Fannie’s Garden


It’s been a really mild winter here.  We would love to see some more “weather” but the nice days have allowed us to schedule a February “Love Stories in the Garden” walking tour at the Arboretum. Usually, we are slick with snow, so we are taking advantage of a great opportunity.

While I was researching what stories I wanted to use, I was amazed at how many  memorials and gardens we have here (90!) that are dedicated to loved ones and friends. True, some are just benches, but others are full one acre plots.  They represent  so much history, imagination, hope and love. The stories were fascinating.

I finally culled out the best for my purposes, but I realized that we could easily do a yearly “ love tour” for Valentines Day, years on end and not run out of tales.

One story is about a volunteer named Fannie.  She really loved the Arboretum and really wanted her own special garden. While  phases of the Arboretum were still being plotted and built, Fannie requested, and got, an area on the slope, to make into a garden. No one thought she would make much of it, because it was in an isolated spot. It didn’t seem like much of a risk to let her work it.

She was so excited.

But this as no choice piece of land, it was the slope.  It’s called the slope because that’s what it is.; a 55 degree hillside that leads to the main thoroughfare  behind the Arboretum. Even now, the volunteers consider it to be the least favorite place to have to work.  It was all undeveloped land at the time, with no water, roads, bathrooms, or sheds near by.  So if Fannie wanted her garden, she had to haul everything, plants, tools, up the slope by hand. The new plantings would need water  and tending daily, until they were established.

But water and tend to the plants she did.

That was many years ago.

Today the garden is thriving.  There is a pathway to Fannie’s garden, along with a plaque dedicated to her for her love of the Arboretum. It is surrounded by other, lush terraced gardens.

Oh yes, and there is running water now there, too.

Some of the best things that happen around the Wilbur D May Arboretum and Botanical Garden are because of the amazing volunteers. The Arboretum has a permanent staff of 3, and then 3 more 6 month seasonal workers.  That’s it. According to national standards, for an arboretum our size, we should have one permanent gardener for each of our 26 acres. That means we are understaffed by about 75%.

But the grounds are beautiful, and filled with all types of school tours, nature programs, walks, and art exhibits, all thanks to volunteers who get excited about nature.


It’s a marvelous place to be, especially on Valentine’s Day.



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