Autumn at the Arboretum

According to the calendar it is officially Autumn, though this year’s continuing heat shows Mother Nature is not willing to leave Summer just quite yet. From the Wallis Arboretum’s beginning in the 1850s, trees were selected for their uniqueness and their year-round beauty, so as we progress into true autumn, there will be a continuation of color throughout.

Maples, harbingers of autumn, normally are the first to show their true colors in the fall. The Arboretum maples include Black, Paperbark, Red, and Sugar; and Japanese maple “Bloodgood” and “Burgundy Lace”. The new foliage of the last is a deep red that changes color during the year and returns to deep red-purple in the fall.

Among the unique are gingkos, whose leaf imprints have been found in fossils that are 270 million years old. The lemon-yellow leaves hang on until all have turned and then drop within two to three days, leaving a bare tree surrounded by a yellow skirt on the ground.

Redbud displays a darker yellow, with the exception of “Forest Pansy” and “Oklahoma” whose leaves are deep purple.

Washington Hawthorn turns orange, scarlet, and purple each fall. Along with the  Serviceberry, which has red to orange foliage, these two native trees produces purple-black edible berries and retains through the winter for the birds to eat.

The oaks, whose botanical name “Quercus’ means ‘beautiful tree’, are  among the last to change color. The Pin Oak and the Northern Red Oak change to scarlet and ruby-red.

This is not a complete list of the Arboretum’s fall color collection of trees. Visit the Arboretum often to see the daily change of fall color. Visit on your own or for a group tour of the Arboretum: call 859-987-6158 and leave a message.

In the Arboretum: Champion Acorns

In his poem, “Trees”, Joyce Kilmer said, “Only God can create a tree…” For one of the finest old tree collections in Central Kentucky, visit the Wallis Arboretum. Many are over 100 years, including the recently declared Kentucky Champion Northern Red Oak. It is over 96 feet tall, its circumference 180 feet, measured at 4.5 feet from the ground and one of the old trees that dominate the front yard. It is one of 11 National Register of Big Trees in Kentucky.

Mrs. Wallis was known for wise choices in selection of only the best trees to plant, including the Northern Red Oak. It is the most popular of the oaks for the home landscape for its beautiful shape and spring foliage of greenish-red foliage that turns a dark red in the fall. It is also known for its rapid growth, strong wood, and resistance to fungi and insects as it contains tannic acid. It tolerates urban pollution and drought due to its deep tap root.

Oaks have been a part of our culture for centuries. Linnaeus listed red oak as only one of five of the 600 species. Oaks have been a source of ship and structure lumber, furniture, and barrels for whiskey and other spirits. Even the galls are ground for a type of manuscript ink.

This fall, Oakland Farms and The Garden Club of Kentucky are collecting the Red Oak’s acorns to propagate seedlings of the champion. Unlike many tree seeds, Red Oak’s acorns take two years to mature. It is hoped that seedlings of the champion will be available in the future.

The Nannine Clay Wallis Arboretum, 616 Pleasant Street, Paris, is open to the public year-round without charge.

Compost in the Arboretum

The Arboretum hosted the third annual free Kids Day in the Arboretum. What a delight to see so many children searching for clue to the scavenger hunt, helping to make compost, and having the change to wear a beekeeper’s outfit.

The Arboretum has so much to offer as well as a beautiful setting. It continues the tradition of its first owner to plant the latest introductions. As a result, it is considered the ‘finest old-tree collection in Central Kentucky’. It is also a demonstration garden of the newest introductions; providing the public with the best plants to add to their gardens having tested what is more apt to survive than not.

The Arboretum’s demonstrations are not limited to the beauty of the Rain, Butterfly, Hosta, and Monarch Waystation gardens, they play and important part in the environment.  Also, environmentally important, and some would say as beautiful as the above gardens, is the Composting Project near the Carriage House. The large three-bin compost complex was built to break down the plant material from the four-acre Arboretum. Composting leaves, small branches, herbaceous plant material and grass clippings reduces the amount of material that goes into the land-fill and provides Arboretum cost-free material that is used to improve the quality of the soil and nourish herbaceous plants in the above beds.

The Compost Bins passive demonstration project is accessible by the Carriage House entrance at the end of 7th Street or through the Arboretum.

The Nannine Clay Wallis Arboretum, 616 Pleasant Street, Paris, is open to the public year-round without charge. For more information go, Arboretum

Kids Day 2019

The Kids Day at the Arboretum on Monday, July 19, was a huge success according to Joanna Kirby, Chair of the third annual event. Kirby said, ‘Without support of so many, it would not have been the most successful to date. Support came from the Library and Kentucky Bank; Kentucky Department of Forestry; and Paris residents. In addition, the Bourbon County Council of Garden Clubs, Painted Hills Garden Club(Morehead), and many The Garden Club of Kentucky members from all over the state.”

The theme for the day was “The Environment.” It began at the Paris-Bourbon County Library, where Deb Horn coordinated the visit of Smoky Bear and Ranger Phillip Horsely, who showed “A Day in the Forest with Smoky” in celebration of the bear’s 75th birthday. Horn and assistants joined in the activities at the Nannine Clay Wallis Arboretum, where they sponsored stenciling leaves on a tree-decorated T-shirts.

At the Nannine Clay Wallis Arboretum, Kara Sayles, who is the Bluegrass Greensource, Environmental Educator and Rain Garden Project Coordinator, explained the importance of water through selected planting and collecting rain water for our plants. The children joined in watering plants from the rain barrel.

Dee Larking, Bluegrass Greensource Environmental Educator, delighted the children who held red crawler worms while she told the children how worms helped break down plant waste and improve the soil.

Kentucky State Apiarist-Department of Agriculture, Tammy Horn Potter, brought a demonstration hive with active bees, suits for the children to try on, honey, and other bee-related items.

Hydroponics were demonstrated by Dee Biebighauser as the children identified water critters and were shown how to grow their own plants in water. Biebighauser also chaired the day’s activities and coordinated Painted Hills Garden Club members who were in charge of each of the ten activities.

Once again, this year the Kentucky Bank supplied the much-needed water bottles for all at the Arboretum. The Bourbon Council of Garden Clubs members provided a free lunch for all of the nearly 140 children, also supervisors and activities workers.

In the Arboretum – July ’19

The Arboretum gets lovelier each month as we go into full-blown summer. Our pollinators would agree with that as they are finding more and more sources of pollen and nectar. Rain has knocked out much of the nectar and pollen from many of the flowers but once they start reblooming bumble and honey bees will return.

Mrs. Wallis had her greatest impact on the garden in the 1930s, so it is appropriate that Monarda “Croftway Pink”(beebalm), 1932 introduction, would abundantly be found in the Arboretum along with Echinacea purpurea(coneflower).

Both are preparing for the third annual (free) Kids Day at the Arboretum, Monday, July 29. We are continuing Mrs. Wallis generosity of inviting children into her garden(Arboretum) to explore and learn about plants and the environment.

Kids DayThis year Kids Day registration will begin 9:30 AM at the Paris/Bourbon County Library with Smokey Bear’s visit and Smokey film, followed by lunch at the Arboretum and Scavenger Hunt that includes a booklet to record the items found and color, plus 10 activities and five educational which include displays and hands: Hydroponics, Composting, Bees, Recycling Rain Garden /Rain Barrel and visit the Carriage House complete with full-size ‘horse’, tack and carriage.

Hands-on activities include the very popular Build-a-Bug, Newspaper Puppet (finger puppet), Painted Tee Shirts (supplied by GCKY and the Library back by popular demand), Coffee Filter Seed Packets(seed for the kids to plant), and Milk Jug Watering Can to decorate to water their plants.

And, a bag to decorate to hold all the things they will make throughout the afternoon. Activities will conclude at 3:00 pm. The day at the Arboretum is open to all children 6-12. They must be accompanied by a responsible adult.

For more information go to:

State Champion Red Oak at Wallis Arboretum

Champion Red Oak TreeThe GCKY was presented an award on June 19, 2019,  from the Kentucky Division of Forestry for the State champion Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra) located in the front yard of the Nannine Clay Wallis Arboretum, headquarters of the Garden Club of Kentucky, Inc.

The certificate was presented to Judy Ferrell, Arboretum Chair, and Joanna Kirby, State Headquarters Chair, by Philip Horsley with the Division of Forestry.
Champion Red Oak Awarded to GCKY

Save Oct 7 for Carriage House Dedication

Wallis Arboretum Carriage House Restored

Carriage House at Wallis HouseThe Nannine Clay Wallis Arboretum Committee has announced the “Save This Date” for the newly restored 1903 Carriage House dedication. Monday, October 7, 1:00, The Garden Club of Kentucky will sponsor the ribbon cutting and special presentations to the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels for its emergency grant and to GCKY members and clubs that made possible the restoration. The public is invited to join in the celebration followed by refreshments and tour of the Carriage House.

The restored Carriage House is taking on a new function in the Arboretum. It will be used for classes, workshops, and rentals for parties, weddings and other special events.

Mrs. Wallis’ father, Thomas Clay, built the Carriage House when he purchased the 616 Pleasant Street property from his uncle’s estate. The house was in the Clay family from 1856 until 1970 when Mrs. Wallis bequeathed it to GCKY.

In the Arboretum – June 2019

Traditionally, the first full week of June is National Garden Week. What better way to celebrate gardening than at The Garden Club of Kentucky – Nannine Clay Wallis Arboretum annual Arbor Day Celebration, Friday, June 7. The dedication of plants given in honor and remembrance will begin at 1:30pm at the front entrance of the Wallis House-GCKY Headquarters with Judy Ferrell, Arboretum Chair, and GCKY President Donna Smith welcoming friends, families and all who enjoy gardening.

The Arboretum is at its most lush and flowery due to the mild winter and long wet spring particularly around Mrs. Wallis’ Rose Arbor. In preparation for Arbor Day, the Arbor was scraped, cleaned and newly painted by GCKY members. Mrs. Wallis planted it with climbing roses under planted with iris. Today, the very popular New Dawn (introduced 1989) donated by Millersburg Garden Club several years ago covers the Arbor. Connecting the Rose Garden and Arbor is one of two original elves that sits on a pedestal surrounded by low growing roses and hellebores.

American Pillar (introduced 1902), planted by Mrs. Wallis continues to grow on the left end of the Pergola. It has proved to be one of the hardiest ramblers, vigorous, drought resistant and one of the few tolerates partial shade.

Mrs. Wallis always planted the newest and best varieties when introduced. As a demonstration garden, the Arboretum continues to plant new while maintaining those that are best suited for our area.

Emphasis this year has been the addition of sun-loving annual including alyssum, begonia, lantana, marigold petunia and perennial verbena that will provide color through and into fall. and alyssum in the border beds.

May blooming Cornus kousa (Korean dogwood) are in full bloom. Unlike C. florida whose foliage appears as blooms fade, C. kousa’s foliage emerges first to highlight its stunning pointed white blooms. 

Carriage House received Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels Grant

The Garden Club of Kentucky, Inc., applied for an emergency grant from the Kentucky Colonels to repair and restore the Carriage House in the Nannine Clay Wallis Arboretum. Built in 1903 by Mrs. Wallis’ father, Thomas Clay, its siding and doors had considerable rot due to water damage. It was not until the affected siding was removed that the extensive amount of rot was revealed.

The original single sliding doors on the driveway and opposite side were replaced with two opposing sliding doors to make it easier to open and reduce the weight on the rail when open. Stall and cupola windows, three posts, and siding where needed were replaced. Due to rains and temperature, painting will wait until dry weather later this spring.

The Carriage House has now found a new use. It will be part of our educational programs beginning with the Kids Day at the Arboretum, July 29. The free day of exploring and learning about pollinators is open to children 6-12 when accompanied by a parent or guardian.