From our Director

From our Director

While I am sure we have not totally escaped the cold winter weather just yet, blooming daffodils in my garden suggest that Spring may be just around the corner and sure to be here soon! The 60-70 degree weather in late January certainly has a way of getting one to begin thinking of getting that new flower bed established or at least looking at plant catalogs and begin the dreaming process! Any way welcome to February and thanks to those of you who have contributed to our annual campaign or have become a new member recently!

In a recent vacation over the holidays I experienced firsthand the value of my membership at Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center. My family including my grandchildren recently visited the Edison / Ford Estate and Garden in Fort Myers Florida. My nine family members and myself entered the line waiting to buy tickets and I began calculating what this was going to cost me (of course all grandparents are expected to pay the bill, right?) As responsible parents and grandparents we wanted to make sure that the experience was going to be as enjoyable as possible for all of us so we decided we wanted to also get the option of joining a group tour that had a personal guide. The price of admission was $20 for adults and $12 for children, the guide was an additional $10 for adults and $8.00 for children. As we got closer to the ticket agent we happen to think of our membership card at our Chattanooga facility and got it out of my wallet and went up to the window with card in hand. The attendant read the card, referred to a directory and said we were a member agency with the American Horticultural Association which provided a discount. My stress level began to subside and when the register stopped calculating the attendant said we had saved $118.00 due to our membership at Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center in Chattanooga. What a great experience, but that is only one of the values of an annual membership. This reciprocal agreement applies to over 300 botanical gardens and 180 nature centers where their admission rates are often far more than what we have in Chattanooga. And “that’s not all”, for all renewing members a free subscription to Better Homes and Gardens is provided. I strongly urge you to enroll as members and share this little story with others to encourage them to become members.

You will note that we are welcoming two new people to our staff, which have already made a significant impact in the last two weeks to our exposure and development initiatives. We welcome Susan Philips as our Marketing and Development Director and Dr. Larry Miller who will be the Executive Assistant to the President. In addition to this progress we are in the midst of making major improvements to the present collections in our Philp Memorial Garden and the existing beds at the sensory garden. We anticipate that with the continued assistance of volunteers from the Tennessee Valley Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society together with our limited staff that you will be able to see some visible improvements this Spring when you come to the plant sale April 21 & 22. We will also be working as a state project site with the 2017 Weed Wrangle which is a volunteer led operation to help reduce the number of invasive plants in our garden. The program is being conducted March 4th and as many of you as possible that can come out and help wrangle a few weeds we would be very appreciative and our garden will be the beneficiary!

In cooperative partnerships with others in the plant world we had one of the initial meetings back in June of last year here at the gardens of a statewide initiative called the Tennessee Plant Conservation Alliance. We are excited about the prospects of playing a significant role with this new organization. In fact Reflection riding Arboretum and Nature center will be the host for a three state cooperative meeting of PCA’s this coming May. The following is an update from their last meeting:

On Thursday, January 19th 25 native plant enthusiasts from across the state met at Cheekwood Botanical Garden to form the Tennessee Plant Conservation Alliance. With the guidance of Matt Richards, Conservation Horticulture Manager at the Atlanta Botanical Garden and representing the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance, the committee members discussed the structure of the proposed alliance and shortly after 1:00 p.m. voted to form the Tennessee Plant Conservation Alliance. The alliance is a network of private and public entities that agree to work together to leverage expertise and resources for a common goal to conserve the state’s native plants and their habitats. In close coordination with the TDEC- Division of Natural Areas, which has lead responsibility for plant conservation in the state, the alliance will prioritize native plant species and plant communities for conservation projects. The alliance will be project driven and focus on preventing plant extinctions in the state. A coordinator will be hired in the near future to facilitate communication among members, including volunteers, and implementation of alliance activities. The coordinator will be positioned within the Center of Excellence for Field Biology at Austin Peay State University. The Tennessee Plant Conservation Alliance will be a statewide network of conservation professionals and specially trained volunteers actively working to conserve and restore Tennessee’s imperiled plant species and their habitats.

We are equally delighted to have the Georgia Botanical Garden Society visiting our area in their 48th annual Spring Flower pilgrimage to Chattanooga April 7-9, 2017 to visit many places in the Cumberland area and tour the native wildflowers.  They will have at least three sessions at Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center and we look forward to playing as their host as both Corey Hagen and John Evans will be working with them to make sure their visit is worthwhile.
We are excited about these activities taking place at our sixty year old facility and February will be one of the most active winter months in a long time! Please check out the web page for free member events and enjoy some of the excellent programs that are on the line up. We still have a need for silent auction items for the Comedy for Conservation fundraising event February 23 at 6pm, tickets are also still available by calling the visitors center at 821-1160.
As I have mentioned before in this newsletter, I would love to hear your ideas and comments for improving our services to the Hamilton County population and the surrounding region. Please take the time to drop me a line at Lazehnder@reflectionriding.org .
Thank you for your support!

Larry Zehnder
President /CEO