By Heather King
What does a New York investor have to do with a Virginia Colonel? Together, the creation and investments of the two men now culminate into the 700 beautiful acres that comprise Blandy Experimental Farm and The State Arboretum of Virginia in Boyce, Virginia.
Here’s the back story: Graham F. Blandy was a wealthy New York stock market investor. The Tuleyries was an estate built in Clarke County, Virginia, by Colonel Joseph Tuley, Jr., around 1833. In 1905, Blandy purchased the Tuleyries. When he died in 1926, he willed 700 acres of the property to the University of Virginia with the only provision being that it be named The Blandy Experimental Farm. Today, Blandy Experimental Farm is a research haven for academics and a fun spot for day trippers looking for a mini-adventure.
“Our mission is to increase understanding of the natural world through research and education,” David Carr, Director of Blandy Experimental Farm, said. “We are home to the 170-acre Orland E. White Arboretum (The State Arboretum of Virginia), which is open to the public from dawn until dusk, 365 days a year, with no entrance fee.”
Where Academics Blossom
“Blandy serves the academic community (undergraduates, graduate students and faculty from UVA and elsewhere) as well as the broader public,” Carr said. “As far as the academic community goes, we provide support for research in the environmental sciences. This includes sites for field research, laboratory and greenhouse research, and housing for a community of over 30 researchers each summer.”
Carr believes Blandy would be proud of the impact his generosity has had on future researchers, educators and students.
“Blandy has a very active K-12 program that serves all of our local school districts, private schools, and home-schooled children (a total of over 6,000 students annually),” Carr said. “These programs provide inquiry-based learning opportunities with programs designed to address specific Virginia Standards of Learning for each grade level. We also provide programs for learners of all ages through workshops, lectures and field trips for adults and children.”
If you’d like your kids to find out about soil, snakes, birds and trees while learning about the environment, Blandy offers K-12 programs that meet the Standards of Learning. This win-win scenario creates the perfect opportunity for kids to get their energy out while discovering new and exciting facts about nature and wildlife.
Exploring Nature at Blandy
Blandy is known for the diverse and interactive programs they offer. While other kids are inside playing video games all winter, children who visit Blandy explore nature and learn about insects, nature and art from the expert staff there. The Young Naturalist program is designed to make learning fun for kids. But the learning opportunities don’t end there.
“Blandy also provides a diverse public program series each fall, spring and summer that targets audiences of all ages,” Carr said.
Gardening workshops, moonlit hikes, bike rides and field trip journeys to learn about wildflowers, Blandy offers a unique experience to those wanting to do something more unique or off-the-beaten-path. Pre-registration for their programs is recommended.
Fun at Blandy
Blandy Farm isn’t just a stomping ground of those looking to learn. There are plenty of attractions for non-academics as well.
Take the State Arboretum of Virginia. It gets more than 150,000 visitors each year. People go to the Arboretum for a variety of reasons, from biking to hiking, horseback riding on the Bridle Trail to walking the scenic trails there. Visitors can take self-guided tours to view the exotic and domestic trees and plants and flowers that are on-site in abundance.
“The Arboretum still has one of the most extensive conifer collections in North America with highlights including Cedars of Lebanon, Blue Atlas Cedars and pines from throughout the world,” Carr said. “Blandy also has one of the largest ginkgo collections in North America, and our grove of over 300 trees bursts into a glorious gold in late October each year.”
The Arboretum was the creation of Dr. Orland E. White, the first director there who developed the collections for his research and the research of his students.
“He had a particular interest in conifers, trees from temperate Asia and trees from the American southwest,” Carr said.
The plant varieties are impressive, as well. Visitors can journey down the Virginia Native Plant Trail and see the assortment of plants that are indigenous to the Commonwealth. In fact, since the 1980s, the Arboretum has focused on showing off plants that are original to Virginia.
“It is our goal to help connect our visitors to the rich botanical heritage of the Commonwealth,” Carr explained.
In addition to plants and trees, the Arboretum is home to a variety of specialty gardens.
“The Arboretum hosts a number of specialty gardens, including an herb garden and one of the most diverse collections of boxwoods in the world,” Carr said.
A particular favorite amongst Blandy’s gardens is the Community Farm. The Community Farm is a place where local families and groups can go to grow vegetables for themselves as well as
Growing Up Exciting Events
Blandy is host to two large public events each year. The larger of the two is Garden Fair, a huge outdoor event with a plant and garden supply sale, as well as free guided tours and demonstrations and a lot of fun activities for kids.
Garden Fair, presented by The Foundation of the State Arboretum, takes place this year on May 12-13, Mother’s Day weekend. It’s the Foundation’s biggest fundraiser of the year, yet, the events and activities are free. Guests can treat mom to the Arboretum’s annual sale from 9 a.m. and stay till 4:30 p.m. on both days if they’d like. Those with little ones will want to be on-site from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and from Noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday to take part in the activities for kids.
Last year, Garden Fair was a huge success. There were more than 80 Garden Fair vendors selling everything from native plants, perennials and annuals to bonsai and berry bushes. This year, in addition to plants, vendors will be offering botanical skin care products and handcrafted garden art and tools. There will also be gourmet food.
The cost is $10 per car. The money raised at the Garden Fair is used to support the programs offered at the State Arboretum.
Blandy’s other big annual event is ArborFest. This fall festival of sorts takes place the weekend of October 13-14 and offers another opportunity to purchase plants and items for your home and garden. In years past, ArborFest has included hayrides, apple tastings and scarecrow-making for the kids.
A relatively new annual event is the Membership Picnic. The second annual Membership Picnic will be held on June 23 and will include live music and children’s activities.
“Membership in the Foundation of the State Arboretum helps support Blandy and all of its programs,” Carr said.
Still, visitors don’t need to attend an event or become a member to explore Blandy throughout the year.
“Many of our visitors are here for our programs and special events, but the majority of our visitors explore Blandy and the Arboretum on their own,” Carr said. “Many simply enjoy the peace and beauty of walks through the Arboretum and along our trails. Many arrive to walk their dogs. Some ride bikes on our roads. Some even arrive with a horse to take advantage of our Bridle Trail. All hopefully gain an appreciation for the natural world and learn a thing or two about the importance of plants in our environment.”
To learn more about Blandy, the Arboretum and its programs, visit http://blandy.virginia.edu/.
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