The Edith J. Carrier Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, located on the campus of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA is “the only arboretum on a Virginia state university campus,” per the arboretum’s tourist pamphlet. According to JMU’s centennial celebration website, the arboretum’s genesis began as then-university president Tyler Mills’ purchase of the 240-acre Newman Farm in 1952. The idea for an arboretum was first proposed by botany professor Norlyn Bodkin, PhD in the early 1960’s and groundbreaking for the 125-acre arboretum finally began in 1985. The project was completed in 1989 and permanently named after James Madison University’s fourth first lady in 1998.
The Edith J. Carrier Arboretum is decidedly not just a pretty garden. Rather, it is a vibrant educational, social, research, festival site, plant and bulb “store,” wedding site, and artistic tool serving not only JMU but the entire community as well. Part of the Arboretum is the Frances Plecker Education Center that is available, for a fee, for meetings, lectures, workshops, wedding receptions, a Summer Brown Bag Lunch Lecture series, and a Spring and Fall Concert Series.
The Arboretum also offers a herbarium, a library, and a special section on the flora of Rockingham County for research. The aesthetic aspect of the Arboretum isn’t overlooked with many programs to document the beauty of the plants and gardens. There is an “Artist of the Month” series which features photographic images of the Arboretum by chosen artists. The exhibitions are hung monthly in the Frances Plecker Education Center.
Guided tours for both children and adults at no charge, without reservation, on a walk-up basis during special events, Historic Garden Week, and Arbor Day. Should alternative tours be desired, reservations can be made online or via telephone. Children’s educational tours include The Forest Web, Virginia Natives, Finding Your Way and Woodland Walk.
Newer programs featured include carriage rides, classes and lectures on the art of bonsai, educator workshops on migratory butterflies and an Annual Children’s Harvest Festival.
Edith J. Carrier Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
James Madison University
780 University Blvd.
Harrisonburg, VA 22807
Hours of Operation:
Open Daily, Dawn to Dusk, 365 days/year
No Charge for Admission
Harrisonburg & Rockingham County Visitors Guide 2010-2011, Harrisonburg Tourism & Visitor Services.
The Edith J. Carrier Arboretum at James Madison University Pamphlet, James Madison University, undated.