Cabin fever? Get out of the house for the Arboretum’s nature programs

Got cabin fever? The Connecticut College Arboretum, drawing on the knowledge of its professors, horticulturalists and students as well as local experts, offers nature programs that encourage one to leave the house and awaken to new learning possibilities in 2016.

Begin with waterfowl watching in January, tap maples and identify trees in February, learn the arts of basket making and pruning in March, grow plants from seed or study nature photography in April, enjoy birding, hiking and wildflower walks in May, and in June, stroll through New London to identify its trees or take up a brush to paint landscapes.

The Arboretum is also introducing a new series of free guided tours: First Friday of the Month Tours. The first will be a Feb. 5 tour of the Connecticut College Greenhouse at noon.

All programs are open to the public, and many are free or available at a discounted rate with a membership to the Arboretum. Registration is required for all programs. All programs are free for Connecticut College students.

For membership information or to register for a program, please visit the Arboretum website at, call the Arboretum office, 860-439-5020, or email

Here are the programs for the first half of 2016:

Winter Waterfowl
Saturday, January 30, 9 to 11 a.m.
Robert Askins, Katharine Blunt Professor of Biology
Meet and park at the east end of Bentham Avenue (Waterford) just before the railroad tracks.
Free to members, $10 general public

The section of the Thames River from Mamacoke Island to Smith Cove is one of the best spots in eastern Connecticut to see wintering waterfowl. The site includes three coves and two salt ponds that provide important habitat for a variety of ducks that spend the winter in Connecticut. Consequently this site, which is a natural area within the Connecticut College Arboretum, has been designated as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. During winter, the coves support several waterfowl species plus Bald Eagles, Pied-billed Grebes and American Coots. Dress for the weather. Scopes will be provided.

First Friday of the Month Guided Tour
Friday, Feb. 5, Noon
A tour of the Connecticut College Greenhouse.
Free. Meet in front of the blue sculpture near the main entrance by New London Hall.

Tap into Maple Syrup Production
Saturday, February 13, 10 a.m. to noon
Jim Luce, Supervisor of Grounds
Meet in Olin Science Center Lounge.
Free to members, $10 general public

Enjoy time outdoors making one of nature’s sweet treats. Maple syrup starts to run in late winter when temperatures climb above freezing during the day and drop back below freezing at night. Participants will learn how to identify the different species of maple trees, install a spile and safely produce maple syrup.

Winter Tree ID
Saturday, February 27, 10 a.m. to noon
Mary Villa, Arboretum Curator
Meet in the Olin Science Center Lounge
Free to members, $10 general public

It is fairly easy to identify many trees by their leaves but once the leaves have fallen, it can be challenging. This workshop starts indoors with a brief introduction to plant identification using keys. Then we will head outside where you will look at deciduous, native trees while they are dormant. Looking at trees as a whole, with their unique bark and branching patterns, twigs, buds, any leftover fruit and persistent leaves, helps them become recognizable — even during the winter.

Basket Making
Friday, March 4, 3 to 6 p.m.
Manuel Lizarralde, Professor of Botany and Anthropology
Meet in New London Hall, Botany Lab, Room 112
$15 members, $25 general public

Basket making is an important tradition in the heritage of American Indians. In this workshop, participants will make a basket of traditional design using rattan reeds.

The Art and Science of Pruning
Saturday, March 26, 10 a.m. to noon
Jim Luce, Supervisor of Grounds
Meet in New London Hall, Classroom 101
$10 members, $15 general public

Trees and shrubs thrive with judicious pruning. This workshop will cover what, when, how and why to prune. Topics covered will include training young trees and shrubs to avoid future problems, renovating overgrown shrubs and pruning hedges. After a brief lecture inside, participants will go outside to view pruning demonstrations on campus plantings.

Know GMOs: The Future of Agriculture
Wednesday, March 30, 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Meet in Olin Science Center Auditorium
Free, registration requested

Are you interested in learning the truth about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)? This panel discussion will focus on consumer education and understanding of genetically engineered crops. The panelists are scientists and practitioners. Each will briefly introduce their views on genetic engineering and its use in our food system, and then answer questions from the audience.
Co-sponsored by Denison Pequotsepos/Coogan Farm Nature and Heritage Preserve

Growing Plants from Seed
Saturday, April 2, 9 a.m. to noon
Maggie Redfern, Assistant Director and Leigh Knuttel, Horticulturalist
Meet in New London Hall, Botany Lab, Room 112
$15 members, $25 general public

From annuals and perennials to trees and shrubs, success can be achieved if you understand what triggers germination and the growing process. This workshop is for beginners and those who have been frustrated in past attempts to transform seed to seedling. Students will leave class with a selection of potted seeds.

Nature Photography
Saturdays, April 16 and 23, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Roger Riley, Riley Photographic
Meet in Olin Science Center, Geophysics Lab, Room 113
$25 members, $35 general public

This two-part workshop will begin in the studio with tips on getting a better photo. Later you will explore the Arboretum and shoot photos. Back in the studio the class will analyze the photos. It doesn’t matter what kind of digital camera you have; you will leave with the ability to take more fascinating photos.

Full Moon Walks
Thursday, April 21, 8 to 9 p.m.
Friday, May 20, 8 to 9 p.m.
Maggie Redfern, Arboretum Assistant Director
Meet at Arboretum entrance on Williams Street

Experience the Arboretum in a new light, under the full moon. This night tour will explore the Native Plant Collection and Arboretum pond. Star gaze as you take in the sights and sounds. Bring your family, your favorite person to watch the moon with and a flashlight.

Mamacoke Mysteries Revealed
Saturday, April 23, 9 a.m. to noon
Beverly Chomiak, Senior Lecturer in Geology and Environmental Studies
Meet and park at the east end of Bentham Avenue (Waterford) just before the railroad tracks
Free to members, $10 general public

Through the study of geology, we come to understand how the earth came to be. On this three-hour hike, Beverly will uncover Mamacoke Island’s long and complex history. Participants will climb the island, from sand flats to rock-strewn summit, and learn the origins of many of its remarkable features. Caution: this is a rugged walk covering difficult terrain.
Wear sturdy shoes and long pants appropriate for hiking.

Spring Foraging for Native Plants
Saturday, April 30, 10 to 11:30 a.m.
Walker Cammack, Connecticut College Class of ’16
Meet at Arboretum entrance on Williams Street
Free to members, $10 general public

Join Environmental Studies and Ethnobotany student Walker Cammack to learn about plants growing in our local woods and responsible harvesting methods. Spring is a great time to harvest greens and herbs, roots and tubers, nuts and seeds, mushrooms and fruits.

Annual Wildflower Walk
Friday, May 6, noon to 1 p.m.
Glenn Dreyer, Arboretum Director
Meet in the Outdoor Theater of the Native Plant Collection on Williams Street

On a slope just south of the Laurel Walk lies the Edgerton and Stengel Wildflower Garden, containing over 75 species of wildflowers. Some of the flowers you can expect to see include: Jack-in-the-pulpit, Virginia Bluebells, Wild Geranium, Solomon’s Seal and Wild Columbine. Bring a picnic lunch to eat by the pond, and then enjoy a 45-minute walk in the woodland garden.

Just for Kids: Wildflower Walk
Friday, May 6, 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Caroline Driscoll, Arboretum Volunteer
Meet at the Arboretum entrance on Williams Street

Through interactive play, children will learn the identity of several types of wildflowers. They will then test their newly acquired skills on a walk in the Wildflower Garden to find the real living flowers. Appropriate for ages 4 to 10, accompanied by an adult.

New London Tree Walk from A to Z
Saturday, May 14
June 18, 10 to 11:30 a.m.
Maggie Redfern, Assistant Director
Meet in the Public Library of New London Community Room, 63 Huntington Street

Within downtown New London there’s everything from Acer to Zelkova. Urban trees provide a range of benefits from environmental to social. Learn to identify some of the more common and most unusual specimens on the downtown streets and parks. This tour is for anyone interested in nature in the city.

Manitoga Field Trip
Tuesday, May 24 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Emily Phillips, Manitoga Landscape Manager
Meet at South Parking Lot for rideshare.

Located an abandoned quarry and surrounding hillside in the Lower Hudson Valley, Manitoga is the house, studio and 75-acre woodland garden of mid-century designer Russel Wright (1904-1976). Join the Arboretum staff for a day trip to this unique landscape uniting art, science, culture, and nature with an ecological aesthetic that is both human and spiritual.

Birding by Ear
Saturday, June 4, 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.
Mary Buchanan, Connecticut College Class of 2014
Meet at the Arboretum entrance on Williams Street

The Bolleswood Natural Area is an important academic and ecological resource because it is the site of one of the longest studies on breeding bird populations in the country. Different bird species have unique songs, and it’s usually much easier to hear them than it is to see them. Join Mary Buchanan, who participated in the 2012 and 2014 breeding bird surveys, on a walk to listen for the distinctive sounds of the songbirds and learn about identifying birds by ear.

Painting the Landscape
Wednesday, June 8, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Julie Garvin Riggs, Florence Griswold Museum
Use Williams Street entrance to the Arboretum; meet at the Outdoor Theater
$15 members, $20 general public

Capture the beauty of the Arboretum with plein-air painting. This outdoor workshop begins with an introductory lesson about the tools and techniques of Impressionist painters. Participants then paint a landscape overlooking the Arboretum pond. Everyone will leave with their completed painting. For artists of all skill levels and students of all ages. All supplies included.

Save the date: Arboretum Annual Celebration
Friday, June 10, 5 to 9 p.m.
Meet at Olin Science Center Lounge and Auditorium

Arboretum members, volunteers and friends are invited to our annual celebration featuring tours of the Shain Mountain Laurel Garden, a talk by Kalmia expert Andy Brand, Photo Contest awards presentation and volunteer recognition. More details to come.

January 15, 2016