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Weeders work to keep Jonesborough’s plants ‘native’

Most people don’t even like to weed their own gardens, but each week, about a dozen dedicated volunteers step away from the gardening at their own homes to help make Jonesborough shine.
The team of professional master gardeners and other local residents works to weed and maintain Jonesborough’s butterfly garden and arboretum areas, located just in front of the town’s water treatment facility.
“This is a big job,” said Beth Keiter, a master gardener and leader of a five-woman team that recently spent a day at the site. “We are primarily just getting the weeds out this time.”
Planting at the site began in 2000, with several eastern red cedar trees. Since then it has grown to harbor more than 200 trees and an uncountable number of other shrubs and flowers.
“We only started talking arboretum three years ago ago when we applied for a grant and got it,” said Frances Lamberts, a local environmentalist and the driving force behind the creation of both the arboretum and adjacent butterfly garden. “We are making lots of use of the original purchases, extending the whole site area with transplants from those originals.”
The arboretum aims at supporting native wildlife. Invasive species are removed while native plants and trees like sassafras, white birch and tulip poplar are planted and invited to stay as long as they’d like.
“On just a short little walk, people can see all these native trees to our area,” said Lamberts, who estimated there are at least 62 native species of trees alone in the arboretum. “It’s really quite amazing.”
Lamberts has applied to get the arboretum certified as a Level 2 state arboretum, of which she said there are currently no others in East Tennessee.
“There are only nine Level 2 Arboretums statewide right now,” she said. “East Tennessee State University has a Level 4 Arboretum. That is the highest level.”
A series of walkways will have to be installed by the town before the arboretum is eligible for inspection to become state certified, Lamberts said.