High Point University Arboretum and Gardens

August 21, 2012 – High Point University, NC
(written by Robert E. Lyons, photographs by Dottie Miles)

High Point University (HPU) is a small liberal arts college not too far from Raleigh and Greensboro, North Carolina.  Although I had never visited the HPU campus, I sure had no idea about its plant collections.  So, when Jon Roethling, a friend and fellow plantsman, told me of the University’s plans to develop their campus into a first class arboretum and garden complex, my interest was more than piqued!

Our group met Jon just inside the gated entry to HPU where he was ready to showcase all the newest developments on this rapidly growing campus. At first, it was challenging to see through the obvious avalanche of new construction, such as brand new buildings, larger than life water features, and impressive landscape structures.  Yet, Jon skillfully blended them all with expert discourse related to the new and existing plant materials, all intertwined with kudos to the HPU President, Nido Qubein, and his wife for their vision.

Within Jon’s 2-year tenure as a direct report to the Director of Facilities, he has overseen over 320 acres of campus property and its plants. He reviews new plant choice specifications with other HPU personnel with an eye towards diversity, uniqueness and even fragrance.  No common plant palette under Jon’s watch.  Students, staff, and faculty will be fortunate to enjoy the likes of Edgeworthia, hardy palms, and gardenias on their way to work and class.

High Point University does not have an undergraduate program in horticulture.  However, Jon wants to engage students as much as possible in the understanding of the campus plantings, as well as instill an interest and appreciation for plants, regardless of their major. I’m positive that the campus’ first LEED certified building (School of Education) and designation as a Tree Campus USA will only strengthen his attempt to make an impact on all HPU students.  Of course, one of Jon’s biggest challenges is directly related to the audience he serves…specifically, how to actually schedule the needed planting, landscape repairs, and plant maintenance without interfering with the busy activities found anywhere, anytime, throughout HPU.  Jon uses GIS to map the plant collections, he has labeled them for identification, and has integrated this information within the public information kiosks found within the student center.

At the end of the day, we contemplated all that Jon has done and agreed that High Point University would soon be a public horticulture force to be reckoned with thanks to his efforts.  Well done!

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