Italy and the French Riviera for beautiful gardens, exquisite architecture, and of course plenty of wonderful food and wine. As always, my favorite part of the trip was getting to know everybody a bit better—although the Jardin Exotique in Monaco was definitely a must-see, bucket-list garden for me and it lived up to its reputation.

Before the trip was even half over, I was inundated with the inevitable question, "Where do we go next?" We are finally ready to announce with great pleasure that our next excursion will take us to the most famous garden show in the world—the Chelsea Flower Show in England! A few details are still in the works but we will be visiting London, Oxford, and the Cotswolds from May 22 to June 1.

I expect this trip to be another once-in-a-lifetime experience visiting some of the greatest botanical gardens in the world, hidden gem private gardens, the Chelsea Flower show, and the historical wonders of Oxford and Bath. We know this trip will fill quickly so please contact me if you would like to be put on a waiting list.

Exotic Garden, Monaco

Exotic Garden, Monaco

Villa Carlotta, Tremezzo, Italy

Villa Carlotta, Tremezzo, Italy


Illicium 'NCIH1' (Scorpio) and 'NCIH2' (Orion)

New Stars

By Mark Weathington, Director

Each year, usually in early winter before we are caught up in the spring flurry of sales and galas and various other programs, the time arrives for us to make one of the toughest decisions of the year. Not what plants to install or remove, not where we will travel on plant expeditions, not who to hire as summer interns, but the monumental decision about what plant, or occasionally other design, to feature on the next year's T-shirt.

Why do we need to start so early? After all, the shirt won't be available until the fall, and it seems as though a nine- or ten-month head start should be excessive. The botanical illustrations on our shirts are drawn from real life plants, occasionally supplemented with images from our extensive photograph collection. Our artist for 2018's shirt, Sue Aldworth, needs to be able to see the plant throughout its various stages to capture the best image. This year marks Sue's 12th T-shirt design for us. As Sue sketches her idea, we discuss how best to present the plant. Once her drawings are complete, we look at placement on the shirt along with the text we want to include. Finally, color—both for the image and the T-shirt itself—are selected. The limits of cost imposed by this last decision often causes quite a bit of consternation and tweaking to make sure we get it right.

Selecting the right plant presents challenges of its own. This year, we settled on a plant that is seeing remarkable popularity in recent years, Illicium. Known variously as anise tree or shrub, star flower, and star anise, this plant makes an evergreen shrub suitable for a wide variety of spots in the garden. The genus Illicium is found throughout Asia and in the southeastern United States to Mexico and the Caribbean and contains 40 or so species. It is a very primitive plant—one of the oldest branches on the flowering plant's evolutionary tree. The name comes from the Latin word for "allure" and was first applied to the spice known as star anise.

The common anise tree species grown as ornamentals in the United States include the Southeastern natives I. floridanum, the Florida anise, I. parviflorum, yellow anise, and the Asian I. anisatum or star anise (not to be confused with the culinary I. verum or true star anise). A few other Asian species can be found in specialty collections like the JCRA's which holds about 10 species and over 30 different selections and forms. While the true anise is used both for its aromatic seed capsules and oils, the hardy ornamental species we grow are toxic and should never be used as a substitute.

The hardy anise are evergreen shrubs with typically fairly smooth, glossy green foliage highlighted with red, pink, burgundy, white, or yellow flowers often with long, strappy petals giving rise to the name star flower. The I. floridanum and I. anisatum star anise both bear pink to red flowers while the much less showy flowers of I. parviflorum are yellow-green. They will typically grow from 6' to 15', depending on species. The yellow-green fruits which follow the flowers will dry and split to spill their seeds and will look quite familiar to anyone who has used star anise in a recipe.

The hardy anise are easy to use in the landscape as they will grow in full sun to fairly deep shade. Once established, they are quite drought tolerant, but they will grow in very damp spots making them ideal for rain gardens. In full sun, the foliage will sometimes take on more yellow-green or olive-green tones than when grown in shade. Perhaps their most noteworthy feature for the modern landscape is that they are among the most deer-resistant plants available for the garden.

Recent selection and breeding has given rise to a host of new selections, but even decades ago the JCRA noted their beauty and introduced 'Aztec Fire' from a collection of I. mexicanum made by J. C. Raulston in the 1980s. Now, one can find gold-leafed selections like 'Florida Sunshine', various variegated cultivars, and large-flowered hybrids like 'Woodland Ruby'. For years, the one major complaint about these plants has been the large size which can easily outgrow their allotted space if not kept pruned.

The selections featured on our shirt this year aim to solve the size problem. Tom Ranney, the J. C. Raulston Distinguished Professor and mad scientist of plant breeding at NC State, has introduced two new selections, the scarlet flowered Scorpio ('NCIH1') and the white Orion ('NCIH2'). Both are dense and compact plants growing to about 3' tall and 5' wide making them perfect for foundation plantings and the like. They will flower most heavily in spring and then re-bloom sporadically over summer and into fall. Both are brand new and are just hitting the market, so they may not be widely available for a while.

Illicium 'NCIH1' (Scorpio) and 'NCIH2' (Orion)

Illicium 'NCIH1' (Scorpio) and 'NCIH2' (Orion)

Back graphic of the 2018 JCRA T-shirt

Back of the 2018 shirt featuring Illicium foliage and seed pods

Arboretum Update

Japanese Garden at Moonlight in the Garden

Basking in the Light of Success

By Arlene Calhoun, Assistant Director

Moonlight in the Garden returns this November thanks to John Garner and his incredibly talented team at Southern Lights of Raleigh. There is nothing like seeing the JC Raulston Arboretum after dark. Looking beyond the exceptional beauty showcased during these special nights in November, this event is a historical benchmark for the Arboretum.

It holds the largest event attendance record for us to date; mind you, it was multi-day/multi-weekend event, which is no easy feat for our small staff. But add the professional team of Southern Lights of Raleigh and 135 volunteers and you have an event for the history books.

During the four general admission nights we were open in 2016, we welcomed 2,479 visitors. And while we're thrilled with the record attendance, we're over the moon, if you will, with the number of guests who were visiting the Arboretum for their very first time. People traveled near and far to experience the nighttime magic that is uniquely ours.

And, the excitement doesn't stop there. Moonlight attracted the most diverse crowd we've ever experienced. It did our hearts good to see so many people from all areas of our community enjoying an evening in the garden. Awareness and new audience engagement are always top of the list when we're setting goals for our public events. And I think you'll agree: mission accomplished!

Raulston Blooms!, in its fifth year, is another new audience engagement success story. We welcomed 1,585 guests in a single day. And, 15% of our annual new members join during this one event. We can't think of a better way to celebrate spring. We can't do it alone; we have talented and generous friends in Bryce Lane, Will Hooker, and Brie Arthur who filled tents to standing room only with talks of gardening and sustainability. Add to that 79 volunteers, a birdhouse competition, plant sale, food trucks, artists, green clubs, and organizations and you have a garden festival to remember.

We often speak of engaging the next generation and question how we can get them invested in a public garden. Recently, Yelp (the social networking site that connects people with local businesses) showed us how it could be done. We welcomed 300 Elite Yelpers to the garden to enjoy live music, face painting, local bites, and sips from a variety of restaurants, caterers, and distilleries. All this was organized by Yelp. During this two-hour event, we witnessed 300 Gen Xers and Millennials make flower crowns, boutonnieres, and participate in a scavenger hunt. It was a very social event and the crowd was delighted to be here. As you can imagine, most didn't even know we were here, but many promised to return. In the meantime, they have given the garden great reviews on Yelp.

This "best kept secret" is making some traction, and we're grateful for all those who help make it happen. Members, sponsors, volunteers, and all the dedicated people who make our events and programming possible or help spread the word to all who will listen, we couldn't do it without you.

Outreach is key to our success. So we're thrilled that Moonlight in the Garden is returning this November. And, we thank John Garner and his team at Southern Lights of Raleigh for their dedication in helping to make this important event a reality again this year.

More lights, more nights. Mark your calendars November 9–11 and November 16–18. Bring a friend or someone you know who has never visited us before. Let's make it another record-setting event.


Bill Satterwhite and an Eagle Scout installing bluebird houses

Volunteer Spotlight: The Bluebird Man

By Kathryn Wall, Membership and Volunteer Coordinator

Bill Satterwhite is known as the "bluebird man" with good reason. For nearly 25 years, Bill has been a force supporting the re-establishment of the bluebird population in Wake County.

After a career of 40+ years as a radiological technologist, mostly at Rex Hospital, he retired as head of the X-ray Department. He and his wife Jeanne enjoyed the usual retirement activities, especially playing golf, traveling, and square dancing. He got involved with the Master Gardener program, and encountered a bluebird box and the rest is history.

He's been involved in the installation of bluebird boxes here at the Arboretum and at sites all across the county, in schools, county and city parks, churches, and golf courses, including the Lonnie Poole Golf Course. Many of the boxes are maintained by other volunteers, but he still visits some once a week during the spring, cleaning them and counting any eggs or chicks; that data is sent to researchers at Cornell University.

Earlier this year, Bill received the 2016 William C. Friday Award for Distinguished Service in Retirement presented by the Association of Retired Faculty at NC State University.

He has been involved with the N.C. Bluebird Society and established the Bluebirders of Wake County where he is co-coordinator. For nearly 25 years, Bill has led by example, talking to groups about bluebirds as well as building and installing bluebird houses across the county.

Did I mention that he just had his 97th birthday?

This past year, Bill served as mentor for one of our youngest JCRA volunteers, Jack Messenger of Troop 346. Jack completed his Eagle Scout award under Bill's guidance, constructing and installing seven bluebird nesting boxes. (Jack has another special tie to JCRA. He is honored in one of our earliest memorial bricks which was placed on the rooftop in honor of his birth.)

We celebrate Bill Satterwhite. He's an inspiration to all of us.

Bill Satterwhite and Alexia Maneschi at Raulston Blooms!

Bill Satterwhite and Alexia Maneschi at Raulston Blooms!

Back cover of the Fall 2017 newsletter (Moonlight in the Garden advertisement)

Back Cover

Moonlight in the Garden

Thursday–Saturday, November 9–11 – 6:00 pm–9:00 pm
Thursday–Saturday, November 16–18 – 6:00 pm –9:00 pm

Moonlight in the Garden returns this November with more lights, more nights. Food trucks, live music, marshmallows and fire pits—they're all back. Don't miss the only opportunity to experience the JC Raulston Arboretum after dark. We'll open our gates each evening for you, your family, and friends to explore this nighttime wonder custom designed and installed by John Garner and his team at Southern Lights of Raleigh.