Signs of the Times

Matt Shultzman, Program Coordinator (left) and Paul Snyder, Operations Manager (right) inspect one of the new orientation signs.

First, I would like to share a few words of tribute to Joe Cochran, former Secrest Operations Manager and Interim Director, who passed away suddenly on the 22nd of October. Joe’s positive spirit and deep commitment to the success of Secrest Arboretum was evident to all with whom he interacted. His leadership in the period following Ken Cochran’s retirement set the stage for the wonderful opportunities the team and I have today. Joe was instrumental in ensuring the Secrest Welcome and Education Center project was completed as planned, and refused to retire until the final detail was addressed. Since his retirement in 2019, we were regularly treated to his permanent smile and ample words of encouragement during frequent visits to the arboretum. He will be greatly missed.

Last summer I mentioned that Secrest was granted $10,000 by the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust to fund new welcome signage. It took a while to get the design just right, but the wait  is over. In early October our team strategically placed each of the three new signs intended to greet, orient, and educate our visitors. It is very satisfying to see them being studied intently by newcomers and regulars alike. Thanks to said Matt Shultzman, Program Coordinator (left) and Paul Snyder, Operations Manager (right) inspect one of the new orientation signs.signs and our updated brochures, I have strong anecdotal evidence of a sharp decline in bewildered arboretum-goers unable to navigate our circuitous garden paths.

The effort to repopulate the Herms/Neilsen Discovery Pavilion Garden with double-duty edible and ornamental plants is picking up momentum. The team and I recently traveled to Virginia to visit a fascinating, quirky nursery dedicated entirely to edible landscaping. We left with our bellies full of exotic persimmons and a truck full of unusual fruiting trees, shrubs, vines, and groundcovers. Many of our new acquisitions will have already been planted by the time this newsletter hits your inbox. Some of our new favorites are cultivars of Chinese dates (Ziziphus jujuba) selected for  large, sweet fruit, several varieties of honeyberry (Lonicera caerulea) to pollinize our lone existing plant, the shrubby, early-flowering Nanking cherry (Prunus tomentosa), and acid-loving cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) and lingonberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) to evaluate  for groundcover use. 

In related news, a rather serendipitous collaboration with Dr. Ryan Van Haden’s Sustainable  Agriculture class at ATI will soon bear fruit in both senses of the phrase. His students took an interest in hardy fruiting vines for the home landscape and selected hardy kiwi (Actinidia arguta) as the focus of a special project to install a large tunnel-like support structure upon which several new kiwis can happily climb. For the uninitiated, hardy kiwi is an extremely cold-tolerant vine from eastern Asia that produces smaller (yet equally tasty) fruit than the famous fuzzy kiwi  Actinidia deliciosa) available at Buehler’s. We are presently assisting Dr. Van Haden’s class with finalizing the construction and installation of our imposing “Kiwi Tunnel” feature. Also, be on the lookout for colorful new obelisks intended to support multiple varieties of hardy passionflower (Passiflora incarnata). Native to parts of southern Ohio, P. incarnata is a fairly rampant vine that produces intricately beautiful flowers followed by elongated fruit pods with edible innards in late summer and fall. These will join a sweet and sour symphony of plants that please the eyes and the tastebuds.

Two other projects of note should commence in the coming weeks. First, we are awaiting installation of new parking stops in the three parking strips along Williams Road and Green Drive. The recycled rubber pieces will be a welcome upgrade and will be accompanied by freshly painted parking space lines. Second, we are finishing up our plans for upgrades to the John Streeter Garden Amphitheater. With the assistance of Kim Kellogg of Grasshopper Landscaping and his son Matt, we will soon have a schematic road map for necessary safety upgrades and accessibility improvements funded via a grant from the Wayne County Community Foundation. Depending on the weather, grading work may commence before the snow flies. Otherwise, our goal is to wrap up the project prior to the 2024 summer concert series.
--Jason Veil, Curator