Friends of the JC Raulston Arboretum Newsletter
Summer 2023 – Vol. 26, No. 1
Greetings from the JC Raulston Arboretum
What a strange winter we’ve had. It was cold, warm, windy, and wet—I guess that’s actually a typical winter for us. Spring has started incredibly though with cool temperatures extending the bloom season for many plants but there’s been enough warmth to get things growing. It’s all I can do to write this instead of getting outside myself.
The JCRA team hasn’t had a chance to relax though. Garden renovations, new programs, expanded nursery productions, a return to speaking engagements around the country, rentals to facilitate, and the endless small things that need to be addressed daily keep everyone on their toes. As I told new Director of Horticulture, Greg Paige, this is the busiest we’ve ever been. I say that each year and the busiest we’ve ever been becomes the new baseline every time.
We’re not complaining though! Busy means we are providing you with programs and plants you want, supporting our professional constituencies, training students, and fulfilling our mission. This year is all about setting the JCRA on the path for the next phase by implementing changes in the gardens, renovating existing structures, and most importantly investing in our amazing team.
We’ve already begun with Elizabeth Overcash moving from her role as Children’s Program Coordinator which she built from the ground up to a new position as Education & Communications Manager. She’ll be joined by Blake Wentley who has been facilitating our online programming all year in a temporary, part-time role but will now be a permanent, full-time Education Assistant–another new position for us. On the Events and Visitor Services side of things yet another new role, Rental and Event Assistant, will be filled by Meaghan Kane who had also been helping on a temporary basis.
You make all this possible through the incredible support you provide and we work hard to make the most impact in return.
Bridging the Gap Between the Wild and Cultivation
As I wrote in our last newsletter, the study, conservation, and distribution of plants from the remote areas of Vietnam is increasingly critical as more and more plants are disappearing or being affected by the climate and weather pattern changes. Vietnam is an amazingly rich country for plants. The number of taxa I saw last fall for the first time in the wild, or at all, was mind-boggling. New species of Dichroa with glossy, blue fruit, my first ever Huodendron (think a snowbell but evergreen with smooth coppery bark) in the wild; the illusive loquat-leafed aucuba (Aucuba eriobotryifolia); and don’t even get me started on the perennial impatiens, mondo grasses, begonias, or ferns. Our Vietnamese colleagues exploring with us found not only new location records for Arisaema rhizomatosum (cobra lily) and several species of gesneriads, but also potentially an entirely new magnolia. The sharp, high peaks in northern Vietnam are hard to get to and because of the geography many plants are found only in isolated pockets.
I hope to strengthen and formalize the JCRA’s relationship with our Vietnamese colleagues. The researchers from the Vietnamese Institute of Biological and Ecological Resources are world class botanists and field taxonomists. Their expertise is invaluable in our work to study, collect, and preserve the flora of the northern Vietnam mountains. We bring expertise in propagating and cultivating these plants, a skill which is much needed at the IBER field stations where they are growing these plants to safeguard and study them. The combination of our respective skill sets makes both our organizations exponentially more effective in bridging the gap between the wild and cultivation.
Loropetalum—From Obscurity to Ubiquity in 30 Years
The JCRA’s recent forays into Vietnam to find, document, and help conserve the newly (2018) described Loropetalum flavum has led to me thinking about the ubiquitous loropetalum in our landscapes. The white-flowered, green-leafed L. chinense better known simply as loropetalum or Chinese fringe flower was first introduced to the West by James Maries who traveled through China, Taiwan, and Japan for the English nursery James Veitch & Sons. In England, loropetalum was considered a very tender shrub really suitable only for growing in a container. In the United States where our high summer temperatures allowed the wood to harden off, it was found to be hardy through zone 7 but it was rarely grown outside of botanic gardens. A 1982 JCRA newsletter mentions briefly that loropetalum was in peak bloom in mid-April and the JCRA still has a 1989 accession growing as a tree near the Nook by the old theme gardens.
In a 1991 newsletter, J. C. writes:
It turns out that the pink flowered, purple-leafed form known as var. rubrum had the added benefit of re-blooming throughout the summer much more so than the typical white flowered form in cultivation. Rarely has a plant gone from being a BIO (of Botanical Interest Only) plant to a mainstay in the market so fast. By 1997, just seven years after J. C. received one of the first of the purple-leafed plants to enter the U. S., Jonathan Nyberg asked in a JCRA newsletter, “Has a plant ever gone from 0 to 20 million in eight years?”
Over the years, we’ve grown about fifty different varieties—or at least fifty different names as renaming of the same plant has been rampant. If we tried to keep up with the deluge still entering the market, our collections would be 80% “dwarf” purple loropetalum which grow to 12’ tall. It has become a bit of a punching bag for plant snobs at times but it is objectively an excellent garden plant looking good all year round except after very harsh winters. It is tough as nails in the landscape, can be pruned as hard as a weekend warrior would like, and is spectacular in flower. Some plants are well worth the search and although many people don’t remember the role J. C. and the Arboretum played in helping bring this one-time rarity to market, this is likely one of our more impactful contributions to the American landscape.
Come Take a Tour!
The Arboretum’s guided tour program has offered tours for many years. This year, spring was bursting with tours! The school tour spring dates were all filled by November, and the adult tour requests keep coming. There is an overwhelming desire to come be in the gardens.
Tours for youth participants have been happening since the Children’s Program was established in 2011, but the first public school with a large group of students (95 students) was in 2013. Since then, the school tour program has broadened offerings to include groups ranging from kindergarten all the way through high school. The most popular grade to visit is third graders since their science standards focus on plants. Each tour has a plan that connects what students are learning in their classrooms with their experience in the garden. “Our goal is to make their learning come alive through the plants and their experience outside in the gardens. And, to give them a positive (fun) experience in the gardens so they’ll come back!” Elizabeth Overcash, Education and Communications Manager. This spring, twenty different school groups with an estimated number of 1,550 students came through the Arboretum gates!
Adult tours have seen an increase with gardening groups, community groups and master gardeners all booking tours to visit the garden. This increase and the large number of school tours is only possible with the help of volunteers. Luckily, the winter months were a perfect time for tour guide training to recruit more volunteers to help lead tours. New this year, Carol Lawrence created a volunteer tour guide training program to help volunteers become familiar with and gain confidence in providing tours. She and Kathryn Wall have led training to prepare new guides for the upcoming tours. The formalization of the tour guide training has brought a new excitement to the tour program!
Like many of the activities of the Arboretum, the partnership between staff and volunteers is crucial to the availability of such tours. Without tour guides, many of these tour requests would not be able to be fulfilled since staff are busy in the gardens and nursery during the busy spring months. Our volunteer tour guides serve as the face of the Arboretum and help each tour participant have a positive, learning experience in the gardens.
An Explosion of Creativity, Color & Pattern: Community Engagement Through Art and Imagination
We just raised the bar for spring color with a new ephemeral art installation titled “Post Modern Patterns.” Thirty local artists and students from nine different schools were invited to contribute to the newest Arboretum exhibit.
If you’re an art admirer or even a Disney Pixar fan, you might have caught glimpses of alebrije (pronounced: ah-lehbree-heh). These imaginary, chimera-like creatures first originated in Mexico as the creations of internationally-acclaimed artist, Pedro Linares. Linares allegedly created these fanciful forms from dreams he had during a bout of illness, but was later found to have designed them as decorations for a masquerade. Linares’ colorfully ornamental patterns began to spread around Mexico and other parts of the world; they found their way into the personal collections of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.
This winter, under the direction of the JCRA Volunteer Ephemeral Art Committee, invited artists put their modern spin on this rich cultural art form—transferring the bright and colorful patterns to four-by-four wooden posts creating our Post Modern exhibit. Volunteer Deb Lackey, used her woodworking skills to make routed grooves on many of the posts, giving clear dividing lines for the patterns to evolve. Each interpretation is as unique as the artist themselves—adding color, light and form to each garden bed.
We asked the artists to share their experiences. Beth Jimenez, who chairs the Ephemeral Art Committee and organized the project said, “This was a really fun project for me. The hardest part was bringing the post into my house and trying to not break anything as I navigated corners and tight spaces until I got it onto the kitchen table where I worked on it for six weeks.”
Some don’t consider themselves artists, but they were willing to challenge themselves and share their creativity. “I have joked that people will look at my post and remark, ‘oh isn’t it nice thatsomebody let their three year old help’ because that’s about my skill level,” said Lynne Taylor, who worked on her art piece with Pat Butterton, a fellow JCRA volunteer. Jayme Bednarczyk learned to use an airbrush for her post created with her husband Phil Abbott. She said it was a challenge to think about layering in reverse to use multiple layers of stencils.
For even the experienced artist, this project was a new venture into different art supplies. “I didn't learn about paint pens until AFTER I was finished, so, the hardest part was doing all the detail work with tiny paint brushes! I used every trick to make the tiny dots faster and easier. I ended up putting paint in stiff plastic and squeezing it out as you would do with henna, or cake decorating. The next challenge was having a design wrapped around the pole. The pole is long and quite heavy. You had to be VERY careful when turning the pole over—not to smear what you had already completed.” Cheri Vaughan
Some artists came together in groups to design their art piece. Ann Roth’s textile study group, Threads, worked on two poles. For Lynn Smiley, the project gave her an opportunity to let the emerging art skills of her granddaughter, Tess Korhonen, shine. Tess is a former JCRA Artists in the Garden summer camper.
Joy Burns, our school program coordinator, took advantage of this unique art meets garden opportunity and invited area schools to use the same point of inspiration to paint fence pickets that are installed in gardens around the Yurt. Students truly captured the whimsy of these fantastical patterns in their creations— using many of the colors characteristic of alebrije—think bright yellows, pinks, blues, and greens!
“Post Modern Patterns” captures the spirit of the alebrije—a menagerie of whimsical patterns dappled throughout the Arboretum. We thank all the artists for creating the colorful exhibit to share with our community. Come see how these creative artists made their mark in this inspirational outdoor exhibit. Their artistic interpretations are sure to be as unique and fanciful as those who enjoy them.
The exhibit is featured throughout the Arboretum with the fence pickets concentrated in the gardens around the Yurt that is near the Rose Garden. Look for more details about the artists and their inspiring creations next time you are in the garden.
Thank you to the participating students from:
- St. Timothy's School
- Farmington Woods Elementary School
- Timber Drive Elementary School
- Douglas Elementary School
- Smith Magnet Elementary School
- Parkside Elementary School
- Grace Christian School
- Morrisville Elementary School
Connections to the Past
Earlier this year, the JC Raulston Arboretum (JCRA) rebooted a program put on hiatus during 2020, the Friends of the Arboretum (FOA) lecture series. I gave a talk entitled “The History of the JC Raulston Arboretum . . . before it was an Arboretum.” While researching the topic, I found a fascinating connection between the JCRA and a notable historic neighborhood just around the corner from us, the Method Community. Any arboretum visitors who turn onto Beryl Road at Meredith College and the Waffle House pass its entrance at Method Road just before the beltline overpass.
Before it was annexed into Raleigh in 1960, the Method Community was a freedman’s village, one of thirteen such villages founded by freed slaves after the civil war outside of the Raleigh city limits. Today, Method is one of just two of Raleigh's freedman’s villages that remain.
Today the JCRA is separated from Method Community by the I-440, Raleigh Beltline. Prior to its construction in 1960, we were next door neighbors. Long-time Method Community member John Goode told me that as children the Method kids would walk over here to the “Method Farm” (a name that NC State University called the Agriculture Research Station located here from 1936-1976) to gather fruit that had fallen from the trees on its horticultural research plots.
Even today, a little bit of Method Community still exists on the JCRA side of the Beltline. At the back entrance to the Horticultural Field Lab on Ligon Road is Oak Grove Cemetery, the historic cemetery of Method Community.
The connection between Method Community and the JCRA is not just geographical. One of the more prominent people to emerge from Method Community was a businessman named Berry O’Kelly who has an astounding life story. Born in Chapel Hill during the civil war, he was orphaned and raised by family in the Method Community. He grew up to become a prominent business owner, philanthropist and real estate investor. Berry O’Kelly owned the JCRA property and the land surrounding it for twenty-five years (1901 to 1926). While I could not find any written plans of his intentions, it seems likely that he intended to expand the Method Community onto the property as he had been developing other adjacent lands during that same era. But plans changed and the property passed from O’Kelly to other owners before NC State bought it in 1936 and relocated its horticultural crop research farm onto it.
In addition to being a successful businessman, Berry O’Kelly was a philanthropist and the main benefactor of a school in the Method Community which came to be known as the Berry O’Kelly Training and Industrial School. Generations of black students received elementary and high school education, as well as teacher training and trades training including farming and horticulture. The school closed after desegregation in the 1960s and today, its remains are owned by the Raleigh Parks System and are part of the Method Road Community Center.
Both Oak Grove Cemetery and Berry O’Kelly School are on the National Register of Historic Places and the school is also a certified Raleigh Historic Landmark.
Berry O’Kelly was responsible for naming the road near the JCRA too. Beryl Road runs along the northern border of the JCRA and is named for Berry’s daughter. Prior to the 1920s, Beryl Road was actually part of Hillsborough Street and it meandered back and forth over train tracks several times between Raleigh and Cary. During the “Good Road Movement” of the 1920s, when the state of North Carolina started creating the state highway system, they straightened out Hillsborough Street onto its current path north of the train tracks so that it could serve as a state highway (today it is NC Highway 54). The “Old Hillsboro Road” that remained on the south side of the tracks was renamed Beryl Road by the Method Community members.
The JCRA is proud to have a connection to the historically important freedman’s village of Method via Berry O’Kelly. And like the Berry O’Kelly Training and Industrial School did in the past, the JC Raulston Arboretum continues to educate North Carolina citizens on horticultural subjects.
If you are interested in learning more about the Berry O’Kelly school, several of its alumni give a free public lecture on Wednesday’s about their experiences there in the 1960s (Email Denise Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org for times). If you are interested in reading more about the freedmen’s villages of Wake County, I recommend a brand new book published in January 2023 by Raleigh native, Carmen Cauthen, entitled Historic Black Neighborhoods of Raleigh. You can also see Carmen speak on YouTube in a 2021 talk entitled “The Fate of Raleigh’s 11 Missing Freedmen’s Villages” on the NC Museum of History YouTube channel. There is also a nice article about Method in the March 2021 edition of Walter Magazine entitled, “A Legacy of Generosity: The History of Method,” that is viewable online.
Members Share Their Favorite Benefits
Why are you a member of the JC Raulston Arboretum? I often ponder this question as I’m processing new memberships when it’s not an obvious connection. Most new memberships are directly related to an adult education program or symposium (member rates are lower), or a big event like Moonlight in the Garden or Summer Camp (members get first access).
To help me gain some insight, I asked members to take a short benefit survey in March. Here are the results:
- Two-thirds plan to use their JCRA membership card to visit another garden in the Reciprocal Admissions Program (over 330 gardens in North America)
- 60% plan to purchase plants from a JCRA sale
- 50% plan to make a purchase at one of the nurseries or other businesses that offer a discount for JCRA members
- 50% plan to participate in the Annual Plant Giveaway (first Saturday in October)
- 30% plan to purchase Moonlight in the Garden tickets
- This spring, 23% member households requested seed from the Member Seed Distribution
- Of those making requests, 25% live outside the state (10 states represented)
No matter the reason, we thank you for your membership support!
MEMBERSHIP—Serving Mission Through Growth 2022 Milestones to Share
- 712 New Memberships
- 310 Attributed to Moonlight in the Garden
- 4113 Members (5,000 here we come!)
- 29 States Members Call Home
- 1 Membership in Belgium
- 81% Retention Rate
We are committed to being your trusted source and look forward to offering the programs and plants you’ve grown to love.
Rooting for Our Students
I had expected to spend time in a beautiful garden this summer—basking in the sunlight and smelling all the roses. I hadn't expected that I would be interning at one. Six other NC State students and I have joined the JCRA team this year, making it the most the Arboretum has ever had. All with varying academic and career interests, each of us bring something unique and valuable to our garden and JCRA team. We have lunches amongst the blooms while tending, documenting, and lesson-planning the garden.
These experiences allow our academic and career goals to blossom. One may think us interns are doing just one task—mulching. Emma Jones, a garden intern majoring in Horticulture Science focused on Ornamentals and Landscape, even expected this as mulching was joked about during her interview. However, she is pleasantly surprised by the diverse tasks.
Andrew Paul, one of our garden interns who double majors in Plant Biology and Philosophy, shares the same sentiment: “In the interview, I was told every day would be different and that could not be more true.”
One day he might be mulching; the next day he is venturing to one of the greenhouses to gather cuttings.
This variety of tasks has been exciting for Sarah Remington, who is in Horticultural Science. This experience has exposed her to the inner workings of an Arboretum and to the many cool plants we have here—especially ones you can eat. Evan Villani, another one of our garden interns majoring in Horticulture Science, has been surprised by the amount of edible and palatable plants here.
Emma had sneaked inside the office with Pineapple Guava petals in her pocket, handing me a couple to try. It was the first time I had ever eaten flower petals. It melted in my mouth like sugar and tasted like a tropical dream. This was the last thing I expected to experience as an intern!
Even the interns working outside of the garden (like me) are aiding in creating and marketing our programs, such as our Summer Camps and Propagation Workshops, which are essential to helping us connect with our community.
Emily Workman, our Youth and Summer Camp Programming Intern, aspires to become a middle school teacher and hopes to bring the garden inside the classroom. She has admitted to not being a plant person. However, ever since working at the Arboretum, she has been learning more from the garden than expected.
“Learning how to plant the fruit and veggies in a garden has taught me how to structure a class around nature's timing. With the large number of volunteers here helping out, it has also made me see how much of a team effort everything takes.”
I have always appreciated going to a beautiful public garden like the Arboretum and love discovering new places—especially being relatively new to the Raleigh area. Working here as the Marketing/Communication assistant allows me to help others find the Arboretum and be informed about the exciting things happening here. My understanding of how we can improve visitors' experience has deepened from my assigned projects. I hope that I can continue to help amazing places like JCRA be more accessible to the community as I advance further into my career.
Perhaps the one thing the interns and I found ourselves pleasantly surprised by is how special our team is. Our interactions with the volunteers, visitors, directors, and each other have been positive and even enlightening. We certainly feel the collective support in helping the garden grow and even each other.
Friends of the JC Raulston Arboretum Newsletter
Summer 2023 – Vol. 26, No. 1
Editors: Arlene Calhoun and Kathryn Wall
Photographs by Tim Alderton, Brie Arthur, Joy Burns, Arlene Calhoun, Anne Calta, Mayann Debski, Bryce Lane, Sue ellen Ott, Charlotte Presley, Mary Louise Riavese, debra Singer-Harter, Leah Tran, Ira Tucker, unknown, Kathryn Wall, Mark Weathington, and Jeanne Wilkerson.
© June 2023 JC Raulston Arboretum
JC Raulston Arboretum
NC State University Campus Box 7522
Raleigh, NC 27695-7522
4415 Beryl Road
Raleigh, NC 27606-1457
Phone: (919) 515-3132
Fax: (919) 515-5361
Mark Weathington, Director
Arlene Calhoun, Associate Director
Tim Alderton, Research Technician
Amy Beitzel, Development Assistant
Joy Burns, School Program Coordinator
Dennis Carey, Curator
Bernadette Clark, Bedding Plant Trials Coordinator
Kathy Field, Business Services Coordinator
Meaghan Kane, Rental and event Assistant
Sophia McCusker, Nursery and Research Technician
Elizabeth Overcash, Education and Communications Manager
Greg Paige, Director of Horticulture
Amanda Pattillo-Lunt, Rental Coordinator
Alycia Thornton, Director of Development
Kathryn Wall, Membership and Volunteer Manager
Blake Wentley, Education Assistant
Board of Advisors
Rob Thornton, Chair
Heather Rollins, 1st Vice Chair
Melanie Kelley, Past Chair
Robert Bartlett, Jr.
Sylvia Blankenship, Ph.D.
Cindy Green, Ph.D.
Jeana Myers, Ph.D.
Garden Club of North Carolina Representative
Frank Louws, Ph.D., Ex-officio
Tom Skolnicki, Ex-officio
Alycia Thornton, Manager
Cover: Hyacinthoides hispanica 'Excelsior' by Don Chernoff