Linwood’s arboretum first came into being at a meeting of the town’s City Council in April 2007, with a proposal that the tract of land across from Belhaven Middle School, the site of a former electrical substation acquired via the Green Acres program, be turned into an arboretum. City Council agreed unanimously to this idea. Next came discussions among a small group of local citizens that led to an application for funding from the Open Spaces program of Atlantic County. In late 2008, the city received a grant slightly in excess of $143,000. (There was a separate budget of about $19,000 for plant acquisition, to assure direct and local control of the nature of the plant selections. This was from the City of Linwood.)
The following months were extremely busy. Architectural plans were drawn up by Doorje Schipper Fenwick and enthusiastically endorsed by all parties, including George Butrus, who shortly became chairman of Linwood’s new Shade Tree Commission.
Meanwhile, Allen Lacy, former Stockton College professor of philosophy and horticulture, who had also been garden columnist for The New York Times, began to visit leading wholesale nurseries, including Pleasant Run Nursery of Allentown, NJ, in order to identify the trees and shrubs that would make up the arboretum’s initial collections.
In July, 2009 construction began, and in mid-September a large group of volunteers planted over 200 trees and shrubs, a feat accomplished within two weekends.
Professor Allen Lacy served as the arboretum’s first Curator until his passing in December 2015. George Butrus succeeded Allen as Curator.
Several criteria governed plant selection. One was suitability for residential landscaping. Another was comparative uncommonness. Given the superabundance of forsythias, Bradford pears, weeping cherries, and other common (and over-planted) flowering plants of high spring, there was little reason to include them. Thus there is a strong emphasis in our collections on plants that bloom in autumn, even in mid-winter.
As well, although some plants that were chosen were singletons, one of their kind, there was a greater emphasis on collections of species and cultivated varieties (cultivars) within particular genera, such as redbuds (Cercis), hollies (Ilex), and Hamamelis. The collection of Magnolia species and hybrid cultivars, was particularly rich, numbering eleven kinds, including yellow-flowered varieties very rarely seen in our region. We also took steps to include some-so-called “living fossils,” plants of great geological age, such as the maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba) and the dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides).
All of these collections were notable for including both North American and East Asian representatives, a fact of considerable scientific interest, as such geographical pattern of distribution is explicable rationally only be reference to plate tectonics and other recent geological theories. (By Allen Lacy)
In concept, the Linwood Arboretum owes the greatest debt to the late Professor J.C.Raulston (1940-1996) founder of the arboretum at North Carolina State University now named in his memory. Our arboretum emulates his in its strong emphasis on worthy but neglected, uncommonly used trees and shrubs especially suited for landscaping suburban home properties of moderate size. (By Allen Lacy)