Something new is abuzz at the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum this week.

For the 15th annual Frances Litten Botanical Event, the arboretum is expanding the series into a weeklong virtual learning experience this year.

Last year, the event was open to the public and attended by approximately 150 guests interested in learning about beneficial fungi and the roles fungi play in plant life. This year, the arboretum team curated a selection of videos and resources about pollinators rather than a live event with one speaker.

Morgan Paixão, public relations and marketing specialist, said the pollinator theme was selected as a sign of hope for better days ahead.

“We can continue to help our pollinators, get the education out there, have people plant native plants to create pollinator habitats,” she said. “I think it feels very invigorating for 2021 and a call for action, just creating new energy for the year as we come out of this pandemic.”

The educational event was founded in memory of Frances Ann Minor Litten of Bridgewater. Litten was an accomplished horticulturist who served on the advisory board of the arboretum urban and had experience with Greener Harrisonburg, Round Hill Garden Club and the Shenandoah District of the Virginia Federation of Garden Clubs. Her husband, Don, established a fund to facilitate guest speakers lecturing for years to come.

One of the videos uploaded on the learning portal features Detroit Hives, an urban project transforming vacant lots into apiaries for community development.

County resident Lynda Chandler attended last year’s botanical event and said she thoroughly enjoyed the lecture on micro-fungal growth and trees, but she does not plan to take part this year due to the weight of COVID-19 and the wintry weather on her mind.

“I know the arboretum staff are great and the presentation will be as good as they can make it,” she said. “Perhaps I am somewhat seasonally depressed this year. When those of us over 65 can get our vaccines and relax a bit, summer might be a good time to hold this event as a do-over.”

Amy Johnson is a conservation biologist and the program director for Smithsonian’s Virginia Working Landscape. In a TEDxPearlStreet Talk shared for the pollinator series, Johnson talks about the exponentially declining bird populations.

“We’ve lost nearly 3 billion birds since 1970, with grassland birds, those birds that are living on our farms, they’ve taken the hardest hit,” Johnson said in the video. “The health of our bird community directly reflects the health of our planet. … They pollinate our plants, they eat our agricultural pests, they disperse our seeds, they plant our trees.”

The arboretum webpage also features several vivid stills of pollinators frolicking through the diverse blossoms and foliage found at Harrisonburg’s botanic garden.

One individual step to supporting pollinator populations is through cultivating native plants, so webinars, suggested readings and a plant list are posted for the Frances Litten Botanical Event.

Paixão said this weeklong program is the first phase of welcoming back spring and reconnecting with the community after a long winter trapped indoors.

“People are starting to get the itch to plan their garden, and we’ll have our first plant sale coming up in April. So, we’ll also have a series of other virtual garden talks,” Paixão said. “It’s our garden series, and that will be a live virtual event, so it kind of kicks off our spring calendar for us.”

The event’s learning portal will be available through Sunday. The following spring celebrations begin with an overview of herbal and medicinal gardening on March 24, bird habitat gardening on April 7 and a pollinator garden talk on April 14. On April 23, the arboretum will kick off its first plant sale of the season.

Contact Kathleen Shaw at 574-6274 or kshaw@dnronline.com. Follow Kathleen on Twitter @shawkareport

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