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The Holden Arboretum and its Intern Programme

Volume 2 Number 3 - May 1994
Bruce Cubberley

The Holden Arboretum is located 25 miles east of Cleveland, Ohio. At over 3,100 acres in area, it is one of the largest arboreta in the United States.

The establishment of an arboretum in Cleveland was the idea of Albert Fairchild Holden, a mining engineer and executive, and his sister Roberta Holden Bole. When he died in 1913, he left a trust agreement to provide funds designated for an arboretum and it was finally established in 1931 by a donation of 100 acres by his sister and her husband. Since that time many others have given land and operating funds. In particular, Mr and Mrs Warren H. Corning were responsible for the Corning Library of Horticultural Classics and major land acquisitions. It is thus a private foundation run by Board of Trustees. In 1989 the board approved Master Plan 2000, a 20-year plan produced by outside consultants which will ensure that the Holden Arboretum will continue to be one of the finest arboreta in the United States well into the 21st century.

There are more than 300 acres of plant collections for study, research and evaluation, and 65 acres of collections are arranged in garden settings. The largest horticultural collections are of crab-apples, rhododendrons, and lilacs. In addition, there is a Display Garden, a five acre naturalistic landscape surrounding a pond, a wildflower garden and a 4.5 acre estate garden with perennial borders and other specialized gardens. There are 4,800 woody plant taxa, represented by 16,500 plants from 8,400 accessions.

The arboretum is particularly interested in growing native Ohio woody and herbaceous plant species and their cultivars. These species are displayed in habitat plantings that as far as possible mirror those in the wild . This concept is largely untried and, when complete, the garden will consist of 28 habitat planting areas. The cultivation of wild species means that they can be reintroduced into the wild and the knowledge gained will help the management of native habitats. A three-year study has been completed in Ohio on the germination requirements and population viability of selected, monitored rare plant species, funded by the Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.

There are 138 species restricted to Ohio in cultivation in the garden. The arboretum is closely involved with the programme of the Center for Plant Conservation, based in St Louis, Missouri, and 27 species which are endangered at the national level are in cultivation. The arboretum has also supplied seeds of native perennial species to nurseries for introduction into the trade.

The Holden Arboretum is fortunate in having a large proportion of its area in a natural state. Habitats include forests, fields, ponds, and streams. The Arboretum contains sizeable examples of three native eastern hardwood forest communities: beech/sugar maple, oak/maple and mixed mesophytic forest. Holden also has, thanks to Lake Erie's moderating influence on our climate and variations in elevation of over 600 feet, microclimates that support more unusual plants.

Three natural areas are unique and have been recognized as National Natural Landmarks by the United States Department of the Interior. Stebbins Gulch - a 300 foot ravine with spectacular geological formations; Little Mountain - mixed mesophytic forest with stands of virgin white pine and tremendous rock formations; and Bole Woods -- a fine example of climax forest with magnificent specimens of red oak, beech, sugar maple and tupelo.

The arboretum has a very active education department, offering 240 classes annually, with programmes for over 10,000 school children, 875 clients participating in horticultural therapy programmes, and a quarterly publication.

As part of its Mission Statement, the Holden Arboretum offers seven short-term training posts, known as Internships: Horticulture (1 year), Horticulture Maintenance (3 months), Landscape Gardening (3-5 months), Nursery Production (3 months), Conservation (3 months), Horticultural Therapy (6 months) and Education (3-5 months). The Arboretum offers free housing and a competitive rates of pay . The Internship training includes weekly education sessions and field trips to other horticultural institutions and the opportunity to attend all classes, lectures and hikes held at the arboretum.

An intern at the The Holden Arboretum will have an unique opportunity to experience various job responsibilities in a professional environment dedicated to education and public service. It will be of particular benefit for someone already working in an arboretum or botanic garden to gain experience in another garden. The arboretum is particularly interested in providing training for foreign students and was awarded the James Newby Award by the Association for International Practical Training.