The Piedmont Virginian's Blog

Serving and Celebrating America's Historic Heart

Tag: trees

In the Gingko Grove at Blandy Experimental Farm

1447172893482Thousands of leaves, all the color of the sun as it slips behind the Blue Ridge Mountains. Blue sky shone through bare branches. The breeze has gathered leaves into drifts, swept together like the tips of hair at a barbershop. I was standing in the Gingko Grove at Blandy when that atrocious simile came to me. The inadequacy, whimsicality, borderline absurdity of the phrase bothered me, so I stood, my attention fixed on the yellow fallen leaves, waiting for some clever aphorism to happen upon me, until I realized that perhaps this was not meant to be described. I was doing just fine, reflecting on this golden panorama, experienced wordlessly, in appreciation of the almost-silence, day after day as the ground is littered with leaves.

Everything was motionless. Wading through leaves slick with rain, I had the feeling that I was late. Fallen leaves are still slick with yesterday’s rain. The ground was slippery,  like trudging through snow and stepping on a patch of ice. It was easier to remain still. The air was sodden with the heavy sticky scent of gingko. My breaths were weighed down and my attention drawn the movement of air through me. Perhaps that is why Chinese monks in adorned their temples with the ancient trees: a way to foster mindfulness during meditation.

Some of these gingko trees have shed and regrown their leaves eighty times or more, ever since Dr. Orlando E. White, the first director of Blandy, planted a sapling in Boyce soil in 1929. Soon thereafter, students helped to plant nearly six-hundred more trees, thus seeding what would grow into the grove in which I stood.

The tree has a history far outdating Blandy, civilization, and humanity. Gingko is the “living fossil,” and records trace its existence back 270 million years. Gingko canopies shaded the Jurassic era forests, casting shadows onto the creatures whose bones we admire in disbelief and wonder at museums. The tree’s history is contained in the shape of its leaf: a tadpole, a flame. It is unchanging, atavistic, and essenti1447172775463al. Maybe it is this agelessness, this permanence, that lends credence to those who attest to the memory-enhancing benefits of the leaf. Perhaps it is a placebo, although there is something poetic about the ancient tree’s ties to memory, a  remembrance of time that far precedes us.

Without realizing it, yellow shadows have darkened as the sun sets between peaks. Golden, with beams that radiate like veins, it casts a shadow over the thousands of small setting suns that have fallen to the ground.



The Virginia Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation to Host 3rd Chestnut Gala

By Bridget Chisholm, Gala Event Coordinator, Virginia TACF
Topping off a year of remarkable success, the Virginia Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) will host their Annual Chestnut Gala at Ayrshire Farm in Upperville, Virginia on October 6, 2012 beginning at 6 pm. This year alone, the chapter planted two new breeding orchards, initiated a reforestation study on the nearby Bull Run Mountains, started a fire-effects study in Shenandoah National Park, and pollinated ten wild, surviving chestnut trees to make hybrid seed for 2013. The chapter continues to breed locally adapted, blight-resistant Castanea dentata and works on bringing awareness to the community about the Castanea dentata’s plight.

The goal of the Annual Chestnut Gala is to raise $50,000 in order to continue and expand the chapter’s work in 2013. Ms. Sandy Lerner has once again donated the use of her Ayrshire Farm and staff. She also donated an Ayrshire Farm pig which will be skillfully pit-roasted by the farm’s chef. If you haven’t had this pork before you are in for an amazing treat! Guests will also enjoy the Chestnut Soufflé which was an incredible hit last year. Additionally, the Mason Branch Bluegrass Band composed of Dan Rilko, TJ Morgan, Mark Maggiolio, Troy Gooding, and Glen Cantrell will perform live traditional bluegrass music for guests to dance the night away under an almost full moon.

Tables for ten people can be purchased for the event and in exchange, the person(s) or organization will get recognition in the printed program and on the chapter’s new web site. The chapter has a goal to sell ten tables. Single tickets are also available for purchase. A percentage of all monies raised goes to TACF National Office so please consider supporting the event. If you are traveling from far away, the Virginia office is able to help out-of-town guests find lodging, so please consider a weekend in the Virginia Piedmont to attend the gala and support our work.

The evening events also include a silent and live auction. Donations for the auctions welcome. Items currently up for bit include: a handmade leaf necklace by Ms. Sandy Lerner; a VIP tailgate rail pass for the Gold Cup Races on May 4, 2013; a fly fishing package by Douglas Lees; a private tour of the Phillips Collection led by William Woodward, including lunch at the Cosmos Club; a guided spring gobbler turkey hunt; with many more to come. If you have something you would like to donate please contact Janet White at 540-364-4522 or 540-878-6616 or

Visit the Virginia Chapter’s new website at to learn more and purchase tickets for the gala at
If you are interested in a sponsorship contact Bridget Chisholm at 540-364-0065 or

h/t to Price Benowitz LLP

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