Bird, Tree & Garden Club Arboretum revitalization honored with rededication


An image from the Chautauqua Archives shows what is thought to be the establishment and initial planting of the Bird, Tree & Garden Club Arboretum in 1915. Henrietta Ord Jones is thought to be either the woman toward the right smiling and holding the paper or the woman toward the right holding the shovel.

Over a century after Henrietta Ord Jones co-founded the Bird and Tree Club in 1913, a major contribution of hers is being rededicated, showcasing her lasting legacy on the grounds of Chautauqua Institution.

The Arboretum will be rededicated at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 8, by the Bird, Tree & Garden Club, as the club is now known. Maureen Rovegno, director of religion, will be presiding over the ceremony. New tree and foliage markers around the Arboretum will also be introduced, adding to the educational emphasis of the outdoor classroom.

Rovegno will be reading from a portion of the original dedication ceremony, Psalm 1. The initial ceremony was also officiated by the director of religion at the time. BTG President Angela James called Rovegno their “perennial pastor” and both a great advocate and partner.

The plant markers are a gift from the family of Helen S. Davis, former BTG president, who adored the beauty of Chautauqua and care of its gardens. Betsy Burgeson, Chautauqua’s supervisor of gardens and landscapes, said the markers are exciting because questions are constantly being thrown at her and her crew about “what’s this” and “what’s that” in regard to species around the grounds.

“I hope to have them all around the grounds eventually,” Burgeson said. “It’s really exciting because (we want it to be) an official arboretum.”

Originally proposed in the late 19th century, the Arboretum finally came to realization in 1915 thanks to a contribution from Henrietta Ord Jones. B.H. Paul, a forestry professor on the grounds at the time, estimated there were around 60 species of trees displayed at the original dedication in 1917.

Sunday’s ceremony will kick off the week leading up to the biennial BTG House & Garden Tour. Located at the south end of the grounds between Wyeth, Massey, Whittier and Longfellow, the Arboretum includes a wide array of plant and tree species that has been expanded tenfold in recent years.

The increase in species density is beneficial because it’s nice to be able to take someone out and show them what they can grow around the area and around their home, Burgeson said, instead of just showing them pictures. She said it’s been fun to be a part of the transformation and called the Arboretum her “mad scientist lab” where she can plant various species and see what works and where.

“To look back and know what it was and see what it’s become and where it will go, it’s really cool,” Burgeson said. “It’s just such a great place to go sit and look at things, especially the educational aspect of it, having all the markers now.”

In addition to an overall aesthetic improvement, the Arboretum now hosts an additional 15 different shrub species, 19 new tree species and more than 25 species of perennials. The Arboretum has seen a revival, becoming a place for people seeking beauty, peace and education in nature after some felt it had been neglected in the past.

The Arboretum also offers a variety of nooks and “garden rooms” huddled among the trees and shrubs for visitors to sit and enjoy the environment surrounding them. Pathways through the area have been fashioned from trees taken from throughout the grounds. In addition to the beds of perennials, there are hosta, color in the shade and butterfly gardens now labeled with signage identifying the variety of plants in each.

James called the event a celebration of the work that has taken place, especially by the grounds crew since Burgeson arrived her first year.

“It’s indicative of a great partnership we’ve had with Betsy, who we consider our mentor as far as the staff at the Institution goes,” James said.

With the increased diversification of species and introduction of the plant markers, BTG is making efforts toward having an official designated arboretum in years to come. There are several stipulations that must be met, and these recent efforts bring the BTG closer to its goal of having the Arboretum classified by next year.

“We’re going to have tours running from (noon to 5 p.m.) by our master gardeners,” James said. “We’re going to have an Opera Invasion with students practicing among the trees, and we’re inviting everybody to learn about what this space is all about and hopefully come back for years to come.”

Tags : 100 year-anniversaryArboretumBird Tree & Garden Club

The author Casey McCarthy

Casey McCarthy is a senior at Western Kentucky University majoring in journalism with minors in photojournalism and creative writing. Casey is covering the environment and Bird, Tree & Garden Club this summer for the Daily. In his free time, he enjoys playing golf, watching movies and reading science fiction.