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Serendipity helps create beautiful place

June 16th, 2013 12:00 am by Jan Hearne

Serendipity helps create beautiful place

The Ardinna Woods Arboretum at the Pliny Fisk Environmental Services Site has added a new mural soon to be dedicated. The mural was mostly funded through civic groups, businesses, and private citizens. The painting resulted from a public art competition a

Before the creation of Ardinna Woods Arboretum and Butterfly Garden at the environmental services site in Jonesborough, the recycling operations building blended with the landscape. It fit because the building and landscape were equally unattractive.
On Friday the building, once a gray blot on the natural landscape, was revealed to the public as a work of art. The addition of a mural, depicting the natural diversity of our region and the arboretum, has restored balance to the landscape.
Frances Lamberts, who has been volunteering at Pliny Fisk Environmental Services Site for more than 10 years, said the idea for the mural was serendipitous.
“In July 2011, two visitors from Pennsylvania came to the arboretum. One of them was an artist, who commented on the very ugly industrial building smack in the middle of (the arboretum). All these years, it didn’t bother me, but an artist comes and sees where beauty can be,” Lamberts said.
Not only did the artist suggest the creation of a mural, she and her traveling companion left a generous donation as seed money for the project.
Lamberts then put the idea before the town’s Tree & Landscape Board, which has supported the arboretum and butterfly garden from the beginning. “They were interested but told me we needed to do fundraising,” Lamberts said. “Most of the money we had to raise — three-quarters practically — and the town was able to do the rest.”
With the money in hand, a committee was formed to choose the artist. “We advertised for the project,” said Sue Henley, chair of the Tree & Landscape Board. “We had three different artists submit renditions of what they wanted to do. The committee picked Kathy Blair’s. We thought it was the best, what we wanted the mural to look like.”
Blair, whom Lamberts described as “very accommodating and very, very good,” took suggestions from the committee about what plants to include.
“The first was the Tennessee coneflower, which we have a long, long bed of here,” Lamberts said. “It is the first plant from Tennessee to be federally listed.”
The plant was thought to be extinct, but in 1968 a few were discovered in Middle Tennessee. Decades of intensive conservation work was rewarded when the Tennessee coneflower was removed from the Endangered Species List on Aug. 4, 2011.
Also on the mural is bloodroot, which Lamberts described as a “spring ephemeral” like rue anemone, trillium and shooting star. “The kind that comes out before the trees leaf out,” she said. “Bloodroot comes out almost in the snow.”
Plants critical to butterfly survival are represented on the mural. The yellow woodland violet is important to the fritillary butterfly, which lays its eggs on or near the violets. When the larva hatch, they feed on the plants.
“One Tennessee Conservationist article said our fritillary butterfly is dwindling because there aren’t enough violets left,” Lamberts said. “In our urban landscapes, we have homogenized so much. For this reason we have put a lot of our diversity at risk. The plants are food factories. If plants become rare, the creatures that depend on them become rare, too.
“The mural reflects that richness of plant and wildlife the Southern Appalachians have. From the Blue Ridge Mountains to Cumberland Mountain is said to the Noah’s Ark of flora of the Eastern U.S.”
Though much of that diversity has been lost or threatened, Lamberts said, “We have one thing to celebrate: As homeowners, we can reintroduce diversity into the landscape.”
In this regard, the arboretum is about education as much as it is beauty. It is home to 68 of 130 species of trees and plants of concern to conservationists. “Of the trees the state considers endangered, we have seven,” Lamberts said. “We are very happy to show these trees. Perhaps people will think, ‘this might be a good tree for my place, too.’ ”
More than a decade ago, a chance remark from the previous Pliny Fisk site director Wayne Campbell — “Wouldn’t it be nice if we had some trees here? — led to the creation of the arboretum. In 2011, a visiting artist suggested a mural, which is now reality. Serendipity, it seems, is at work, creating beauty where it didn’t exist.
The arboretum and butterfly garden are located at Jonesborough’s Pliny Fisk Environmental Center, Tenn. Highway 81 South and Britt Drive.
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