Tuesday, January 26, 2010

UU Arboretum

Under the Tulip Poplar Canopy

I have been cooped in the house for longer than I care. The other day there was a break in the cold and wet weather and I had a chance to escape outdoors. Around here winters are wet, humid, and gray. My escape happened in a wonderful sunny day but as I drove the piles of snow still lay in corners of parking lots and underpasses from our December storm.

Memorial bench overlooking garden and wilderness

I joined a friend and her two pooches in an adventure around the grounds of the Cherry Hill Unitarian Universalist Church. Located in an otherwise busy and developed area of Cherry Hill the church grounds offer a 17 acre oasis of wilderness and cared gardens to its members. Conceived in 1962 and cared for by volunteers the growth has been slow but constant and there are wonderful plants and vistas.

Camellias plumping spring blooms

The exotic Blue Chinafir (Cunninghamia lanceolata "Glauca")

I was truly surprised how such a parcel of land could have survived the bulldozers in this part of New Jersey. The reality of course is that nothing much survives unless there is no value to the land or not allowed for development. Given that State and Federal parks have claimed and protected much of the great sites, smaller parcels that remain in our communities undeveloped are left because they are wet.

Stewartia Bark

Wetlands protection started occurring in the US in the 1970’s. Before then, only prominent shore destinations had been filled and claimed for construction before governments realized the importance of these wonderful natural filters. Areas away from the coast were always the last to be reclaimed for development because of the cost associated with draining or piping the water.

Mahonia bealei

Today, wetlands are highly protected by governments and represent most of the open space we see. This is because builders develop every square inch of land they can get through the development process and declare the land they can’t develop as open space for the “benefit of the public”. If I sound cynical, it is not surprising, given the balderdash I have heard from developers in all my years trying to guide and produce sensitive development.

Staghorn Sumac ( Rhus typhina) decorating the grounds

While waiting for my friend I was looking at the tree canopy and came across a large bird that proved to be an eagle. It was a golden or immature eagle. Later I saw a multitude of birds including a hawk with a rabbit in tow for lunch. I was told that there are foxes, and large owls about. Truly a wonderful spot with incredible and rare plants that are used for education and background to garden events of the UU community.

Two of my walking companions waiting for their treats and a ride home

Our walk was amazing and relaxing for me. I was in good company and I was ecstatic to be outdoors, not only amazed at the beauty and wilderness of this remarkable tract of land but all that was in it. The arboretum is guided by a very knowledgeable Landscape Architect, Ken Arnold who with a few volunteers has been subtly introducing new plantings in the garden areas and ensuring that the wilderness wetland remains untouched. Kudos, Mr. Arnold!

1 comment:

  1. The walk was amazing and relaxing for me too so let's do it again soon. Each time we walk the land there will be changes as the days lengthen and the land wakes up. So glad you appreciate it!