April 2018 Friends of the Arboretum Newsletter

New Plants at the Arboretum

By Anne Wildeboor

There are so many things to look forward to in spring: longer days, warmer weather, blooming trees and flowers. At the Arboretum we are looking to forward to those things, but also the new layout of the Train Garden opening, the Whirlwind kinetic art exhibit, the new seating area in the Legacy Garden and of course new plants.

The new Train Garden layout is going to be fabulous. We, of course, are excited for the trains to chug up the hills and over the bridges, for the waterfall to cascade and the water fountain geyser to go off. The plants that surround the tracks are going to be a sight to see as well. The design includes a mix of ornamental grasses, sedums, perennials, shrubs and dwarf conifers. We are hoping to begin planting in late April, weather permitting of course. Keep your eye out for a new variety of Big Bluestem called Dancing Wind. It gets around six feet tall and two feet wide. It has beautiful red fall color and little red accents on the flower plumes. We are excited to sell this variety at the Plant Sale the first weekend in May. We need to have smaller plants that don’t obstruct the view of the G scale trains. Sedums and Thyme are two of our favorite plants to use. Sedum ‘Dazzleberry’ is a cute, compact smoky blue gray sedum that boasts bright raspberry flowers when it blooms. It’s going to look great near Sedum ‘Firecracker’ with its cherry, magenta foliage.

There are always fun and new perennials on the market. The trick is finding the unique ones that are actually going to do well in our climate and fit the theme or the look we are going for in that area of the garden. Helleborus, or the Lenten Rose, is a great early spring addition to the shady areas of your garden. They take very little maintenance and deliver a floral show for months! Confetti Cake and Dark and Handsome are two varieties that will be available at our Spring Plant Sale. Confetti Cake has double white blooms with burgundy speckles, while Dark and Handsome is a rich purple almost black double bloom. Give them a try, you will not be disappointed!

For some reason I keep thinking that this year is going to be a scorcher – maybe because we had a pretty nice year last year. So I thought it would be fun to try some new Agaves in the xeriscape garden. Take a peak at them online, Agave “Live Wires’, ‘Frosty Blue’ and ‘Desert Diamond’. I think they are going to be something fun and different.

We are hoping to get spring planting finished this week. This weather has been something! We have over eight different varieties of lettuce. I love the Red Oakleaf lettuce ‘Cavendish’ in the pots at Byrds Grove. The sweet pansies and violas take the cold temperatures like champs. I love the blue pansies in Ailies Glade. They have great faces and some dashing whiskers. The Twinny Peach Snapdragons are going to shine at the amphitheater. Of course there are the 20,000 bulbs that we planted in the fall to see as well. We look forward to seeing you in the gardens!

Volunteer Spotlight

It is an exciting time at the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. We are growing by leaps and bounds – our special events are seeing larger crowds; the grape bower in Legacy has been removed and is being replaced with a really cool “rammed earth” space; we have a new layout at the Train Garden featuring waterfalls and mountains; an Interpretive Trail is being planned; and the expansion of a new Visitor’s Center is in the works.

In addition to growing numbers and future plans, in case you have not heard, the Arboretum will be home to an 18 month exhibition called “Whirlwind: Art in Motion” Beginning April 21st, our beautiful garden will house thirteen kinetic sculptures that utilize elements in nature to bring them to life. Ten different artists from around the world created these unique moving art pieces that are whimsical, captivating and sure to bring curious visitors to the Arboretum.

As you can imagine, preparing for such an exhibit requires a lot of work – things like program development for the symposium and specialized tours, organizing the grand opening, establishing the curriculum for kids’ classes…it has all been in development for some time. Our featured volunteers for the month of April are three ladies that have worked tirelessly, for many months, to help see this project to fruition.

Nancy Jernberg, Pat Griggs and Linda Puetz, working with the Special Events and Education Coordinator, Katharine Garrison, have been creating unique activities and lesson plans – activities for younger children like building mobiles from materials found in nature, transforming unwanted items into fun pieces of art and designing windmills. They are also working on curriculum for middle and high school field trips. Kids from the elementary level to the high school level will be able to explore the art and science of kinetic sculpture. When you think about it, math (calculating angles), science (wind speed/direction) and art are perfectly blended when these pieces are created.


Nancy Jernberg, our first rockstar, has been volunteering at the Arboretum since February. Her volunteerism includes the Education Committee where she currently serves as its chair; The Interpretive Trail, Nights at the Arboretum, Luminary Walk, Stems, Brewfest, Spring Plant Sale and Wine Tastings on the Terrace. She is a member of the FOTA Advisory Board and is Chairperson for the Whirlwind Symposium.

Nancy has a long history of volunteering way before we were lucky enough to get her at the Arboretum: organizations like Oxford House for Women, Battered Women’s Task Force, Topeka Board of Realtors, Sheltered Living, Inc., Performing Arts for Children, Topeka YWCA are just a few. Prior to retirement, she worked as a Speech Language Pathologist, a Real Estate Agent and Broker and was the owner of three small businesses. Nancy uses her passion for helping others and her professional experience in education to make a huge impact at the Arboretum. When asked what makes her happiest, she says, “being outdoors – I like to get my hands in the dirt.” She is constantly working on her gardens at her home. She and her partner James are also Porsche enthusiasts – they enjoy traveling to car shows and checking out vintage models.

Pat Griggs is our second superstar. Pat has been volunteering at the Arboretum since January. In her short time, she has been involved in outreach activities, tours, Luminary Walk, Garden Greeter, Enchanted Forest activities, Hedge Apple Day and Nights at the Arboretum. She is also on the Education Committee.

You may have guessed. Pat’s professional career was that of an educator. She was a teacher for 41 years at the high school level; she taught in both Missouri and Kansas before retiring in May of 2015. She says she is happiest when she is with family and friends, especially her husband and son. She goes on to say that “the Arboretum offers a lot of opportunities to volunteer and meet wonderful people.” Her passion is teaching and helping others so she appreciates her role on the Education Committee which allows her to continue to work with students. Pat has a heart of gold which is evident when she states, “I enjoy being able to help anyone out in any capacity that I can!”

Our third and final rockstar is Linda Puetz. Linda has been volunteering at the Arboretum just a little over a year where she hit the ground running! Linda is one of our weekly gardeners, participates in Hedge Apple Day, was a zone lead at last year’s Stems event and serves on the Education Committee.

Prior to retirement, Linda worked as a registered nurse caring for critically ill infants and children; she then became an education specialist at Children’s Mercy and Midwest Bioethics Center. The last 14 years of her career was that of a senior learning manager at Cerner Corporation where she worked with physicians, nurses and other staff at hospitals in almost all 50 states as well as abroad. She retired from Cerner in December 2016. Linda says she is happiest when she finds out something she did, said, created or organized made a difference for someone. She enjoys working with passionate people to create positive changes and she is also happiest when she is spending time with family and close friends. Her hobbies include traveling, photography, baking and nurturing her vegetable and flower garden. She is a trailblazer and says she enjoys challenging herself to learn and experience new things even when she’s scared to do it. She gives a lot of credit to Nancy, Pat and Katharine, stating, “they are incredibly creative, knowledgeable, caring and fun women who are passionate about creating the highest quality learning events and resources for the Whirlwind: Art in Motion exhibit.”

As you can see from these women’s achievements, they are all unbelievably talented, enthusiastic and goal oriented. They are deliberate with their plans and have the work ethic and dedication to turn these plans into tangible programs. We are so lucky to have such a powerful group of women working and promoting the Arboretum. Thank you for all you do, ladies!