Patrick McMillan, famed for the PBS nature program Expeditions with Patrick McMillan, has been contracted to deliver two presentations at the Patrick County Master Gardeners’ Spring Symposium on March 11. The event will take place at the Patrick County Community Center, just off U.S. 58 in Stuart. Admission is $10.
Doors will open at 8:15 a.m. with the program beginning at 9 and running through noon. Early arrivals will be able to visit vendors’ exhibits while they wait for McMillan to begin, and again at mid-morning, as refreshments are served. Swag bags and door prizes will also be given out.
Early registration is recommended in light of the popularity of the speaker and the limited capacity (125 seats) of the community center’s auditorium. Pre-registration forms will be available at various venues in Stuart as well as by contacting PCMG volunteer Glenda Cobbler at 932 Palmetto School Road, Stuart, VA, 24171.
Unlike earlier years, the event will not include a luncheon. Instead, attendees will be given a list of eateries in the area, with prices to fit every budget, and menus to suit a wide variety of tastes.
Although McMillan’s range of experience has concentrated on botany, he is also well-respected for his work in ichthyology, herpetology and mammalogy.
He’s no slouch at entomology either. Last fall, McMillan got an urgent call from Juniper Level staffers who reported a nest of yellow jackets in their work area. Their sting is painful, but they are also valuable pollinators. On arrival, McMillan noted that the yellow jackets weren’t nesting; they were feeding on a species of arborvitae that was in the midst of pollen and cone production. Yellow jackets love the accompanying resin. Juniper Level entomologist Bill Reynolds agreed with McMillan’s conclusion, demonstrating that you could actually touch the feeding yellow jackets without harm. This is certainly not the case anywhere near a yellow jacket nesting site.
Although his early life and education are rooted in North Carolina, McMillan’s research has taken him far afield in pursuit of new species of plants. He has trekked throughout North and South America for his PBS series, including the Arctic tundra, Berengia (the remnants of a land bridge that once linked Siberia and North America), the forests of Arizona; the Great Plains; and what was South Carolina’s Rice Kingdom in the 1600s.
Perhaps one of his most significant endeavors has been the revitalization of Heronswood Gardens in Kingston, WA, after its acquisition by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. When first started, the Garden had put emphasis on “the unusual and the elegant,” with plants collected from six continents.
Such collections can easily fall into disarray. McMillan and the S’Klallam took on the task of calming the chaos with an emphasis on conservation, diversity, best practices and education, all within the setting of a healthy forest system. In addition, new gardens are being developed, including a crevice garden prototype and a Renaissance Garden, featuring several unique touches paying homage to the Pacific Northwest and tribal culture.
Sans the chaos, McMillan is now director of Juniper Level Botanic Garden in Releigh, N.C. It too boasts a broadly diverse collection of plants. A key component of the JLBG philosophy is to make all good plants widely available, especially those which may be rare or extinct in their natural habitat.
“Climate has and will continue to change, In-situ and habitat conservation is the least reliable long-term method for preserving rare plants,” according to the Garden’s published philosophy. “Through ex-situ conservation, which spreads rare plants around the world, these plants are far more likely to survive as the climate continues to change. Those who wring their hands over genetic purity need only to examine the human race to see the wonder and strength that comes from genetic mixing.”
Recall McMillan’s yellow jacket encounter last fall? It bears out the Juniper Level philosophy. Despite being Eastern US natives, the yellow jackets were only interested in the Asian arborvitae species, Platycladus (Thuja) orientalis. Adjacent to them were the East Coast and West Coast arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis and Thuja plicata. Neither attracted a single yellow jacket.
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