Potting New Plants, The Arboretum

A volunteer removes the new plants from their old pots then re-pot it into the vase at the Arboretum at Penn State University on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020.

As the seasons change and the weather begins to shift, operations at the Penn State Arboretum are set to change.

The Arboretum typically plans in advance for two large events before the end of the first semester — the Pumpkin Festival and the Winter Celebration. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, these events were canceled.

Kathleen Reeder, event and marketing coordinator at the Arboretum, usually starts planning the marketing tactics for the annual Pumpkin Festival in June. She said other Arboretum employees’ planning for the festival begins in August.

Reeder said visitation at the Arboretum is steady throughout the summer due to conferences and weddings, but the “event tempo” changes when fall arrives.

“Those two events in the fall are concentrated visitation events,” Reeder said, adding the events draw the most people into the Arboretum at one time. “We get about 10,000 for the Pumpkin Festival, and between two and 3,000, sometimes more, if the weather’s fine for the Winter Celebration,” Reeder said.

Reeder said there will be light displays in the Arboretum in place of the Winter Celebration event this year, which would usually occur on the last day of classes. The displays will be open to the public until January and are on until 9 p.m. each night.

“We will have holiday displays at the overlook pavilion, in the children’s garden and at the fountain,” Reeder said. “So there will be some of the semblance of the Winter Celebration.”

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Reeder said that because of the pandemic, the Arboretum can’t host a large scale event.

“Obviously we can’t bring people together and have singers and a food truck,” Reeder said. “We can't build it up into an event because we don’t want to encourage people to gather in large groups because of the pandemic.”

Kelly Oleynik, development assistant and volunteer coordinator at the Arboretum, said operations typically “start to slow down” after October.

“We kind of view January, February [and] March as our ‘breathing time,’” Oleynik said. “‘Breathing time’ and then ‘vamping up time’ again. We get about 12 weeks of planning for the next season, and that really starts to kick in around April.”

Oleynik said during the fall and winter seasons, visitation does not decline.

“I think it draws throughout the year, obviously it’s gonna be a little bit less in the winter time if it’s super cold,” Oleynik said. “But it really is a beautiful place year-round.”

Oleynik said the pandemic caused people to flock to the Arboretum.

“And in this pandemic it’s been hopping. It’s just been a magnet for people to wanna get out and see something beautiful and experience the seasons changing,” Oleynik said. “I think it’s been a bit of a refuge for a lot of folks.”

Shari Edelson, director of operations at the Arboretum, said the pandemic has made the Arboretum more of a popular space.

“In a way, it’s been wonderful for us at the Arboretum to be available as [an outdoor] community space,” Edelson said. “It’s a place where people can come and enjoy the gardens and enjoy nature and be outside.”

Edelson said the seasons impact operations at the Arboretum “quite a lot” because of the different type of work each season brings.

Edelson said Arboretum employees complete a lot of work in winter, including the maintenance of the plants and the planning of the year ahead.

“At the same time we do a lot of design work for the coming year,” Edelson said. “For example, right now we’ve just finished designing all of our spring flower displays so that those plants can get ordered and grown for us over the winter.”

Edelson said one of her favorite things about the Arboretum is that it’s still being built.

“There’s a lot of momentum here and it’s exciting to be building all these brand new spaces for people to enjoy.”

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