Arboretum tours get visitors up close
In the span of 10 minutes, the people gathered at the Karl Loerch Gazebo on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus went from four to more than 20.
People of all ages turned out for “First Tuesday,” a free informal tour of the Maxwell Arboretum led by Emily Levine, a UNL special projects research horticulturist with the agronomy and horticulture department and former grounds supervisor for the arboretum.
“This was a good sized crowd,” Levine said of the season’s last tour. She said if the group had been any bigger it would have been difficult for people to be involved in the tour. “I like to get people up close (to the plants).”
Levine said she likes to begin her tours with a short lecture on what is happening to the plants at that point in the season. On this particular Tuesday she talked about how the trees and plants are preparing for winter.
“It’s good to have context,” Levine said. “A little bit of knowledge makes it more interesting.”
Levine said that she likes to visit different plants with each tour, to keep it interesting for repeat customers.
“On the day of the tour, I’ll walk around and decide what’s good to look at. What’s budding or in bloom,” Levine said.
Levine began giving regular guided tours seven years ago, and in her words is a “one woman shop.”
As the only arboretum tour guide, she said that if she stopped offering to do tours, they would probably stop altogether.
Levine isn’t offered any incentive to lead the tours other than having the opportunity to share her love of the arboretum and passion and knowledge of trees and plants with others.
In the tours, Levine encourages people to touch and smell the plants as well as ask questions and share their own knowledge.
“Sometimes people will know a lot,” Levine said. “Sometimes I learn from them.”
Many who attend the tours just have a general interest in plants or want to get outside as much as possible before winter sets in. First-time tour goers, Nancy Shelley and Jane Casey were among them.
“I don’t know what stuff is,” Shelley said. “This is a go-to place for info.”
Shelley and Casey said they found out about the tour by reading about it in the paper.
Also having read about it was Ashley Manly, who brought her daughters, Olive, age 1, and Naomi, age 3.
Manly, who graduated from UNL in 2008 with a degree in environmental studies, said that she encourages her daughters to explore the outdoors.
“It’s a beautiful day and it was a chance to get out of the house,” Manly said. “I’m just happy they have this here. It’s a great chance to explore.”
The tours of Maxwell Arboretum will resume in the spring.