It doesn’t seem like another year has passed but there we were gathered in the magnificent Founders Hall. The annual event brought together current and retired staff, members of the Arboretum Association, alumni, current students and guests. As is typical for the sun in mid October fashion, while it approaches the horizon it basks the Great Hall in beautiful long shadows spanning the width of the room. Outside, the campus was in full autumnal glory.
Once the happy hour wrapped up, Arboretum Director, Bill Astifan greeted the attendees. He then conducted a short business meeting followed by a brief historical jaunt through campus via power point. Bill invited everyone to find their seats and then we were treated to a delicious meal.
The venerable and opinionated father of American botany was in attendance this night. Quaker gentleman, John Bartram (1699-1777) portrayed in character and dress by Mr. Kirk Brown was sensational.
His musings of best friend Benjamin Franklin and additionally, contemporary plantsmen Peter Collinson, Dr. John Fothergill and Billy (son, William Bartram) were stellar. He talked about his travels down to south east Georgia where in its untouched splendor, he first encountered the Franklin tree, Franklinia alatamaha. This tree has been extinct in the wild since 1803. Seeds collected by John and Billy are the reason we can still enjoy this plant relic. The horticultural trade today owes him debt of gratitude for introducing 200 species which we take for granted in our gardens.
It is always a pleasure to spend this evening with friends and I look forward to our time together next year.