Oujournalist’s Blog

The blog of a freelancing journalist in Arizona

Use the Boyce Thompson Arboretum as respite from hurry August 30, 2011

Filed under: green — Candace Hughes @ 3:58 pm
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Use the arboretum as respite from heat and hurry

By Candace S. Hughes

Birds, bobcats, butterflies and buzzards visit the Boyce-Thompson Arboretum State Park for food, water, rest and cover.

People also are invited to the garden to fulfill the same needs, and to enjoy the poppies, lupines, globe mallow, penstemon, red monkey flowers, verbena and tree and cactus blossoms.

While many of the wildflowers disappear with the coming of hot temperatures, visitors still are encouraged to visit the garden and may enter as early as 6 starting in May.

A walk along the main trail to the Herb Garden brings refreshing scents and an early morning visitor may be lucky enough to spot a bobcat.

The Demonstration Garden features cool running water and ideas for landscaping.

Cold drinks, snacks and air conditioning are found in a gift shop with handmade paper notes, chimes, cactus packed for shipping, desert-themed toys, pottery from Mata Ortiz, Mexico, and books including a collection of essays on Arizona washes.

Guidebooks, plant, flower, mammal and bird identification booklets and membership information also are available.

A March plant sale attracts gardeners and an art gallery changes monthly. Painter and photographer Paul Mudersbach will greet visitors at the gallery 10 a.m.-2 p.m. March 17. Summer exhibits last year resulted in $5,000 in sales, 15 percent of which was donated to the arboretum.

Just as Pinal County is rebounding after the opening and closing of mines, the garden on the site of a former mine is renewing itself with continued research, plenty of visitor activities and challenging opportunities for volunteers.

Volunteers have fun, help out

Workers interested in helping remove weeds not native to the Sonoran desert are invited to help Saturday mornings under the direction of a volunteer knowledgeable about tamarisk and other species trying to gain a foothold along Queen Creek. Gloves are advised.

Other well-trained volunteers help with a monarch butterfly tagging project studying the insects which frequent specially planted areas in the arboretum, but also migrate to parts south of Pinal County.

About 150 volunteers donated 11,000 hours to the garden in 2006 by staffing the admission booth and guiding tours as well as helping with grounds keeping.

Col. William Boyce Thompson chose the University of Arizona to establish the garden in 1924, and the state park remains affiliated with the research institution. The garden’s staff has received a $65,000 grant from the Wallace Research Foundation to study desert legumes. In addition, the University of Arizona Agricultural Experiment Station has approved a proposal for a reference guide on legumes.

Legumes range from soy beans to forage plants such as clover to ornamental plants such as redbuds.

The arboretum’s international focus continues with 68 plants propagated from seeds collected in Turkmenistan in 1998-99 and planted east of the Herb Garden on the site of a future Central Asian Exhibit.

Garden members receive many benefits

Members learn through a newsletter how the gardeners experiment with the appropriate mix of chile powder spray on plants to keep javelina and other beasts from munching cactus, succulents, bushes and trees gathered from the world’s deserts.

Tales of ringtails invading computer rooms during cold weather as well as other pieces of information about the area abound in the newsletter sent to members periodically.

Memberships are $45 for individuals and $60 for families. Some upcoming activities for members include 20 percent off on gardening and selected books; talk and walk with Mark W. Bierner, director, 9:30-11:30 a.m. March 22; and star night 6-9 p.m. April 14.

Members may reserve a place at an occasional breakfast or ice cream social or provide a dish for the star night potlucks.

More than 4,000 memberships bring in seven percent of the arboretum’s revenue, with Arizona State Parks contributing 17 percent, the University of Arizona six percent, admissions 17 percent and gift shop sales of $302,17 in 2006 comprised 18 percent of the garden’s income.

Donations bring in 16 percent, investment income 18 percent and programs and events one percent of the revenue. In 2006 more than 63,000 visited the park’s site, which includes 300 acres.

When the area was covered by a heavy wet snow in March of 2006, members gave $46,000 to help the garden recover from the loss of trees and limbs. Despite the devastating impact of the snow, the wood was converted into art and some of the turned objects are for sale in the gift shop.

Seventy-five percent of funding is put into program services, Bruce Klewer, business manager said in a report to members. The arboretum has about 30 part-time and full-time employees.

Leandra Lewis, former Arizona Clean and Beautiful executive director, has been hired as development director to help raise money to update and improve the arboretum.

Among the new features benefiting from donations is a children’s horticultural garden.

Visit http://ag.arizona.edu/bta for more information and updated wildflower reports or call 520-689-5858.

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