The Bickelhaupt Arboretum is located just one mile northwest of Clinton Community College's (CCC) main campus in Clinton, Iowa.
The nationally-recognized 14-acre outdoor museum features a stunning array of select-labeled trees, shrubs, ground covers, perennials, and vibrant annual flowers. Witness the beauty of one of the top garden conifer collections in the country with over 600 cultivars. Other collections include native prairie grasses, flowering trees, shrub roses, wildflowers, ornamental shrubs, as well as stout medal daylily collections, monarch watch butterfly station, American Hosta Society National Display Garden, bird haven, and herb garden.
Founded in 1970 by the visionary duo, Robert and Frances Bickelhaupt, the arboretum was generously bestowed to Eastern Iowa Community Colleges (EICC) in 2014. Despite the change in ownership, the mission of The Bickelhaupt Arboretum stays the same: to serve as a connection between people and plants through a better understanding of horticulture by developing and maintaining a well-documented collection of landscape plants.
In addition to the outdoor museum, the arboretum maintains a library, meeting sites, water features, and a museum display of native animals and birds.
Bob and Frances Bickelhaupt loved taking walks around their hometown of Clinton, Iowa, during their retirement in the 1960s. However, their joy was marred by the devastating impact of Dutch Elm Disease, which began destroying the trees they loved. Despite having no formal training or knowledge in horticulture, the Bickelhaupts decided to to take action. They transformed their own backyard into an educational arboretum for the community.
The two frequently traveled to the Morton Arboretum in Chicago, where they learned the fundamentals and enlisted the guidance of an arborist. Devoting the rest of their lives to the project, they created the incredible arboretum we know today — the Bickelhaupt Arboretum. Remarkably, the Bickelhaupts continued to reside in their home on the property even after opening the arboretum. Today, the house serves as offices and classrooms for the arboretum.
Francie Hill, the Bickelhaupt's daughter, now oversees the arboretum. In 1999, she published a book about her parent's story titled, "A Private Couple Creates a Public Garden." The book documents the challenges and successes of their environmental project. You can purchase the book at the arboretum's Visitors Center. Any donations made for its purchase directly support the Bickelhaupt Arboretum.
Bench nestled in flower garden
Butterfly Garden Informational Signage
Grouping a trees
Stout Medal Daylily Garden
Bee on a Coneflower
Bickelhaupt Arboterum Sign
Bickelhaupt Arboretum Entrance
Heartland Conifer Collection
Hosta Glen Garden
Bickelhaupt Statue and Rose Garden
Roy Klehm Peony Garden
Ring of Life Sculpture
Gardens & Collections
With sprawling gardens encompassing 14 acres, The Bickelhaupt Arboretum boasts a remarkable collection of 2,000+ plants. Each corner of our arboretum is carefully curated to showcase the diversity and beauty of various botanical species.
It doesn't matter if you're a seasoned horticulture enthusiast or simply appreciate the wonders of nature — our
diverse plant collections offer something for everyone.
Westward, beyond South Rock Creek Crossing, lies the vibrant Butterfly Garden. It's a paradise for Midwest butterflies, including the majestic Monarch. Fueling the life cycle, the garden boasts plants that nourish caterpillars and provide nectar for mature butterflies. Among its star performers? The butterfly bush, milkweed, sedum, lantana, coneflowers, zinnias, and asters.
The arboretum proudly stands as an official way station for monarch butterflies, recognized by the esteemed University of Kansas Entomology Program. As one of just four such sites in Iowa, and the only public garden holding this distinction statewide, we are deeply committed to monarch butterfly conservation.
Right in front of the Visitors Center, lies the picturesque Country Flower Garden. It's a dynamic blend of plants carefully curated to be viewed and used year-round. From the early burst of spring bulbs to the vibrant summer and autumn displays of annuals and perennials, the garden rests against a rustic backdrop of brick and split-rail fences.
But the allure doesn't end there—through the winter months, evergreen structures take stage. See the evergreen "waterfalls," alongside deciduous shrubs and ornamental grasses that withstand the elements. The garden showcases beloved classics like gerbera daisies, dahlias, and black-eyed Susans, while also introducing unusual varieties such as the candy corn vine, summer's kiss gaillardia, and orange coneflowers. With a special focus on flowers and foliage perfect for fresh or dried floral arrangements, this garden is an endless source of inspiration.
In the early 1970s, the Bickelhaupts started a group of mount hood, king Alfred, music hall, rosy pink, and rosy sunrise daffodils. For five years, 200+ daffodils were planted under the crabapple collection. They were easy to start and demanded very little maintenance.
Today, when the spring bulbs burst into bloom, there's an estimated 16,000 flowers. Members of the maintenance crew have recently added split cup and double cup daffodils. The hillside becomes alive with vivid hues of yellows, whites, and deep golds. Surprisingly, we do not mow off the flowers. We let them grow and naturalize for the following season.
The Stout Silver Medal is the highest award given by the American Hemerocallis Society (AHS). It was created in memory of Arlow Burdette Stout, who is considered to be the father of modern daylily breeding in North America. It was the first award category established by AHS and is presented annually.Consequently, the garden showcases the culmination of almost half a century of groundbreaking achievements in daylily breeding. This esteemed recognition, bestowed by AHS judges, is exclusively granted to a cultivar that has earned the prestigious Merit Award for three consecutive years.
Flowering trees are planted throughout the arboretum and provide a spectacular show throughout the spring season. Most offer colorful fruits, autumn foliage color, and bark interest in other seasons.
Ornamental crabapples and magnolias are displayed as major collections. Others flowering trees include serviceberries, redbuds, dogwoods, hawthorn, silverbells, cherry, callery pear, and lilac.
Located on the northeast section of the arboretum, the Heartland Collection of Dwarf and Rare Conifers is the largest and most well-known collection the Bickelhaupt Arboretum has to offer. It covers approximately 1.5 acres of rolling terrain with waterfall features and benches for visitors to sit and enjoy the views. A listing of the plant collection is available upon request.
In 1990 the heartland collection took shape through meticulous planning, bed arrangement, and careful plant curation. Presently, it encompasses over 440 plants, in a state of constant evolution to ensure they thrive without overcrowding. When selecting replacements, utmost care is taken to choose resilient plants that are resistant to major pests and diseases, perfectly suited to our region.
The American Conifer Society (ACS) named the Heartland Collection of Dwarf and Rare Conifers a Reference Garden in 2012. This was established to educate the public and promote conifers in various geographical locations across the United States. Each plant is labeled with its genus species, common name, and planted date.
The Mercy Hospice Herb Garden is a joint effort of the Bickelhaupt Arboretum and Mercy Healthcare Foundation. Nestled in the northeastern corner of the arboretum, the herb garden contains more than 60 specimens. The garden is for learning, interacting and reflecting. Using the loose definition of an herb as "any plant with a use," the garden is filled with annuals, perennials, vines, and shrubs, used for everything from flavoring food to making medicine and cosmetics.
The Hosta collection contains more than 250 species and cultivars. A chipped, natural curving path allows the plants to be viewed from both sides. The background extending into the woods consists of boxwood, lady, and ostrich ferns, as well as other shade-loving plants. The collection encompasses a diverse range of sizes, with miniatures as small as two inches and extra-large specimens reaching heights of 40 inches. A stunning array of colors, shades, and variegations grace the collection, spanning from vibrant lime greens to muted dusty blues.
In the west-central area of the arboretum, right by the crabapple collection, lies the Roy Klehm Peony Collection. This exceptional assortment of peonies was generously contributed by Roy Klehm, a renowned nurseryman and plant breeder from the Song Sparrow Nursery. Since its inception in 2007, the collection has grown each year, now showcasing over 30 distinct cultivars of peonies.
Within this collection, you'll find an impressive selection of garden peonies and intersectionals, which are hybrids of garden and tree peonies. These peonies have been carefully chosen for their resilience, particularly in inclement weather, displaying excellent endurance even during rainy periods. Furthermore, these varieties boast superior resistance to mildew, ensuring their continued beauty and vitality.
The Rock Garden is planted on the south-facing slope just off the Learning Center. Designed by arboretum horticulturist, David Horst, and alpine plant/rock garden expert, Gary Whittenbaugh, this area has 30 different types of alpine, succulent, and dwarf conifers.
To create an ideal environment for these plants, substantial limestone boulders were carefully positioned, offering both support and a natural aesthetic. Later, natural limestone steps introduced a new dimension to the garden, further enhancing its visual appeal. Thriving in the rocky soil conditions, the plants in the Rock Garden are remarkably low-maintenance, relying on the moisture provided by nature to endure and flourish.
Dedicated to the memory of Robert Bickelhaupt's mother, the Alma B. Rose Garden showcases a stunning array of around 90 shrub roses, carefully selected for their resilience in our region. Each variety is thoughtfully arranged in clusters of three, with its genus and common names clearly labeled for easy identification.
Nestled beneath an ancient oak tree, the Wildflower Garden awaits on the arboretum's south side. Here, shade falls upon the vibrant blooms. Discover over 30 varieties of woodland flowers, ferns, wild geraniums, ginger, jack-in-the-pulpits, and vibrant violets. Blooming commences in March, enduring until October, with resilient varieties standing tall.
While the height of the season is early- to mid-spring, the diverse foliage and plant structures endure through the scorching summer. Nearby, prairie grasses sway. Native trees, a babbling brook, and the gentle slopes of the arboretum embrace the horizon.
The Learning Center has a taxidermy collection of more than 80 species of birds, reptiles, and animals. The collection is on open-display for public viewing.
Staff & Awards
David Horst, Director of Horticulture
- 2009 Outstanding Professional in Iowa by the Iowa Urban and Community Forestry Council
- AA Degree from Muscatine Community College
- Employed at the Bickelhaupt Arboretum since 1986
- Interests include collecting Hostas and rare Dwarf Conifers, and also collecting Native American Artifacts
The Arbor Day Foundation recognized Robert Bickelhaupt with the Lawrence Enersen Award in 2005. The award recognizes an outstanding individual who has had a positive impact on the environment due to their lifelong commitment to tree planting and conservation at a local community level.
The eligibility and criteria for the award are:
- Only individuals are eligible
- Work is done at a local community level
- Shows outstanding personal commitment over their career or lifetime for the betterment of the environment in a community
- Mobilizes people in tree planting and care
- Unique or extraordinary contributions and commitment with regards to tree planting, landscape, conservation, education, or research
- Role model to others
The Bickelhaupt Arboretum was named a Conifer Reference Garden by the American Conifer Society (ACS) in 2012, joining such prestigious gardens as the Hidden Lake Gardens in Michigan and the Rowe Arboretum in Ohio. There are only four such gardens in the central region, covering 15 states and two Canadian provinces.
Reference gardens were initiated in 2007 as a way to promote the use of conifers in specific geographical regions. They offer professionals and home gardeners an opportunity to view live conifers in a landscape setting, displaying their many different colors, shapes, and growth habits. To qualify for the honor, Bickelhaupt had to meet criteria such as: being a non-profit garden, open for public viewing, and having conifers accurately labeled, and displaying a minimum of 30 conifers.
Priority in selection is given to gardens with a high number of visitors. The Bickelhaupt Arboretum has more than 20,000 visitors each year and contains a stunning collection of more than 400 conifers, all labeled with their genera, cultivar, and common names.
Bickelhaupt Arboretum Podcast
Join Clinton Community College (CCC) Science Instructor, Ryan Welch, on his exploration of the Bickelhaupt Arboretum's history and plant collections through interviews with the arboretum's long time staff and volunteers.
Special thanks to Margo Hanson, former Director of Programs, David Horst, Director of Horticulture, Francie Hill, the Bickelhaupts's daugher, and volunteers Joyce Oley, Raymond Smith, and Marion Johnson.
Listen to our first podcast episode on the captivating Bickelhaupt Arboretum. Join us as we delve into its rich history and uncover the remarkable Bickelhaupt family.
Hear from Margo Hansen, former director of programs, as she shares insights into the founders and their journey. Get an exclusive perspective from Francie Hill, their daughter, as she unveils the motivations behind this ambitious project and the challenges they faced in its early days.
Plus, David Horst, director of horticulture, reveals the evolution of the master plan and its impact on the arboretum's layout and development. Tune in now for an intriguing glimpse into the past and present of the Bickelhaupt Arboretum.
Ryan Welch: Welcome to the first of what will be several podcasts about the Bickelhaupt Arboretum, a 14-acre arboretum located in Clinton, Iowa. During these podcasts, we will talk about the history and the development of the arboretum, the collections of trees, shrubs, and gardens that make it up, and the wonderful people that help keep this place beautiful year-round. So what is an arboretum?
Margo Hanson: An arboretum is a living museum of Woody Plant material, and that would be like trees and shrubs. It would include both deciduous trees. Those are the trees and shrubs that drop their leaves with the seasons, of course, when they go dormant, and then also conifers, which are needled plant material like pine spruce for things like that.
Ryan Welch: That was Margot Hansen, who for the last 11 years has been director of programs at the Arboretum. A key distinction compared to other museums is that everything on display is alive and growing. In most museums that you visit, the displays are very static, and don't change much through the years. Arboretums are much different and everything on display is alive. And the visitors have an opportunity to experience these wonderful plants throughout the seasons in all their living glory.
Margo Hanson: You know, we do have a few non-living displays like girdled limbs and things that people have sat next to trees and grown in. So we do have, you know, and how to prune and things like that. We have a few little displays like that. But yes, for the most part, it is living plant material, trees, and shrubs. We have labels, so you know how old the plant is, you know what day it was planted, and you can figure out how old it is. And then we only do plants that are hardy to this location. We don't do many, we don't do tropicals. We don't do things that we really have to cover and pamper in the winter because we want to show people what goes here, what lives and survives here. And if it doesn't make it, then, you know, it could just be a glitch in Mother Nature one year. But if it's something that's really tender, we don't really highlight those. We want to only show people what grows in this area
Ryan Welch: So it'll change all year round and things like that.
Margo Hanson: It does, yes, you know, as nature does, we lose things to two storms, we lose things to insect and disease problems and old age. So those are all the natural factors that happen and things that happen in nature and the same happens here. So yes, we do lose things to disease, but if that's going to be a plant that's a real problem with, then we don't want people to encourage people to plant that in the area. And there are exceptions to every rule, of course.
Ryan Welch: So what would lead someone to start a museum of living plants in the middle of the Midwest? How did all this get started? How did this arboretum start? What? What was the beginning part of this place?
Margo Hanson: The arboretum was actually founded by Mr. and Mrs. Bickelhaupt and they like to be called Mr. or Mrs. B.
Ryan Welch: Why is that?
Margo Hanson: Because, well, because everybody spelled their name wrong, everybody pronounced their name wrong. And it was just easier for the general public to call them Mr. or Mrs. B. So early on they said, Just call us that. So it's not out of disrespect that I'll just call them Mr. or Mrs. B as we go, you know, and talk about them through the program. But Mr. or Mrs. B both grew up in Clinton and they founded the Arboretum in 1970. So that's 52 years ago. In 2022, the interesting thing was they were ready to retire. Starting an arboretum is a long-term project and the people said, you know, are you sure you really want to do this? You're going to retire. You don't want to go golf. You said, no, we really want to start an arboretum. So they were starting to retire or think about retiring, decided to start this arboretum at their home and on their property. And at the time it was around 12 or 13 acres, I believe, and it was if we can go back even further back into the early 1900s, Mr. and Mr. Bickelhaupt's father had a car dealership, and they purchased this small farm on the outskirts of Clinton back in the early 1900s. And they had this little farm with a farmhouse and a fence and things because during the Depression, people couldn't pay, make money payments for the vehicles that they had purchased from Mr. Bickelhaupt's father's dealership. So they would bring a cow or a horse or some kind of livestock as payment goes, a barter program.
Ryan Welch: So it was a barter program.
Margo Hanson: It was a barter program because back during the Depression, they just didn't have cash, so to speak. So their payment was made in livestock and taken into the Chicago stockyards. They would house the livestock here on this little farm until they had enough. That's how they got their money back from all this livestock.
Ryan Welch: So the original purchase of the land then, wasn't by the person who started the arboretum. It wasn't by Robert.
Margo Hanson: No, no.
Ryan Welch: It was it was actually by his father who owned the land initially.
Margo Hanson: Exactly.
Ryan Welch: So it wasn't even in the town. Wasn't even out here yet?
Margo Hanson: No.
Ryan Welch: For a matter of speaking, we were out in the country and now we are very urban. Right.
Margo Hanson: And so I just find that very interesting. As the years progressed and the depression, you know, we got over the Depression, there was no need for this farm anymore.
Ryan Welch: To get an idea of what life was like in this area back then. We talked to the Bickelhaupt's daughter, Francie Hill.
Francie Hill: My name is Francie Hill. I was born Francie Bickelhaupt. I'm the daughter of Frances and Bob, grew up on the grounds of the arboretum, putting my feet in the creek, running up and down the hills, and things like that. About 20 years ago. I came back to Clinton. My husband had died. I came back and my dad suffered a stroke. Came back to Clinton with no knowledge of horticulture at all, given the responsibility of directing it.
Ryan Welch: What was it like growing up in that area before the arboretum was there?
Francie Hill: Yeah, actually, South 14th Street, which runs directly to the east of the arboretum, was the city limits. We were outside the city limit. My Grandpa Bickelhaupt was a car dealer in Clinton as he worked on the farmer's car, tractor, even tractors, anything like that, that he had some good work that they would give him instead of money they would give him perhaps a pig or a cow or something like that. That was when people traded services like that.
So he didn't just sell the cars and stuff. He also did repair work.
Francie Hill: Did repair work, un-huh, weren’t many of them in Clinton doing it, he did a luxury car, the packer, and then he also did anything else that anybody brought in. His largest contract actually was up in Savannah, Savannah Construction, a huge company. So they came from there and that was a lot of money crisis in freight lines, a lot of money with their trucks and so things like that. So he wanted a place to put these animals outside the city limits,
Ryan Welch: Of course.
Francie Hill: So he had those. So I grew up and I was always like the runt pig or the red cow, and he'd keep them there and feed them and then they would take them off to market. I always had a pony that was there, a horse or burrow or pony, and it was just a great place to grow up. It really was. I grew up. I was there, the end of my I think end of eighth grade through maybe in the seventh grade through high school. I can remember I was thinking about this morning. I can remember in 19, 1950, I think it was Christmas Day. My Grandpa Bickelhaupt had handed my dad a mom an envelope and it said, would they like some of that farm property? And so they decided they liked the hill is where their house is now and that farm still kept going down below. There was an electric fence that separated and the joke was the fun was we had a swimming pool and my decorated with artificial plants hundreds of dollars of artificial plants, but, you know, nothing natural. One night, some of my friends, perhaps, I'm sure I denied it, went through the fence and broke the fence, swam in the pool. We were out of town. When we got back in town. My mother went out to look at the pool and there was a cow drinking out of the pool. At that point, we enclosed the whole house, which now was a part of the arboretum, we used it for plant propagation, everything out there. It was the only indoor pool, a non-commercial indoor pool, except for the Maytag family out in wherever that was in Iowa. So it was kind of a novel thing to have.
Ryan Welch: Wow.
Francie Hill: Indoor pool.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
Francie Hill: The high ceilings, which later lent itself with all the windows to a wonderful place to propagate plants.
Ryan Welch: Yeah, it's a very, you know, the all that light comes in, it's a really good place to propagate.
Francie Hill: But that was kind of what it was like growing up around there.
Ryan Welch: In the 1950s. They wanted to move out of town to a quieter location. So they built what was at the time, well, a fairly modern Frank Lloyd Wright-style house in 1955 on the location where the arboretum is today. And they raised their two daughters, Francie and Linda. At the time. This was outside of town in a much quieter neighborhood than what we see today after they had raised their daughters and retired from their careers. It was then that they decided to start an arboretum. Margo continues to tell us more about this decision.
Margo Hanson: They raised their children here. They moved on. And it's then that they said, you know what, we have this land, let's start an arboretum. And they weren't plant people.
Ryan Welch: So how do you get interested in something like that? How does a person say, you know, I'm ready to move on to a different career, let me do something that's completely out of my comfort zone, and let me start planting trees.
And, you know, I wish we could ask them.
Ryan Welch: Yeah
Margo Hanson: Because it's just they were not plant people. And the Dutch Elm Disease hit in the 1960s and 1970s. And any of you that were around that time know that the Dutch Elm Disease eliminated a majority of the elms, just like the emerald ash spores is eliminating the ash population in the whole United States. So they walk almost all the streets of Clinton to experience the damage done by the Dutch Elm Disease. To see how many trees in Clinton were destroyed. And there were just hundreds and hundreds of trees and huge areas of dead from this disease. And they said to them to each other, they said, we really need to educate the public to plant all kinds of trees so this doesn't happen again.
Ryan Welch: So it was very much a community service project for them initially.
Margo Hanson: Exactly. And they liked when they went on their car shows and their dealership shows, when they were younger, they would go to arboretums and gardens and, you know, they didn't necessarily go golfing and do the normal thing that people do at these buying shows. And so as they traveled around the country, they would look at different gardens and arboretums and really enjoyed that and pick some things up. But again, they had no tree background. They had no educational horticulture background. So that's what I find so fascinating.
Ryan Welch: So it's been said that the idea of the arboretum came about following the loss of so many trees in the area due to Dutch elm disease. Can you elaborate on the truth behind this? And if there was any other factors as well that led to your parents coming up with this and pursuing this idea?
Francie Hill: Sometimes things just fall into place and we're talking the late sixties and my mom and dad had made financially, Clinton had given a lot to them and they'd give it to the town. And most of their friends were going to Florida to play bridge and golf, and they felt very loyal to Clinton. Both of them were third-generation Clintonians, and they really felt like they wanted to give something back to that community. So they were trying to think, what should they do? What could they do? And trees were never on that. They're not at all on the radar at all. They started taking walks around town and they walked I think they walked over 90 miles and they charted it on this big map to look at. And they marked everywhere they went. One night they saw on Fifth Avenue these big Xs on trees and they caught on. That was the tree was gone. Why was it going to be taken down? They asked people and they said, Well, because it's Dutch Elm Disease. And my folks were, what is that at all? They explained to them that was growing a lot of trees at one time. Clinton, Iowa was called the city of Trees, the avenue of the Elms and Just Avenue, and there are postcards of them now. They sell them on eBay, I guess, and it was an arch of trees and it was very, very beautiful. People came, drove from Chicago to see this avenue of trees slowly up and down the street, brick street. It was very they tried to find out from the city what they were going to do when the trees were cut down. Even then, people knew that if you cut the trees down on the south side of your house, you're going to have a lot of sun in the summer. Urban, forestry, ecology, environment were words that were just never used. Nobody knew what they were. I don't think urban forestry was used until probably the 1980s and now it is. We all know what it is.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
Francie Hill: So the city said that they would plant some new trees. They thought, that's a good idea, we'll put some more trees. And my dad, who only saw cars but also knew that with cars you'd have to sell a lot of cars to people coming back. You have to offer them diversity. So if you have a Packard one year, maybe five years, you have a Mercedes they don't always want navy, let's go to dark red. So we understood diversity in those terms. And so he suggested that they plant, submit some diverse plantings. And the question, of course, was why we can get a better price if we get them all the same ones. And he said, But what if we get another disease? Now we see that right now with other things that are coming up that, you know, we're having
Ryan Welch: Like emerald ash bore.
Francie Hill: Exactly.
Ryan Welch: And I've seen a lot of ash trees, right. Because that was the next. You know, it was it went from chestnut to elm to Ash. And, you know, it's a lesson. We're still trying to learn it.
Francie Hill: So they never really thought about it being their Arboretum was the only arboretum that we never even heard of was Morton Arboretum. And that was a lot of money. That was a salt company. They started taking classes there. They really were very interested in what could happen with the tree. And they just all this education came to him. I by then, my husband and I had had a child and we would come out and visit and they'd say, So what do you think about this? And we're like, What's an arboretum? So they took us to Morton and we visited it and everything and they were getting to know some people. This is a classic, a beautiful story. One of the classes that they would drive in and stay at a hotel outside of Chicago, outside of Morton, Lisle, Illinois, actually stay outside there. And then they get up and go to classes and go back. They saw a man who was sitting on a bench and his head was down. And my dad said, Didn't you just teach a class to us? And he said, Yes. And he said, But it's my last one. And my dad said, What happened? And he said, I'm 65 and I have to retire. And my dad said he turned to my mom and they went out and had a cup of coffee and let's do it. So my dad went back in and he said, Could I hire you? Would you like to help us start an arboretum? He said, Well, a lot of people want to do that, but he said, It's a lot of work. You have to have a real commitment, a real commitment, and I think I'd like to come out and see it. So he came out and see it and it's highly publicized what his report was. He'd never realized all the natural oxbows remember that the land where the arboretum has never been tilled. Okay, so normally a homeowner has a house, and the tractors and that schedule of his are sat in their yard, compacted the soil. This had never been it had been grazed by a few of my grandfather's pet animals.
Ryan Welch: Yeah
Francie Hill: But other than that, nothing. It was just, I mean, totally virgin. And so Mr. Nadine was very excited. He said I've never been around. Normally we have to bring in a load of dirt and that's not good, he said. This is natural. This is the dirt that was there. It was there, he said. I think next to commitment. The other word you have to say is native. You have to stick with native plants, native, everything, native don't show people in Clinton, they can plant a palm tree, and don't show them they can grow orchids. It has to be what they can do here.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
Francie Hill: So the arboretum really was founded as an education for people of native, wooded-native plants
Ryan Welch: Things that could handle the climate we have here in Iowa and also the zone of growth we have.
Francie Hill: Exactly. And that's really more economical to think about it because
Ryan Welch: It is, it is.
Francie Hill: You're not feeding it all this other stuff. And we know it's bad.
Ryan Welch: Exactly. There's a lot of folks out there who, you know, when you look at stuff like that and they're trying to, to plant things and maybe beautify, their yard, they don't quite understand the commitment that's going to come just from planting it, just from growing it, and just for making sure it continues to stay alive, alone, having to deal with. Okay, if the weather's too extreme for this long, what's it going to do this way and that way? And so all those things are things.
Francie Hill: You understand it pretty good.
Ryan Welch: Yeah. All those things are things that your parents took into consideration and were actually advised well on at the very beginning of this, which is the time to do it, because otherwise, you spend all that time and headache doing something that only to watch it sort of fizzle at a time when you really are trying to get it to get up there and go so
Margo Hanson: When they decided to do this and pursue it, they went to as many programs as they could. They went to the Morton Arboretum whenever they had classes. They did a lot with Iowa State University and they tried to learn as much as they could.
Ryan Welch: And this was before the Internet. So this was at a time where if you wanted to learn this kind of stuff, you couldn't zoom in at an Iowa State class or you couldn't call up Morton Arboretum and have a conference that way. You had to go physically to these places, learn this stuff, and then I drive all the way back and look at your land and say, I think I can do this. I think I can put this here and put that there, and maybe it'll work.
Margo Hanson: Well and Ryan back then. If you remember, you're younger than me. Everything was written by pencil and paper.
Ryan Welch: Everything was written by pencil and paper.
Margo Hanson: Everything, all the financial was done by hand. It was a little calculator, no cell phones, no Google, as you mentioned. So you have to really think the 1970s and it wasn't a bad time. We just hadn't progressed technology-wise. So everything was done by hand, everything was written down, notes were taken, and phone calls were made. The people kept questioning, saying, it's not like making a quilt one winter. You know, it's not short-term. This is very long-term. And bless their hearts, they were committed to this long term. We've been here 52 years. They both lived into their nineties, so they were able to plant and watch this arboretum grow for over three decades.
Ryan Welch: Now, when they began this arboretum, was there a plan in terms of maybe specific types of trees that really wanted to showcase? Or did they just want to try and give people an idea of the kind of variety that you could grow in an area like this?
Margo Hanson: So that's a great question because in the beginning, that's the hardest they maybe knew what trees to plant. But as far as placement, you know, where is this collection going to be best? Anybody can plant a tree or anybody can plant a bunch of trees. But we wanted an arboretum that people could walk around that would showcase the plants, to make them look the best, and to put them in the right location. So in the beginning, there was not a master plan. Okay, that didn't come until later. And so they did some planting and some planning. Some of it was cleaning off the creek area that was really overgrown and underbrush, just underbrush and things like that, mulberry and things like that. So they didn't have a whole lot of help. So it took it was a little slow start. And then also, if any of you planted trees, you know that sometimes you plan them. It looks like it's just a stick sticking there. So they did plant, but the trees were young and small and it wasn't very you know, it's not impressive when you plant a new you have to give those trees time to grow and develop. And so it was, it was a slow start like it needed to be. And then the master plan didn't come until later.
Ryan Welch: So as we can see, the clubs have this parcel of land that they had raised a family on following the loss of so many trees in their community to Dutch Elm Disease, they decided to turn this property into an arboretum so that people could see and experience all the options that were available to them in their area. As Margot pointed out, they weren't plant people and so they put a lot of hard work into learning about these. How to get them started. How to care for them and how to manage them. It was very slow going at first, especially with trees. You have to play the long game and you have to have a vision of everything that's going to happen and realize it's not going to happen overnight. As they began, they could see that they were going to be successful and make the most of this area and this project. They had to have a plan in place that they could follow. For more information about how we got to that plan, we're going to hear from David Horst, who's the director of horticulture at the Arboretum and has been here for the last 36 years.
David Horst: My name's David Horst. I'm from Sabuela. I've been employed at the Bickelhaupt Arboretum for 36 years, starting here in 1986,
Ryan Welch: When I first talked with, with Margo. We had talked about the history of Bickelhaupt's, how they came about deciding to do this arboretum, how they started doing it when they retired, and how they already had the land and things like that. One of the things that Margo mentioned, though, was that they had to come up with a master plan. What would you know about the master plan as it came about in terms of the arboretum?
David Horst: Well, the Bickelhaupts had always kind of come up with the ideas and thoughts for the Arboretum, along with a friend of theirs that they met at the Morton Arboretum, Roy Nordine, who was the lead Propagator at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. He became their first board member and together they would kind of make the plans each year, what they were going to plant and how they were going to do it and layout the collections in the arboretum. After many years, it was decided that perhaps they should look down the road as they were becoming older at this time and decided that perhaps they should make sure that the Arboretum is properly taken care of for many, many years after they passed. So they decided to take the master plan to the next step, and at this time they had a complete board of directors. So they discussed this with the board of directors and decided to hire a firm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, named Bitner Associates to draw up their first master plan. And of course, the master plan is developed as a guide for future vision goals strategy for the Arboretum. It basically provides a guideline for future planning and growth, and not just for the grounds or the plants, but also for similar things like attracting the visitors, budget, and events and programs.
Ryan Welch: Okay, so it's one of those things where you gonna discuss, okay, here's what we kind of need to be doing every day. But on the other side, if we want to keep this sustainable, here's some long-term ideas we have to come up with. Here are some future things we have to keep in mind as this arboretum expands potentially or grows or changes. As you said, things change through the season, and plans change. You're dealing with living things. And so because of that, some of those things, you know, they die, they grow, things like that. So we have to be able to handle that as you go. The master plan sort of gives you a framework to help with that, correct?
David Horst: That's correct.
Ryan Welch: Okay. Yeah. So they start the arboretum in 1970. You come on in 1986. But when was the master plan actually finally on paper,
David Horst: It was finally on paper and usable in September of 2001.
Ryan Welch: Okay. So for almost 30 years, they were sort of just going by what they what the vision they sort of had in their head, but yet wasn't quite on paper in official aspect, correct?
David Horst: That's correct. And now we have hard copies frequently reviewed. These are copies of our reports master plan and assist us in current and future planning here at the arboretum.
Ryan Welch: Okay. So they're living documents? Yeah, on paper, yes. You can look at them, touch them, but yet they're always changing as things change here at the arboretum.
David Horst: That's correct.
Ryan Welch: Okay. Now, initially, you know, when they started in 1970, in doing this, there were probably already trees on the property, correct? That's right. Okay. Can you tell me anything about what they are because my guess is they didn't just cut everything down to just replant new things, they had trees that were already here initially that they kind of worked around, correct?
David Horst: That's correct.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: The trees already existing on the grounds before the arboretum was started in 1970 were called founder trees. Some of these grew naturally, while others were planted around the Bickel House household. The name founder trees was decided upon by Robert and Frances Bickelhaupt and their daughter Francie, as they felt the founder trees provided the foundation of the trees and shrubs that make up the arboretum. Today, there are only seven founder trees left as weather-related incidents of old age have taken a toll on many of them over the years. So some of the older trees were existing on the grounds when the arboretum was started in 1970. Keep in mind, this was like a pasture at that time with long grass, and there was a creek flowing through the center of it named Rock Creek, which had trees growing along it also. So we had some of these majestic big bur oaks and white oaks, black cherry, other native trees that you find in Iowa. Those were existing trees that the Bickelhaupts had also planted trees around their home, which they had built in the mid to late fifties here on the grounds. And they had planted like a row of white pines
Ryan Welch: As a sort of a windbreak
David Horst: As a windbreak and a screen
Ryan Welch: Because they didn't cut those down once they started the idea of the Arboretum. And they just kind of said, okay, we're going to have these here, and then do they think about as they were continuing then, they knew they had these trees already set. They were already fairly mature. They'd been growing. Do they then kind of think about what kind of things to put around them to sort of accent and keep in mind or they look at other places on the ground and say, there's no trees here. Let's start a collection of this here.
David Horst: A little, a little both. But actually, that was one of the main reasons they call them founder trees because they didn't use them as the foundation and they were already nice size. So they gave that foundation a good start and then they did focus around them. There were other parts of the arboretum where there were no existing trees, but yes, the founder trees overall made a tremendous impact in the early days of the arboretum.
Ryan Welch: What trees did your parents already have on the property then? So they'd bring out
Francie Hill: I mean, remember, my dad was a car dealer. He was a car. His days, they worked 60-hour weeks. Exactly. No questions asked. And if on a Saturday afternoon a customer wanted a car hand-washed, my dad would, my mom would drive my dad up to the house and the top of the hill for this lady and drive it down. And my dad would I know himself, he was helping with sometimes the washing of the cars. And so because of that, they did not I don't ever remember a mower at my house at our house ever. And there was a man who did mow for them, and his name was Johannes Schumacher, a German man who had very broken English. And he loved the arboretum, he loved the land. And he would bring things out to them just like a little seed and say, Oh, can I plant this? And so I wrote this down. And actually, 15 years ago I was trying to think of a gift for my parents for their anniversary. And so I thought, why not identify the founder's trees? So at that time, there were 12, probably 12 of them. Since then, the derecho and a lot of them were not there. But I think still standing, which I think is kind of interesting that they have they had the Kentucky coffee tree. They had some ewes, they had white pine. And there's one other one that they have. What's the other one they have, oh Bur Oak, which is the state tree of Iowa. So those were the four that if you go there today,
Ryan Welch: That are still there, still the founder's trees that were started there
Francie Hill: Like 50 some years ago. This was by this man who would come up to my mom at the door and say, Do you know what this is? She said, no, but he would say, Well, this is it. Can I take care of it? And they grew very well. The first seeding, the seed of the arboretum, the first beginning roots and all that kind of stuff.
Ryan Welch: So you now know what an arboretum is and a little bit about what you can see. And we have seen how and why the Bickelhaupt arboretum was started by the Bickelhaupts as a way to give back to the community they believe had given them so much. This daunting task was initiated as a way to educate the community they lived in on the diversity of trees that could grow in this area, an area that they saw had been badly devastated by a combination of tree diseases such as Dutch Elm disease, as well as a lack of diversity in the areas tree population. This would have been a very large project for anyone to take on, let alone a couple that had just begun their retirement and knew little to nothing about growing and taking care of trees in general. A lot of work was done by them in first learning how to properly grow and take care of these trees and then in later years how to put a plan together to ensure that the arboretum would be a lasting part of the community. Well, after they were gone, a passion to give back to the community and educate others was what drove the Bickelhaupts to begin this idea and set it on the foundation that it has been on for over 50 years. This passion can still be seen today when you talk to those individuals that are associated with keeping the arboretum going and educating others on the growth and diversity of the plants that can be seen in our area. Many thanks need to be given for this project to Margo Hanson, Francie Hill and David Horst for all of their knowledge, time and input on this podcast, and to Otis Welch for the original score and music that was done at the beginning and the end.
Join us in this podcast episode as we unravel the world of conifers and discover what sets them apart from other trees. Explore the extraordinary conifer collection at the arboretum and its remarkable diversity. Gain exclusive insights from David Horst as he sheds light on the collection's history, from its inception by Justin Chub Harper and its proposal to the Bickelhaupts. Together we'll delve into the unique challenges encountered while designing the initial beds and spaces for this collection.
Then, discover the fascinating process of obtaining and labeling the specimens, a vital component of the arboretum's educational mission.
Ryan Welch: Welcome to another in our series of podcasts about the Bickelhaupt Arboretum. In this podcast, we're going to discuss one of the collections that the Arboretum is most known for its conifer collection. But first, we should make a distinction between the term evergreen and conifer, since these are terms that people tend to use synonymously, but they are actually defined different aspects of the plants themselves.
The term Evergreen is used to describe a plant which is able to keep their green leaves all year round. While these plants still lose their leaves throughout the year. It's a gradual loss and it occurs throughout the year as opposed to deciduous trees that will lose their leaves all at once and go dormant for part of the year. In fact, many evergreen plants are actually found in tropical regions where the growing conditions are such that these plants don't have to deal with the harsh conditions of a colder climate for long periods of time.
The term conifer, though, refers to the cone like reproductive structure that those types of plants use to develop their seeds instead of using flowers. While many plants that produce cones are thus considered conifers are also evergreen. Not all of them are. As an example, the Plant Tamarack (Larix laricina) is a conifer that will lose its long needle like leaves in the fall and grow them back in the spring. While most conifers are also evergreens, not all evergreens are conifers. Since many evergreen plants, as I said, especially those in the tropics, don't actually produce cones, but rather they use flowers as their primary reproductive structures.
This distinction is important as we discuss the conifer collection at the arboretum. One of the first collections that was planted at the arboretum was a pinetum Collection, which is classified as a collection of evergreens. This planting was done on the advice of Roy Nordin from the Morton Arboretum, who was their long time mentor, instructor and initial advisor for the Arboretum. Roy advised that this collection be started early, since they are typically fairly slow growing plants as compared to other types of trees that are commonly grown in the Midwest.
This collection was located in the southwest corner of the acreage and was made up of 18 original plants that came from several different sources. Over the years, though, this collection has changed quite a bit for a number of reasons.
This area of the arboretum now contains what we call the heartland collection of dwarf and rare conifers. The conifer collection at the arboretum is also unique in another way. As the name implies, it is made up completely of plants that are considered to be dwarf versions of their respective species.
The American Conifer Society categorizes any conifer that grows about 1 to 6 inches a year and has a ten year height of about 1 to 5 feet as a dwarf conifer. These types of conifers, which actually grow slower than normal conifers, can be beneficial in landscaping, especially in urban areas.
In this podcast, David Horst, Director of Horticulture for the Arboretum, will discuss how the collection was started, how it got its name, and why it was laid out the way that it was. Now in terms of that conifer collection. Why was the conifer collection started?
David Horst: It was started to promote conifers. And I can still remember to this day I was out pruning in what we call the dwarf shrub collection at that time. There were signs here at the parking lot pointing out to the north field north of the house.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: And at that time it was a lilac collection and an open hillside. And there was some small dwarfs, probably 100 different dwarf plants, but they were mostly deciduous with three or four, maybe five dwarf conifers.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: And I was out there working, pruning, and a gentleman walked up behind me and wanted to know where the Dwarf Conifer Collection was. He had seen the sign and followed it, but didn't see the dwarf conifers. It was only a few there.
Ryan Welch: Oh, okay.
David Horst: And I said, Well, you're looking at them. And he's like, This is it. And I said, This is it.
That's all we have. He talked him in and introduced himself, and his name was Justin Chub Harper from Moline, Illinois. I had never heard of him before that time, although he was quite well known throughout the country for conifers and dwarf conifers.
So we talked a few minutes and he said he would be back. That was December of 1989 and it was in the winter of 1990. A couple of months later he arrived back and had a deal for the Bickelhaupts, wanted to know if he would donate the plant materials, a little bit of money and some tools and help if they would be interested in starting a Dwarf Conifer Collection here at the arboretum. He said he had been here in December and talked to me and only had a handful of dwarf conifers for people to look at.
And at this time, dwarf conifers were still they'd been around a long time, but they were actually relatively to the local area here in Clinton. You could go to the store and or to a nursery and you can buy a couple of different common ones like Burton Spruce and Elberta Spruce. But other than that, you're very limited. So Chubb’s idea in presenting this plan or proposal to the Bickelhaupts was to promote conifers.
Ryan Welch: But mostly that's just to promote dwarf conifers.
David Horst: Mostly dwarf conifer.
Ryan Welch: Okay, but so what's the difference between the dwarf conifer and just a regular conifer?
David Horst: Ok, for example, a regular eastern white pine. In this area, it can reach 70, 90, even 100 feet tall.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: A dwarf white pine, may be anywhere from one foot to, four or five feet, maybe ten feet tall at maturity. Anything smaller than that native white pine that I mentioned.
Ryan Welch: Ok, is there a height limit, at a certain height you're not a dwarf anymore?
David Horst: No. The American Conifer Society actually categorizes dwarf conifers by different sized groups. Oh, okay. Like, for example, large, medium and dwarf miniature. Minature, of course, being the smallest. And then the large ones can grow anywhere from, you know, anywhere from ten, maybe even 30 feet. If it's 30 feet tall.
That sounds big to you and I. But compared to 100 foot white pine, that's a dwarf
Ryan Welch: That is a dwarf.
David Horst: So, yeah, our conifer collection, that is it's not just it's mostly just dwarf conifers. Our conifer collections mostly dwarf conifers.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: There are a few flanking around the outside of it that are large growing, like the white pines just north of the house that are on the south side of the collection. They were planted first.
Ryan Welch: Yeah, those were founder are trees, if I remember right.
David Horst: That's correct.
Ryan Welch: Okay. So yeah.
David Horst: So those are founder trees that were here first. They were here for a while, but the actual Conifer Collection that came later is the Dwarf Conifer Collection. The only reason I say is there seems to be like a big distinction that a lot of people may not understand as they as they come in and think about things that, you know, everything you're looking at is a certain type of conifer is not something you would find, say, in a boreal forest, for instance, where, yes, you may see a dwarf, but it may not be there on purpose sort of thing, or it might just be some weird natural oddity. Whereas here we this is all purposefully done. That's right.
Ryan Welch: Okay. Yeah. So what gives them this shorter size? Do we know? Their genetics
Ryan Welch: Is genetics?
David Horst: Yeah.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: Yep. The genetics of the plant and a lot of collectors over the years have collected them.
And it seems like the goal of most collectors when they're looking for these genetics that favor the traits of small size. It seems like a lot of the collectors are looking for that. When I find a plant. First off, I'm excited to have found it, put a name on it, and I really don't care if it stays real small or if it grows real large. I like to get something with a pretty shape to it, pretty good color or green or yellow or irrigation, whatever. But everybody's got their own trait that they're looking for, and a lot of them are for the smaller sizes because that's what homeowners living in towns prefer.
Ryan Welch: They do have a smaller yard, but you would like some little green space and dwarf is the size you want. That was my I'm, I'm guessing and I could be wrong on this if they're smaller in size, does that mean they don't take as much upkeep?
David Horst: That's right. That's one of the main reasons Chubb promoted the collection. Here was just what we talked about, people in towns at that time, back, and this is back in the late eighties, early nineties. Keep in mind, people were having trouble getting rid of the yard waste.
A lot of people grew what we call Yew bushes and they required a lot of maintenance. You go out there two or three times a year and you get the hedge trimmer out and you trim them and then you got to rake it up.
And if you don't get it all off the plant, it turns brown and looks ugly. And, and eventually they get even with the pruning, they still get up above your windows.
Ryan Welch: Yep.
David Horst: A lot of people use them for foundation plantings and Chubb and his proposal to the Bickelhaupts suggested that these would be low maintenance.
If people selected the proper plant to plant around their house. It would be good in the landscape for 20 - 25 years where the Yews required a lot of maintenance. You could plant a dwarf conifer and just let it grow and maybe you had to do a little fine tuning to it here and there. But overall, it was very, very low maintenance.
Ryan Welch: So just a little bit of shaping maybe here they're taking on some of the dead stuff and promoting this grow. And with the dwarf conifers, there is a lot more variety of colors and shapes.
David Horst: Over the years, particularly this has become tree have weeping forms that you can plant on the corner of your house. You can stake them up to whatever desired height you like and let them grow. And then they grow and cascade to the ground.
Ryan Welch: And by weeping the stems and the leaves and the things start to just kind of look like they're falling, not upright as, as a lot of the pines and other types of conifers are. But the, the leaves hang, they hang to a certain extent.
David Horst: Yeah.
Ryan Welch: And a lot of people when they think Weeping, they think Willows, a Weeping Willow is the famous one that everybody thinks about. But these are these are actual conifers that, where everything hangs almost and that's where they get that weeping feature. Yeah and that's, a lot of people gives a desirable look in their landscape are different texture and form.
Ryan Welch: Yeah, it's unique and a lot of folks like that.
David Horst: Yeah. And then you have a lot of different colors with dwarf conifers where if the Yews were your primary a shade of green, but with dward conifers, you can go from all the shades of green, blues, yellows, variegated forms. So you have a lot more selection available. But like I said earlier, at the beginning, there wasn't near as many different selections. Over the years there have become a lot.
They've become very popular not only with collectors, but with landscapers that install them and landscapes. The maintenance has been a big plus for them and that was a big selling point for Chubb when he presented it to the Bickelhaupts and they agreed 100% and felt that it would be a worthy collection to add here at the Bickelhaupt Arboretum.
Ryan Welch: So when Chubb came he saw a small amount in the collection. Do you remember how many were in the collection? Initially when Chubb first came and looked and said, This is it. I believe there were four or five.
Ryan Welch: So you start with four or five. Chubb gets involved. What does he bring it up to?
David Horst: Well, first, out of the four or five,there are still three in the collection today.
Ryan Welch: Oh, wow. Which is pretty neat.
Ryan Welch: That is pretty neat. That puts them at 30 years old. Yeah, give or take or. Yeah, one of them I think is 37, 37. So that's amazing. They're still there and they still look good. Of course, they've gotten a lot larger than what we thought they were going to.
Ryan Welch: Yeah,
David Horst: But since then, over the years when we first started planning, which would have been in 1991, the startup years, we started out with 130, I believe. We eventually got up to 750 in the collection and then over the years thinning to close together. At the beginning, we didn't know how large some of these were going to get and some of them are experimental. So we had no clue, really. We just kind of had to guess.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: And then also Chubb always says we have to plan them closer at the beginning in the beds, because if you plant them and give them proper space, it's going to look like an empty bed for a long time. These are dwarves, so they don't grow fast.
Ryan Welch: Yeah. So we planted them close and we knew we had to transplant a bunch in the future. And we also evaluated them and over time decided that some of them weren't worthy of being in the collection. So we removed them. And then over the years we've decided to remove others that became crowded. They're too big to move, obviously.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: And now we're down to about 450 today
Ryan Welch: 450 and that's foreign 50 unique.
David Horst: That's right. Yeah.
Ryan Welch: Yeah, that's interesting.
David Horst: And when we started out, one of the propositions to the Bickelhaupts that Chubb made was that he wanted to have the old time tested selections, which remember they had four or five at the beginning. He wanted to have those that were already named and proven throughout the United States. But he also wanted to raise something that they call Witchesbrooms.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: These are kind of experimental plants or mutations that form on a tree and you collect it, propagate it. He wanted to have these and he wanted to have them labeled properly too. So people knew they weren't able to be purchased at a nursery. They were just kind of in the study stages at this point.
Ryan Welch: Once the proposal for this new Conifer Collection had been approved by the Bickelhaupts, the work of selecting a location and getting it ready began. David discusses the challenges that came with this initial task so far 2 acres of the entire arboretum.
David Horst: That's right. The two acres to the north of the building. When Chuck proposed the idea to the Bickelhaupts, he wanted a location that was sun and had good drainage
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: And to the north.
Ryan Welch: To the north makes sense because of the way the hills and the topography of the land sit.
David Horst: That's right. And the Bicklehaupts had just installed a waterfall on the hillside, and Chubb thought this would make a wonderful addition for that.
Ryan Welch: Okay
David Horst: So we put a little wooden bridge over it and we graveled a path from the north parking lot to the bridge or the waterfall. I guess the bridge at the waterfall to lead people up, which made a big difference.
Ryan Welch: It did? Yeah. Okay.
David Horst: At one time, there used to be a brick factory just where you enter into the collection from the parking lot. And there was a big hole there, kind of ran into this unexpectedly.
I talked with Russ Pollard, a neighbor, for many years afterwards, and he was the one who had filled the hole in where they used to quarry the clay.
Ryan Welch: Oh, okay. When you said brick factory I don't remember any big building. Yeah, but it's an open pit quarry kind of an open pit.
David Horst: And this was many, many years.
Ryan Welch: Many, many years ago. And even before the well, maybe not before the Bickelhaupts owned the land, but maybe yeah.
David Horst: It was before that.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: And there was a large hole there at one time we did not know this and Russ told us afterwards he had a dozer come in and spent several days pushing off the hill and filling in the hole. Well, when we went to plant conifers in them areas, it had a thin topsoil.
Ryan Welch: Oh, okay.
David Horst: So that did create a little bit of a problem. But we've worked with it and everything's worked out well.
Ryan Welch: Okay
David Horst: So when you enter the Heartland collection, the Dwarfest Miniature plants are along the path and you encounter them first.
Ryan Welch: Okay, the smallest ones first.
David Horst: The smallest ones first. And as you proceed through the collection, you get past the waterfall. Then you're coming into the intermediates and the large dwarfs.
And we did that on purpose. Keep the smaller ones up front and
Ryan Welch: Sort of a gradient then as you walk through.
David Horst: Yes.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: Yeah.
Ryan Welch: Once the site had been selected, the real work of designing the layout had begun.
This, along with the purchasing and procuring of the actual plants, took this concept idea of a dwarf collection of conifers and began to make it a reality at the arboretum. So when you guys started out and Chubb proposed this idea, I'm guessing he had a layout in line for how we wanted to put things correct.
David Horst: That's correct.
Ryan Welch: So how did that come about?
David Horst: Well, after the Bickelhaupts accepted their offer Chubb and Anna, Anna's Chubb's wife. And like I said, they're from Moline, Illinois. After they accepted the offer. Chuck got busy right away.
Of course I helped him. We started drawing up plans, how we were going to lay out the collection. We had to move lilacs, and we had to prepare the site. So we put in a gravel path. This is all back in 1990.
So a lot of planning went on in the spring and summer of 1990. As we got to fall, we started cutting out the beds and we marked them out with marker guns, paint guns.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: So we could see the shapes of every thing and then we'd look at it, then we'd change it.
Ryan Welch: So all that was done before we broke ground. Because otherwise, when you start breaking ground, when you start taking shovel fulls ity’s a little late by then. So it's good to go outline all that out. And this is gives you a better visual of what it's going to look like.
David Horst: That's right. So we did that. And of course, we kept most of the sod because we had areas we wanted to sod in where we were removing lilacs and other plants. So we took the sod. So it took some time, all fall pretty much, and we prepared the location.
Also that year in October, Chubb and I flew out to Portland.
Ryan Welch: Okay. What did you fly to Portland?
David Horst: We rented a car in Portland, went to Iseli Nursery, which is a small town named Boring, Oregon. It's in view of Mt. Hood if that helps.
Ryan Welch: Oh, okay.sounds wonderful.
Ryan Welch: Gets a little boring, I guess.
David Horst: That's right. And Iseli Nursery was kind enough to invite us out. Upon hearing that we were starting the Heartland Collection, they were kind enough to invite us out. It's a wholesale nursery.
Ryan Welch: Oh, okay.
David Horst: Where they would allow us to pick out the plants so we could go through and pick any of the plants out that we wanted. We had to pay wholesale costs, which Chubb paid. Chubb’s. part of his bargain was to furnish all the plant material.
So he paid for them. But we were able to pick out the very best out of every lot of plants, which I believe was around 130 plants. I think they also threw in some other plants too, but they had a sales representative take us all through the nursery tours, the nursery, and we selected the prime plants. And we had a wonderful start up in the spring of 1991 using those plants.
Ryan Welch: Nice.
David Horst: So that made a big difference and got us off to the right start at the beginning.
Ryan Welch: A good start for everything you needed for as you were going.
David Horst: Yeah.
Ryan Welch: And so you get, you've laid things out. You've gone to Oregon, you got your plants, you started planting them. How has it progressed since?
David Horst: Well, when it first started, I thought, these plants are so small, they'll take forever to grow, you know? But immediately they took off. We kept them watered, we kept them mulched. They did very well. Chubb and I kind of looked at the collection and we thought, we need to add a couple highlights to the collection. Main attractions.
Ryan Welch: Gotcha,yeah.
David Horst: So we thought about it. And just about this time, a teacher, an instructor over at Clinton High School approaches Charlie Hunter. And he was also a local landscaper here in town. And he also like conifers and dwarf plants.
And he was doing a job at Connie and Terry Metzger's home. And there is a 20 foot white spruce in their yard with a witches broom growing on it. And Charlie recognized this. The tree had to be removed.
Ryan Welch: Oh
David Horst: So Charlie recognized this, got ahold of us. We got a hold of Chubb. Make a long story short, Chubb hired Davey Tree Company to come up and dig that tree had to be dug by hand because of its size. And it was close to a sidewalk and some utilities.
Ryan Welch: All right.
David Horst: So he couldn't get in a big machine, so they dug it by hand. Davey tree did. They had experience with this previously, digging plants and Chubb’s yard for his first collection. The Harper Collection.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: So they dug over at the site and dug this 20 foot tree. The staff of the arboretum dug the big hole here where it was going. We thought this would be a perfect educational learning tool for visitors to come and see. We're already promoting the dwarf conifers. We're also promoting witch's brooms growing in the collection. To have an actual broom growing on a tree would be perfect.
Ryan Welch: Oh yeah
David Horst: So they dug the tree. It had about a seven foot across root ball, three feet deep. They use chains to keep the burlap on it and put heavy plywood under it to keep it from falling off. They lifted it onto a large flatbed truck with a truck boom.
Ryan Welch: Yep. Yep.
David Horst: Because it weighed thousands of pounds.
Ryan Welch: That is not a small endeavor.
David Horst: No, it was a large endeavor. Just for us to dig the hole was bad enough by hand when they brought the tree over on the flatbed truck and they were lifting it off, part of the rootball collapsed. But we were able to get it into the hole and get it planted and we had to stake the tree
Cause it was 20 feet tall. The tree lived and thrived. We took good care of it. We did lose the broom. We called the broom Metzger and got after the people that had the tree in their yard and we propagated it and had a baby Metzger growing next to it.
Ryan Welch: Oh, nice.
David Horst: But over time, the broom was on the inner part of the tree. And as we talked about earlier, the tree was growing faster than the broom, and we tried to keep it trimmed back, but we eventually lost the broom, unfortunately, in 2002. And we removed the tree at that point. Oh, the whole tree. Yeah. Because it was disfigured from us, pruning on it, trying to save the broom
Ryan Welch: Trying to save the broom, all right, it makes sense.
David Horst: So that was a main focal point and attraction for a while. Another attraction that we came up with in 1991 was the planting of Alberta spruce, which are common to buy and they're cheap. So Chubb bought 52 of them at different sizes, anywhere from like a foot up to like four foot.
All different sizes and we planted them right at the entrance. So when people would walk in, they'd look directly at this as they walked up the path. And it gave the impression of a miniature forest. As you walked up.
Ryan Welch: As you walked up. Yeah.
David Horst: Yeah. We planted them with the tallest ones in the center and kind of tapered them down, mixed them up. And, of course, this covered an area about 20 feet by ten feet in size and was quite a focal point for many, many years. Eventually, we ended up with some insect problems with it and we decided to remove it.
Ryan Welch: But again, again, that's part of the story as well. You know, these are living things. They're not a static collection as, as they grow, as they mature, as, as they are, as the elements hit them, they change.
David Horst: One thing with Chubb, too. When we started, he didn't want the collection to be a burden to the Bickelhaupts or the staff financially or for maintenance wise. The maintenance was always a concern of Chubbs. He was head supervisor for Deere and Company for many years down in the Quad Cities, and he knew we were a small arboretum with a small staff, so we went with a free form bed layout.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: And eventually we ended up with 32 beds. But if you can envision this, some gardens plant individual trees out in the lawn.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: Well, we laid out large beds. Some of these beds had 12 to 15, 16 plants in them.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: And then we chipped all around them. So it was easy to maintain the bed with chips. It was easy to keep it weeded. It was easy to mow around it because you can just circle right around the bed.
Ryan Welch: Instead of circling around each individual tree. You're going around the whole unit.
David Horst: That's right.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: And this really simplified the maintenance.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: Chubb was always well known for maintenance and improving equipment, and I did learn a lot from him, too, over the years. Working with him.
Ryan Welch: Now that the collection had been planned, laid out and planted, it was time to give it a name. David tells us how the name came about and why labeling the individual plants the way they have done was such an important tool for the educational purposes of the arboretum. So why was it called the Heartland Collection?
David Horst: The Heartland Collection came about Chubb Harper's started the collection, and he had another collection up at Tipton, Michigan, called The Harper Collection. And we threw around calling this the Harper Two, but we figured it would cause a lot of confusion. Yeah, so Chubb didn't want that. Upon talking with Randy Dykstra, who had a garden, his business was called the Heartland. Chubb talked to Randy Dykstra, who had a business called Heartland Yard and Guard decided that Heartland was an appropriate name for here in the Midwest.
Ryan Welch: Make sense, yeah.
David Horst: So with some discussion and talking over back and forth, we came up with the Heartland Collection of Dwarf and Rare Conifers and is now known because this this collection is known nationwide, isn't it?
David Horst: Yes. Well of course,after we started the collection here, Chubb became President of the American Conifer Society. The collection got a lot of publicity as well.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: And became nationally known and still is today.
We thought also along the way that labeling was important. We decided the Bickelhaupts method of using a black plastic label that's about four inches by two and a half inches was a good way to do it. We have our own engraver that we engrave what we want on ‘em
And from the start, Chubb wanted the scientific names listed on the label. Over the years, we added the common name because a lot of people came, didn't know what the scientific name meant, the lay person. We did get a lot of people from colleges and universities and nurseries that did know, but we wanted to reach out to all the people.
So we ended up with the scientific name, the common name. If it was a witches broom, we put that on the tag and then in the lower left hand corner, we'd have an accession number. Basically, the session number is like your Social Security number, the first numbers, the year it was planted.So people that come here can tell how old the plant is
Ryan Welch: And what it will look like after so many years,.
David Horst: After so many years. And you can usually add about five years to that because we usually use plants that are five or six years old when we plant ‘em.
Ryan Welch: All right.
David Horst: So that's the year it was planted. And then there would be a slash in like a 001. That would be the first plant planted that year. Okay. So people would know, okay, here's how many plants are planted in these years.
Ryan Welch: Here's how old they are, here's what they will look like and things like that. And like you said, you get a scientific name there and you've got a common name. I tend to use it quite a bit when I bring my students around because I tell them, all right, you know, this is commonly what people will know this by. But scientifically we know as this. And I also point out to them, going back to the whole witches brew with the genetics, I said, you know, these species here are all the same plant species, but genetically there's just a little bit of difference where you're going to get different shapes, different varieties, if you will, and that I use as a learning opportunity when I bring students around.
David Horst: Yep and that was the main reason we went with the labels like that, uh people come here to learn. And that's very important, the labeling.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: And these are attractive labels. They don't distract from the plants or the grounds at all.
Ryan Welch: They're, they're subtle. Without being so subtle, you can't find them. But yet without being so big that it takes away from what you're trying to look at, which is the plant. They're informative and that's the whole point behind them.
David Horst: That's right. That's the goal.
Ryan Welch: That's the goal. So as we have learned, conifers come in many shapes and sizes, but the ones in the Heartland collection are of the dwarf variety.
This collection shows off many of the options that people could have if they wanted to use the slower growing, shorter plants in their yards and landscapes. As has been pointed out, upkeep and maintenance with these plants can be simpler than other types of evergreens that are commonly used for landscaping.
We have also gained insight as to how the planning and the layout for this particular collection occurred. We looked at what was involved in the proposal process the assigning of the different beds and how there were some of the plants that were used were obtained and why they were used for this collection.
This collection also provides a learning experience for people since the plants in the collection were so thoughtfully labeled. This system, which is used in all of the collections at the Arboretum, provides wonderful information for all people, whether they are new to learning about plants or academic scholars looking to gain new knowledge about very specific plants.
I would like to thank David Horst for sharing his wonderful insights and expertise about this collection and to Otis Welch for the musical selection.
Join us in this podcast episode as we dive into the fascinating world of Witches Brooms, a unique aspect of conifers. Explore how these distinctive growths, triggered by various stresses, result in captivating patterns, colors, and arrangements. David Horst, our expert guest, unveils the integration of Witches Brooms into the arboretum's collections, including his own exciting discoveries.
Explore the arboretum's journey to becoming a Reference Garden, recognized by the American Conifer Society (ACS) and uncover the significance of this accolade for our educational mission.
Ryan Welch: Welcome to another podcast about the people and plants of the Bickelhaupt Arboretum in Clinton, Iowa. In this podcast, we go a little deeper into the subject of dwarf conifers, more specifically discussing the occurrence of a rarity of what are known as Witches Brooms.
As we learn, these are rare genetic growths that can occur for a number of reasons on an already mature plant. According to the American Conifer Society, most trees will have a leading chute, and that leading chute will produce a plant hormone known as auxin.
This auxin slows the growth of secondary and tertiary shoots that come off of it. This also helps to limit overgrowing by these parts of the plant, which could be a detriment to the tree itself if there is an interference in this mechanism.
It could happen for a variety of reasons in nature due to solar, radiation, viruses, disease or even fungus. In fact, some specific species of fungus actually create witches broom in specific tree species. If the witches broom occurs due to a genuine genetic mutation at the growing tip, it will often result in plant material that can be regrown or propagated into a new type of conifer that may be of horticultural value. This is the hope for many folks that actively search out and hunt for these witch's brooms in a variety of locations. Their hope is to discover that next interesting dwarf conifer that they themselves and others can enjoy in conifers
Witches brooms most often occur in the pinaceae family. More specifically in the genre abies which is the fur, picea, which is a spruce and pinus which is the pine. Just because though they are common in these groups of conifers doesn't necessarily mean that you can't discover them in other types of conifers.
Often these genetic mutations can result in color variations or distorted variations of the leaves and stems, but often they are also slow growing or dwarf clusters of shoots. As we will learn, the hunting of witches brooms can be an exciting hobby for some, it is a hobby that does require, though, a lot of time and patience since the plant material grows so slowly. And it may take years for a witch's broom hunter to know if the plant material that they found and propagated will result in the dwarf conifer that they were hoping it would.
If it does, the person who made the discovery gets the distinct honor of naming this new one of a kind conifer for all the world to know. The addition of various witch's brooms to the arboretum, some of which were initially discovered on the grounds themselves, along with the rest of the extensive collection of dwarf conifers that is in the Heartland Collection has given the arboretum the distinct honor of being recognized as a reference garden by the American Conifer Society. This makes the arboretum one of only three reference gardens in the state of Iowa. The Arboretum has also had the honor of showcasing this particular collection, as well as the other collections during a variety of conifer conferences on all levels nationally, regionally, as well as statewide. I hope you enjoy learning about these rare genetic distinctions in the Conifer Group. As much as I enjoyed talking about them with David Horst, the director of horticulture for the Bickelhaupt Arboretum.
David Horst: He wanted to have those that were already named and proven throughout the United States, but he also wanted to raise some that they call witches brooms.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: These are kind of experimental plants or mutations that form on a tree and you collect it, propagate it. He wanted to have these and he wanted to have them labeled properly, too. So people knew they weren't able to be purchased at a nursery.
David Horst: They were just kind of in the study stages at this point.
Ryan Welch: So why is it called a witch's broom?
David Horst: Well, most of us think of a witch's broom as a broom used by a witch in a fairy tale. According to the American Conifer Society and in a horticultural sense, it's more familiar as a disease or mutated mass of dense, deformed twigs, foliage forming a bird's nest like structure in a tree.
Ryan Welch: Okay, so it's brought about most likely, probably from some kind of a stress that that tree has had to deal with, whether that's a stress from a disease such as bacteria or virus or stress because of environmental conditions.
David Horst: Right. And the ones we want are probably solar radiation induced or environmental, like you said, that are actual become genetic mutations.
Ryan Welch: Okay. Because a lot of people don't realize that, that trees also get sunburns to a certain extent. That's solar radiation that is coming down and hitting them as well, you know, living things just like us. And so some of those areas, especially if they're new shoots, that solar radiation can cause mutations in the DNA and thus that those DNA mutations can cause odd growth, like we would call it cancer in some ways. But it's sort of like that except in the tree finds a way to contain it to one little spot. And that, when you look at that, it looks very disheveled, a upheeved look at the end of a witch's brew, I'm guessing. Right. Okay.
David Horst: And they're not real sure what exactly caused them, but that's one of the main theories.
Ryan Welch: And there's a probably a variety of things that can cause it that's just, you know, this one happens to be or, you know, many of them. A common reason they come about is because of the solar radiation.
David Horst: Yeah. And the reason they think that is because a lot of them, even here at our altitude, what are we, 550, 60 feet above sea level
Ryan Welch: Yeah 500 to 600 feet right around in that area.
David Horst: We're right in that area. We find them here in the Midwest. But on a larger scale, they are found like in the high mountain areas.
Ryan Welch: Where you're closer to the sun.
David Horst: Eight, 9000 feet in altitude or higher. You can drive down the road and you can spot them here. And they're much, much more common now.
Ryan Welch: Are they also more common in areas where like, for instance, if a tree lost some limbs on one side and we had new growth on the other side because it would be exposed more to the sun, you see more common in areas like that even.
David Horst: Uh, we haven't noticed that.
Ryan Welch: Just curious.
David Horst: You know, and we find a lot of them interestingly around the Midwest here in cemeteries. And it has nothing to do with the people buried there. Oh, sure. But it's the larger size of evergreens. We believe a lot of cemeteries have evergreens that have been growing there for many, many years.
Ryan Welch: You know, people die that they had this nice, beautiful spot to put their relatives and they always want to plant a tree there. Yeah. You know, he's going to play on Evergreen because it's hardy and whatnot. And after a while, you know, because some of those and some of those old pioneer cemeteries, some of those evergreens are probably, you know, a couple hundred years old maybe.
David Horst: Right. And that increases your chances of having a broom growing in them.
Ryan Welch: Just like with age and people, it increases your chance of problems with cellular growth as well.
David Horst: Yeah, and I've been very fortunate to have met Chubb in the first place here, but I've met a lot of other top conifer experts throughout the country through Chubb over the years. Yeah, one of them also is from across the river here.
Randy Dykstra. Okay. Randy and Chubb, of course, collected witches brooms for many years. And I was fortunate because they took me along with them. We go on, we'd spend a whole day on a weekend driving around, checking cemeteries, driving through towns, looking for evergreen trees, looking for witches brooms.
So I was very fortunate to get to go with them. And a lot of this happened during the wintertime when they could be propagated. So we had a big poker which 48 feet, we just keep putting the sections together that were like six foot sections and you had to lean it on a limb because after you've got it up about 20 feet, it start getting top heavy. You had to turn her head up the top. And of course, we'd weave it up through the limbs to where the witch's broom is and we'd take a snip off if it was out in the country. Sometimes we would use a firearm. And I had those, so I would take that and then we could shoot a piece off.
Ryan Welch: Oh, okay.
David Horst: We never we never wanted to take the whole witches broom because the genetics would be lost forever if we didn't get any to take.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: All right, well, all you need on it is a little piece called a Scion.
Ryan Welch: Ok, what’s a Scion have on it. In terms of the plant anatomy.
David Horst: It would be.
Ryan Welch: Like a node.
David Horst: Yeah, there'd be a node. Usually some buds out in the end. And what you wanted to graft was usually just one or two years of growth.
Ryan Welch: Okay. There's a lot of people don't realize that plants are what we call totipotent. And what we mean by that is you can take a piece of it just about any piece of the plant. If you ever if you subjected to the right hormones in the right conditions, it'll grow roots and leaves and all that kind of stuff, even from whatever kind of a cutting you have. And you can do that if you know what you're doing. And sounds like that's what you guys were doing with the witches broom you were taking just that right piece and finding a way to get it, put it under the right conditions, to have it grow and give you what you saw in the tree, correct?
David Horst: That's correct. We didn't really have the proper facilities here at the arboretum. Chubb had a greenhouse and Randy had a greenhouse, and they had some other growing structures, kind of like cold frames. Yeah. So they would take the small pieces back.
Like I said, we leave the entire room intact and possible because if we didn't get to grow, we'd go back next year and collect it again.
Ryan Welch: The genetics are still there
David Horst: Still there, the genetics are still there. But once we cut it off, it was gone. Yeah. So Randy and Chubb did a lot of the propagating. They propagate it for themselves, for their friends, and also for the arboretum.
So if I'd go with them, we'd find some plants, they would propagate it and they'd give us a plant or two to plant out in the collection. So it worked good. And a lot of these blooms when they're found, like by Randy and Chubb, if it was found here at the arboretum, they would call it Bickelhaupt Arboretum. Made it easy to remember where it came from. Yeah. Chubb kept
Ryan Welch: In the naming process. He would say, okay, this was out at the Smith Farm. So the Smith Farm which witches Broome, for instance. Right.
David Horst: A lot of people did it that way. I did it that way with the white spruce I found here in Clinton. I called it Cleveland Road.
Ryan Welch: Oh, okay, that makes sense.
David Horst: So, yeah, road name or the owner's name that owns the property, the park, cemetery, lot of them are named after cemeteries, so that works good. So over the years, we have found nine of them growing here at the arboretum.
Ryan Welch: Wow.
David Horst: A lot of them didn't get propagated because by the time we'd find them, they were already dead. The problem with witches brooms are remember now there are slower than the parent plant. Okay, so the parent plants growing, say a foot a year.
The witch's brew might only be grown two inches a year. It doesn't take many years for the parent plant to cover up the witches broom because it can't keep up. So it's not getting sunlight and it gets crowded out when it dies.
Ryan Welch: That might be a defensive mechanism around the main plant to try because. Right. It's not normal to it.
David Horst: To it.
Ryan Welch: It's you know, it's like a mold or something you might have on your arm kind of thing. It's like, Oh, we've got to get rid of that. Yeah, cut these things off.
David Horst: And two of our most important broom finds here at the arboretum that have become growing throughout the nation, now, collected throughout the nation. One is Green Twist. And again Chubb and I came up with the name Green Twist by the foliage on the plant.
We found it here at the arboretum. Instead of calling it the arboretum or Bickelhaupt, we called it Green Twist because a cool twist the needle.
Ryan Welch: Oh, okay.
David Horst: And it was green colored.
Ryan Welch: Make sense.
David Horst: Green twist. So that's another way they name plants.
It's also by the foliage or the plant shape maybe.
Ryan Welch: Too often I get told by students all by the names and are so difficult and that was looks like sounds to me like you guys went simple with it. Yeah, that's always helpful.
David Horst: So and then the
Ryan Welch: from a marketing standpoint.
David Horst: We kept it very simple and that came off of contorted white pine, which is growing right off the back corner of the building here at the arboretum. And another one was on a mugo pine right along the waterfall.
David Horst: It was a mugo mops. And I was working there one day back in 1995, and I noticed something unusual. I couldn't tell if it was a broom or if had been injured and then shot out a bunch of little growth.
I waited a year and it came out dwarf again. So then I called Chubb and said that I'd found a broom and I kept saying, It's really choice Chubb. I really like it. And he said, Well, just give me a name.
What are you going to call it as? I don't know. You can name it whatever you want. I've never been very clever with the names. So the next time I talked to Chubb, he had named it Dave's Choice because.
Ryan Welch: So it's named after you.
David Horst: And then I kept saying it was choice. And we also have that plant growing here at the arboretum with Green Twist. So the parent plant has gone, but we have the broom.
Ryan Welch: Which means technically, genetically, you still have the genes.
David Horst: We still have the gene, yep.
Ryan Welch: The genes in some way.
David Horst: And both of them have been propagated throughout the United States. You can't go to WalMart or Home Depot and buy them, but if you go to a collector, you can find them. And I see they're even over in Europe now, so it's amazing how plants travel.
Ryan Welch: Yeah, and that's good and bad.
David Horst: Good and bad as long as they're careful and inspected.
Ryan Welch: Inspected, yeah.
David Horst: For diseases. And insects.
Ryan Welch: In terms of the history of this place, that's one of the reasons that this place was founded, because plants travel as well as all the diseases like Dutch Elm Disease and chestnut blight.
David Horst: Emerald ash.
Ryan Welch: Emerald ash borer. And so yeah, we would we would hate to have this choice be a backdrop for something we don't want. But it is really cool to know it. You know, this thing that you found and you got a name and that is, is, you know, originally from this spot right here has been able to go around and other people been able to appreciate it, enjoy it and like it for the same reasons you did.
David Horst: That's right.
Ryan Welch: That's very cool.
David Horst: And it's pretty addictive once you find one.
Ryan Welch: Yeah. Once you find one, I can see, where you know, nobody has ever seen one, like, I’m the first one to discover this original thing in my backyard. And now here we go with it.
David Horst: And the only problem with dwarf conifers is they are a slower plant, which is good. Keep them small scale for your house. But the bad part is if you find the broom and you propagate it, it's going to take years and years to know what that shape of.
It's going to be the exact color, if it's a worthwhile plant to even keep raising. Sometimes they do weird things, sometimes they just die for unknown reasons. Like maybe they're not all there genetically. Yeah. And then other times they turn out to be wonderful new plants that may become a new plant on the market.
Ryan Welch: So it sounds like for those people who collect those kind of things and are into the, the witches broom, the dwarf conifer thing, patience is a big thing.
David Horst: Patience and it's a long term time investment.
Ryan Welch: Yeah. It's not something that, you know, you're going to you're going to know exactly all you need to know about it. You know, within a month or a couple of months or even a year, it may take, you know, half a decade
David Horst: Like a perennial. You can propagate, you can raise it from seed, cross-pollinate it whatever, and come up with a new plant, you know, within a couple of years. What you got?
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: But with a conifer, you're looking at 15, 20 years, probably minimum, especially a dwarf.
Ryan Welch: Now those dwarf conifers, do they put out cones and whatnot?
David Horst: Yes. And that's another aspect with finding a witch's broom. Hopefully you can find one that's got cones and just like the broom being smaller than the parent tree. Usually the cones are also smaller than normal growing cones,
Ryan Welch: Are the seeds in the cone viable?
David Horst: Sometimes are viable and sometimes they are not.
Ryan Welch: It's one of those. It's one of those experiments.
David Horst: Yeah.
Ryan Welch: You know, you go with it, you plant and you see what you can do. And if it comes up, woo-hoo if not.
David Horst: You, you know. That's right. And there are people that just collect the seeds and propagate those. Randy and Chub used to do that, too. They'd grow flats of them, especially Randy. I remember going over there and Randy always said, This is just a rough estimate on Randy's part, but he always said the witches broom is being pollinated cross-pollinated with the parent tree by the pollen or the neighboring tree, if they're the same species. He always said happen on average are going to be somewhat smaller than a normal seedling and the other half are going to kind of grow like a normal conifer.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: So then over time he starts weeding them out because he can tell by that seedling after a couple of years if it's going to be a fast grower or smaller. And he was looking for the smaller sizes.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: So he starts weeding them out in time. He can't raise thousands of them. You got to be selective.
Ryan Welch: Exactly. But that got that kind of intuitiveness. It takes a whole lot of work and a whole lot of time and a whole lot of patience that a lot of folks just probably don't have when it comes to those kind of things.
David Horst: That's right. Because in all those years with those seedlings, you've got to water them, you got to keep them weeded. You got to pot them up to different sizes of pots. There's a lot to it. Wow. It's a year round.
Ryan Welch: I was going to say it's not something that you just put in. You've put in a pot and put it in the corner of the sun and be like, okay, I'll make sure your watered every once in a while, and I'll be done with it.
There's a little bit more to it than that.
David Horst: Yeah.
Ryan Welch: A lot of people also don’t realize, like you mentioned, pollen, you know, conifers are not pollinated because they don't have a flower. Like like flowering trees do a lot of deciduous trees.
They're not pollinated by bees or wasps or birds, that's all wind pollination. And so whatever is blowing in the breeze that happens to hit at just the right time, that's what is going to be the genetics. That's half the genetics right there.
Ryan Welch: That's right. You know, from one plant to the other.
David Horst: Yeah. So you never know what you're going to get.
Ryan Welch: Yeah, it's a mystery every time.
David Horst: And that's what makes it exciting.
Ryan Welch: I was going to say that that is where the interest is, is knowing that you don't know who knows what you're going to get here from this.
David Horst: And that's how a lot of just fabulous plants have come about.
Ryan Welch: So in terms of these dwarf conifers, like you said, they're not a lot they're not available in like your Wal-Mart or your Home Depot or things like that. You have to go to a collector to find them. And some of them can be propagated by seeds, by the cones, but a lot of them probably are propagation from the original cutting, correct?
David Horst: Correct.
Ryan Welch: Cutting in time, cutting upon cutting. Do they do any grafting or conifers don’t graph really well, do they?
David Horst: Certain ones they graft and others ones they do rooted cuttings and seedlings, of course. And they are becoming more and more available at like the WalMarts, Lowe's, Home Depots. But still today, the best place if you're looking for dwarf conifers, is to go to a specialty nursery or a collector.
People that raise them, just that's all they grow is conifers. Like Dennis Hermansen up at Farley, Iowa. He sells nothing but dwarf conifers for the most part. That's what his specialty is.
Ryan Welch: Education is that the foundation of the Arboretum’s mission. And the Arboretum has the distinction of having the Heartland Collection classified by the American Conifer Society as a reference garden. This classification means that they are known as a place where people can come and learn about a large variety of conifers that can be grown in the area.
As you said before, you guys are recognized by the American Conifer Society as the Heartland Collection. And that initially started with Chubb when he was the president of the American Cancer Society, correct?
David Horst: That's correct.
Ryan Welch: And since then, it sounds like you guys are a reference garden. What does that mean?
David Horst: The American Cancer Society came up with this name, a reference garden to recognize noteworthy conifer collections throughout the country. Okay. So in all the regions they recognize us. They may like our region is called the Midwest region.
Ryan Welch: Yep, which makes sense.
David Horst: So we're part of that. I think we were like the third or fourth one recognized in our region at the time, in 2012. All right. But it's a way to educate people and promote conifers.
Ryan Welch: Okay. So what's involved in becoming a reference.
David Horst: Having a collection of plants available for public viewing and that are labeled.
Ryan Welch: Okay, there's actually a certain number of plants or is it just as long as the properly labeled in the correct way and they can be used for educational purposes, you would qualify them as a reference garden.
David Horst: Right.
Ryan Welch: Okay. So there's no stipulation that you had to have more than five, less than so many, and things like that?
David Horst: No, no. And I believe there's 51 of these total throughout the country.
Ryan Welch: Oh, okay.
David Horst: And we're fortunate to be one of three in Iowa. Oh, there's the Iowa Arboretum out at Madrid, kind of between Ames and Des Moines, which is a large arboretum. And the University of Iowa, the campus. Their maintenance crew has a reference garden designation.
Ryan Welch: I do not know that.
David Horst: They have a wonderful little garden there, kind of spread throughout the campus, but they have a couple of locations where there's denser plantings. And then, of course, Bickelhaupt Arboretum here in Clinton, Iowa.
Ryan Welch: Wow. One of three in the state.
David Horst: Yeah.
Ryan Welch: So pretty big.
David Horst: Pretty big. That's right. We're. We're honored.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
Ryan Welch: Once the collection was established, the work did not stop there. This collection is continually being monitored and maintained, but also added to. As new partnerships are made, new plants are discovered, and new beds of conifers are being planted.
So as you've been going over, you were made a reference garden in 2012, you've been keeping up with the maintenance of the Heartland Collection. What else has been added to the collection over the years.
David Horst: Over the years. We always attract conifer enthusiasts, collectors, collectors that come here and they collect wood. That was one of Chubb's stipulations when he made the proposal to the Bickelhaupts back in 1990, was that he wanted visitors to see the collection, and he also wanted it made available to collectors so they could collect Scion Wood.
Ryan Welch: Oh, okay. So they can collect samples and propagated on their own as long as they do it correctly.
David Horst: As long as they do it correctly. The stipulation was that they have to ask permission first whenever they come.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: Yeah. So that we don't have any plants that are maybe small that shouldn't have any cuttings taken.
Ryan Welch: If they're not ready yet or anything like that. Yeah, because you don’t want to damage what you've already got.
David Horst: Right. And they're limited to what they can take. Usually we recommend 3 to 5 samples from a plant and that's depending on its size. We don't want a nursery man to come in and take off the entire top of the plant.
Ryan Welch: No, we don’t want that.
David Horst: So we limit on what they can do, with these collectors that come and collect the scion wood. There are some from Ohio had come in. A couple were friends of the Arboretum. couple were nursery men. They kind of gotten a tenancy coming every year.
This was kind of their vacation. They'd come and collect wood and I'd spend a few hours up with them visiting and going over the plants and inevitably end up we'd talk about expansion or what we're going to do in the future.
And sometimes they would also donate some plant material in return for us giving.
Ryan Welch: It’s very reciprocal.
David Horst: That's right. Very reciprocal. Well, one year back in about 15 or 2016, I was talking with the gentleman from Ohio and he said he had a proposition for us he'd be willing to donate some plants. He was a witches broom hunter and collected plants from all over the country, especially up in the Upper Peninsula area, and wondering
if we'd be interested in that. So upon a couple of years of thinking about it, we came up with the location on the top of the hill, which is right after you walk into the collection. There was a open lawn area there.
Ryan Welch: Oh, okay.
David Horst: This gentleman and his wife donated 160 plants.
Ryan Welch: Wow. That's a pretty nice donation.
David Horst: Yep. Randy Dykstra and I from Fulton. We drove out to Ohio and picked them up. He donated all of them. And with the future promise, he's going to continue donating in the future. Randy and his wife, Karen from Fulton have donated quite a few plants also.
So we thought it was only appropriate that we call this new area the Barger Dykstra Collection.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: And that's how the name came about.
Ryan Welch: That’s how that name, that little part of the collection. And it's still part of the Heartland Collection, correct? It's just like a subset.
David Horst: That's right. And both Randy and Bill Barger were good friends with Chubb. Okay. And we know Chubb would be thrilled today.
Ryan Welch: Yeah. If he were still around today, he'd be thrilled with the fact that you guys are expanding and you're adding new things, and you're still keeping all that enthusiasm and that education and that camaraderie about the whole collection up and going.
David Horst: Yep. And a majority of the plants that have been donated by the Dykstras and Bargers have been, witches brooms.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: Which is also neat, and ties in with Chubb's request. At the beginning he wanted some of the collection to be witches brooms.
Ryan Welch: Okay, so it sounds like it all works out sort of in the end in a lot of ways. So are there any future collections in mind or are you just kind of at the moment waiting to see how things go?
David Horst: At the moment, we're waiting to see how things go. We're out of room now for the collection, so now we're kind of in the maintain mode. There will be some more donations from the Bargers, Dykstras because as they get growing in that area, that was in 2018 when we started the some of the plants are
growing a little faster than we thought, so we're going to start transplanting some of them while they're still small enough out to the larger areas. And that'll free up space to get some more new plants that are miniature from the Bargers or Dykstras.
Often with many disciplines. People like to gather and discuss the latest trends, new research or showcase projects that are near and dear to them. The American Conifer Society is no different, and they hold annual meetings on the national level every year, along with regional and state meetings as well.
These meetings allow destinations such as the Bickelhaupt Arboretum to showcase all the hard work that they've been doing while also participating in an educational event that can benefit people on all levels and from all parts of the United States and beyond.
As David explains, the Arboretum has been very fortunate in being chosen on a number of occasions to host these types of events.
It sounds like as a part of the American Cancer Society you said they have, they have annual meetings every year.
David Horst: They have annual meetings at the national level. They have a national meeting, which we were hosting until COVID changed our plans.
Ryan Welch: So we were going to host it here at the arboretum.
David Horst: We were hosting it here at the Arboretum and at Clinton Community College.
Ryan Welch: So what’s involved in one of those national meetings that in terms of logistics and what that means for an arboretum of this size.
David Horst: While we were going to be the host garden. Okay. So our Heartland collection or our dwarf conifers was the featured collection. And then there would have been four or five other tours. And most of these were homeowners that collect conifers.
They would tour those homes. Down at Clinton Community College they were going to have a series of classes and lectures. Okay, that lasted for a couple of days.
Ryan Welch: For a couple of days, so you'd have a couple of days where you do have lectures and classes on conifers, on maintenance, on pruning, on propagation and all that kind of stuff. And then on some of those off times, you guys would then take tours of various collections, this being one of the main ones.
But other collections in the neighborhood also were lined up to be given tours of.
David Horst: Right, here in Clinton, Fulton. One of the tours was out on a farm by Elvira, and then there was a couple of tours down at McCausland, Geneseo and Moline.
Ryan Welch: Oh, okay. So that's. That was a national conference.
David Horst: That was a national conference. That's the first time we ever hosted a national meeting.
Or would have been if it hadn't been for the pandemic.
David Horst: And generally, 250 to 300 people attend these and they come from all over the country, sometimes even from other countries, sometimes Britain, some of the countries in Europe, some of the serious collectors come.
Ryan Welch: So they just have like one national conference a year, then.
David Horst: One national meeting a year.
Ryan Welch: One national meeting. Do they have any regional ones?
David Horst: And then each region has a meeting a year also and usually they switch it up. This year might have been like in Ohio, next year it could be Indiana. The Arboretum has actually hosted a couple of the regional meetings over the years and.
Ryan Welch: Probably come in, probably a similar format as the national ones just on a smaller scale.
David Horst: Right?
Ryan Welch: So you do some lecturing, some presenting and then touring of various locations. So people can see in your little part of the region what we're doing compared to other parts of the region.
David Horst: Right. And then the next level down would be like they rendezvous, they call them, and each state can put those on.
Ryan Welch: Oh, okay.
David Horst: And I believe last year was the 21st year of the Iowa Garden Rendezvous, which we hosted also, where they didn't have the national meeting. They decided to have the Iowa Garden rendezvous. And it's ACS members, American Conifer Society members mostly, but anybody can attend and it's a lunch and then you tour gardens again.
David Horst: Wow. So we were on that.
Ryan Welch: You were on that list.
David Horst: I believe that might have been the second or third time we were on that.
Ryan Welch: So it's a nice way for the these, these sort of national regional rendezvous type meetings are good ways for to get other people who may normally not come to this part of the state or even the country, for that matter, and showcase what we really do here, showcase all the work that's being done, not just in terms of the Conifer Collection, but all of the collections that are here on the on the, the acreage of the arboretum.
David Horst: That's the goal.
Ryan Welch: That's the goal. That's the hop.
David Horst: Yeah. And it's worked pretty well.
Ryan Welch: Good. That helps.
As we have seen, the heartland collection of rare and dwarf conifers offers a unique learning opportunity for people of all interest levels, from the scholarly academic to the homeowner who's just looking for that one plant that may be perfect for that difficult to fill spot in their yard.
This collection also gives people the opportunity to admire rare plants that had previously never been discovered or named until witches broom enthusiasts sought them out with the collection continued to be added to and modified, it means that with each new visit, there will always be something new that can be seen in this part of the arboretum.
I would like to thank David Horst for his insight and enthusiasm with this podcast, and to Otis Welch for the musical selection.
In this dynamic podcast episode, we shine a spotlight on the incredible individuals who bring the arboretum to life. Hear firsthand from the Bickelhaupts' daughter, Francie Hill, as she shares their inspiring journey and the initial hurdles they faced.
Get to know Margo Hansen, former director of programs, and David Horst, director of horticulture, as they delve into their backgrounds and the profound impact of their life experiences on their work at the arboretum. From braving the elements to tending to the plants, David Horst reveals how weather dictates the day-to-day operations and the fascinating ways extreme weather affects the arboretum's botanical treasures.
Ryan Welch: Welcome to another in our series of podcast about the Bickelhaupt Arboretum, located in Clinton, Iowa. While it is true that Arboretums are living museums of trees and woody vegetation, these collections didn't just magically appear. The ideas to create the arboretum, the physical labor that went into doing all the work and the enthusiasm and excitement to educate others about the benefits of these plants. Took the work of people. These tasks have involved not only the Bickelhaupts and their family members, but dedicated employees throughout the years and an army of volunteers. Initially, this started with the Bickelhaupts themselves, who began this public area to give back to their community and educate people about the options that were available to diversify and ecologically benefit their landscapes. During this podcast, we will get to know more about some of the people involved with the Arboretum and get a better sense of why they do what they do for the arboretum.
The Bickelhaupts provide the foundation for this arboretum. From the initial setting up and planning as a nonprofit organization with an interest in education to the ways that they taught staff and volunteers to think ahead and be more efficient as they went about the work of planting and maintaining the area.
Their daughter, Francie Hill, shared some of these initial insights during these early years of the arboretum.
Francie Hill: And they were in their seventies at the time.
Ryan Welch: At the time.
Francie Hill: Which is pretty interesting that they would do that. But they also were some of the first people I knew were very conscious of health and they knew back then that weight and that exercises were very, very important.
My mom drove the mower well into the start of her 80th year. I think. She was on the mower in a safe area that David would tell her she could. They swam every day. She lived to be 97 and so every day, and they were very frugal that way.
They were back in those days and we're talking like the late sixties and everything. I like to think 1970 was when the arboretum sort of started.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
Francie Hill: So in the late sixties they approached an attorney and said, What do you know about nonprofits?
What do you know about starting an arboretum? And at that time, I think once I researched, there was Salvation Army, American Red Cross and what else? American Cancer Society, maybe Heart Association. There were very few.
Ryan Welch: There was very few.
Francie Hill: Now there are a lot of them.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
Francie Hill: And so he went to Washington and stayed at the Mayflower Hotel and probably was there a week trying to explain to IRS what this was, and that there would be a commitment but it was very new to them.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
Francie Hill: to the IRS and everything. And it wasn't being a tax dodge because they were they weren't going to be raising money because they wanted to pay for it themselves. So there was a lot of confusion on that.
And then they came back and they did get their 501c3. So they were and then they really felt that they had to do education and that's when they really got into it. As far as and at my mom and dad's celebration of life.
One of the speakers that I lined up was a Doctor Hasikus who is the chair of horticulture, the professor emeritus, chair of horticulture, University of Wisconsin-Madison, very well known. And he said he can remember going to conferences and my mom and dad were in the front row and they didn't have tape recorders or anything like that.
And they were taking notes and then they go out and they transcribed their notes. So they were very interested in education. My mom was an education major in college, and so she was very interested in, you know, teaching people.
And it was it was hard, Ryan, because people didn't really think of trees as much value. It was a tree. It was a tree. So to teach them about them, to teach them how to prune, to teach them if you cut one tree down.
Clinton still doesn’t know that if you cut one tree down, you have to plant another.
Ryan Welch: You have to put something to replace it.
Francie Hill: How do we know what tree to plant? Well, perhaps you might go out to the arboretum and say, that's a really pretty tree. What's the name of it? There's a name of it, yeah. And then if you look at the labels, it tells how fast and years ago that was done by hand like Gutenberg did the Bible,
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
Francie Hill: And now they've got a computer there that, that works off of it and it's much easier but still important. So my dad is a car dealer.
Ryan Welch: Yep.
Francie Hill: And one of the things he would talk to people about is in addition to diversity, he would talk about maintaining your car, keeping it up to date.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
Francie Hill: So at the arboretum, they probably had five of those little booklets that Hallmark gives you to put birthday book, you know?
Ryan Welch: Okay.
Francie Hill: And they had every time they put oil in, they had to list the oil, right? And the date of it every time they put gas in all that kind of, and he swears by it now.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
Francie Hill: But at the time it was hard to understand, for me to understand also, David, to understand why it really mattered.
But everything that is wrong usually is because of the bad habits that we have. For instance, you two go out or you go out to go do something in the field and Alan's going to come out too. And Alan has to run back for something.
And you go ahead. No, that's wasting time because then he's got to walk. So they always was a second seat on all equipment. So the one person could shotgun not to check ‘em but always say that and always David reminded me of this this morning.
I'd forgotten that they had before they had fanny packs, their backpacks, and in the morning they would put all the equipment they needed in it. They would have to take everything out because my dad said, if somebody has to run back for something that's wasting time. So it's important that you keep everything every way you can, keep the maintenance, get your dollars down. So that was a good lesson for everybody to learn. I think the volunteers learned that as well.
I think it's important to know that this was started by people who were able to at first resist some change and then understand it. And I think that's what we all need to work towards. It may not be the same.
It's when I was there, when you weren’t there. But we also accept change and we move with it. And we know that that's going to happen. And it's okay. Yeah. And as long as you keep the vision alive, I think it's okay.
Ryan Welch: And there's a lot of change that happens at the arboretum because and I've talked to this the day before, I don't realize that these are living things.
Francie Hill: Yeah.
Ryan Welch: For the past 11 years, Margo Hanson has been the Arboretum director of programs. Margo's local background and upbringing, along with her educational background and enthusiasm, have entertained and educated visitors and volunteers at the Arboretum during this time. She discusses how all of this came to be and how her involvement with the community on so many levels also
has been beneficial to both the Arboretum and the community at large. Even though she has recently retired from her position at the arboretum, the impact she has made not only to the arboretum but to the surrounding community will be felt for many years to come.
Margo Hanson: I grew up on a dairy farm in Scott County, so I'm really a farmer at heart. I love the outdoors. I went to Pleasant Valley High School and then after I graduated, I went to a junior college. That's what they were called back then in Webster City, Iowa.
There I received a two year degree in horticulture. Being from the farm, I was kind of afraid to go to a big university right out of high school. So I went to the junior college, which was a perfect fit for me.
After I graduated from Webster City with a degree, a two year degree in horticulture, I transferred to Iowa State University, and there I received my four year degree in horticulture. From there, my first real job was with the Burpee Seed Company in Clinton, Iowa.
I wasn't really happy about having a desk job, but being in the Burpee Seed Company was just a very wonderful learning experience. While I was at Burpees, I was able to spend two summers at their research farms in California.
I did all kinds of things working with the plant breeders, working in the seed lab, and also working with some professional photographers who did photography for the Burpee Seed Catalog. So that was really exciting for me, being a farm girl from Iowa who had really never left the state.
And then here I am in California experiencing all those new things. And that of course, was back in the 1970s. So it was a long time ago. From the Burpee Seed Company. My next job was actually running a, my own garden center, which I had in Clinton for 16 years.
And then after that I went to Wallace’s Garden Center in the Quad Cities and ran one of their locations for several years. Then coming back to Clinton to work with the Lawn and Garden Department for the Paul’s Discount Store.
So pretty much up until then, my whole life was retail garden center.
Ryan Welch: How did you get involved in the Arboretum itself?
Margo Hanson: Well, I had been employed in a retail lawn and garden for several probably 3 decades. I always wanted the opportunity to do more teaching. And when the position came open at the arboretum for a Director of Programs, this was a perfect opportunity for me to get programs in the community, reach out to people and help people with their lawn and garden questions, and then also develop some programs for education, especially kids.
The elementary schools bring a lot of education to the elementary schools in the area and the students in the area, just love that. And then, of course, wanted to spread the good news that the Arboretum was in Clinton and what we all had to offer. So it was a perfect opportunity. I applied, was fortunately hired and have been here 11 years. Well, I like the job number one. Because of the education, you just cannot educate people enough in the area of plant material, trees, shrubs, nature in itself.
And of course, with the different generations, we start all over. So we have to just keep that process continuing. I also love the job because every day is different. I do answer a lot of questions from the public and so they come in and you never know what the next questions are going to be.
Also, we get a lot of phone calls and I do public speaking for different groups just to get out into the community and share the information that we have now that we're part of the college Clinton Community College system.
It's even more important that we continue the educational factor, as well as keeping the arboretum alive, healthy working arboretum that David Horst has done such a wonderful job doing.
Ryan Welch: This job involves a lot of community involvement and organizational involvement with various areas. So what types of community partnerships or organizational partnerships are you involved in as it relates to the job?
Margo Hanson: So actually people that know me don't realize that when I was young I was very shy and I didn't do much public speaking. But over the course of the years, I had to develop that. And now I do love going out and talking to the community.
But I also have very been very active over the years. In the Clinton area, I was one of the founding members of our Clinton Trees Forever group, and that group has planted literally thousands of trees in and around the community, as well as doing educational programs.
In addition to that, I did over 30 years of the local farmers market. So that is a great connection. It got to the point where people would come up to the market to ask me questions, which was great.
You know, anytime I can answer a plant question, I'm happy to do that. In addition to that, I do have a radio show and have had that for over 30 years where I do answer lawn and garden questions and then I talk about things pertaining to that particular season or things that are going on in the plant
world at that time. Certain insect might be a problem. Or, you know, when do I plant my tomatoes? Is it too early? So questions like that. So that radio show has really helped to reach out to a lot of people in the community.
Another thing that I have done is I have presented a lot of programs to area organizations: Rotary, Kiwanis, many church groups. If they were needing a speaker, I was always happy to accommodate them and spread the good word and not just to on the Arboretum about general planting and what the weather and their seasons had had thrown us that year. In addition to that, we do get into the monarch butterflies and also the pollinators. So it's not just plants. It's just kind of all of those things that are intertwined that that I love to do.
I've also done over 20 years of a lawn and garden calendar that is printed locally and is made available through a number of different organizations.
Ryan Welch: As people visit the arboretum and take in the beautiful plants and collections that can be seen on the grounds, it is more than likely that they are seeing the hard work and dedication of David Horst, who has been working for the Arboretum since 1986.
David is currently the director of horticulture for the Arboretum, and his love for the outdoors and passion for plants is evident in every collection and planting that can be observed on the grounds. David discusses how he became involved with the Arboretum and a little bit about why he has been here for all these years.
David Horst: My name's David Horst. I'm from Sabuela. I've been employed at the Bickelhaupt Arboretum for 36 years, starting here in 1986.
Ryan Welch: So, Dave, what interested you in this type of work and how how were you trained, how you were educated? What led you to where we're here 36 years later?
David Horst: Well, first off, I grew up on a farm, the family farm up by Sabuela. And I was always raising the garden, the vegetables and of course, helping my folks farm the farm ground. So I learned a lot in plants and raising plants with the farming.
Went to high school, graduated from East Central, and then I attended Muscatine Community College for a year. I got to, I got a part time job here at the Arboretum, attended Clinton Community College after that.
Ryan Welch: Okay. So did you mostly work on plant type courses while you were there or just general
David Horst: General study? Well, in.
Muscatine, I was in the conservation program, so there was some plant courses, but there was also fisheries and wildlife courses also.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: And then I think some of the most important education I've had was since I worked here at the Arboretum, attending some of the courses early on, but mostly from the people I worked with some of the board of directors were professors of horticulture at their colleges, like the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Ed Haskell, Dr. Jeff Eilers, who's the head out at Iowa State. They'd come over and visit the arboretum for a day and walk the grounds with me and teach me a lot about the plants and locations.
And working with Chubb Harper, who's a well-known conifer expert back in the day, people like that, I think that's – A lot, all hands on.
Ryan Welch: Training went into the background you have in the past and some of it's been on the job in the last 30 some years that you've actually been here and that's been very beneficial to everything you've been doing and able to make sure that you can, you know, you're learning about the specific stuff here at the arboretum, but also can be used in general for a lot of other types of trees and shrubs and things like that.
David Horst: Yes, feel that's very important and I've gained a lot of knowledge from it over the years and some of that was actually working on the grounds, even with Mr. Bickelhaupt, when I first came here, I didn't know anything about pruning lilacs, but he took me out.
He was patient with me. He showed me how to properly prune ‘em and that actual hands on experience is very valuable.
Ryan Welch: Invaluable. Some people would say, are you affiliated with in any way professional organizations or groups or anything like that?
David Horst: Yes. American Conifer Society.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: I've been a member. I'm actually a life member now.
Ryan Welch: Oh.
Ryan Welch: So what do you have to do to become a life member?
David Horst: Pay a lot of money.
Ryan Welch: Gotcha. (laughter) It's all the dues. Give us all the dues.
David Horst: But no, that's a wonderful organization. And they have different regions throughout the country, like the central region here that we belong to. I was a part of, they have different they have a meeting every year and they'll have different tours.
And so you get to see the local plants. All right. –Get to see what other people might be doing with their conifers and what you can either take back or not take back and how it relates to what we're doing here.
David Horst: That's right.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: Yeah, through a family friend I was told about the job here at the peak of our summer was a part time summer job. I decided to apply for it after working here that year. I decided that working with plants is what I like.
I like the area, I like the arboretum. I like my job taking care of the plants and planting ‘em, watching them grow and I decided that's what I want to do for the rest of my life. And I'm still here 36 years later.
Ryan Welch: You're 36, so it's nice to get paid for something you like doing. That is always helpful.
David Horst: And I still say that today
Ryan Welch: Still say that today. That is amazing. The aspect of this job. It's really nice to use the outdoors. You do work with your hands to wash things, grow that sort of thing.
David Horst: Absolutely. And it's a changing season with the seasons. Even winter is an interesting time. So I don't just sit at a desk or an assembly line doing the same thing all day. It's always something different. Even on a given day, I start out doing something, change over maybe spread woodchips or some weeds or some pruning.
It's different all the time, and that's where I like.
Ryan Welch: Well, the people that work for the Arboretum are dedicated and love their jobs. Much of their work is outside, and with that comes the ever unpredictability of Midwestern weather. Through the years, the people and the plants at the arboretum have had to contend with everything that Mother Nature has thrown their way.
David discusses some of the maintenance issues that they have had to be mindful of while taking care of the collections and gardens that are at the arboretum. Now, in terms of managing this area, what sort of major weather issues have actually affected the Arboretum in the past?
David Horst: Just working at an arboretum and working outside to deal with weather on a daily basis. But there has been some very serious events that have happened, some of the major changing of the grounds incidents or life changing incidents that have personally affected the arboretum and the plants growing here are straight line winds.
In 1996, they destroyed 172 year old burr oak and many other large trees that were growing. January of 2019. Severe cold temperatures of -29 below.
Ryan Welch: That wasn't a one day event though, that was those temperatures were, I don't wanna say they were everyday, negative 29 below but they were sustained for a little bit.
David Horst: Several Days
Ryan Welch: So what effect does that have on some of these plants? I realize, you know, these plants are outside and a lot of them say, well, the tree is dormant. How is that going to go? How is that kind of a cold temperature going to affect it?
David Horst: That's correct. We had a lot of severe damage that year, not sure, I think we had 80 some plants that were damaged by the cold, by the cold that year. And that was part of the problem.
If it were just a short period of time, it wouldn’t have been so difficult, but it was over several days with just a little under a week, perhaps we're below zero at different time periods. And this long term cold spell caused a lot of dieback directly on our shrubs and we had a lot of injury and dieback to the dwarf conifer collection too that year.
Ryan Welch: Now is that because it was partially cold for so long. Then the cold went down in the ground deep enough to actually affect the roots where when those plants go dormant, they send all that stuff down into the roots for storage because it's usually, I would say, below the frost line, but it's at a point where that that, you know, moderately cold temperatures are going to affect it as much. But really, really cool stuff. You know, you get freeze down there, you get crystallization down there, and that really messes up the plumbing, if you will, of that root structure. Is that really what was kind of going on and leading to that dieback.
David Horst: Yes, that was I would say that that the half of it and then the other half, because some of the plants did come back from the ground, but the top had died. So obviously it affected just the top of the plant as well, where the roots were untouched.
So it was both ways, I think. I think both ways happened. So that year we had a lot of injuries from the sunlight reflecting off the snow. It was cold for a long period. We had a little dryness going into the winter time.
So the conifers that need the moisture throughout the year to keep their needles healthy with the long snowfall that we had on the ground, it was, I believe, we had snow from December 1st to like almost the end of March.
And we had a lot of reflection from the sun of that which dried out needles on the evergreens. And then the result is in the spring and April, May, they turn brown.
Ryan Welch: People don't realize that, that, you know, these yeah, these ,these evergreens, those needles are actually their leaves. And even though they're nice and thin and they don't look as showy to some people as you might think, they're constantly reflecting the sunlight and doing their thing.
And so when that happens for prolonged periods of time, it can't continue.
David Horst: That's right. And many cases, they will survive the needle desiccation. But they look for several months until you get up to a couple years if it's severe. So that was another factor that played in that winter. That was a tough winter for plants and people working out in it.
Ryan Welch: Yeah, and people working out in it.
David Horst: It was that same year. No, it was the yes, it was November of 2018. So it was the year leading up the fall leading up to the winter 2019 when we had the -29. It was in November of 2018.
We had a rain, heavy rain, followed by 12 inches of wet, heavy snow. And that did a lot of damage to a lot of plants. We had hundreds of limbs that came out of the trees and broken out of the shrubs where a lot of pruning the following spring and summer.
Although it did not kill the plants, it disfigured them.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: Took many years to recover.
Ryan Welch: To recover from. Yeah. Because a lot of people don't realize that you put that kind of weight on a plant. They can only hold so much as well and things shear off and break and it really will affect the structural integrity of some of these plants.
David Horst: And one of the worst affected was the founder, White Pines, that were planted for the screen that we talked about along the north side of the building here, White Pines, the heavy load sits on the upper limbs. Pine, of course, is a soft wood, so if it gets too heavy.
That limb up at the top, the tree breaks and it takes every limb that it lands on on its way down to the ground. And there were very lost five or six limbs in a row, were them at the top row.
Ryan Welch: And they just went kept going almost like it, almost like an avalanche in some ways. But with woody species just coming down the tree and making a mess on the bottom, but also mess things up at the top and then structural, because that will open up new areas that aren't accustomed to that kind of light even, or other things that may and maybe they'll, they'll come back. Maybe it won't. If it does, it won't be coming back in the same way as, as it had.
David Horst: We had many trees that were mishapped the rest of their lives.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: The heavy snow.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: And it was just the perfect combination of the perfect storm when we had the rain first. So the needles were wet and we had that very wet, wet, heavy snow that did the damage.
Of course, everybody remembers the derecho on August 10th of 2020, with Clinton Iowa receiving winds in excess of an estimated 115 to 120 miles per hour, which destroyed 28 of our largest and oldest trees and damaged another 70 or so trees.
There have been many other events over the years involving strong winds, torrential downpours with the creek flooding out of its banks, bringing cold temperatures. We always hate to have these events and to lose the trees that we've cared for for so many years.
Well, it does open up an avenue where we can go in and do some research on new plants and bring them to the Arboretum plant ‘em, tt kind of upgrades the collection in a way.
Ryan Welch: Yeah. And it also shows people as you plant things or as you have things in your yard or in your area, here's our nature is going to affect them.
David Horst: That's right.
Ryan Welch: You know, in nature, you're not going have a perfect day every day. It’s no gonna be Sunny every day, kids. And then if you're going to plant this year, realize that these things could happen if we get those kind of weather. And here in Iowa, you expect anything.
David Horst: That's right.
Ryan Welch: You know.
David Horst: And it teaches us lessons. If we didn't properly plant a tree when I was young and it developed a double layer, for example, with a poor angle where there's was a weak spot. As the tree gets older, more weight is on those legs, and then you get a strong wind like the one that breaks out and splits the trunk and the tree has to be removed.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: It could have been prevented if we would have properly groomed it from the start.
Ryan Welch: Form the start.
David Horst: Yeah. And that's another thing we like to do is show the proper pruning.
Ryan Welch: So, so this is, this is why we do this. That's why, you know, there's a method behind the bad news, folks. This is the reason we did it this way to begin with. And, and here's why. Here's what happens if you don't do it that way.
David Horst: Yeah.
Ryan Welch: We have you know, you talked about weather extremes in terms of the flooding and the winds and the cold. What about the other end of that spectrum? Instead of like the wet, the, dry.
David Horst: That’s a good point. I missed that one. The droughts
Ryan Welch: The droughts
David Horst: And there's been plenty of those. Even last summer, it was pretty dry. We tried to prevent droughts ahead of time by putting on a nice layer of woodchips, usually with mulch.
Ryan Welch: Because it will retain the moisture for longer periods of time. You don’t have to water out of the bucket every day and water.
David Horst: That's right. And it keeps the sun from making the soil. As much as many other benefits, but drought is probably one of the most important ones that keeps the soil a constant moisture level or more consistent anyway, and temperature level.
But we do have hydrants spaced throughout the arboretum. It does get too dry. We start watering the new plants first, the ones that don't have a fully developed root system. We water them first and then we will go to the ones that were planted the year preceding the drought period over water those and then we keep monitoring other ones beyond that.
Ryan Welch: So it's a systematic process depending on if the drought conditions are here. You go around and say, okay, the newer stuff that hasn't been established first may not be ready for this stuff yet. We handle that. But as you go down the years, you probably get to plants that are have the least, if nothing else, have a pretty good reserve system set and you may not have to do as much.
David Horst: That’s right they have an established root system. And if they're healthy, they can tolerate a certain amount of drought anyway.
Ryan Welch: Oh yeah, that's natural. You probably have those plants I've been around for long enough where they, while they have been healthy, have been here for a while. They may have also been affected by other things that may have lowered their defenses as well, correct?
David Horst: That's correct.
Ryan Welch: Yes, Arboretums are collections of living woody plant material, but it is often the people that plan, plant, maintain and educate about these plants that really bring life to the Arboretum. This dedication and knowledge about the area also allow the staff at the Arboretum to be better prepared for what Mother Nature throws at us, which allows them to continually show off this jewel of Clinton, Iowa. I would like to thank Francie Hill, Margo Hanson and David Horst for their time, dedication, passion and knowledge that they share with me for this podcast. I would also like to thank Otis Welch for the musical selection.
In this episode, we uncover the captivating history and significance of the crabapple collection at the arboretum. Toegther we'll chat about the origins of these majestic trees and their importance to Iowa with insights from David Horst. Then, we'll explore the fascinating evolution of the collection at the arboretum and the addition of daffodils. Lastly, we'll discover how these living trees transform over time and gain valuable knowledge on the benefits of owning and nurturing crabapple trees, along with expert tips on proper care.
Ryan Welch: The Crab Apple tree is considered a deciduous flowering tree that is small in stature, often between 30 to 50 feet in height. A deciduous tree is one that has leaves during the spring and summer growing seasons, but will go dormant in the fall and winter months and drop its leaves.
Crab apples are defined as any small tree in the Malus genus, which is the same plant genus as regular apple trees. And both are in the Rosaceae plant family, which is the same plant family as Rose's. The Crab Apple Tree originated in the mountainous regions of Central Asia, specifically in modern day Kazakhstan.
But it can be found in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, including Russia and China. They also inhabit the temperate regions of North America since they were introduced to the Western Hemisphere in the 18th century. They tend to be found in relatively open areas with lots of sun exposure and good air circulation.
These trees do not have a particular soil preference. They do best in moist well-drained and slightly acidic soils. However, they are also highly adaptable to poor soils and they can endure various soil acidity, soil compaction, drought, pollution, wounding, and even some heavy pruning.
This adaptability gives these crab apples a very high urban tolerance. They became popular cultivars, which are trees that are often used for selective breeding purposes, and they spread throughout the continent via the Silk Road. Romans brought the species from Asia into Europe, where the species experienced a rapid diversification into over 800 distinct species.
It became the cultivar of choice in Europe, but particularly in Britain, and was eventually brought into North America, where they are currently found in abundance and in some areas even considered native. In fact, there is actually an Iowa Crab Apple, which is not only native to Iowa, but it's the only plant that has the state's name in
its scientific nomenclature, Malus Ioensis. It has several common names as well, including the Prairie Crab Apple, the Iowa Crab Apple, the Western Crab Apple, the Prairie Crab, the Iowa Crab and the Western Crab. This tree is described as being a miniature tree in most respects, which will grow to about 35 feet in height with a dense, irregular form. It can sometimes be a spiny shrub looking thing, or just a small tree with spreading branches and an open crown. It produces a yellow to green apple like fruit and is not considered to be ornamental by crabapple standards.
There is a variety of Iowa crab that is grown as an ornamental, which has been described as a handsomely double flowered variety. The Iowa Crab Apple is quite important from an ecological perspective, though, as the fruits are eaten by many species of birds like Bob White quails and pheasants, as well as squirrels, rabbits and other small mammals.
The crab apple is considered a self-sterile flower, meaning that pollen from flowers on its own tree won't produce fruit. This also means that it is completely reliant on insects and other pollinators in order to produce the fruit that give the trees their name.
They do cross-pollinate with other varieties of crab apples, so determining individual species within the genus is a very difficult. Crab apple flowers tend to be white, pink or red in their petal color with darker buds that bloom during the April and May months.
This makes them one of the earliest flowers available to pollinators in the spring. Flowering may not occur to the same extent every year, and crabapple trees could alternate between years of heavy, showy flowering and fruiting, and years of only moderate flowering of fruiting the fruits of the crab apple tree around and fleshy and typically red, yellow, orange or green in color. The fruits belong to the pome variety and are used to attract mammals which tend to take them and distribute the seeds. They tend to be between a quarter to three quarters of an inch in diameter, and they mature in dense, showy clusters appearing the months of September or October.
But they can hang onto the tree until as late as December. The fruits are edible for human consumption and can vary in flavor from quite acidic and sour tasting to fairly pleasant tasting. Often folks will use them in jellies and ciders, although about only 30 species of apple trees exist.
Hundreds of hybrids are available. Gardeners tend to choose these cultivars based on flowering time, disease, resistance, color and fruit taste. Early flowering crab apples include Aldenhamensis the Siberian Crab Apple. Hybrids with interesting foliage include Eleyi, which has purple leaves that contrast with its red flowers and purple fruit.
Elise Rathke, which produces green apples with pink blushes and Malus trilobata, which has red leaves that resemble maple tree leaves. Well-known types that have good tasting fruit, including Transcendent,” “Centennial” and “Dolgo.”, “Maypole” is a dwarf variety also with tasty fruit.
With the abundance of variety, the ease of care and growing and added ecological benefits. It is no wonder that they are such a popular tree variety among landscapers, gardeners and homeowners. It is also for these benefits that this was one of the first tree collections that was started at the arboretum when it first began in 1970.
As David Horst explains a bit of the history of the Crab Apple collection that we have and how it came to be here at the Bickelhaupt Arboretum. When was, do you have any idea when the Crab Apple collection was first planted?
David Horst: The first planting in the Crabapple collection was in 1970
Ryan Welch: 1970 and has been going on pretty well ever since. So how many crab apples were planted in that first round?
David Horst: There were 24 crab that was planted in 1970.
Ryan Welch: How did those crab apples arrive?
David Horst: Okay. There is 24 of them. And the Bickelhaupts had ordered them from a nurse, men from Vincennes Indiana nursery called Simpson Nursery, and they filled out the paper for 24, one through 24. The first one, for example, was maybe Dolgo crab apple.
David Horst: So they had a one there. But as they went down the list, one through 24, instead of putting one in front of everyone. They increased their number by one. So they ended up at 24 at the end. The nursery men took that as 24 of that particular crab apple.
Ryan Welch: Of that variety. So it's just listing. This is my first one. This is my second. This is my third one. At the nursery, they looked at that. Oh, they want one of these two of these three these four of these five of these all the way down to 24.
David Horst: That's correct. And Mr. Bickelhaupt said that the secretary for Mr. Simpson at Simpson's Nursery questioned it. But Mr. Simpson thought that they actually wanted that many. So they had that many shipped, that they had that many shipped.
And Mr. Bickelhaupts claimed that when they came on a big flatbed truck, it was something like a big coffin like box to contain them all. They were rooted at that time, so they all fit in there. But it was a very large box and they knew right away there was something amiss when they saw the size of the crate that they were in. And of course, upon opening it, there was a lot of plants and they only had ordered 24. So to help solve the problem and Mr. Simpson was kind to the arboretum. He donated the 24 that they had requested.
So to be kind to Mr. Simpson. Mr. Bickelhaupt went and talked to some local nursery men and asked if they'd be willing to buy them at wholesale cost, which is what Simpson Nursery does. They're a wholesale outfit.
The other nurseries that Mr. Bickelhaupt talked to agreed that they would buy them.
Ryan Welch: So they bought all the extras. So we got the 24 different varieties. We had one of each of those you get they planted, they put in all the extras, went to local nurseries, who then sold them. And then I'm assuming that paid back the nursery once the plants were sold.
David Horst: That's correct.
Ryan Welch: All right. And that was, again, prior to the Internet. And so that's one of the ways that mistake can happen if it's all pen, paper, mailing things back and forth, maybe a telephone. So I'm guessing they didn't because that's not surprising.
The secretary was like, I think this is odd, but nobody thought to call and say, no, no, this is this is how this is supposed to be.
David Horst: Right. And those nurseries that sell wholesale, of course, they were selling to other nurseries. They're used to dealing with big numbers.
Ryan Welch: I mean, this was probably small potatoes and anything.
David Horst: This would be small potatoes, one of each. So they just assumed that they were ordering and quantity.
Ryan Welch: Ordering in quantity, that's really interesting.
David Horst: Normally they sell five, ten, 15.
Ryan Welch: Of each variety anyway. So 24 is what the type is. Nothing, because they're going to have 24 customers are going to want it. So it was probably ordered to them and they were only ordering one at a time.
David Horst: Right, yeah.
Ryan Welch: Now, did he get a lot of his plant material from various wholesalers in that way?
David Horst: Yes. Over the years we've been very fortunate. Nurseries really like to actually donate the plants, so we're not always buying them or we can buy them at a cheaper price because they know that if we plant it here and we label it, we have visitors come and see it.
David Horst: They're going to ask where they can buy that.
Ryan Welch: So it's, it's a little bit of advertising for them. It's too. So it's a low cost advertising, word of mouth advertising that you don't have to worry about hiring somebody special to do this or marketing campaign. If we know that, you know, if people look at the trees and stuff here like this is something I can put
in my house and here's what it's going to look like after so many years. If I take care of it. They're more than happy to ask those questions and have the information given to them.
David Horst: Yep, that's right. Okay. So that's a benefit to us. Yeah, it saves us a lot of money.
Ryan Welch: It does give us a lot of money. And it still keeps things going here and it helps with the education part as well. Yeah, I guess
David Horst: And we're on the front edge of getting the new plants that are being introduced and released at the same time.
Ryan Welch: So as we've said before, you know this, the lot of these plants, they live out their life, they're dealing with the elements, the heat, the drywall, the water, all that's the wind. And they need to be replaced at times.
And you guys are replacing wood stuff that's, you know, like you said, the hot stuff in the market, so to speak, in some way.
David Horst: Yeah.
Ryan Welch: Underneath of the Crabapple collection, the first year there was planted 100 King Alfred and 100 Mount Hood daffodil bulbs. These were planted in a random pattern on the hillside among these crabapple trees. For the next four years, following 200 additional daffodil bulbs would be planted each fall for a total of 1000 bulbs underneath all of the crabapple trees in the collection, as David explains, these bulbs were naturalized and not mowed down until after their life cycle and growing season has been complete and they are added benefit to the Crab Apple collection that we have here at the Arboretum.
Ryan Welch: And then under those crab. Apples to bring the people. In, they started with 200.
David Horst: Daffodil bulbs a year for five years.
David Horst: That's right.
Ryan Welch: Do they quit after five years?
David Horst: They quit for a while. And then we started digging up those as we were planting trees and we were planting a tree and we were putting a bed of woodchips around it to protect the tree, of course, and keep it healthy.
If there was a clump of bulbs there, we would dig those up and replant them. Okay. If there was 30 bulbs that we plant to the hill on, so we'd have another 15 clumps. And we fill in.
Usually we pick holes within the existing collection where they plant the original bulbs and we try to build in and make a solid display of flowering.
Ryan Welch: And you just let those go and let them flower, and then after a while you wait to mow those down until after they've gone and done their most of their lifecycle for the most part. Correct?
David Horst: That's right. After the foliage completely turns yellow and turns brown, after that, we go in and we'll cut it off and clean it up. Usually involves breaking the grass, then it comes back up. We always want to let the plant produce enough energy for its use for next year.
We don't want to cut them off too soon.
Ryan Welch: Over time, the Crab Apple collection has changed quite a bit as trees mature and live out their life cycles and are then, in some instances replaced by arboretum staff and volunteers. David goes on to explain a little bit about these changes and how they've occurred at the arboretum and what goes into the decisions and the planning processes as the Crabapple Collection changes over time. How many are currently in the collection? How many crabapples?
David Horst: Only Crabapple about 15.
Ryan Welch: About 15. So we've gone down a little bit
David Horst: Gone down now that they've matured and taken up more space and they are continuing, we continue to try to evolve with the Crabapple Collection. There are some different diseases and insect problems with them.
So we're down to about 15 right now in our part of our job is to always go in and study the plants, see how they're performing, and when they don't perform, we remove them and select a new selection and we get help with this process. From Dr. Jeff Eilers used to work at Iowa State University. He's also known as Mr. Crabapple.
Ryan Welch: Oh, is he? I did not know that.
David Horst: He's an expert with crabapples. I'm fortunate to have him on our grounds committee to help us with these selections, because he's on the forefront of the plant development world.
He knows what's new and what's good and what we should plant here at the arboretum with a limited amount of space here at the arboretum, 15 acres, we like to focus on the best selections that are available.
Ryan Welch: Yeah. Because you want to showcase this is, you know, this is a museum.
You're trying to showcase the best and the brightest, so to speak, of that particular type of player.
David Horst: Right. You don't want to go select a plant that is susceptible to fireblight or apple scab. And then have you come visit the arboretum, see the name tag, and say, well, that must be a good plant because it's growing here at the arboretum. You go and spend good money on it.
Ryan Welch: And then find out it's not going to work at my house.
David Horst: Yeah, right. Have it lose its leaves in the middle of the summer.
Ryan Welch: Man, so that there is a lot of research that goes into any one of these collections from the forefront and then during as well to make sure we've got everything we need and that yes, there's. There's nothing that is not showing. Its best and brightest here and that we don't make mistakes.
David Horst: That's correct. We're constantly reviewing the plants. We have them on a computer program access. We can go in and we can look and see if they've had problems in the past.
Dr. Eilers, we mentioned earlier from Iowa State University, he comes and he came last November and we review, we walk the complete grounds and we look at the tree, see how they are performing, how they're doing or if they've suffered storm damage like in the derecho, and then we review them and make decisions at that time.
David Horst: So it's continually evolving.
Ryan Welch: It's continually evolving. Yeah, so the 15 grab apples that we have left. Are those all from the original or are those all from 1970 or has some of those were swapped and you’ve replaced and gone through and things like that.
David Horst: I'd say there's probably only 10 or 15% left from the original.
Ryan Welch: Okay,
David Horst: So unfortunately
Ryan Welch: Like 2 or 3 from the original.
David Horst: It’s unfortunate in a way but it also good that we update the collection.
Ryan Welch: Yeah. Well that normally that just, you know, that tells me, okay, here we are 2022. Those crab apples are planted in 1970. You start with 24 in.
The span of 50 years. Now we down to two or three that were original. That tells me, okay, if you're going to plant a crab apple, you don't have 50 years. Chances are you more like maybe ten, 15, 20 years into enjoy that tree and you have to probably replace it. And that's probably another thing that you guys are thinking about as folks come and look at your collections and ask you questions. One of those questions probably is, what's the longevity of this in my yard?
David Horst: That's right. 50 years is a pretty good term for crab apples versus like an oak tree or gingko tree that can live well beyond that or up into hundreds of years.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: But yeah, we feel it's very important.
Plus, if we planted a tree in 1970, for example, a crab apple, if we planted a Crab Apple tree in 1970, today, a lot of those would not be found at any of the nurseries. So if you come here and saw that tree like dolgo crab apple, good luck going out and trying to find a dolgo crab apple that you can buy for your yard.
Ryan Welch: Yeah. Because the industry is changing and evolving just as much as everything else.
David Horst: They're constantly studying new plants that are better, that live longer, have prettier showier flowers, different colors, better shapes, and less disease and insect problems.
So that's a benefit. Also, purchasing new plants for our collection here at the grounds is people that come to view it can actually find the plant and buy it.
Ryan Welch: Well, the Crab Apple collection at the Arboretum is a great way for people to see some of the better ornamental crab apple varieties that are on the market. The big question for some people may be what are the benefits of planting a crab apple tree in my landscape?
David discusses some of these benefits of having a crab apple tree on your property that are both esthetically pleasing, as well as some of the benefits to surrounding wildlife that these trees provide throughout the year. When benefits do crab, apple trees, give homeowners, landscape folks or the general public on their property.
So, we've talked a lot about our Crab Apple collection. And, you know, the reason it's there is to sort of show people to showcase what they could do in their landscape. So what could people do with crab apples in their landscape?
David Horst: Well, Ryan, first and foremost, the crab apple trees are among the most prized ornamental trees grown here in the Midwest. And they're absolutely beautiful when blooming in the spring. A lot of people, I mean, who doesn't like to see trees blooming or shrubs or flowers.
So they're very popular for their blooms that they provide. I believe this is the number one reason most people have one in their yard or two or three.
Ryan Welch: Is just for the flowers, especially in the spring.
David Horst: Right. The average homeowner, I believe, is due to the flowers.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: But they are also an important early source of pollen for bees. Excellent source of food for birds. The birds that overwinter here particularly need food at that time of the year, especially if we have a heavy snow cover or icy snowpack.
The fruit may be small and sour to us humans, but the cardinals, robin, cedar wax wings and many other birds, they're especially drawn to the crab apples. They tend to stay on the tree for an extended period of time, which makes them desirable to these birds and mammals.
Ryan Welch: The fruit does.
David Horst: The fruit does. Yeah. Here at the Arboretum we see all the birds I've mentioned. Plus we see a lot of deer over there, though even stand on their hind legs to reach the lower limbs. Once they've got the ones that are easily accessible, they'll stand on your hind legs to reach the higher ones.
Ryan Welch: So it sounds like the benefits of having a crab apple, if you're a homeowner that wants wildlife early on, the flowers themselves provide probably one of the earlier pollen sources for your bees and your wasps and your other things that like that need pollen early on, especially when they're just coming out and getting ready for the spring.
And then the fruits, once the fruits are made, because they last so far into the late fall and winter season, they're wonderful food, type of food for a lot of your overwintering birds and your mammals and your deer.
David Horst: That's right. When a lot of other food sources have dried up or are not available to them.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: You know, and another very important benefit of crab apples for homeowners is the leaves in the fall have an attractive fall color and then that fruit after the leaves for the fruit become more visible and persist, like we just mentioned, throughout the winter. So you have that fruit show throughout the winter.
Ryan Welch: What kind of colors then are the leaves as they shrinks? Somehow, maples are usually like a red or yellow or an orange. The crab apples have a distinctive fall foliage color.
David Horst: Most of the crab apples that we have in our question here at Bickelhaupt Arboretum tend to be on the yellow or golden side.
Ryan Welch: Oh, okay
David Horst: Which is still attractive with green grass.
Ryan Welch: Exactly. When the green grass or even if you're a homeowner, you have a couple of trees, maybe you've got a maple that's really, really red. And now you have this crab apple that's also a yellow gold. You get a couple of different colors, which is very nice in the fall foliage scheme of things.
David Horst: Yep, that's right.
Ryan Welch: As we can see, crabapple trees provide many benefits to the landscape. But as David points out, there are obstacles, considerations and maintenance concerns that come along with planting and caring for crabapple trees. That may be a bit unique compared to other tree varieties that people use on their property.
What obstacles, though? So homeowner you know, we've talked about the benefits of why a homeowner would want a crab apple and some of the ecological benefits from owning a crab apple tree in your yard. What obstacles, though, does a person have if they want to plant a Crabapple
David Horst: Well, first off, I think there's a number of obstacles. And I'm not saying that crab apples are a problem tree. This isn't those obstacles with any type of tree. If you look far enough, you can find them. But with crab apples, I would have to say one of the drawbacks to planting a crab apple tree would be the mess made from the fruit.
Ryan Welch: Oh yeah.
David Horst: A lot of people don't think of this when they go to the nursery and look for a tree. This is typically not a problem as long as some thought was given to the location when planting. Personally, I would not recommend planting them near driveways or cement walks.
Ryan Welch: Gotcha. You're always going to step on the fruit as it comes off.
David Horst: And can become slippery. But it becomes a mess and a liability.
Ryan Welch: It could, yeah.
David Horst: Pruning is also important. They tend to grow a fair number of water sprouts from the trunk and limbs. Suckers tend to grow from the trunk near ground level. The canopy can also become quite dense if left unpruned, so it's very important to keep them pruned.
If you do not prune them, the suckers and the water sprouts can become quite large. I've seen them four or five feet long, an inch and a half across.
Ryan Welch: Now those suckers, what are they? Are they drawing energy? That is from the main part of the tree.
David Horst: And that's important. They draw energy from the tree.
Ryan Welch: Okay. And as that could potentially weaken the core, if you will.
David Horst: That's correct.
Ryan Welch: And thus the longevity of our tree might be limited then if you don't prune it properly.
David Horst: That's right. Very important. Pruning is.
Ryan Welch: So instead of having a nice tree, you then have a crabapple almost bush that really isn't all attractive, isn't really doing ecologically what it needs to do, and won't last that long anyways.
David Horst: That's right. Crab apples are also susceptible to several major diseases which can cause early defoliation, disfigurement and weakening of the tree. There are a number of diseases that commonly occur on crab apples and home plantings, and couple of the most common would probably be scab and cedar apple rust.
Ryan Welch: Oh, okay. Which I think if I remember, I apple rust is a type of fungus, correct?
David Horst: Correct. All right. They're both caused by a fungus and they both affect the fruit and the leaves. These are both usually encountered to some degree nearly every year in this area. They're both common problems.
Ryan Welch: Because there's probably a wind borne fungus, isn't it? Just blowing in the wind, as they say. And so, you know.
David Horst: And it's very common and people don't have to become alarmed if they notice something on their tree. And if it's one of those two problems, a little bit more of a serious disease would be fireblight. And it's recognizable by lesions on the bark.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: Whereas the other two were more on the fruit and the leaves. This is actually lesions. And whenever you have lesions on a plant, that's not good.
Ryan Welch: It's not a good sign,
David Horst: It's a wound. And you can recognize the lesions.
They may be watery easing from the wound, tan liquid color. Eventually the disease can spread to the fruit and flowers and even eventually death to the tree. So this is more of a serious problem. The other ones are more cosmetic.
Cosmetic and bother the person more. The leaves may prematurely drop in the summertime on the other two problems, but typically the tree will come back year after year. It just looks unsightly at that time and it can weaken the tree if it does that a number of years in a row.
Ryan Welch: Because my guess is the rust, at least with the leaves, it's prohibiting photosynthesis and things like that. So thus the leaves not getting or the trees not getting as much energy. But it also means that's why your leaves might fall, because they're getting covered and the plants are defense of themselves.
If they know that they've got certain leaves that aren't getting what they need, they're not getting the amount of light they need or anything else. They'll drop those leaves and get rid of them as a way to sort of protect themselves and not put energy towards something that's really not going to do them any good.
David Horst: That's right. Okay. And I can't stress enough, you know, how important careful plant selection is. As we discussed in another podcast, the arboretum is here to showcase the top plants to people so that they don't come here and buy a plant that has disease or insect issues.
Ryan Welch: Exactly.
David Horst: They're expensive to buy. Crab apples is probably one of the most important to make proper selections of. There are many very good disease resistant cultivars on the market, but there are just as many poor ones.
Ryan Welch: Oh, yeah. And so doing a little bit of education ahead of time, a little bit of research and come.
David Horst: To the arboretum and see
Ryan Welch: See what we got here. And then, you know, think about it from there before you go and pick out your crab apple.
David Horst: That's very important to do a little research on it. With many of these diseases, sanitation is also important and controlling the problem. Leaf clean up in the fall, which helps remove the fungus from overwintering in a protected location in the leaf litter and also the removal of the dead branches.
Ryan Welch: Yeah, okay. Because those dead branches could be there as well because of various types of fungus, like fireblight. Like fireblight and stuff like that. So. All right. Are crabapple trees really expensive?
David Horst: They never used to be, but all, it seems like all plant material has very gone up the last ten, 15 years. And trees are no different.
Ryan Welch: No different.
David Horst: You know, their cost has gone way up, so they become more expensive.
David Horst: Transportation costs and freezing the material and everything for the nurseries.
Ryan Welch: All goes that supply chain as well. Yeah. Yeah. So the Crab Apple collection is just one example, the flowering trees that the arboretum has on display in the spring. David and I discussed some of the other flowering trees that can be seen at the arboretum and how they are a bit different from the crab apples and thus
Ryan Welch: present people with a different range of options that could be used in their areas for different landscape needs. So the crab apples, one example of a spring flowering tree here at the arboretum, does the area of any other of those spring flowering trees that people could see while they're out and about here?
David Horst: Yes, as a matter of fact, we have a real nice selection of trees with spring blooms. And, of course, this is one of our most visited times of the year in the springtime, when trees are blooming and shrubs and the flowers makes for a wonderful visit for visitors.
Of course, some of these have flowers which are much shorter than others, as you know, Ryan. Even maple trees flower in the springtime quite early. They do, but their flowers aren't real significant from a distance. Although if you walk up, they are kind of neat in a way.
Ryan Welch: We would call those non-showy flowers.
David Horst: Non-showy, is a good name for them.
Ryan Welch: A good way to put that.
David Horst: Versus the crab apples are very showy.
Ryan Welch: And the big difference between the maples and the crab apples are the flowers as is the crab apples are pollinated by pollinators. The maple ones are pollinated by the wind, so they don't have to show off as much because they're going to get their stuff, their business done in the breeze.
Whereas the crab apples, like, I have to have somebody else come here and pick up my pollen and distribute it and go from there.
David Horst: That's a good point. Some of our top flower performers besides the crab apples, are magnolias. They're one of our showstoppers, like the crab apples. Cornelian cherry has a small flower, but still significant. It blooms in March, which is kind of unique, like the witch hazel blooms in February and March.
Just that early performance is unique. Also, we have tree lilacs, Carolina silver bells, red buds, another one of my favorites. I just love that color.
Ryan Welch: Oh, yeah, it’s very striking
David Horst: And Pagoda Dogwoods to name a few.
Ryan Welch: So there's plenty of other flowering trees other than Crab Apple. So, for instance, if a person didn't want to buy a crab apple because they want to deal with the fruit problem or things like that, things like the Redbud is not a bad one because they don't produce the same kind of fruit the same way.
Ryan Welch: And another so there's other examples here that I bring in. People could look at say like a flowering tree, but I don't want to deal with the fruit aspect. They can come here, look at some of these other ones and go from there.
David Horst: That's right. And do your research. Make sure you plant them in the right soil types, right locations like the red buds. While the crab apples are planted in full sun, the red buds prefer to kind of be a little bit protected from full sun.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: Many times you see them grown as understory trees. We try to plant them so that the hot sun, they're in the shade.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: And they seem to do very well that way. So always do your homework. Yep. Not only on the selection you're making for disease and insects, but also for its cultural conditions.
Ryan Welch: Soil, shade, those kind of things. And then remember moisture and moisture, maybe even pH but that’s getting a little bit technical because a lot of people don't know the pH of their soil and they may. But it's still.
David Horst: Very important with certain plants.
Ryan Welch: With certain plants. Yeah. And then location is to, you know, think about when you plant that tree, you know, how tall is this thing going to get? What is it going to run into in my house or yard and what is it going to drop on places I want to walk on those kind of things?
So, so there you have the crab apple, one of the more popular spring flowering trees and has a rich history both worldwide as well as here in the Midwest by providing a variety of colors in the spring with their fragrant and beautiful flowers, their brilliant contrasting foliage colors in the fall, and ecological benefits to both early pollinators in the spring and providing a late season food source for those wintering birds and mammals in our area. While some challenges do come with planting and caring for crabapple trees, these are fairly manageable. If a person does their research beforehand and selects the variety of carb apple that is right for them and their landscape.
There are also other examples of flowering trees at the arboretum that visitors can observe to get an idea of the options that may work for their area. I would like to thank David Horst for his wonderful insights into the history of the collection at the Arboretum and his wonderful knowledge on the planting, maintenance and care for this popular tree. And to Otis Welch for the musical selection.
Join us as we explore the diverse collections at the Bickelhaupt Arboretum. While the focus is on woody plant material, we cover into two exceptional, non-woody collections: the daylily collection, boasting varieties honored with the prestigious Stout Medal, and the serene Mercy Hospice Garden, providing a space for contemplation and reflection.
Discover the rich history and development of these areas, along with the remarkable plants they house. Gain insights into the practical applications of these plants in enhancing the beauty and vitality of gardens and landscapes.
Ryan Welch: Welcome to another in our continuing series of podcasts, but the Bickelhaupt Arboretum located in Clinton, Iowa. As we have said, an arboretum is a living museum of woody plant material, specifically trees and shrubs. That being said, there are collections at the Bickelhaupt Arboretum that are not considered woody plant material but rather more Herbaceous Garden plant material. Margo tells us why this is important to have at an arboretum.
Okay, so an arboretum is a collection of woody plants. And yet here at the arboretum we have collections of non woody stuff. So why have plant collections besides woody plants at an arboretum? Why would why would you want to have non woody plants around.
Margo Hanson: Well, an arboretum, you are correct is woody plant material. But I think the collections of some perennials and some of the gardens like, like our hosta garden just add another level to the arboretum. Whereas in the spring we have that flush of bloom with our crab apples in our spring blooming trees.
Then of course in the fall we have the fall color and there's nothing wrong with green. We have all shades of green here, but by having the different gardens, it adds a touch of color and it makes it, rounds it out and makes it just a little more visually pleasant to the eye.
Ryan Welch: So we use these more to showcase what we already have, and some ways you can use them as an accent to showcase the Woody stuff. But it's also a thing to sort of bring people in and be like, you know, there is this Woody stuff, but there's also all these other plants around that aren't trees, right?
Margo Hanson: Right, and when you say showcase, so what I think they do to some degree is because most of the gardens, the perennials are shorter, it fills in that lower level, whereas your trees and shrubs, of course are taller. We have trees that are 40 foot tall and then the ground is pretty much, you know, bare or non exciting. So by adding that extra level of perennials, you add another dimension and you also round out that look and you also add a little color as I mentioned
Ryan Welch: One of these collections is the Stout Silver Medal Daylily collection. First, let's define what a daylily is compared to your typical garden. Lily, think Easter Lily or any of those Michigan lilies that you might find around buildings.
According to the American daylily Society, a daylily is defined as a member of the genus Hemerocallis, which has Greek origins as two words meaning Beauty and Day, which refers to the fact that each day lily flower only lasts one day.
These plants, most recently have been considered members of the Asphodelaceae family, which is actually a plant family full of succulent plants such as aloe. Meaning they're not actually in the Lily plant family at all. These flowers are the flowers of these plants only bloom for one day.
But to make up for that, most plants will have multiple flowers on each flowering stock. Many flowering stalks are usually found per plant clump as well, and some varieties will often have more than one flowering period per season, meaning they can bloom over and over and over again as the season goes.
The daylily, that we know of today has its roots, so to speak, in Asia, where it's native, it has a long history of being used by local people in parts of China for food and medicinal purposes. Over four millennia ago, it wasn’t used much as much for its beauty until it was brought to Europe.
In the 1500s, two main species of daily were first that were first introduced to Europe. At that time, the Hemerocallis fulva and the Hemerocallis flava or the Orange and the Yellow Day Lily were also the first that were introduced to Europe. Other species were later introduced. Throughout the years, they grew in popularity among gardeners for their ease and growth and beautiful flowers. They even traveled over to North America when Europeans settled and arrived and actually escaped and become somewhat invasive in the landscape of colonial America. The daylily didn't gain huge notoriety, though, until a botanist from New York named Dr. Arlo Burdette Stout became fascinated with the flowers. Dr. Stout was born in Jackson Center, Ohio, in 1876, but he grew up in Albi in Wisconsin.
He spent his early years roaming, observing the woodlands around his home while he was studying botany at Albion Academy in 1895 to 1896, he became interested in the process of seed production. This interest led him to begin investigating how reproduction occurred in Daylilies, which led him to study the taxonomy the plant, which included importing wild clones from the Orient, and he took a look into their hybridization their heredity and selective breeding. He was so interested in these plants that by 1919 he had obtained seeds from several, several hybridization, and had made thousands of controlled pollinations of daily leaf flowers.
Unfortunately for him, the New York Botanical Garden, where he was employed, had no real interest in propagating these new cultivars of Daylilies. He made an arrangement, though, with a nursery man named Bertrand Farr, who owned Farr Nursery. An arrangement was made that the nursery would propagate and evaluate the most promising seedlings and offered them to the public at a relatively low price. Any royalties that were paid to Dr. Stout went to a fund at the Botanical Center and to establish an award for Daylilies, which was known as the American Horticultural Society's Stout Medal, which was established in 1850 between Dr. Stout and the Farr Nursery they introduced 83 Daylilies while he was alive and 12 more. After Dr. Stout's death in 1957. He started a huge breeding program and came up with over 100 new varieties. In 1934, he published the definitive book on the subject entitled Daylilies.
It has since been known as the father of the modern Daylilies. Not only did he make major contributions to Daylilies, he also wrote research articles about seedless grapes, avocados and potatoes. According to Betsy Clarke with the American Horticultural Society Archives and History Committee. Today, there is a thriving American Daily Society, which was first established in 1946 and currently has over 80,000 registered cultivars as part of it. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term cultivar, it refers to a type of plant that people have bred for desired traits which are then reproduced in each new generation by a method such as grafting or tissue culture or carefully controlled seed production.
In terms of daylilies, that desired trait is most often the flower itself, while the.
Day Lily is beautiful to look at. Margo points out many other benefits the people can have from planting daily lilies in their home and garden setting. Many of these go way beyond just the beauty of the flower itself.
So Margo, Daylilies are known for the beauty that their flowers have. Are there any other uses for these flowers other than just to look at them?
Margo Hanson: Well, they are beautiful, of course. The original Daylily were the orange ditch lilies that maybe some of you might know. As you drive through the countryside. So those were the original ones. And they probably weren't considered beautiful.
But with all of the developing and the hybridizing of daylilies over decades, we have all colors, all sizes, all shapes. Not, not shapes, but, you know, all, all so many more to pick from, I guess, is what I'm trying to say.
They've come a long way in color, in disease resistance and all that. So that is a big plus. Then to add to that, you can also eat the blossoms.
Ryan Welch: You can eat the blossoms.
Margo Hanson: So it's not like you're going to gain a lot of nutrients or, or vitamins, minerals from it, but it's really fun.
You can eat the flower buds, you can eat the other petals or the whole flowers. Really fun to throw edible flower petals into salads, and, I mean, you know, in this day and age, especially after the pandemic, when people started cooking more at home, they got very creative.
And nasturtiums, there's a whole big long list of flowers that are edible. And in the case of Daylilies, there is actually a little bit of flavor difference in some of the different colors of the daylilies. So it's not for a nutritional thing, just kind of a fun thing or floated in.
Ryan Welch: It's a slightly higher than a garnish maybe. Exactly. You put it in and add color.
Margo Hanson: And yeah.
Ryan Welch: You can eat that.
Margo Hanson: Let's call it a gourmet garnish.
Ryan Welch: Gourmet garnish. But it's still something we can do. It's something people don't think about when they plant plants. And then maybe they don't have a garden. They're just planting them there as accent material in their yard just to beautify things.
They don't think that maybe there's a chance that you could actually, you know, eat these things.
Margo Hanson: Right. And actually, there's one very, very popular variety called stella deoro, or she is probably considered a medium sized daylily in that the leaves don't get really big, the flower starts aren't really long. So she's probably medium category has a beautiful golden yellow flower and oh my gosh, Ryan blooms her little heart out all summer long.
But a lot of times they'll be different flushes of bloom and stella deoro blooms and all the time. And you see them probably over planted around town and on streets and in parks in LA and things like that, because they are so easy, but stella deoro fabulous variety probably over planted, but it's well worth it.
Ryan Welch: Can these flowers attract pollinators?
Margo Hanson: Oh, certainly. Okay. The one thing with Daylilies is they will kind of bloom one day. So one flower will bloom for one day. But there are always buds waiting and there's always another bud for another day or two.
So they're very heavy bloomers in that respect. And they do have pollen. I think hummingbirds are attracted to them. They wouldn't be considered a top pollinator. But there, there is some pollen and it is used by, you know, bees and in the flower flies and things like that.
And often people think of butterflies and the hummingbirds. But, but as you know, there's so many other insects that are pollinators.
Ryan Welch: There’s beetles, flies, mosquitos
Margo Hanson: Exactly.
Ryan Welch: All things are actually pollinators. Everybody ask me, what good are mosquitoes? I said, Believe it or not, they are pollinators. The only ones that bite are the females right before they're about to reproduce.
Margo Hanson: Oh my gosh.
Ryan Welch: All the other males and all the other mosquitoes are actually out pollinating, doing other things.
Margo Hanson: You know, I did not know that. So you learn something new every day.
Ryan Welch: Daylilies have been popular among plant lovers for a number of years and for a variety of reasons, from the sheer amount of diversity that can be found in this plant group to their ease of growing and maintaining, especially for a novice plant grower. Margo Hanson runs us through the long list of reasons and benefits that she tells people about when they ask her about daylilies.
Why is there such an interest by people?
Margo Hanson: Daylilies actually are one of the easiest perennials for people to grow. They are full sun. They can handle partial shade. They can handle a little bit more shade, but they're not going to bloom as much. So that's very versatile right there that they aren't really picky about where they need to be planted.
In addition to that, they can handle really poor soil. So you've got a perennial that comes back every year and it will grow in all types of soil. For the most part, it can handle clay soil - it might not do as well.
It can handle sandy soil. It struggle if we have severe drought. But, but it can handle dry conditions. And then, of course, the loam in the middle is a perfect, perfect soil in my mind. For most plants, of course, it's very happy there.
So you have a plant that can be in all kinds of light levels, all kinds of soil is very winter hardy in our location, has very few insect and disease problems, is very low maintenance. What more can you ask for?
Ryan Welch: It's only a very simple thing for any anybody, even if you didn’t have a green thumb you could grow that and make your and beautify and use it in your landscape.
Margo Hanson: Exactly. It's one of my top five sun perennials. When people I talk to people that aren't real gardeners or don't know a lot about plants, it's probably my either number one or number two of full sun plants for people that are just beginning or don't have much knowledge about plants, because I know most of the time they're going to be successful with that. One other thing I want to add is they're very easy to propagate. So you can, after a few years, dig it up, split that plant and have three or four plants. You know, it's a win-win with, with daylilies.
Ryan Welch: So there's the ease of planting these plants and there's the fact that know they'll come back, they're very successful. They can handle a variety of different light exposures. They gain more variety of different soil conditions. They're slightly edible, as we say, a gourmet garnish.
What other why do you think there's any other interest in the Daylilies other than those things? I mean, those are nothing. There's a lot of stuff right there that was just interesting enough. It was anything else, though, that would make this interesting for a person.
Margo Hanson: So they would in the case of the arboretum here, we do have the Stout Silver Medal Collection. They're kind of a border here for one of our some of our different trees. They kind of border. They're nice for mass plantings.
So if you have a hillside or a difficult area, you can mass plant them. And so that works. And so in some cases here at the Arboretum, they're kind of a borderline woody area part. Right. We're right along the edge of the wooded area.
Transitional. Yes. Or kind of an understory type plant just to cover the ground, keep it green, keep the erosion down. I didn't talk about erosion because if you plant daylilies quite thick and you get a nice carpet of them, they're very good for erosion control.
Ryan Welch: And for some people, that might be a big thing. If you've got a little spot in your yard.
Margo Hanson: Exactly where.
Ryan Welch: It tends to run, you can't grow grass there. Put some daylilies there.
Margo Hanson: Yes. Hillside?
Ryan Welch: Yup. Hillsides especially. Especially if you don't want to mow.
Margo Hanson: Don't want to mow. Exactly.
Ryan Welch: Every year, Daylilies enthusiasts and growers develop new varieties through a variety of different breeding techniques. Each year, the American Hemerocallis Society looks at these different varieties and presents one with what is known as this stout silver metal.
This metal is named after the botanist, Dr. Stout, who did much of the initial work in plant breeding. That gives us many of the varieties that we see today. David gives us more details about the Stout Silver Metal Daily collection at the arboretum, including a bit of its history, how it was laid out and how it be changing in the future.
David Horst: We have the Daylily Collection, the Stout Medal Daylily Collection, which is the top daylily earned that year by the Hermrocallis society. And that's colorful during the mid-summer months when there's not a lot between.
Ryan Welch: When was that one established, the Daylily Collection?
David Horst: I believe that was established in about 96.
Ryan Welch: 96. What was the idea behind that?
David Horst: Well, we had a gentleman call us from Bluegrass, Iowa, and he had a collection, and he’s wondering daylilies, of course, multiplied. And he also went to the Dubuque Arboretum with the same offer. – He made them the same offer
David Horst: That was like divisions that we'd be interested in growing here at the arboretum. And he was promoting Daylilies know he was big into the Hemerocallis Society and we thought it'd be a good addition and it's still here today and doing very well. And it's interesting to see. I think our collection dates back to 1950 and we have one plant from every year since then up to about 2015, I believe.
Ryan Welch: And so when you say started in 1950, you mean you have a specimen from that that won the stout medal in 1950. All right. And then you have another specimen that represents silver medal winners every year up till from 1950 to 2015.
David Horst: That's correct.
Ryan Welch: Okay
David Horst: And it's interesting because people can say we planted them together and see them starting with the oldest going to the newest.
Ryan Welch: Okay, I see a sort of a spectrum or a lineage, if you will. You start on this side of the collection and move your way. You're going through time.
David Horst: A lot of people think the first ones starting in 1950 resemble the lily, as they call them ditch lilies. You see them, they're orange and a lot of time an orange or maybe a yellow at the beginning.
But as the years progressed, you can see the progress of the hybridizers made, shorter flower scapes that don't blow over, or weighted over by the flowers. Better looking foliage. Flowers. Flowers became double flowers. Oh yeah, multiple colors.
Just huge improvements with the flowers larger. So it's interesting to see and I really like how we laid it out for a visitor.
Ryan Welch: Yeah. For the people that come, come and look and be able to really look into this and see what they could do.
Because I'm guessing or I'm pretty sure that the lilies we have that are in areas like ditches and stuff aren't exactly daylilies. They are in the actual lily family. Whereas the day Lily is not actually a lily, it's Hemerocallis, which isn't a whole different family than the Lily family.
David Horst: And all of ours are labeled so that we have the year that's also on the label.
Ryan Welch: So is there any talk about adding to that or because you started 2015?
David Horst: So yes, we're going to add to that in the future.
Right now we're out of space where we have them and we have future plans for the arboretum. Our master plan is laid out and we're going to be moving that collection at that time. Hopefully we'll have plenty of more room.
We can catch up and continue adding another collection.
Ryan Welch: Another college that is located very close to the daily collection is the Mercy Hospice Herb Garden. This garden was established as a joint venture between the Bickelhaupt Arboretum and Mercy Health Care Foundation.
David gives us some information about the idea, the formation and the setup of this unique area in the Arboretum. So Dave, what is the story behind the Mercy Your Herb Garden?
David Horst: The idea for the Garden was thought of in the fall of 2002 by Randy Meyer, Mercy's spiritual care coordinator.
He conducted a remembrance service at the arboretum and thought it would be a great idea if there was a garden for similar reflection.
Ryan Welch: Okay,
David Horst: The Mercy Healthcare Foundation then donated a substantial sum of money which was used to build a wall using anamosa of stone and purchase plants with. Randy Dykstra of Heartland Gardens, from Fullton, Illinois, constructed the wall, Francie Hill of the Arboretum, and Evelyn Palm, Mercy Hospice's bereavement coordinator, came up with the location of the garden, which is just here by the upper driveway and along the walkway coming up over parking lot where visitors park. So it's an ideal location. The main idea behind the garden was to provide a place for residents of Mercy Hospice to reflect and reminisce.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: In May of 2003, the volunteers from both Mercy Hospice staff and from the Arboretum planted herbs in the garden.
The garden layout was designed by horticulturist and garden designer Catherine Newman of Galva, Illinois. There is also a small water feature and a teak bench for people to sit on while reminiscing. And the garden was officially dedicated that month of September.
Ryan Welch: So September of 2003, September 2003
David Horst: It was dedicated.
Ryan Welch: How many plants are in that little area? A little herb garden, is it an herb garden?
David Horst: It's an herb garden.
Ryan Welch: So most of those plants are there you could use for medicinal purposes or for cooking or for anything like that.
You can't use them for this. But I mean, it would give people an idea of if you grew this, you could use it for your own consumption, uses it for your own uses in that manner.
David Horst: That's correct.
Ryan Welch: Okay
David Horst: And we started out with quite a few plants at the beginning. It was probably 60 or 70. And over the years we reduced it down now and we've got some there that get larger, take up more space. But one big improvement we've made a few years ago was on the labels that we have and these are the same labels that we use. They're black plastic two and a half by four and a half inches, and that we design and run our own engraver down here. We have instead of just having the common name and the scientific name and the year it was planted, we added a long bar and a couple of lines saying this or what type of use they had for cooking.
Ryan Welch: So both historical uses like medicinally and on culinary wise.
David Horst: So yeah, and we're, we're very limited on how much space we have on the labels. So we have to use we kind of use the main benefit that typically most of the time we use it for the cooking benefit as most of us probably know that. But it is a big addition to the label and a lot of people find that interesting, a little bit of information written on it. And then we've actually started doing that with some of the other trees and shrubs in the arboretum to.
Ryan Welch: Sort of add, add to what they've got and then give people a little bit more of a background and things like that.
David Horst: That really makes it a more of a learning experience of people, whether it's old people or students that come here to learn.
Ryan Welch: Okay. And so you've downsized that.
A little bit compared to what it was. What other potential updates, additions or changes might you be making to that area in the future?
David Horst: Well, this is an area that's going to be totally redesigned with our new plans for the future of the Arboretum.
So we will have to move it to a new location in the future and ensure that moving to a new location,
Ryan Welch: Then you have to take and take stock, take inventory, say, okay, here's what works in this location and why.
But we may have to rethink, you know, you might be having a different aspect in order in terms of where the plant will be facing or wind conditions or other things like that. And that may affect how or what you even plant.
But you probably no matter what, even when you move things, you'll still have this mercy herb garden in some way, shape or form in the future.
David Horst: Yes, that's the plan.
Ryan Welch: That's the plan.
David Horst: Yeah.
Ryan Welch: All right. Well, the herb garden was already established.
Margo came to the arboretum. She was involved with both the maintenance and educational aspects of this collection. She says some of that initial history with us that she has about the collection.
Margo Hanson: The Mercy Hospice Garden was established when I started working here. So I know it as a wonderful collection of perennial and annual herbs. The back history is it was part of a donation from Mercy Hospital and then their hospice program to just kind of memorialize that program that they have.
And so as far as I was involved with it, it was more an herb garden. And what was interesting is we had the annual which had we planted every year and then the perennial herbs that would come up and some, like the, the oregano just gets away from you.
It's oregano. Oregano and mint are very aggressive and they do spread quite readily. And that's fine because we would just dig it up and then pot it up and give it to other people, warning them that, you know, it has to be in an area that it doesn't overtake other herbs.
Ryan Welch: This collection of herbs also as a unique educational opportunity for both the volunteers and staff of the Arboretum as they explain to us. It allows them to make the unique connection, especially among children, that many of the foods they eat come initially from plants that can be grown in home gardens.
They have also been excited by some of the additions that have been seen coming to this area and what they have learned from some of these plants themselves.
Volunteer: There's also the herb garden. And it's it's fun, too, to tell anybody that this this herb garden is our former this is our pharmaceutical. I mean, we get all our drugs and things from
Ryan Welch: From plants.
Volunteer: From plants.
Ryan Welch: Yes. Many of the drugs that we take for granted seeds, their initial roots of how we came about, figuring out that it was good for you or vice versa, bad for you came from because we tested the plant.
Ryan Welch: And what I tell a lot of my students that they're always surprised by this is that, you know, for that plant, it is not a drug, it's a defense mechanism. The plants can't get up and walk around.
They can't run away. They are good biochemists and they create these things because they're getting eaten on oftentimes by bugs and other things. I said we are just a really big animal that happened to figure out, but if we eat it, we get woken up in the morning or we do this or we do that or relieve some pain. If you're a smaller bug and do that, it doesn't an end as well for you usually. But yeah.
Volunteer: When we take kids to the herb garden, it's not just medicines but flavoring foods. And so there are things to taste there that we always tell them. You know, if you don't know what it is, don't eat it.
Ryan Welch: Don't go.
Volunteer: It comes in a plant. It's not in a bag
Ryan Welch: As well as in other spices and stuff using their kitchen, all those kind of things. Oregano, basil, rosemary, all that kind of stuff. A lot of them say, Well, that comes in the spice jar.
That's where it comes from. That's right. You get it. You put it on the thing, you'll realize it before it got to that jar. It was a leaf. It was just to be dry processed.
Margo Hanson: And so, so the volunteer teachers, some of them would say, well, do you like oregano? And the kids, you know, kind of deer in the headlights look. It's like, we don't know what you're talking about. And then you would say, well, do you like spaghetti or do you like pizza?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And it's like, well, where do you think some of that flavoring comes from? This goes in spaghetti sauce or this goes in pizza sauce, and then they're okay with it and then some will try it.
So that's kind of fun because like you said, they think it comes in a jar, you know, from the store. And so it's just fun to really get that, you know, that take from them. And so we'll try it.
Ryan Welch: And make those connections, right? Right. I mean, look at things are different from a different light, if you will.
Volunteer: Stevia comes from.
Volunteer: We had stevia plants and now I use stevia instead of real sugar in all my cooking.
Volunteer: Yeah, that was exciting when we got it. At first nobody else knew about it. The Japanese were using it, but not. But now we can get it in jars and all this stuff.
Volunteer: But we had the first plants here. I mean, not the first, first plants, but we at least in for for us, it was our first plant.
Volunteer: Yes. We learned from there. Yes, we had the children taste that, too, because it was.
Margo Hanson: And any of you listening that don't know what stevia is, it is grown as an annual here the leaves are 10 to 100 times sweeter than sugar. I don't know the exact figure, but it is a sugar substitute with no calories.
So and it just really became popular in this area maybe ten years ago. And now it's kind of a rage, but it is a plant that can be grown very easily as an annual just pick the leaves and dry them and use them and you cut back a lot of the sugar calories.
Ryan Welch: Children aren’t the only ones that can learn from this part of the Arboretum. Margo explains how adults are able to also learn about where their spices originate. She also explains some of the other benefits that these plants have other than flavoring our food and some of the other benefits this particular garden can have for people beyond its educational value.
Margo Hanson: Because we have adults that come and if they don't have an herb garden or don't even garden, it's like, I didn't know this what dill looked like or I didn't know that's where, you know, oregano came from. And actually the original flower is a magnet for pollinators.
They absolutely love oregano flowers. In addition to that, I love to use oregano flowers as fillers in flower arrangements. There are beautiful lavender little, little cluster of flowers, and they grow so fast and they bloom so readily that it's great for pollinators.
All kinds of insects love oregano. And then again as a cut flower in addition to being in addition to being an herb.
Ryan Welch: And then with the fact that it was a mercy hospice garden. Something else that was mentioned at one point, I think, by David, in earlier conversations I had with him, it was one of those things that was sort of a put in place as a place to reflect and think about things and maybe even think about loved one you’ve lost in the past and things like that. And that's another aspect of this Arboretum that a lot of people may not think about is it can be a place to sort of come and unwind or.
Margo Hanson: Right. Right, exactly. And we also and I think part of it being hospice in herbs and healing, I think that is all kind of so every, every year the Mercy Hospice Group does come here and they do celebrate the lives of ones that were lost that year.
So it's a celebration of life. And they do, it's close to the herb garden. But then they also release butterflies, monarch butterflies in members of the loved ones that they had lost that year. So there's a connection there and it's always very well attended and it's just a wonderful, peaceful way to remember the ones that they've lost.
Ryan Welch: So while Arboretum is a place to showcase Woody plant material, it can also be a place that people can learn about the types of plants you can use around your trees, as well as plants that provide educational opportunities to learn more about our food resources, along with learning about the plants that make up some of these collections, it also gives people an opportunity to reflect and relax in an ever changing and busier environment. I would like to thank David Horst and Margo Hanson for their insight on the history and the plants of these collections and to the educational volunteers Joyce Holly, Raymond Smith and Marion Johnson for sharing their time and insights with me for this podcast, as well as to Otis Welch for the musical selection.
Get ready for an engaging podcast episode as we discuss the world of hostas at the Bickelhaupt Arboretum. These shade-tolerant perennials have become a treasured collection, capturing the hearts of many. Join us as we explore the fascinating history, popularity, and benefits of these remarkable plants. Discover the origins of hostas in Asia and how David Horst's passion, supported by the arboretum's advising board, led to the creation of this thriving collection back in 1986.
Learn about the prestigious recognition bestowed upon the arboretum by the American Hosta Society as a Display Garden, and gain insights into the maintenance required to uphold such a renowned collection. Margo will share her personal fondness for hostas and enlighten us on the numerous advantages of growing and utilizing these versatile plants.
Ryan Welch: Welcome to another in our continuing series of podcasts about the Bickelhaupt Arboretum, located in Clinton, Iowa, one of the most popular collections at the Arboretum is their Hosta Glen In part due to its unique design and layout, and in part due to the popularity of the plant itself.
Hostas are diverse, easy to grow and maintain and are shade tolerant, which, as we will hear about, are just some of the benefits that they offer. The history of the hosta itself, though it's just as interesting as the plant itself and begins in the wilds of mainland China.
The first species of hosta evolved near the east coast of mainland China and the most primitive species of hosta can still be found there. From there, the species spread and evolve both North and south, taking advantage of various unique climate conditions and diversifying as it went.
Eventually, the species moved and could be found along the east coast of China, in Korea, a little into Russia and all over Japan. While there are records of people coming into contact with horses as long as 800 years ago, they were most likely not as popular as they are now, since they were just indigenous plants in those areas mostly seen the backgrounds of many wooded areas and forests. As new varieties were discovered, though they were collected, they were propagated and eventually they ended up in gardens in Japan, China and Korea as the first cultivars of the species.
There was some movement of these plants in terms of importing and exporting among these Asian nations at the time. While at these times they were mainly used in gardens, it would seem that the young shoots could be used as vegetables and as food for livestock.
The first hostas to reach Europe, though, were of Chinese origins, and it was estimated that they were brought in the form of seeds that were sent to France as hosta plant genius species. This plant was successfully propagated and became a fashion plant, not so much used for landscaping, but rather for a collector's item for the wealthy.
Not long after this, though, naturalists began to scientifically describe the plant and name it as a species. It wasn't long after this, about 1800, that the first hostas made it to the American soil. While the first few species of horses to head west were of Chinese origin.
The most unique and coveted hosta varieties were actually in Japan. But due to an odd bit of history, they were really not allowed out of the country legally, that is until about 1829. For many years, Japan had a policy of isolationism in terms of allowing citizens from Catholic nations from being on their mainland islands.
They did still need to trade, though, and for that they allowed traders from the United East Indian Company, which would primarily Protestant Dutch, to stay on a small island called the Tsushima in the Bay of Nagasaki, which had been specifically built in 1634 just for the purpose of housing traders from other countries.
It typically had about 20 Dutch inhabitants that under no circumstances were allowed to leave the island for the mainland for any reason. The Japanese even had an army of interpreters on the island to keep these folks under constant surveillance.
Once every year, though, a Dutch delegation was invited by the Shogun to visit the capital city. Often in this delegation were German doctors that the Dutch had brought along for their own needs. The Japanese didn't notice that none of these so-called doctors, though, spoke any Dutch.
But when questioned about it, the Dutch delegates would tell them that these men were mountain Dutch and have their own dialect, and the Japanese seemed to accept this explanation. One of these doctors was Englebert Kaempfer, who was a doctor on Tsushima between 1690 and 1692.
Like many scientists of that time, he was not just a physician, but he also studied languages, history, mapmaking, as well as the biology and ethnology of the island itself that he was on his most likely one of the first westerners to ever see a hosta and also the first to draw and describe the species.
Now, this was done before Linnaeus had introduced his to naming scientific system, so plant names at the time were rather long, awkward and cumbersome. His description of this plant, though, where some of the first that Western scientists had and other doctors that were stationed on the island of Tsushima, such as Carl Thunberg from Sweden, who was a student of Linnaeus, came along and described these plants now with the binomial nomenclature that Linnaeus had developed. Initially, these plants were put in the genus Hemerocallis, which is the same as the Daylilies. They now, though, have their own genus, of course, which is Hosta.
That was done in the year 1812 by the Austrian botanist Leopold Trattinnick, who named the plant after his fellow countryman and also a botanist and physician for the court, Emperor Francis, the first of Austria, whose name was Nicholas Thomas Host.
And that is how the hosta received this Western name and genus. The first hosta shipment to reach the West from Japan didn't actually happened in 1829, thanks to another physician, naturalist, cartographer and all around scientist named Philip Franz Von Siebold, who, after reading the works of many that came before him long for scientific plant adventures in far off lands and signed up with the Dutch army mostly so he could travel and see these places and see the world. His superiors quickly saw his scientific skills and sent him to Tsushima. While there he introduced the Japanese to Western medicine and was able to introduce the West to hostile varieties of Japan.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Although the Hosta Glenn at the Arboretum doesn't have as international of a history as the hostage itself, it is still an interesting and noteworthy local story. This collection was started in 1992 and now contains hundreds of hosta varieties for people to enjoy.
It was designated as a display garden by the American Hostage Society in 2004 as one of only three such gardens in the state of Iowa. David Horst, director of horticulture for the Arboretum, tell us how all of this came about and the challenges that designing this area had.
David Horst: Well, back in the time before we had the hosta glen, and this was back in 1986, at that time, we just had a few scattered hostas throughout the arboretum, and they were common ordinary hostas that the average homeowner would have.
Keep in mind, this was way back in the eighties and there was just a handful of past us available at that time. They were green ones, maybe a couple of different sizes of green ones, blue ones, and there were white variegated ones, and that was it.
The arboretum had three or four different varieties growing by a tree up north of the house at that time. And that was basically our hosta garden, which wasn't really a garden at all.
Ryan Welch: It was just a person would do around their tree. Right at home.
David Horst: You stuck a few in. Yeah, course it was in 1992. Decided that their room shouldn't store hosta collection. And over the course of the years, it also became known as the Hosta Glen or the Hosta Glade. I personally like to call it the Hosta Glen.
Ryan Welch: Oh, okay.
David Horst: My wife, Nan and I have always enjoyed raising the hostas. And so I'd like to think at least, that it was my love for the hostas that was the driving force behind the addition of this garden.
I know the Bickelhaupts always knew that I liked them, and some of the board did, too. And it was actually kind of my suggestion that we have more hostas here at the arboretum. There were also visitors coming at that time that were inquiring about Hostas, too.
Ryan Welch: Oh.
David Horst: It was a 1992, like I said, that we just took the first step and decided that it's time that we have a has to garden.
Ryan Welch: Well, the Bickelhaupts initially had a few old varieties of hostas when they first arrived in 1986, a board member named Dr. Ed Haskas, who was in charge of the University of Wisconsin's Longenecker Garden in Madison, helped to encourage Dave to pursue the idea of the Hosta collection at the Arboretum.
He did this by donating some of the first varieties to the collection and getting Dave hooked on Hostas, as he says. From there, they had to pick the correct location on the grounds and begin the work of what would become the Hosta Glen.
David Horst: The first step after that decision was made to have the hosta collection. Was where should we put it? Yeah. And it's very important. You can't just go and plant hostas out in the fall sun.
Ryan Welch: Exactly. Just like all the other planning that's been done with all the other collections. You know, location is key. And if you're going to put them here, you've got to make sure you've done your due diligence to make sure they're going to last and then they're going to be showcased the way they need to be showcased.
David Horst: That's right. You want it to be successful.
Ryan Welch: Exactly.
David Horst: So the obvious choice to us was the wooded hillside over on the west border. There were some larger trees there that provided the necessary shade that hostas need to look their best. At this time, this was a wild area that wasn't even developed as part of the arboretum.
There's also a lot of undergrowth growing here and it had to be cleared out and that took some time. We then formed an edge around this area. It was like a large bed, if you will. Okay. When we got done clearing out the brush and we formed an edge around it and put down some sod to help form this nice shaped bed, which was kind of an irregular oval, I guess you could say. And then another important issue that we had to deal with it at first we didn't think of, but this was on a hillside.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: And we laid out a trail with our marker paint guns. So we could see how it was going. Like the bed was too wide to just plant and look and view from the outside.
Ryan Welch: Oh Yeah.
David Horst: People wouldn't be able to read the labels on the plants towards the center.
Ryan Welch: And then you've got people trying to walk through your bed trying to figure out what hostas
David Horst: Exactly.
Ryan Welch: Because, of course, the one in the back was the one that probably they wanted.
David Horst: That's right. Yeah. That's how it always works. So we knew we had to put a path in through the center. Oh, okay. And this was kind of a free formed pass. It kind of just weaved back and forth in the center. Looked quite nice, actually, but the problem was it was on a hillside and after we established where the path was going to be, we started walking it. Well, you felt like you were going to tip over.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: And then you could not drive through it with the golf cart, which we felt was important. We have two golf carts we give tours with.
Ryan Welch: Oh.
David Horst: We had a lot of the people take on the golf cart are older people, and we wanted them to be able to see the collection up close. Yeah, well, we decided we were going to have to install limestone wall with anamosa stone.
Ryan Welch: Oh
Ryan Welch: Now is it called anamosa stone because it came from Anamosa.
David Horst: Yes. Out near Anamosa. It's very good, hard stone that doesn't break apart through weathering.
Ryan Welch: Yeah. Through to the usual ways the rocks are broken down.
David Horst: Yeah, it's some of the best in this area.
Ryan Welch: Oh.
David Horst: So we purchased that and we leveled the path by digging and reinstalled this wall. And quite frankly, I think it added a lot to the garden.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: In appearance and it made it much easier for people to traverse the path.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: Visitor comfort and safety is important. At the beginning when we first laid out the house, the glen. We first started planning in groups or masses.
Ryan Welch: Okay
David Horst: Like we'd select the house, then we'd purchase 20 of them or all different numbers.
We had different sizes of masses.
Ryan Welch: But every variety you would not just get one plant of the trees. We got one tree, you know, one type of crabapple, you know, 24 different varieties. Crabapple one of each tree, the house houses. You want a little bit different route.
Yes, you have one variety, but you may have about ten of those varieties planted all together.
David Horst: That's right.
Ryan Welch: That's hostas are smaller plants than trees. So it makes a little bit more sense.
David Horst: Yeah, yeah. To do.
That. And it was very esthetically pleasing and that was at the beginning to remember there wasn't a large selection of hostas to, to select from.
Ryan Welch: To work with
David Horst: So we selected these and so we had like 15 different hosta varieties planted in masses throughout this big bed.
Ryan Welch: So you only start with 15 different varieties give or take.
David Horst: Approximately 15. Yeah, but there were hundreds of them, just 15 varieties.
Ryan Welch: Right.
David Horst: And then over the years and with the introductions of so many new and exciting cultivars of hostas coming out, I believe there's like eight or 10,000 different ones today that you can choose from. Of course, you'd have trouble finding all of those.
Ryan Welch: You’d have trouble finding all of them. But I mean, if you look at any probably seed catalog or landscape catalog these days, the variety is probably immensely bigger than it was when you started The Hosta Glen with your 15 varieties.
David Horst: That's right.
Ryan Welch: Okay. Yeah.
David Horst: So over the years we saw all these new exciting selections coming out and there were mini hostas and there were very large hostas and color ranges were terrific. And so we decided we were going to improve the collection, so to speak. We removed a lot of the extras.
Ryan Welch: All right.
David Horst: And we kept a specimen or maybe a group of three.
Ryan Welch: Oh, okay. So you downsized a little bit, but yet added variety.
David Horst: And created a lot of space to add the variety and the exciting new selections coming out. So we went from like 15 different varieties to today 320.
Ryan Welch: 320.
David Horst: So we really increased the number. We also over the years added a couple of extra beds obviously.
Ryan Welch: Okay. So you didn't put them all on the same either. Squash them all. All right. So you expanded the space a little bit, You expanded the varieties. Now folks have a lot more variety. They can see they can get a better idea of what some of these are going to look like, even some of the ones that they may have seen more recently in the catalogs and whatnot and improved the path. And it's safe to walk on. Easier to walk on. And it's really showcase in this area compared to what it was.
David Horst: Yeah, it's a huge improvement. Also, we showed different methods that you can use Hostas. Instead of just planting a hosta, a single specimen, or maybe a group of three or five. We put rings around the trees and people found that interesting. It's a simple technique.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: It's been around forever. We didn't think of it.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
David Horst: But we liked it when we saw it. And we started doing that in our collection. That look nice. They were. It would be a ring of all the same variety around the tree.
Ryan Welch: Or on a particular tree
David Horst: Yeah. And then also since the arboretum supposed to be educational, we would also along the edge of the path, maybe plant a grouping, a single row to define the edge. Oh, so people knew where the path was, the path was.
David Horst: And it was just to show people another way of using hostas.
Ryan Welch: As a border, interesting.
David Horst: As a border.
Ryan Welch: Yeah. Okay.
David Horst: And it worked very well.
Ryan Welch: Okay. Once the collection was put in place, people began to come and enjoy the collection and really take notice of all the varieties that were put on display. One such group was the American Hosta Society themselves, who designated the collection as a display garden for hostas. This is a distinct honor. And the pick off arboretum is one of only three such gardens in the state of Iowa.
David Horst: In 2004, the American Hosta Society named the Bickelhaupt Arboretum a national display garden.
Ryan Welch: Oh, okay.
David Horst: And of course, this is a very nice honor showing our collection of hostas has come a long ways over the years. To receive this honor, the collection has to be well-maintained. It needs to be labeled appropriately and correctly and open to the public for education and enjoyment.
Ryan Welch: Oh, and we check all those boxes.
David Horst: And we check them all. And they furnished a real nice bronze plaque which we installed on a nice rock and at the entrance over there for people to see and enjoy.
Ryan Welch: Okay. Once a collection such as the Hosta Glen is established, the work doesn't end there. David explains what goes into both maintaining and updating the collection to keep it both relevant to the current trends and hosta plants, as well as keep those plants that are in there in good growing conditions.
Are there any future new plans for The Glen or is it mostly? Right now we're in the monitoring maintenance sort of phase and, and go from there.
David Horst: We're still in the monitoring phase, and that's really important for us. We're actually being more selective now with all the choices we have. So we're being more selective. And matter of fact, last year we went through the collection and removed some of the poor performers, the ones that there are improvement varieties that we can improve with.
And we're removing those also on an occasion which lose a tree that's vital for shade. Okay. We had a real nice black maple on top of the hill at the south end that up and died one year and had to be removed while we lost all the shade to the south end so the bird is constantly shifting.
Ryan Welch: Shifting as the trees that are then it's under either grow and add more shine that's expanded or die in us less shade. And you had to decrease the size of the bed and and shift things maybe in a certain way.
David Horst: Exactly. And last year we did that with the Black Maple. We took it out. We moved all the hostas, which can be a lot of work, but hostas are easy to move luckily.
Ryan Welch: Hostas are easy to move.
David Horst: You can be pretty brutal with them and they'll still do very well. And so we moved all the hostas and filled in the holes and took the tree out and seeded it down. So that's part of the growing of the garden.
Ryan Welch: Or the changing maybe or the modifying of it.
David Horst: Correct. So, yeah. Yeah.
Ryan Welch: Okay. Well, the unique design and hard work that went into the Hosta Glen have made it one of the more popular collections at the Arboretum. Some of the credit also, though, has to go to the plant itself. Hostas have been popular among plant lovers for a number of years and for a variety of reasons, from the sheer amount of diversity that can be found in this plant group to their shade tolerance and ease of working with, especially for a novice plant grower. Margo Hanson, former director of programs for the Arboretum, runs us through the long list of reasons and benefits that she tells people about when they ask her all about Hostas.
Margo Hanson: Well, the Hosta Garden, we actually call Hosta Glen.
Ryan Welch: Why is it called?
Margo Hanson: Well, because it's a glen underneath the trees. And Glen is a term for garden planting. I can't give you the exact definition, but it's a glen it's on a slight hillside, light sloping hillside under the trees. So it's shade with hosta and kind of like the day lilies. Hosta are one and one of my number one plants just perennials to suggest to people to plant for shade locations.
And the reasons are almost the same as the daily number one, very low maintenance, not too many insect and disease problems, very winter hardy. They are shade plants, but they can tolerate some sun. And there are some varieties now that are much more sun tolerant.
They can handle pretty heavy shade. They bloom. Hummingbirds love them. Other insects love them when they bloom. And there are all different colors of green. There are shades of blue, there's cream. There are leaves that are called variegated, which means there's more than one color in the leaf.
Ryan Welch: Also like striped leaves
Margo Hanson: Right, so it can be it could be variegated. It could be, you know, triple variegated. You can have not so much in hosta, but you can have a green leaf with cream and pink or, you know, different colors that we see.
And there is a hosta society and there's there are local ones and then there's the national one. So there, there are the hosta geek, that are geeks that are out there that come to the arboretum and look at our different hostas because they're labeled.
We try to have their names on a label so that when people come, they, they know exactly what that hosta is. So those hosta geeks come and they look at our collection and maybe see something they have or something that they want to add because they see the size and shape and color of it.
Ryan Welch: It fits in with the landscape they're trying to do in their yard and their area.
Margo Hanson: Right. And then I love, love it when I take people on tours and I say, How many of you like Hostas? Some will raise their hands. Some say, I don't like Hosta. And then we go to the house to Glen, and I say, How can you not like all of these plants?
Because hostas have different classifications. Miniature, small, medium, large. I think it's extra large. And then giant, it might be giant. So they vary a lot in size. The miniatures can only be two or three inches tall and the giant ones can be almost four feet tall.
Ryan Welch: Yeah.
Margo Hanson: And the leaves are accordingly. The leaves on the miniature are tiny. On the giant ones, they're huge. And they can have a beautiful blue cast to them. They can be almost a lime green, all different shades of green and all different types of varigation.
So I say to these people, I say that you know your choice. You like them or don't like them, but how can you not like a plant that, as I just mentioned, winter, hardy, low maintenance, very few insect and disease problems ,blooms, the flower stalks are beautiful for arrangements. They're great pollinators. Some are fragrant. In the evening you, you get that scent on. They're really fragrant. It's just, it's fabulous and low maintenance.
Ryan Welch: Yeah, I have I in many of my travels and many of my places that I've lived, I've always had a hosta or two and the one plant that no matter what has happened, I have never, ever been able to see anybody able to kill them.
Ryan Welch: I've had dogs which just lay down in them.
Margo Hanson: Oh my gosh. And sometimes they get mowed over, not here at the arboretum. But people will call and say, Oh, my husband mowed over my house, and now what? And I say, you know, chances are it's going to come back.
Margo Hanson: It's going to be fine. It's going to come back.
Ryan Welch: In the place I'm living in now, I didn't realize this until after I'd been there for a couple years. I've got minature houses and they're over.
Margo Hanson: Exactly.
Ryan Welch: I didn't know they were there. I don't know how many times I mowed over them not realizing they were hostas. And then later, I think it was they might have said to me, hey, know, those are miniature hostas. What?
Margo Hanson: Well, in, in in addition to that, they are very easy to propagate. You dig them up, split them, you can share them, you can ring a tree with them and they're shade tolerant. And there are aren't a whole lot or there isn't a very big list of plant that are shade tolerant compared to plants that thrive in full sun.
Ryan Welch: So I always see a lot of people ring their trees with them.
Margo Hanson: Exactly. Exactly.
Ryan Welch: And the flowering stalk is very interesting. It comes up on a stalk as a little cluster of flowers to the top. And believe it or not, my wife, they're one of my wife's favorite flowers. Not for the flower itself, but for when it's not quite open yet.
Ryan Welch: And she can go in and you can pop ‘em. Oh yeah. She loves to walk
Ryan Welch: around and
Margo Hanson: She'll do that. So she's one of those people that pop the little Styrofoam.
Ryan Welch: Yeah, she is. The little airbag things you get.
Margo Hanson: I don't think that has to really appreciate a bit, but that's okay. You know, and one other thing, just like the daylily, they can be used for erosion control. So if you have a kind of a steep bank in the shade and you just can't keep, you know, a grouping of hosta could at least break that flow of water. If not, you could do also do a solid so hosta again low maintenance why not and it's one that I really recommend. Plus, on that hillside here at the arboretum, it is just a beautiful carpet underneath those trees.
And, and if it weren't there, it might be bare soil. It would be hard to mulch and keep mulch on there and had to mow and hard to mow the incline. The incline, and there's not much grass there.
So it's really going to be a muddy kind of more soil area. So it's a perfect, you know, perfect carpet for underneath.
Ryan Welch: It’s a good maintenance plan that way.
Margo Hanson: Exactly.
Ryan Welch: Exactly.
And, you know, here are the areas since you're also that you're showcasing the trees, you're also showcasing of the things that can go with the trees, that will help folks maintain their, their landscape and their lawns. And sometimes it's not always the tree.
Like you said, if you live on a hillside, an area with a large hillside that you can't well, real well, that is shady and grass won't grow there. This might be a good thing to put in there to help with the erosion, with the beautification, with all of those things, all in one.
Margo Hanson: So, Ryan, how about this, is so low maintenance, all you do is clean them up in the spring. You can let them die down in the winter with the frosts, cut the flower stalks off. If you want, you break up the dead leaves from last year and voila.
That's it. Yeah. I mean, you don't have to, you know, fertilize them. You don't have to prune them. You don't have to do any of that plus. Hostile leaves. Here we go again. Are great for flower arrangements. It's a wonderful green foliage to use in in just floral arrangements or a base with a few flowers, one or two hosta leaves. Looks like it came from a professional florist.
Ryan Welch: I've actually got if you have a really big hosta giant, I think we called elephant ear once. I have a cousin who used to take the leaves and she was crafty. I'm not crafty, but she was very crafty.
And she used to make her bird baths out of them. While she would take the leaf. It would imprint it.
Margo Hanson: Yes, yes.
Ryan Welch: Cement and whatnot and then you've got this big birdbath thing that you can put in your yard.
Margo Hanson: Right.
Ryan Welch: Have that.
Margo Hanson: And actually now that you mention that we have done that workshop here.
Ryan Welch: You’ve done that workshop.
Margo Hanson: In the past and it's pretty cool. And you've got this birdbath and you paint it or you leave it natural and hosta and the elephant ear bulb leaf worked really well for that.
Ryan Welch: So as we can see, the hosta has an interesting history from its humble beginnings and Asian forests to its unique scientific study by European doctors stationed by the Dutch on the small Japanese island of Tsushima to its eventual distribution across Europe and ultimately to America.
Once here, people found it to be very easy to handle and maintain, as well as very shade tolerant. This led to its initial popularity and from there people began creating new varieties, including different shapes from mini to extra large, new shades of greens, yellows and blues, and leaves that were variegated with white stripes in them.
The Hosta Glen at the Arboretum allows people to view many of these varieties and not only get an idea of what is out there on the market, but also many of the different ways that these plants can be used in their landscapes.
With all the benefits that come with planting and growing hostas, it is easy to see why they have such a following among both novice and seasoned plant lovers. I would like to thank both David Horst and Margot Hanson for their wonderful insights and information on this subject and to Otis Welch for the musical selection.
The mission of the Bickelhaupt Arboretum is to serve as a connection between people and plants in the community, especially when it comes to educating people on the benefits, types, and ways people can use plants in and around their homes.
In this episode, we dive into the challenges faced by the Bickelhaupts in educating people about the concept of an arboretum. Join Francie Hill, the Bickelhaupt's daughter, as she shares how her parents tackled this obstacle head-on. Discover the crucial role she played in developing the initial educational programs that remain relevant to this day. Margo and the dedicated volunteers running these programs will also join us, shedding light on their invaluable work in educating countless children from the area about plants and the environment.
Ryan Welch: Welcome to another in our continuing series of podcasts about the Bicklehaupt Arboretum, located in Clinton, Iowa. The mission of the Bicklehaupt Arboretum is to serve as a connection between people and plants through a better understanding of horticulture, by developing and maintaining a well-documented collection of landscape plants adapted to this region for education and enjoyment.
Education has always been a centerpiece of the Arboretum, ever since the first collections were planted in 1970. Initially, this education focused mainly on using the collections to show people the diversity and the options that were available to them in terms of woody plants and shrubs that could be used in their areas.
It soon became clear, though, that other forms of education were needed, but everything from explaining what an arboretum was to helping people better understand their role in the environment in general. This process has evolved a lot since the beginning, from workshops about gardening and pruning given to the general public to the thousands of local elementary children that have gone through educational programs at the arboretum. The Bicklehaupt's daughter, Francie Hill, explains how initially the process of educating people about the Arboretum was one of the biggest obstacles. And she talks about how some of the educational programs that are still in use today have come about.
Were there any obstacles with this process of developing an arboretum early on?
Francie Hill: Yes, because the lack of education that they had had. But they went ahead and got some education, not just in Clinton, all of the United States, but you know what I mean? It was environment didn't really mean anything.
Francie Hill: So that was the biggest obstacle, I think was educating. And we we still had that.
Ryan Welch: We still do it. It's a huge obstacle.
Francie Hill: People don't understand and I think that's the biggest obstacle.
Ryan Welch: Is getting people to realize, you know what what you have said nobody, you know, to this day and time, nobody still knows what an arboretum is in a lot of ways. And their idea of it is much different than what it actually looks.
Francie Hill: I think the difficulty is when the Botanic Garden is one thing I begin to see exactly and this is what plants as opposed to native plants. And I don't think I've been to I've been to several botanic gardens and they got the orchids and they got a lot of exotics, which is wonderful.
People look at those and they can look at this. But there's no point looking exotics and thinking you're the and plant them.
Ryan Welch: Not in your house.
Francie Hill: No, no, not even in your house.
Ryan Welch: How do the educational programs develop at the arboretum?
Francie Hill: They started doing classes at the arboretum. They started first with the Park District because someone said you should get the arboretum to the Park District someday, because that would be a good idea. Well, there's a changing membership because the Park District, I think they vote for him, don't they?
At that time they were voting for them and there were changes and things like that. Now that's going on. And my dad didn't want to do that. He would keep it going for himself and then see what they would do.
So I think he felt that he at one point, Dr. Norton, Mr. Nardine said, you should teach classes. He said, I'm not qualified. Yes, you are. Yes, yes. So because his name was kind of well-known, cause he was a car dealer and everything, so he decided that they would go.
And so they had some classes at the arboretum and they started going to the schools. But education and that was before No Child Left Behind. And so the schools were thrilled about it.
Ryan Welch: Now, if you go to them at times and I've done this with some teachers or they've come to me and said, Here's my benchmarks, here's my standards, can you develop something that we can do together? And at times I'm like, Oh yeah, here's how I can fit everything that you want to hear into how you want it
Francie Hill: That time.
Ryan Welch: Frame, in that time frame and your standards and your benchmarks. So it can be a difficult thing these days with, with the amount of regulations and stuff that are in the schools to try and make it so that, you know, they still want the same thing.
Ryan Welch: But it's just got to put people in a different box now it seems.
Francie Hill: Right. So I think the biggest, greatest obstacle going back to it is education. And if that can be done and I know it can be done with Clinton Community College, if that can be done. And I think every mission, every goal, every vision they had would be fulfilled.
Ryan Welch: Okay
Francie Hill: With what they do.
Ryan Welch: So during that whole education process, especially early on or even later on, I guess. What role did you play in it in terms of the planning or the implementing or the developing, if any.
Francie Hill: Have you heard the story,
Ryan Welch: Story? No.
Francie Hill: Okay. So I'm doing a tour one time and I've children and I can't remember where they were from, where they were. The first thing. It was hot, hot day. It was I think it was Park District summer program.
And I said, you know, we should all just take our shoes off and just feel the grass. And the one girl said, Don't do that, don't do that. Mrs.. And she didn't know my name, Mrs.. Hill. And I said, don't call me Francie.
Don't do that. You can be poisoned. And I said, Why? And what do you mean? She said, Well, the landlord said we could be poisoned because he sprayed the grass. And I said, Oh, we don't spray the grass here.
It's okay, really. And so they took the shoes off. So we got to the top of the hill. And I said, So how many of you ever roll down a hill? How do you do it? And I was at the time in my sixties, and so I said, Well, watch.
And I rolled down. And they thought it was just amazing for me to see that children hadn't had that experience at all. I mean, some children in Clinton live in Clinton have never seen the Mississippi River. I know that's terribly hard to believe.
Well, I can that's really true.
Ryan Welch: I can believe it.
Francie Hill: And so this was it's an outdoor classroom. Yeah. So we started as a protest to No Child Left Behind. I turn it into No Child,I turned it did No Child Left Inside. And that program went for about seven years.
Even before the pandemic, I think it had to do with funding and the busses and things like that.
Ryan Welch: The busses always seem to be a big issue.
Francie Hill: It really and yet the bus drivers loved it off the bus showed it is great. You know, had to remember not to smoke. It was not a smoke break in the parking lot, but. Yeah. And prom after prom years ago, it was trashed.
Francie Hill: They’d come out to take the pictures and it was trashed. And that was before Instamatic cameras. So it was filmed laying around and everything. And after probably seven or eight years of No Child Left inside, those kids are then, you.
Ryan Welch: Know, they've grown up.
Francie Hill: In an ownership. And we went out the one day I wrote a story about it, and all we found was a piece of ribbon and a quarter. I mean, nothing, no damage or anything. And really, we have been very blessed.
There's been very little damage. The few times that there were a few things that ended up not looking real good the next morning, but we chose not to publicize it because it might give people an idea. But there's been very little vandalism and that's just great for a public area.
Ryan Welch: And part of that had to do with, you know, education.
Francie Hill: Yeah, letting children, young people feel empowered.
Ryan Welch: And so now this is this is part of your community. So why would you want to you know, I won't mess it up.
Francie Hill: Right? Exactly.
Ryan Welch: A majority of the educational programs that occur at the Arboretum have been organized for the past 11 years by Margo Hansen, who was the Director of Programs for the Arboretum. In setting up these programs, her tasks have included planning, organizing and the logistical coordinating with area schools to ensure that many local elementary children have the opportunity to learn more about the plants and the environment at the arboretum. Of course, she would not be able to do all of this if it weren't for the help of an army of volunteers who have dedicated their time and knowledge to this purpose as well.
Margo, along with the volunteers, Joyce Oley, Raymond Smith and Marion Johnson shared with us some of their insights and the topics they discuss, the obstacles they sometimes come across, information that they share with the people that visit the Arboretum.
Joyce Oley: School District was very adamant about the fact that we had to teach to the curriculum.
Ryan Welch: So they was one of those things where, as you guys developed the program, whereas the program was being developed and updated and things, you would have to have conversations with the teachers and things like.
Joyce Oley: Well, we, we had to look at what the written curriculum was and go by that.
Marion Johnson: Okay, you were instrumental in doing a lot of that. Also, we had to talk to the curriculum supervisor a couple of times they came over and because we were teaching fourth grade and they decided that that whatever we were teaching, what was it, Leaves or something, that they were doing something different for fourth grade.
Marion Johnson: So we could no longer offer No Child Left Inside to fourth graders because our program did not involve what they wanted. What they were learning.
Ryan Welch: Then didn't cover what they call their standards eventually.
Margo Hanson: Right. So we dropped the fourth grade and then we picked up kindergarten. So it is kindergarten first. Second and third grade is what we've done in the past. So we invite first and second grade in the spring, second and third in the fall.
So over the course of the years, if you are in a Clinton school, elementary school, you would come here four times while you're in school.
Ryan Welch: Over the course of your time.
Margo Hanson: Right? Right. So everybody all the all these young people, little people know what an arboretum is. And it's kind of fun because not every community has that opportunity.
Marion Johnson: And most recently, they also know the word photosynthesis.
Margo Hanson: Yes. It's a big word for a first grader.
Ryan Welch: A big word for first grader. Yes, there are many there are some college students that don't know the word. Despite you telling them over and over.
Marion Johnson: And that's it. That's it. I mean, that's, that's our whole living, our life inside photosynthesis.
Joyce Oley: One of one of the bonuses to having the No Child Left inside besides having the kids come, is that some of the schools would invite the parents. And so we'd have a lot of parents coming with us. And it was amazing how many adults said, Oh, I didn't know that.
And we'd be asking questions to the kids. And the parents would look like, Why? We don't know. I mean.
Margo Hanson: Or I've never been here and this is for the first time being there.
Ryan Welch: So it wasn't just a learning experience for the kids. The class is a learning experience for everybody involved kids all through adults, through parents, through whole family units, potentially, depending on who was chaperoning that day and those kind of things.
Raymond Smith: We have we have groups of like Sarah Harding, it's a retirement center. It's been here.
Raymond Smith: And a garden club. And, you know, so there's, there's groups other than school groups or school groups.
Ryan Welch: Yeah. And you have to my guess is when the other groups come that are the school groups, my guess is you don't do the No Child Left Inside. You have different sort of
Raymond Smith: They kind of have their own questions.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
Volunteer: And it's a basic tour.
Ryan Welch: It's a basic tour.
Volunteer: At one time we had weekend time set up and a volunteer would show up. And if somebody came from the community and wanted to tour, we would give it to them. There was nobody there. We'd go home.
Raymond Smith: We talk about roots. Well, do you like to eat roots? Oh, no. Don't want to eat roots. And well, do you like carrots? Yeah, I like carrots. And understanding the carrot is a root is something that most kids have no concept of.
And, you know, they. Oh, what? What color are trees? Well, they're green for the most part. And what does that mean? And then you can get into the idea that we need trees on this earth to provide oxygen and use carbon dioxide, you know, and all that. You know.
Joyce Oley: Which brings us to the name of the program. The Educational Systems had a program called No Child Left Behind. But then and I forget the author's name, but there was a book called No Child Left Inside saying that outdoor education is not just learning about where our food comes from, but our whole the air we breathe and, you know, everything about our life depends on what's outside the environment.
Ryan Welch: The ecosystem as a whole
Joyce Oley: Yes.
Ryan Welch: And knowing that we're actually in it, you know, not outside of it.
Joyce Oley: A lot of children, we're not getting outside, particularly urban children. And so the program, Francie, picked it out after reading the book. And she's, you know, No Child Left Inside. So unless it was raining hard, all the programs were outside.
And it was it was wonderful.
Marion Johnson: One of the things that I think is really good about the No Child Left Inside program is that students are exposed to other, other people who are interested in the environment. I mean, and my feeling is children should know what their, what their environment is.
If you want to say we're trying to save the environment, this is what we're trying to say. Yeah. And this is our here we all are and we're all concerned, you know, all of that, all of the.
Ryan Welch: You know, so unless you show them, you know, specifically what is your environment is a very abstract concept. You know in that younger age is also a way that those sorts of things in that kind of knowledge can be built up over time so that as they get older, it's not a new concept to them either it's something that they've been learning about and gaining more knowledge or more detailed knowledge as they get older.
Margo Hanson: Going back to what Ray had said earlier about walking around and looking at the different trees, you know, what color are trees? They're green. But it goes a little bit further in that these volunteers point out the different kinds of trees.
So it's not just trees. Trees have names. Trees have sizes and shapes and, and different colors and have different, you know, purposes, maybe a food source for one animal or one bird. They point that out, and maybe some kids hadn't realized that before.
In addition to that, they point out the difference between deciduous trees and the conifers, the needled plant material versus the, the trees that drop and bushes, that drop their leaves in the fall. So all these things that maybe they'd never heard about or their parents don't talk about is just like, okay, let's go.
Right. The leaves, well, they don't really understand that that's part of a classification, but that trees have names and they do have different characteristics, just like people. A lot of those things that we take for granted are pointed out to these students and it's light bulb goes off in in their head and it's like, Oh, that's cool.
Ryan Welch: They start looking at their surroundings in a much different way. Now they become more familiar with what is actually there compared to just the tree. They kept walking by every day.
Margo Hanson: And even though we're, we're an arboretum and we focus on Woody plant material, there are still birds flying over. Or you can hear the birds singing. You can see little fish or turtles or frogs in the creek that runs through.
And even the clouds and the insects and the butterflies and just all of that in one big package here at the arboretum, it just makes it whole. And back to what Marion said, that's our environment and that's what we're trying to save.
And that's just a very important point that she brought up.
Raymond Smith:I think one of the exciting things, too, is the butterfly garden.
Marion Johnson: Oh, yeah.
Raymond Smith: And you know, the monarch butterfly has been always kind of an emphasis here. And to realize that the monarch butterfly will, as a species, travels all the way to Mexico.
I mean, kids just have no idea. Yeah. That those sort of things happen. You know, what happens in the winter time, you know, just the whole migratory.
Ryan Welch: The whole process nature. Yeah. And it also it happens on many, many levels.
Ryan Welch: It's not just this large bird like a goose or swan or anything like that is all the way down to the insect level. You've got something moving very large spans in a way that we still in some ways don't understand how it happens, why it happens, how we know the way all these sorts of things and you guys are doing it on a more local level because as you guys have all said, this is the environment they live in. When these when these children are put on these busses and brought here, they're not brought here from across the state.
They're brought here from 10 minutes away, you know, in a town that they already live in to see all of this stuff that they didn't maybe didn't know was already in in their area.
Joyce Oley: We should include the Camanche school, schoolchildren. And because we have classes that come from Camanche.
Ryan Welch: Are they doing that No Child Left Inside program. So we're not just talking about just all Clinton kids. We're talking Clinton and Camanche. Were there any other school districts that were participating?
Joyce Oley: No, but we had some home school children once in a while.
Margo Hanson: And then we do entertain other groups throughout the year. So we have the summer camps that come and we do have other classes and ages that come that get a program kind of tailored to what their needs and what their requests are.
So we want to fit it to the, to the group that's coming. We did a few times do a scavenger hunt, so that was really fun. And that again was geared toward the age that was coming. One of them that I recall was actually they were given they were in junior high or high school and they were given a map. And it was not only doing the scavenger hunt at the arboretum, but it was following a map and, and map skills. And some of them in in in the world of GPS now, you know, it was a little challenging.
So it was really fun because they had to figure out the map, north, southeast, West and landmarks and things like that. So that was really fun. And back to No Child Left Inside, Joyce had mentioned parents coming in.
We had parents and some grandparents come, but it was really fun one day we had a group of No Child Left Inside students come and one of the students grandfathers came and Ray you might have told me this story.
I don't remember. But they're going around and the volunteer teachers are asking questions to the student as they're going around the arboretum and every time they ask a question, this grandfather would shout out the answer. He was so excited and so happy and had never been here.
And he had more kids, more fun than the kids. And finally he realized that they were asking the students the questions and he finally caught on. But it was really funny because he was so excited. He just would blurt out the answer every time they ask a question.
So that made it really fun. It made the event fun and he had a great time.
Joyce Oley: One of my favorite teaching moments would come when one of the kids would see a bee. Oh, yeah. And the first reaction is, Oh, you know, screaming and running. And, you know, you know, calm down, calm down. We're in the bees home.
Just calm down. Just let it be, you know? And to think about that, we are the strangers in their, in their environment.
Ryan Welch: So you guys mentioned one obstacle you had in some of these educational programs was getting things aligned for the schools because they had the benchmarks, their standards or things like that. And that was one of your big obstacles was when I when I talked to a Francie earlier, she said, yeah, it was a big issue.
We always had asked, were there any other obstacles, though, that came in in order or challenges with some of these programs that you did in terms of these educational programs, any of them? It could be the ones for kids or even some of the ones that you may have given for adults.
Margo Hanson: And things like that. I don't know if it's an obstacle, but we there was quite a process to go through to contact all of the teachers, give them all the information, give them the dates, have them get back to us and sign up.
So when you have that many classes in a certain program, there has to be a lot of coordinating of that. Once we had the classes lined up with the teachers, they had to arrange the bussing and then we had to meet as volunteers this wonderful army of volunteers meet and then the volunteers would select the dates that they could help with the program and be here for the, the students that were coming. So again, it wasn't an obstacle, but it was was kind of a, a challenging and a timeline that we had to really stick to.
So and we had to check and make sure there was nothing else going on with throughout the school system the two weeks we were going to be doing it. And then of course we had weather issues and canceling and should we have it and so there were the normal things that you would do with any program in getting them lined up. And then you always have new teachers that don't know the ropes and don't know, you know, how it rolls. And then you have the.
Teachers that come year after year that sign up right away because they really enjoy the program and the work that the wonderful volunteers have done in the past.
Ryan Welch: So when you put that program on a single day that you know, how many volunteers will you need just for one day?
Joyce Oley: You need two volunteers per class, once per classroom. I mean.
Ryan Welch: Yes. So that's not two volunteers for the whole third grade class, it’s two volunteers for every section, of course.
Joyce Oley: Correct. Correct. And then we all meet down at the gathering space and we divide them up according to how many volunteers we have. So we often have six volunteers. We do three sections at a time.
Ryan Welch: Oh, okay.
Joyce Oley: And then we have stations out on the grounds and we head for a different place. We all go in different directions and then we'd rotate around and there'd be two stations per lesson. We had roots at one and we'd have leaves at another.
Margo Hanson: And stems and then the flowers and seeds.
Joyce Oley: Yeah. And so the curriculum was divided up into three groups and then but they will rotate through all of that and get it all done in an hour.
Margo Hanson: Right. And they'd have 15 minutes per station. And then there was walking time and, and touring time and talking time and and so it really flowed quite well. They would bunch up once in a while, but, but we managed and it was they were outside.
They loved all kids, loved field trips. I mean, it was.
Ryan Welch: Even when they get older.
Margo Hanson: Even when they get the whole thing.
Joyce Oley: At each station, there were artifacts. So we'd have samples of roots and we'd have samples of how the leaves are arranged on a stem.
Margo Hanson: And one of the really fun parts, I thought, and I'm going to let Marian talk about this were the lima beans and the germinating of seeds in the different parts. So I'm going to let her talk about that process of starting them early.
And what the kids did with the big lima beans.
Marion: Germinated light the lima beans and each child got a lime of beans. So we took the seed coat off and then we saw the little bitty plant inside and the garden leaving all that. So that's what we did with the kids so that they had to me, learning from a book is one thing and it's great.
It is, but hands on in anything in a laboratory or, or that's why they call this a living lab, because you can get hands on to see the seeds. Took a little bit to figure out how to do this so that we had enough because sometimes I had to get 300 seeds.
Ryan Welch: So. Yeah that a lot of seeds
Marion: But it was it was worth it when you saw, you know, that they at least this is it. This is how it starts. Yeah. Not just in the book with a picture. And that's how actually one of the ways that this child left, no child left inside got started, because someone I think was Francie's grandson, she was telling him, Oh, that's a part of some, there's something some kid said, Oh, I can get see that on the Internet and you see that? No, no, no. That's not how we get you know, we don't want you just learning stuff from the Internet.
Ryan Welch: It’s got to be hands.
Margo Hanson: And one, one thing Marion had to do was she had to count ahead and plan ahead to get the lima bean seeds in the right stage germinated for the class or the day it was coming. And so there was planning and she was diligent.
Oh, my gosh. She always came through and you know, you have some seeds that don't germanate. So they did share on occasion, but they couldn't wait to, to have their own seed and find that little plant live in the tiny little root inside.
And they had no clue that that was the beginning of a plant and the whole germination process. So yeah, that was really fun and that was just one of many things. We also one time did a seed collecting portion where we actually put tape on their wrist and it was inside out and they went around and tried to collect different seed on the grounds. Some of one, one portion is how do seeds travel? And so we had, you know, the cockle burrs that that stick and the seeds that roll. And so we had samples of all of those and then they would look for those as they went around the grounds.
Ryan Welch: And a lot of these things, you know, are all sounds to me like lessons that at the outset, when you first look at it, it's just so simple. That is so you know, I don't know why it is that we didn't think of that before.
And yet none of them require things like, you know, some very high tech measuring system or any type of electronics or any type of that kind. So I will tell you right now, in many of my college classes, when you mentioned the lima beans and soaking them and looking for Cotyledons, I did that as graduate work in one of my classes. That's what our instructor had us do. And then what she had do is we had to weigh them. We had to talk about them. She was throughout the semester. As we talk about things in physiology, you need to add to this as to, okay, why did this happen?
How did this happen? And when you're measuring it now, these first couple of weeks, every week after, you better be adding something about this and this and this and this in terms of the physiology of what's happening in that little seed.
And it takes something that simple and just be able to get that much information out of it. It is really, you know, so we've had No Child Left Inside and say, how long has that program been going on here at the Arboretum?
Joyce Oley: I think 20 years for the last, for the COVID time.
Ryan Welch: Sort of the COVID time that's been going on. It was going on for 20 years.
Margo Hanson: So if you take roughly 20 years, 1500 students a year do the math will have to have to add that and do the math. That's a lot of students. And it's interesting now in talking to people that have jobs and have their own kids, they would say, oh, I remember coming to the Arboretum.
I remember walking around, we love the waterfall. They all love the waterfall. They love the creek. It's interesting now that their children are coming to the Arboretum for the same class, but it's really great to hear them say, I came here as a student when I was in school at with one program or another.
Ryan Welch: I get them every once. All right. You know, some of them who do take my classes of the college, I'll say, hey, we're going to the Arboretum. I'll say, Oh, I remember the arboretum. I went there when I was a kid and I did this.
I did that. Oh, good. Now we're going to look at it from a different perspective here. And, and I do get a lot of kids that I've never been to the Arboretum. This is a good opportunity for you to learn, right?
Joyce Oley: We really haven't talked about really the major purpose of the arboretum is as a community resource is to show people what grows here in Iowa. It's some wonderful educational thing. And when you look at the sign that's posted by the tree, it will tell you when it was planted.
So you'll know how big it's going to get before you plant it in your yard. And so for me, this has always been an educational place, not just for kids.
Marion Johnson: Where we get something that this is a little different from No Child. But we did put together compost so we can make the compost, you know, with the bottle, the, the liter bottle and all the stuff to put in it.
And then you got the red worms. And of course, you have to talk about the red worms. So we've done that too, as a different type of program.
Ryan Welch: Different type of program or even workshop.
Marion Johnson: Yeah. And I think maybe a class would come over or, or did we do that for the Saturday.
Margo Hanson: Right. So it could have been enviro kids.
Marion Johnson: Explain what the enviro kids are
Margo Hanson: Yes, the enviro kids at one time was started through Lyondellbasell and it was for a program that they supported to go around to environmental based businesses and organizations and is set up it's on Saturdays from ten to noon and the arboretum was one of six or seven locations that they go.
The Isaac Walton League, the Recycle Center, the Felix Adler, Sawmill Museum, and now I'm going to forget somebody. They go to a ballgame. But it's a weekend event for third to fifth graders, and the flier sent out to all the schools in the county.
Anyone can sign up and then you can go to these. You get a postcard that says when the next event is.
Ryan Welch: And where it is.
Margo Hanson: And the arboretum has been with that for many years, maybe ten or 12 years. It just gets kids from all over. And the fun thing is we may have 30 or 40 of those students signed up, but then their little siblings come, their parents come.
So we can have quite a crowd come all ages and all are welcome because we want, you know, the littlest to the oldest to come to the arboretum, adjust our program to whatever their age, your interest is, and just make it a pleasant experience.
And it is we have a lot of fun, tour, an educational lesson, and then of course you have to have a little treat at the end.
Joyce Oley: And it wouldn't be an educational group unless we said the arboretum is open. Yes. During the daylight every day of the year free are free to risk free of charge.
Ryan Welch: As we can see, the Arboretum continues its mission of educating people about the benefits of plants and their role in the environment. While much of this education can be seen in their No Child Left Inside program, there is no shortage to educational opportunities and events that have and can occur at the arboretum.
My many thanks to Margo Hanson, Joyce Oley, Raymond Smith and Marion Johnson for sharing their time and insights with me for this podcast, as well as to Otis Welch for the musical selection.
In this podcast episode, we showcase the diverse and dedicated volunteers at the arboretum. First, we chat with with Francie Hill, the Bickelhaupt's daughter, about her efforts in recruiting and engaging volunteers. Then, you'll hear firsthand from David, Margo, and other volunteers, as they emphasize the invaluable role these individuals play in their respective work at the arboretum.
Discover the various types of volunteer work undertaken and gain insights into their motivations and deep commitment to this important cause.
Ryan Welch: Welcome to another in our continuing series of podcasts about the Bickelhaupt Arboretum located in Clinton, Iowa. According to the staff of the Arboretum, the Bickelhaupt Arboretum has the greatest volunteers in the world. The Arboretum wouldn't be able to do all it does and offer the great resources to the public free of charge without our dedicated volunteers. The folks that volunteer at the arboretum come from all walks of life and have a variety of different skill sets. And as we will here, have the opportunity to do a variety of tasks at the arboretum.
The opportunities include working in one of the many gardens and collections mowing, giving educational tours and programs, as well as assisting with publications and record keeping. Volunteers can help out where they want as it fits with their schedules most typically. Getting volunteers to the arboretum, though, wasn't always easy. But as Francie Hill, the Bickelhaupt daughter, explains, it was something she had both experience in and a passion for. When she returned to this area and helped to establish the foundation for volunteer work that is the Arboretum today.
Francie Hill: When I came to the Arboretum, my background was after I graduated from Northwestern. I did not work for several years and the children were grown. And so I co-directed a homeless center in Albuquerque. And then I ran Meals on Wheels, and that's like mobile meals where I had 365 volunteers.
So I was kind of into the volunteer end of things. And then I worked for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, as the Development Director for Catholic Charities, Catholic Social Services. Again, huge amount of volunteers. So one of the things I said was to my mom and dad, when we talked about my coming, everything I said, where are your volunteers?
And she said, Well, I don't know, how do you just get them? And I said, Oh, I'd love to try that. So we went from three volunteers to 100 volunteers within a few years.
Ryan Welch: Oh, wow.
Francie Hill: And then we went from not keeping track of but perhaps 300 volunteers, 300 people visiting.
And we had the best we ever had was 36,000 volunteers. I mean, 36,000 people – visitors
Ryan Welch: So 36,000 visitors.
How many volunteers did you have during that time?
Francie Hill: We had a 100, active.
Ryan Welch: Active. Yeah.
Francie Hill: They have to be active and with, with key people, you know, and they did a lot of things and my mother loved it. There was always activity. We had weddings, we had classes, we had a lot of things going on.
The focus now has not been, as you know, before, pandemic and then all of a sudden pandemic hit. So I think now that probably will build up again. I remember saying to David that same day I went down and I said, so I'm not a horticulturist.
What do you want? I hear I have to be a master gardener. And he said that, you know, I said, What do you want me to do? And he reminded me this morning when I was talking to him, he said he said, can you just bring people to see what I do?
And he said, no, no, I understand. I'm not I'm not bragging. And I said, No, no. And I said, What do you mean? He said, You know, they would see that what I do and everything. And maybe you could have a paper that tells them what they are or if, if I'm there, I'll talk to him about it. So it was great. And so it was a serendipitous type of thing. You know, I brought the people there and David could tell him and then David trained volunteers. Key volunteers to do tours and then we bought the electric carts for people who couldn't get around.
Ryan Welch: As Francie, he brought folks in to volunteer. The dedicated staff of the arboretum were able to train and find many activities for them to participate in. David Horst, director of horticulture for the Arboretum, explains how volunteers are so important for his work at the Arboretum and some of the tasks that they help him do around the arboretum.
Ryan Welch: He also points out the benefits of having volunteers both throughout the year and for multiple years. As this long term experience that these volunteers have with the Arboretum benefits everybody involved.
David Horst: Well, we consider volunteers to be very important. They've been an integral part of the arboretum since its inception in 1970. Many of these are retirees that are looking for something to do or a way of staying healthy, staying active by volunteering.
Some enjoy the companionship of working with other volunteers and staff members.
Ryan Welch : Okay.
David Horst: It really works well for us as some of the volunteers like being indoors and some prefer to work outside with the plants. So we need help in both areas.
Ryan Welch: And so there's a variety enough for the volunteers. So, you know, if you're a volunteer here, you don’t just get stuck in one thing. You could be doing a number of things depending on what you actually like to do as a volunteer.
David Horst: That's right.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: Yeah. And we feel they're a very important link connecting us to the community.
Ryan Welch: Because if, you know, if you volunteer somewhere, you have a bit of a stake in it. And so you want to see it succeed, you want to see it thrive and all that stuff. And so the more people you can get to help out, the more ownership they feel into it just as much as everybody else and the more they want to keep it going.
David Horst: That's exactly right. And also, we find that they bring their family and friends to visit, which brings visitors to the grounds.
Ryan Welch: And more opportunities for more volunteers.
David Horst: More volunteers.
Ryan Welch: And more education and more people enjoying the area overall.
David Horst: That's right.
Ryan Welch: What kind of things do you have your volunteer, volunteers that work with you, what sort of the things you have them do?
David Horst: We've had volunteers help with pretty much everything out on the grounds, but main jobs would be planting trees and shrubs, a lot of them like working with flowers. We have them help us weed got plants. That's always a major job.
David Horst: Year round. Year round. Seemed like the weeds grow all the time.
Ryan Welch: They do, it's funny how it works.
David Horst: And even mowing is very important. We're very fussy with the turf here. We like to keep it mowed. And the volunteers loved the run the equipment. Rich Gosnell has done a fabulous job for the last number of years.
We assist him during a busy time of mowing with summer staff. But Rich does a fabulous job, and he's been a volunteer now for five plus years.
Ryan Welch: Wow. So it's nice to have that longevity with some of them. If you can if you can get and keep them interesting, they want to keep coming back. That helps quite a bit on all ends.
David Horst: The longevity is very important. And the nice thing with Rich is he so enjoys coming here even after the growing season has ended and the mowing is done. He continues to come throughout the winter time and help with small jobs, even if it's shoveling snow.
He loves to make the labels on our label making machine.
Ryan Welch: Yeah. So he likes the variety of things, I mean, even as a volunteer, he doesn't just do one thing. He does a variety of things as well.
David Horst: He does a large variety.
Ryan Welch: Wow. So it's really nice to get those kind of folks to come in and not, for instance, just want to mow or just want to weed or just want to be one thing to give those folks like you do a little bit of everything as well.
It is a plus
David Horst: They're welcome to come. We welcome them if they only want to do one thing or if they only want to come once or twice a year. But we love it when they're like Rich and they're dedicated and come every week.
Ryan Welch: Does he come every week?
David Horst: Yes.
Ryan Welch: Wow. He's got a schedule.
David Horst: No, it's pretty much up to him. But he lets me know when he’s coming.
Ryan Welch: So he doesn't just show up.
David Horst: And the nice thing about Rich where comes all the time is he knows from time to time what's up next to do.
Ryan Welch: Oh, okay. So he's got a schedule. He knows sort of what kind of things happened during the season where, okay, you guys are going to need work on this part of the Arboretum now to get it ready for folks coming in or yeah, we got this coming up or this is what's blooming now.
So this is what we need to not touch as much as we need to go over here.
David Horst: Exactly.
Ryan Welch: Nice. That is helpful.
David Horst: That's very helpful.
Ryan Welch: Because a lot of people get to show that, too. And then if you're only there for a few weeks, off they go.
David Horst: And then you start over.
Ryan Welch: Start all over again with somebody else, okay.
David Horst: And we've also had volunteers come as a group to different groups in the community, scouts, school groups. Prince of Peace is a major one. They come every year, sometimes twice a year, when they're doing their community service for different groups.
The Arboretum is on the list will get anywhere from 5 to 10 students and an instructor. Typically, for most of the day, they'll bring lunch and eat here and we work all day and we get a lot accomplished that way.
Ryan Welch: Nice.
David Horst: So we do get individuals. Sometimes we'll get a husband and a wife or a family come or we can get a large group to come.
Ryan Welch: As David explained the importance of the volunteers that help him do work outside. Margo Hansen, former Director of Programs for the Arboretum, talks about some of the work that goes into recruiting and maintaining the volunteers that they have there.
She also talks about some of the work she does with the volunteers, especially in the educational programs that the Arboretum does for the public as well as the elementary children in the area. She also tells about the diversity of the volunteers that help out at the arboretum.
Now, in terms of the arboretum here, you know, it's just you and Dave full time. But you guys have a lot of volunteers that come in. Volunteers seem to be a very big part of this whole operation. How did all that begin?
Ryan Welch: Was that from the, from the very beginning? Yeah. It's always that we always use volunteers. Or was it something that sort of just kind of came about and evolved?
Margo Hanson: So I think that with a lot of organizations, especially when they're new, the volunteer group evolves, like you said, in that there were a few in the beginning Mr. or Mrs. Bickelhaupt did have volunteers that came and help.
And then throughout the years word got around the Arboretum grew. There were more programs, more workshops of the media. The, the Clinton Herald would have photographs in the spring when things were starting to grow again. And so all of that, it was just a process of it evolving.
But then you have to you have to work with your volunteers, you have to take care of them, you have to inform them, and you have to call them and know which volunteers like to be greeters know which volunteers like to water and pull weeds.
So you have to fit the person to the, to the job and what they like to do and what they're good at. And a lot of times people think, well, you know, the arboretum is just pulling weeds, but it's not we I have a few ladies that help me edit material that I write.
We have people that just greet. We have people that park cars. We have volunteers that help David mow, volunteers that help him prune. So we do have a whole different list of jobs and we make it fun, you know?
It's not a chore. It's fun. It's a great way for the community to share in the glory of the Arboretum.
Ryan Welch: So it's not like there's just as many different tasks that you have volunteers do. Is the amount of tests you do almost on a daily basis is a lot of variety there. You don't get set into just one thing, even as a volunteer, and even if you are doing one thing one day, there's a chance you could be doing something different next if that was of interest to you.
Margo Hanson: Definitely, yes. And because the seasons change, you know, in the spring, we have spring cleanup. And it's fun to see the blossoms come out in the summer when if it's a hot, dry summer, we need to do a little more watering.
We don't do a lot of watering, but there are certain plants that we do need to help survive. And then, of course, in the fall, we have the, you know, the fall clean up. And so it does change with the seasons.
It does change with the programs that we offer. We also have a wonderful group, group of volunteer ladies, for the most part, that help with our No Child Left Inside. And those volunteers actually teach the elementary students that are bussed here the classes, teach them a lesson, and then tour them around the grounds.
So volunteering is touring also. So there are a lot of things involved.
Ryan Welch: So what, what type of people volunteer here that at the arboretum?
Margo Hanson: We have all kinds of volunteers. We have high school students that want to come and want to volunteer to the community so that they have that to add to their resume. Plus, they, they love to come to the arboretum or maybe they grew up in the area and they remember playing here.
And now they want to make sure that the arboretum continues on a good path. And then also we do have ages in between, but for the most part, the college and the young adults are so busy with their jobs in life we get a few of those, but for the most part they are retired people who love to be outside, want to learn about plant planning and pruning and taking care of plants, and want that interaction with other volunteers and people in the community. And so it's just a nice blend of all types of people, male and female.
And some people physically can't do a lot of physical work. So then we have people that drive golf carts, people that give tours, people that check, people in and greet. So they're all levels of work and volunteering that needs to be done.
And so we just really try to match the, the job with the volunteer and make sure that it works best for them.
Ryan Welch: So there's, there's no special task or special skill. A volunteer has to have to be able to volunteer here. There's something for just about everyone.
Margo Hanson: Absolutely. You could just sit here and smile if you wanted to. Just say hello. Welcome to Bickelhaupt arboretum or, and we do mailings once in a while and sometimes we do callings. So if, if you're someone that can't get out and about, you could be one of my people that makes phone calls or contacts, volunteers or helps coordinate. So there are all kinds of things over the years. Help me set up for a workshop. Help me set up for a program or an event. And so a lot of things like that and we try to make it fun and it is fun.
Ryan Welch: As David and Margo pointed out, the volunteers that assist in the Arboretum are truly exceptional people that come from a variety of backgrounds and assist with a variety of tasks at the arboretum. So who are some of these fabulous volunteers that the Arboretum has recruited, and why do they love spending time at the Arboretum?
Ryan Welch: So the answers to those questions, I sat down and talked with three of the volunteers Joyce Oley, Raymond Smith and Marion Johnson, who assist with educational programs at the Arboretum, as well as a variety of other tasks on the grounds.
Ryan Welch: They explained to me the how and the why volunteering at the I've read them is so important to them.
Joyce Oley: My name is Joyce only and I just live a block away from the arboretum, so I've been coming to the arboretum ever since its beginnings. However, I started volunteering after I retired from teaching, and I started with the No Child Left Inside program, did some clean up kinds of things in the beds over the years, but started really big time in that last year. So that's my main thing to volunteer for now.
Raymond Smith: My name is Raymond Smith. I taught high school here at Clinton High School for quite a few years, and then I had the privilege of teaching at Ashford until it finally closed. So teaching has always been part of my life.
I enjoy coming over here because I feel that it's an extension of my teaching career, teaching young children and adults about the things that I learned from Margo.
Marion Johnson: I'm Marion Johnson. I retired from Mount Saint Clair College about 2002, and that's when my husband and I, both, as far as volunteering here, is concerned. I came to the arboretum. It was through the Master Gardener program.
That we got into some activities that were going on and volunteering. I also did No Child Left Inside and also with I also helped with theHerb Garden when it was first planted. I was involved in that and also with the Butterfly Garden. So I've been different, different programs involving students. I guess, as much as I could.
Ryan Welch: So you heard about it through the Master Gardener program. What did you hear about the about volunteer and here the arboretum?
Raymond Smith: I think I just showed up.
Ryan Welch: It wasn't even word of mouth. You just wandered around and that's the place to go. And you said you were neighbor.
Joyce Oley: I was a neighbor and a friend of Francie’s.
Ryan Welch: Okay. And so she's kind of roped in that way.
Joyce Oley: Well, didn't take much to take much of a role.
argo Hanson: So for the No Child Left Inside program, it does take a lot of volunteers to tour the the students around the grounds. But what has happened over the years is many of them are retired schoolteachers
and when they know a friend is going to retire, they say, hey, come and help us at the arboretum and come volunteer at the arboretum. So I think word of mouth through friends and fellow teachers have gotten more volunteers here.
And because they're teachers, they really want to see the learning process and continue with that on a different level. So we have gotten a lot of volunteers just by teachers asking teachers they know are going to retire to come.
Marion Johnson: Joyce is a good recruiter.
Ryan Welch: Joyce is a good recruiter, and it sounds like what drew all of you in at least to the aspect of the volunteering that you guys do here. The Arboretum is that educational background that wanting to to take something that was being done here already and applying your educational background is to helping it further move forward and get other people interested and get other people moving on and that sort of thing. So what drew you all to want to volunteer here?
Raymond Smith: I would say myself, probably that, I have the time, you know, as a retiree. And it I guess, I get the feelings of, you know, I, I've been doing this all my life, working with people in different areas.
And so it's just kind of a natural and I might segway off of that a little bit. I grew up on a farm. I knew where carrots came from. I know where milk comes from. I know strawberries come from, you know what I mean.
And, you know, living in a in a sort of semi urban, I guess you'd call this community. Kids just don't know that.
Margo Hanson: Adult programs we've had all along that Francie and Mr. Mrs. Bickelhaupt have actually had winter awareness programs where they brought in speakers and volunteers would help, you know, greet and help set those up. A number of different workshops that we would do, volunteers would help get things ready, set those up, and then often offer tours.
We would offer golf cart tours, and so I would take some volunteers around and give them my spiel so that if they had a tour, they, they could know of different things to point out on the grounds. And so over the years we've just had many different types of workshops and educational programs for all ages.
And volunteers do help, you know, water, they do help pick up sticks, they help greet. I do have a few that help edit things that I write and help with brochures and things like that. So there are all kinds of volunteering opportunities here at the arboretum.
A lot of times they think, Oh, it's just pulling weeds, and that's not the case at all. There are all different kinds of volunteering in all different amounts of time that you can spend. You can just help with one or two events or you can come back.
We had one lady that's watered every week on a regular basis certain gardens. So a lot of different opportunities.
Joyce Oley: I think my reason for being a volunteer here is it's an opportunity to be outdoors in nature as soon as it gets warm.
I want to be outside all day long and it doesn't take all day if you're a volunteer. I mean, you can you can spend an hour doing something really important. And it seems like I get fed if I'm doing something for somebody, but I'm the one who benefits.
And I think just being in nature is worth a lot. So even if you just want to walk through. Margo Hanson: One local school Prince of Peace has a community work day and they bring their volunteer, I'm sorry, they bring their students.
And we have a number of volunteers here that are coordinated with the students and we have a project. So one volunteer will take two or three students and go work on something at the arboretum. And we have a whole list of things and it's generally done in the spring, in the fall and it's just really fun it’s fun for the kids. They're helping the arboretum, they're out of the classroom and they're doing something for the community. So that's and we have had other groups that have come, church groups that have come and helped with the Community Service Day in helping here on the grounds.
So we really appreciate it and I think we all benefit in the end.
Ryan Welch: So for these groups, it's not just an educational opportunity. In some cases, it's also community service offering.
Margo Hanson: Exactly.
Ryan Welch: A way to be part of a larger community. That to me, at times they didn't they didn't exactly think about or at least hadn't thought about it another time.
Margo Hanson: Right? Correct.
Raymond Smith: I think one of the thing is just to realize that the influence of the Arboretum goes beyond Clinton. I mean, I remember taking a group from Cedar Rapids, there was a garden club in Davenport, has garden club that comes up here often.
And I think of Dubuque as well.
Margo Hanson: Dubuque and Peoria, Maquoketa garden club. Yeah, comes down.
Raymond Smith: I know there's been several garden clubs in here that have been present.
Joyce Oley: Sometimes the people coming through and riverboats. Oh yeah, they include the arboretum and their tour. So I mean, and when you're here working and you see somebody walking around and they come up and ask, What are you doing?
Well then you say, Well, where are you from? And you know, they're from all over the country.
Ryan Welch: Yeah, I know. There have been places I've gone and I'll tell people I'm from Clinton. They're like, Oh, you know, of the arboretum, they'll know about the Arboretum, only bring it up. And in some of my travels and things, especially when I go to plant type conferences like, Oh yeah, the it's a great, I really like to talk about the conifer collection and things like that.
Marion Johnson: I want to add some things and these people have all helped in different gardens. Joyce's husband makes the Leopold bench. And he had a workshop. Where he put together. I mean I now have a Leopold bench because of that experience and then you talk about Leopold.
Etc. etc. But he's done a lot with the helping and cleaning up and the benches because he's a good carpenter, not by my trade. He's just this spring,
Joyce Oley: He's been fixing up a lot of the benches and then they're going to clean them up and, and so they're going to look really nice for this.
Marion Johnson: So there is an opportunity for people who have a talent to. Yeah, now I'll mention my husband. Who we came here because he like, as I mentioned, that's how I got involved with the arboretum through
My husband coming here. And he wanted to. Work with plants because he liked that was his thing. And he ended up making. The little what he called the little label, labels. But towards the end, he helped with cutting the lawn. I mean, he just loved to get out there. And I mean, not that this has anything to do with
Ryan Welch: Yeah, but I mean, what we're saying is there's all your opportunities, not just in the education part of it, but for all aspects. Whatever you're interested in, there's a pretty good chance there is a volunteer opportunity here at the arboretum that you could be involved in, and that could, could help both you and the Arboretum.
Margo Hanson: One volunteer I don't think we've had very much as helping David shovel snow. So if anybody wants to come and help David's shovel, you will give us a call. (laughter)
Ryan Welch: That one might be a little bit more difficult.
Margo Hanson: Okay, give us a call.
Ryan Welch: As we can see, the Arboretum does have some of the greatest volunteers in the world with no shortage of experiences a person could have while volunteering at the arboretum, and an eager staff that is willing to train and work with flexible schedules.
Both the Arboretum and the volunteers get the best of both worlds in this type of partnership. My many thanks to Francie Hill, David cast, Margot Hanson, Joyce Ali, Raymond Smith and Marion Johnson for sharing their time and insights with me for this podcast, as well as to Otis Welch for the musical selection.
A collection of informational websites our visitors might find informative, helpful, and maybe even a little entertaining.
- University of Minnesota Plant Information Online
- American Public Gardens Association
- American Horticultural Society
- American Hosta Society
- American Hemerocallis Society
- American Conifer Society
- Garden Writers Association
- Mississippi Valley Hosta Society
- Compost Guide
- Hosta Library
- Weekend Gardener
- Encyclopedia of Plants
- Iowa Gardener
- Iowa Prairie Network
- Radish Magazine
- Conifer Quarterly from the American Conifer Society
- The Old Farmer's Almanac