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Garden Party

Life is too short for boring plants.

That’s the motto at the J.C. Raulston Arboretum–and the e-mail tagline for Mark Weathington, assistant director and curator of collections.

Since its salad days in the mid-1970s, the arboretum has been all about shaking up familiar landscapes. Weathington says the goal is to inspire nursery owners and homeowners to make fresh choices, picking from a palette of 5,000 different types of plants on display at the arboretum.

View a slideshow of the arboretum

English garden flowers have their space here, as well as rugged desert species. You’ll find plenty of Japanese maples – Raulston’s signature plant – along with underappreciated Mexican oaks.  And yes, there’s even ornamental kudzu – which sounds like a contradiction – ominously named ‘General Sherman’s Ghost.’

Mark Weathington shares some anecdotes

The garden spot is hallowed ground for regulars: office workers brown bagging it near the water feature, young couples whispering on a picnic blanket, parents letting their children run around the gazebo as they find a few minutes to talk.

If you’ve never escaped to the arboretum, you’ve got a treat in store. If you’re making a return visit, you’ll find plenty of new features this spring. Here are some coming attractions.

  • Don’t be late for a very important date: May 2, when Raulston hosts its Garden Gala, an Alice-in-Wonderland-themed event where you can sip a cool drink, nibble gourmet treats and bid on the silent auction to benefit the arboretum. Sign up now.
  • Achieve a Zen-like state on in the revamped Japanese garden, which will open May 2 during the gala. Can’t wait?  Sharpen your bonsai skills at workshops April 22, 24 and 25 at the arboretum.
  • Pick up a copy of Chlorophyll in his Veins, Bobby Ward’s book about the horticultural visionary who started it all, J.C. Raulston. The visitor center has it in stock.
  • Visit the White Garden. This picture perfect wedding spot is patterned after Sissinghurst in Kent, England.
  • Get your hands dirty. Volunteer to help with renovation of the Lath House. The project is part of the master plan that has helped the garden grow from 8 to 10.5 acres.

Have you had a memorable moment while visiting or volunteering at the arboretum? Tell us about it in the comments section below.


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