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Awbury’s Arbor Day – Celebrating Community, Nature, and History

April 15, 2013

Awbury’s Arbor Day – Celebrating Community, Nature, and History article was written and submitted by Beth Miner, Outreach and Community Engagement Manager at Awbury Arboretum.

Awbury’s Arbor Day – Celebrating Community, Nature, and History

According to the Arbor Day Foundation, modern “Arbor Day” celebrations in the U.S. find their roots in Nebraska City, where on April 10th 1872, an estimated one million trees were planted.  This first Arbor Day tree-planting effort was spearheaded by J. Sterling Morton, a journalist, horticulturalist, and politician who had moved to the treeless plains of Nebraska from Detroit, Michigan.  Morton experimented with tree-planting on his homestead, and used his position as editor of the Nebraska City Newspaper to promote the benefits of trees and encourage people to plant them.  Morton later went on to become Secretary of Agriculture under President Grover Cleveland.  Though Arbor Day has never been made a federal holiday, it is usually celebrated on the last Friday of April in the U.S., though states vary in their celebrations based on proper planting times for different climates.Awbury Spring

A holiday focused on celebrating trees seems appropriate for an Arboretum, which, by definition, is a collection of trees and shrubs – a botanical garden with a focus on woody plants.  Beyond serving as a repository for specimens, many Arboreta, such as Awbury, are open to the public for passive recreation such as walking, jogging, birdwatching and picnicking, and offer services including educational classes, job training programs, and community events.

Awbury’s Arbor Day Celebration, slated for Saturday, April 27th, seeks to celebrate the intersection of trees, green spaces, and communities – a 21st-century urban spin on a 141 year old tradition.

Tree-planting will occur at Awbury’s “Agricultural Village”, where Awbury Education Director Heather Zimmerman will be working with the Philadelphia Orchard Project, Weavers Way Community Programs, and numerous volunteers to install fruit trees in a new Edible Forest Garden.  The garden has been designed based on principles of Permaculture, and, in concert with Awbury’s new teaching kitchen (currently under construction), the Edible Forest will serve the partnering organizations as a dynamic teaching tool for learners of all ages.

At the other end of the Arboretum’s 55 acres, a “Garden Fair”, spearheaded by Awbury neighbor “MyPlace Germantown” , seeks to engage local residents with Awbury’s landscape and raise awareness of and support for both organizations.  MyPlace Germantown is fairly new to the community, and unique in providing the only permanent housing for men with special needs in the city of Philadelphia.  MPG’s small scale and integration into the community serves as a model for addressing homelessness in a holistic way.  The “Garden Fair” will be a free, day-long event, consisting of fun, family-friendly activities with a focus on gardens, growing, and green things.  Through hosting the fair, Awbury and MPG staff, volunteers and board members hope to raise awareness and community support for both organizations.

To plan and facilitate such an active day, Awbury has leaned heavily on another partnership—this one with neighboring LaSalle University.  Each semester, students from COM 407, Dr. Michael Smith’s PR Management class, work with select local non-profits on service-learning projects in the field of Public Relations.  The students act as consulting teams, assisting organizations with program planning and management.  Students have the opportunity to experience first-hand the relationship between public relations and community building, while lending a much-needed hand to local 501(c)3’s.  This year, 10+ Seniors have dedicated significant time and energy during their final college semester to promotion and coordination of Arbor Day, and will be serving as volunteers on the day of the event.

Yes, there will be tree-planting at Awbury’s Arbor Day, but it’s more about the forest than the trees – growing and nurturing the community connections, partnerships, and shared stories that make Awbury Arboretum and the Germantown community a vital and vibrant landscape in Northwest Philadelphia.

For more information on Arbor Day, go to

The Awbury Arboretum Association:  The Awbury Arboretum Association is a non-profit public arboretum whose mission is to preserve and interpret Awbury’s historic house and landscape, thereby connecting an urban community with nature and history.

The Philadelphia Orchard Project:  POP is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that plants orchards in the city of Philadelphia for the purpose of growing healthy food, green spaces, and community food security.

Weavers Way Community Programs: Weavers Way Community Programs (WWCP) was formed in 2007, as the non-profit arm of Weavers Way Co-op, a 5,000-member community owned market with locations in the Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill.   WWCP’s mission is to build the Northwest Philadelphia community by fostering cooperative activities that support local food production, economic literacy, a sustainable environment, and healthy lifestyles.

MyPlace Germantown:  My Place Germantown is a Pennsylvania not-for-profit organization whose mission is to reduce homelessness in the Germantown section of Philadelphia by providing permanent supportive housing for homeless males with strong ties to the area.

La Salle University: La Salle University, dedicated in the traditions of the Christian Brothers to excellence in teaching and to concern for both ultimate values and for the individual values of its students, is a private Roman Catholic University committed to providing a liberal education of both general and specialized studies.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 15, 2013 7:55 am

    Good site you have got here.. It’s hard to find quality writing like yours nowadays.
    I honestly appreciate people like you! Take care!!

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