New College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Richard H. Linton and his wife, Sally, joined the festivities Sept. 21 as more than 200 gardening enthusiasts and supporters of the JC Raulston Arboretum gathered for an evening of special arboretum celebrations.
First, it was the 10th anniversary of the $4.2 million Ruby C. McSwain Education Center, which was dedicated on Sept. 21, 2002 at N.C. State University’s nationally renowned gardens. Since then the facility has been an important resource to the College, the university and the community, as the site of thousands of meetings, horticulture classes, workshops, celebratory gatherings and other events. Named for North Carolina philanthropist Ruby C. McSwain, the 6,000-square-foot education center houses classrooms, meeting space, volunteer and staff offices, the York Auditorium and the headquarters of the Garden Club of North Carolina.
The celebration began with a late-afternoon reception near the Bobby Wilder Visitors Center. Guests then moved via scenic garden paths to the dedication of the arboretum’s Lath House, newly designed and constructed, located next to the arb’s Japanese Garden. Also called a “shade house,” it is a structure that allows in air and light while screening plants from hot sun and dry winds. Participating in the ribbon-cutting were Linton; Dr. John Dole, head of the CALS Horticultural Science Department; Dr. Ted Bilderback, JCRA director; and CALS horticultural science alumni Mike Stallings and Mitzi Hole, who contributed funding of the construction and completion of the Lath House.
Also on hand for the dedication were architect Frank Harmon, who donated the design of the Lath House, and CALS horticultural science alumnus Chuck Friedrich, whose company Carolina Stalite donated much of the facility’s planting media.
Linton thanked those and other contributors, including the JCRA Master Planning Committee, past JCRA director Dr. Dennis Werner, Paige Moody of Arbor Enterprises and her crew leader Jose Lopez, Sherry Beck of Johnson Concrete, and the many students/interns who had participated in the construction.
“The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has a rich tradition and long-standing reputation for excellence in research, teaching, outreach and international programs, and the JC Raulston Arboretum certainly represents all these areas and much more,” Linton said. “I am pleased and honored to be part of such a great organization that is transforming and integrating science and education, and I look forward to my new leadership role as dean.”
Bilderback then introduced event co-sponsor Bobby Wilder, and Ross Williams, CALS alumnus and executive director of the N.C. Nursery and Landscape Association, who had his own special presentation to make: a $12,500 matching-gift pledge to benefit the arboretum’s Endowment for Excellence. This endowment supports new garden development and renovations, plant research and staff salaries.
Following a catered barbecue dinner served near the McSwain Center’s soothing rock-wall waterfall fountain, the guests moved indoors for the evening’s third celebration event — the presentation of the first J.C. Raulston Distinguished Leadership Award, honoring a recipient who has made significant contributions in fulfilling Raulston’s slogan, “plan and plant for a better world.”
Linton presented the inaugural award to Tony Avent of Plant Delights Nursery at Juniper Level Botanic Gardens. The award came as a surprise to Avent — a 1978 CALS horticultural science alumnus, former protégé of J.C. Raulston and an early curator of the original Lath House — who was attending the event as its keynote speaker.
After accepting the award, Avent gave his keynote presentation “Hunter-Gatherer-Propagator – the Wonderful World of Plant Propagation.” He spoke about how Raulston had influenced his work and about his own international travels in search of rare and new plants. The evening concluded as Avent hosted a live auction of specially selected plants.
The celebration continued the following day (Saturday) with a silent auction, plant sale, boxed lunch and presentations by former JCRA directors Dr. Dennis Werner and Dr. Bob Lyons. – Terri Leith