While cars whiz by Tenn. Highway 81S, down below, at the Ardinna Woods Arboretum in Jonesborough, a world of rare nature and graceful butterflies exist.
The level-two arboretum, located on the Pliny Fisk Environmental Services Site, has more than 20 types of shrubs and 75 types of trees, some of which grow on a steep slope. Now that the 3.5 acres are certified by the Tennessee Urban Forestry Council, the Hophornbeam and the Black Chokeberries are open to Jonesborough residents and anyone interested in learning more about plant life native to the Appalachian mountains.
“When the Redbuds, American Smoketree and White Fringetree are in bloom, people are enchanted by this area,” said Arboretum Coordinator Frances Lamberts. “Because it’s a small site and we have so many different species of trees collected here, they can see an intense, rich diversity that our mountains used to have, many of which are not readily seen anymore.”
Each season unveils a new display of colors that can be viewed via walking paths that wind through the collection of rare trees like the Devils-Walkingstick and the Kentucky Coffee Tree. One side of the arboretum consists of shade trees of medium to large height, while the other side is filled with urban, small trees. Both serve as examples of responsible tree planting.
“We have made these two collections to show the difference,” Lamberts said. “In the areas with the power line running through, it was better suited for shorter trees like Striped Maple, Common Paw Paw and Red Bud, but shade trees like Red Mulberry and Sweetgum are growing on the other side where there are no restrictions.”
The trees also show people what is native and available to plant, plus what it would look like growing in their backyards. Lamberts says those who have visited Ardinna Woods for the first time have been both impressed and surprised by the arboretum’s variety. Some people even stumble upon it when visiting the environmental services site, which provided the large amount of mulch needed to keep moisture in the ground and to prevent weeds from taking over before the early-stage shrubs have a chance to spread.
Though the space has been an ongoing development since the late ’90s, the 12-year span isn’t very long in tree years. Lamberts and other volunteers are happy with its look now, but foresee a continual beautification as growth occurs. Plus, the maintenance will be less, too.
The area was once “a green, barren site,” according to Lamberts, who says a request from a previous environmental services director to plant some trees around the area started the initial effort. She and a relative placed a row of transplanted Red Cedar trees along the top of the 45-degree angle slope that begins just below Highway 81 South. That was in 2000. Five years and a mass of donated trees later, there were 60 trees on the lands surrounding the environmental services site. About 10 trees later, the Jonesborough Tree and Landscape Board began requesting grant funding and working toward arboretum certification, which became official in the spring.
Lamberts, who’s been involved through almost the entire process, is pleased to see what’s become of all the hard work of not only board members, but Town of Jonesborough employees who helped install the walkways and the volunteers who have planted, weeded and watered the arboretum for years.
“It pleases me enormously to see all the wildlife that has come in,” she said. “There weren’t any birds here when we started, but now there are so many birds at home here and that are nesting and visiting here. There are so many butterflies and insects here, too. I have seen it develop into a habitat for native wildlife.”
The quick movements of the butterflies are evident when driving down the hill toward the arboretum. They continually dance around an abundance of zinnias, coneflowers and marigolds.
“I’ve seen people bring out-of-town visitors and family to see the variety of butterflies and the plants that attract them,” Lamberts said.
The official dedication of the Ardinna Woods Arboretum will take place today at 10 a.m. It is located on the Pliny Fisk Environmental Services Site, between Highway 81 South and Britt Drive. Brochures will be available to help visitors learn more about trees and shrubs within the arboretum, plus each plant is identified.