For the last 2 days we’ve been on a virtual journey to meet The Mark of Adventure – that is Mark Weathington – Assistant Director and Curator of Collections at J. C. Rauslton Arboretum.
Mark’s Motto: “Life is too short for boring plants!”
Along the way we’ve discovered a little history and insight about out how plants are hunted, collected, documented, before they are selected, grown and then produced… all this before they arrive at a local nursery to be planted in the landscape. PHEW!
“This photo was taken in 2008 at the lowest waterfall at Nine Dragon Falls, Huangshan mountains, Anhui Provence, China. I think Dr. Fu from Zhejiang University took the photo,” said Mark Weathington.
Entwined Life: Where have you plant hunted?
Mark Weatherington: Ecuador, Mexico, British Columbia, Taiwan, China (Zhejiang, Guanzhou, Guangdong, Sechuan, Anhui), Japan, New Zealand next week! – throughout the southeastern US, mountains of VA and NC, Texas, California
EL: What was your most difficult experience?
MW: I was stuck in a car overnight during a typhoon with roads blocked by landslides on either side.
Next worse – getting stuck in Ecuador for 6 extra days because the only flights to the US were through Miami and Houston during hurricane Katrina and those flights were all grounded. Worst part of that was no one would cash any traveler’s checks, not even banks in the capital and we were out of cash. NEVER travel with traveler’s checks.
EL: What do you pack as rain gear?
MW: Rain jacket, occasionally rain pants.
EL: What was your first trip and who was it with?
MW: Outside the US was to Ecuador with 2 coworkers both from the Education Department – Norfolk Botanical Gardens – to collect plants and handicrafts along the Rio Cayapas with the Chaachi people.
EL: Who else have traveled and explored with?
MW: Tony Avent, David Parks, David Creech, Todd Lasseigne, Brian Upchurch, Bill Barnes, Liu Gang, Takayuki Kobayashi, Yamaguchi-san, Suzuki-san, Dr. Fu, Teobaldo Eguiluz.
EL: Do they have any quirks or fears they overcome to get a plant specimen?
MW: Tony (Avent of Plant Delights Nursery) is deathly afraid of heights but will do what it takes to get his plant (maybe that’s why he likes those ground hugging perennials instead of trees).
EL: Any injuries or illness?
MW: I was once sick with a stomach bug in China and didn’t eat for about 4 days – kept going morning to dark though.
EL: What type of shoes/boot and how many pairs do you bring?
MW: Running shoes and/or hiking shoes (no boots), one pair of leather or canvas slip-ons that can be worn for a slightly nicer occasion (meeting w/officials, etc.) 2-3 pairs total.
EL: Any ‘Aha’ moments you’ve had about culture, travel, horticulture
MW: In Ecuador as we prepared to travel up river for many, many hours, we picked up 1 of the 3 Chaachi who had a college degree and lived in the city advocating for the tribe. He was going with us to facilitate our trip and to visit his parents. He brought with him some kitchen supplies and clothes for them, 3 young chickens for eggs for his parents, and 6 different forms of croton (Codiaeum) for their garden in the rainforest. It hit home not only how universal gardening is but also how necessary ornamental horticulture is to our well-being.
EL: Most beautiful place you found yourself in?
MW: I was in the Japanese Alps (Nagano area) during prime momijigari time or maple viewing when all the city folks head to the mountains to seek out the spectacular fall colors on the various Japanese maple species.
Or, perhaps the top of a sacred waterfall in a remote spot in the Cotocachi Cayapos Ecological Reserve with tree ferns and slipper orchids everywhere.
Or, the yellow mountains of China (Huangshan), or…
EL: Any travel comfort you bring?
MW: Sony noise cancelling headphones along with an eye mask for the plane – I sleep all the way there and back.
On the road, I’m pretty much all go from early am to very late at night, collecting, cleaning, cataloging, documenting, etc.
EL: What is the creature comfort you most appreciate back home…
MW: Family, reliable plumbing, water out of a tap that is drinkable.
Check back tomorrow to see what is in Mark’s Advernture packed – tools of the trade – Suitcase!
Mark writes and speaks on a variety of topics in horticulture.
He has recently revised and updated the Propagation Guide for Woody Plants at the JC Raulston Arboretum.
Mark has been published in Horticulture, Carolina Gardener, American Nurseryman and VA Gardener magazines as well as The Mid-Atlantic Gardener’s Book of Lists. In addition, he writes a weekly column for The Virginian-Pilot newspaper. (source: http://cals.ncsu.edu/hort_sci/people/faculty/pages/weathingtonvitae.php)
You can follow Mark’s Blog– for cool plant profiles and follow his adventures too!
Tomorrow: What’s in Mark’s Suitcase?
Enjoy – living the EntwinedLife
NC Certified Environmental Educator
Garden Conservancy Regional Representative
JC Raulston Arboretum Volunteer