Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Volunteers cultivate historic arboretum

Poolesville garden could be public space, host wedding receptions

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Laurie DeWitt⁄The Gazette
Luke Glenn, 11, and his mother Janis, tend the garden at the John Poole House in Poolesville. They have spent the summer working in the garden and transplanting herbs from their own historic home to the Edward L. Stock Jr. Memorial Arboretum.
Just behind the John Poole House, the oldest building in Poolesville, lies a small garden sheltered by a lush ring of trees. In the more than 30 years since the Edward L. Stock Jr. Memorial Arboretum was established, some of the plants have died off and others overtaken by invasive species, but a group of volunteers is helping it blossom again.

Planted in 1976 to replicate the gardens popular when the log house was built in 1793, the arboretum suffered from a lack of upkeep in recent years. New life was breathed into the garden last fall by a $1,000 grant from the nonprofit Preservation Maryland and the efforts of two Poolesville High School seniors.

‘‘It was just what was really needed to kick-start it,” Steve Goldberg, board president of the nonprofit Historic Medley District, which bought the property in 1974, said of the grant. ‘‘It was definitely due for a revamp.”

The late Beallsville resident Edward Stock, who operated a nursery and landscaping business, developed the 0.83-acre arboretum by scouring the areas around Sugarloaf Mountain, the C&O Canal and the Potomac River for native plants and species brought to Maryland by the first European settlers, according to information provided by HMD. In addition to the Virginia pine and wild ginger edging the site, there was an herb garden stocked with plants used for dyes, cooking, medicines and fragrances.

The arboretum became overgrown over the last four years after the loss of its two main caretakers - garden curator Mollie Stock, Edward Stock’s daughter, moved away, and longtime HMD member Cissy Banfield died.

‘‘People don’t realize plants don’t last an eternity. They get crowded, the light changes,” Goldberg said. ‘‘...It’s just a gem that needs to be polished.”

Ashley Funk and Tyler Lang, students in Poolesville High’s Global Ecology Program, spent more than 50 hours in the spring revitalizing the herb garden for their senior project. They grew and replanted the herbs, mulched, weeded and made signs identifying the garden’s specimens.

‘‘We learned a lot about native plants because it’s completely native. It was a lot of work, but it was fun doing it,” said Funk, 18, of Beallsville. Both she and Lang, a 17-year-old from Germantown, plan to study environmental science in college, she said.

Volunteers have also been adding to the garden and weeding the arboretum’s perimeter.

‘‘It’s a beautiful little place. It just needs to be tended, like anything,” Janis Glenn of Poolesville said Sunday as she surveyed the rosemary, chamomile, lady’s mantle and sunflowers perfuming the air. She and her son Luke, who will be a fifth-grader at Monocacy Elementary School in Dickerson, have spent the summer working in the garden and transplanting herbs from their own historic home to the arboretum.

The arboretum’s caretakers hope to add a focal point such as a gazebo and transform the grounds into a relaxing public space that could host events such as wedding receptions, Goldberg said, adding that they hope to finish the project in a year.

‘‘There’s not many places in Poolesville where you can sit on a bench with some tea,” Glenn said. ‘‘There’s nothing like a blooming garden.”

A growing interest

To learn more about the Edward L. Stock Memorial Arboretum, 19923 Fisher Ave., visit or e-mail

The John Poole House and Museum Shop are open noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays weather permitting and on other days by chance. Call 301-972-8588 to make sure the site is open.