August 23, 2012 – The JC Raulston Arboretum, NC
(written by Martin Smit, photographs by Sara Levin Stevenson)
The JC Raulston Arboretum, one of our own director’s former stomping grounds, was our first stop in Raleigh. The history of the Arboretum dates back to 1976 when Dr. J.C. Raulston initiated the first steps to develop the site as an arboretum for the Department of Horticultural Science at NC State University. The Arboretum is managed under the Department of Horticultural Science and focuses particularly on supporting research, extension and teaching. Beside these crucial functions within the University, the Arboretum also has become a popular public green space and an important educational facility, especially for the local community.
Upon arrival we were warmly received by Dr. John Dole who took some time out of his busy schedule as Department Head to talk to us about the importance of the Arboretum. He emphasized not only the role within the Department of Horticultural Science but also within the local community.
Mark Weathington, the current Assistant Director and Curator of Collections, discussed the master plan that was drawn up in 2007 by skilled landscape design professionals who volunteered their time and services to Arboretum. He also pointed out several new projects that formed part of the master plan as he was touring Fellows through the Arboretum. Mark also explained how the Arboretum has slowly transformed from an entity being fully funded but the Department of Horticulture Science to receiving only about thirty percent of its funding from the Department. Various weird and wonderful plants were also pointed out to the Fellows and Mark explained how trialing new plants is still one of the key functions of the Arboretum. On average, more than a thousand accessions are added to the collections every year, which is a staggering number for such a relatively small arboretum.
Our very own Dr. Robert Lyons, also gave his insight into the fundraising and completion of the Ruby C. McSwain Education Center, which he oversaw during his tenure as Director at the Arboretum from 1999 through 2004.
Our visit concluded with lunch and as usual it was put to good use as chance to interact with staff and volunteers in the manicured garden of one of the board members, Sylvia Redwine. During our visit we were pleased to experience the passion that both volunteers and staff had for the Arboretum, which bodes well for the future.