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decorative colour photo of The Arboretum reflecting pool in winter and the words December 2020.

Note from the Director

Reflecting back, this unbelievable 2020 year was filled with stories and lived experiences of suffering and injustice as well as every-day heroism. People across the planet saw science happening in real time, with the highest stakes. Amidst such uncertainty, connection to nature emerged as a core component of physical and mental well-being for many.

Here at The Arboretum, our trails and grounds remained open for safe, outside walk-through access for campus and community members.

Our dedicated staff worked tirelessly tending living collections, prioritizing the safety of our team and visitors, adapting to new ways of working, learning new technology, and reaching new audiences -- all without the usual contributions of students and volunteers!

I offer heartfelt thanks to this passionate team, as well as to the faculty, students, administrative leadership, volunteers, donors, and community members who help us accomplish our research, teaching and outreach mission at The Arboretum.

Another important role of science and nature pursuits is to inspire awe – which fosters the sense of being part of something larger than oneself and has been shown to move people to take conservation actions.

In a virtual session with Arboretum volunteers this week, astronomy workshop leader Trevor Chandler demonstrated software visualizations of the rare conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter that will appear in the westward evening sky on December 21, the Winter Solstice.

I wish for us all that the skies will be clear to view it and experience awe.

Looking forward to a new year!

Justine Richardson

What to See in The Arboretum

Check out some of our recent posts below from our social media accounts. To learn more about what is happening or what to look out for at The Arboretum please follow us on social media. We are on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Search for us at @uogarboretum.
[Click on the photos below to see the posts on Instagram.]

Colour photo of an Eastern bluebird A flock of Eastern Bluebirds recently dropped into The Arboretum to feast on Staghorn Sumac, Asian Bittersweet and American Bittersweet berries. This species usually moves farther south for the winter but we sometimes entice some to stay with our various fruiting trees, shrubs and vines. We hope this flock will stick around this season because there is nothing like their brilliant blue against a snowy background!

Colour photo of juniper conesBlueberries on a coniferous tree? Not quite! The female seed cones of junipers look a little different to the cones of some other coniferous trees and shrubs. The cones of a juniper have unusually fleshy and merged scales, which make them look berry-like and earn them the nickname “juniper berries”. See if you can find a juniper berry the next time you’re strolling through our plant collections!

Colour photo of bright green lichen ­­Although the weather has cooled there are still so many beautiful things to see out in nature. Just look at all the different types of lichen living on this single branch!

New Workshops Starting in 2021

We have so many new programs scheduled for the new year for nature-enthusiasts, budding gardeners, and creatives alike!  All of our virtual programs are offered live on Zoom, and recordings are made available for registrants to access for a limited time. Below are workshops that begin in January, visit our website to learn more about our other winter and early spring programs. Register early to save your spot!

decorative collage of photos image Virtual Nature in Winter Series
Are you looking for ways to get out and enjoy nature in the winter. Join our Interpretive Interns, Kitty and Jenny as they explore Nature in Winter. Topics include: Animal Signs, Animal Adaptations, Winter Seed Heads, Animal Tracking and Trees in Winter. Each course will finish with a short discussion period so you can ask all your nature in winter-related questions.


colour photo of an owl in a treeAll About Owls with Jenny and Kitty Lin
Owls are mysterious and fascinating creatures, and the best part of all...they live right here in Ontario! However, they're secretive and sneaky, so seeing or hearing one can be a special treat. Join us in learning about our native owls and some tips on finding them in your own neighborhood!


Sample of a nature watercolour painting Winter Watercolour Landscapes Painting - Beginner

Capture Winter in The Arboretum in Watercolour with artist Candice Leyland. You will learn several easy techniques to paint snow and trees in watercolour and put them together to create a lovely winter landscape. This class is great for Beginners!


Sample of a a nature watercolour paintingWinter Watercolour Landscapes Painting - Intermediate

Join artist Candice Leyland and capture Winter in The Arboretum in Watercolour. You will discuss how to bring light and colour into a winter landscape and create a glowing winter watercolour painting. This class is great for those who completed the Landscape class in fall, or those with some watercolour experience!

Nature Connection for Newcomers

decorative image of a grid of photos of Ontario mammals and birds.

Our Nature Interpreters are working on a new program, Nature Throughout the Seasons for International Students and New Canadians, thanks to a grant from campus-based donors Gryphons Care! Kitty and Jenny Lin, along with Chris Earley, are designing two new biodiversity sheets featuring the most common plants and animals found in Winter and Summer, as well as four seasonal programs aimed specifically to increase nature knowledge and connection for new arrivals to Ontario. We are excited to partner with the International Student Organization, as well as Immigrant Services Guelph Wellington to deliver the programs next year! Gryphons Care! is a group of staff and faculty donors who have come together to support projects on campus that improve life and make U of G a better place.

Detail view of a new winter Native Animals biodiversity sheet.

In the Ecosytem

4 children with binoculars looking in 4difffernet directions standing and sitting on a stump
The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages birdwatchers of all ages around the world in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are. Anyone can participate, from beginners to experts. Whether you count one bird or hundreds, participating is easy and fun for all ages – and it helps the birds! This winter’s count happens during the weekend of Feb. 12-15, 2021.

Photo by Chris Earley.

The Arb in the News

Book cover of Feed the Birds with a cardinal, blue jay, chicadee and hummingbird on the cover.
An excerpt from Arboretum Interpretive Biologist & Education Coordinator Chris Earley’s book “Feed the Birds”  was adapted for the Toronto Star in the article Get the kids involved in bird watching this winter.

Go Geocaching at The Arboretum!

geocaches screenshot of arboretumHidden among the trees, gardens, and buildings of The Arboretum are several geocaches! You can search for the Arboretum Fairy House caches, feel like a detective as you follow the clues of The Arboretum Mystery series, and bring your furry friend along on the hunt for the Geopooch Walk - Arboretum Stroll geocache. If you are looking for a way to escape your house and do some modern-day treasure hunting, be sure to stop by The Arboretum!

Visit and search for our postal code (N1G 2W1) to find nearby geocaches and learn more about geocaching.

Screenshot of geocaches in The Arboretum using the Geocaching®  app.

New Dual Stream Bins!

colour photo of a black garbage and recycling bin in front of a wood structure.

Litter can adversely affect animals and the environment in many ways: animals can be poisoned from ingesting spoiled food, wrappers and container, it can attract wildlife to roadsides where it is dangerous for them, harmful chemicals can leach from it and contaminate the water table, animals can get become trapped by it, the list goes on. That’s why we’ve added some spiffy new recycling and garbage cans to The Arboretum grounds to help us keep our spaces beautiful for everyone!

Thank you to the U of G Sustainability Office, whose grant from WWF-Canada supported half the cost of these new bins!

Photo by Arboretum Staff.

The Wall-Custance Memorial Forest Plaque has been installed.

Colour photo of a plaque next to a sapling in the Arboretum.

The 2020 memorial plaque has been installed with the elm sapling from our Elm Recovery Project in the Wall-Custance Memorial Forest Grove. Our Wall-Custance Memorial Forest partnership has become a uniquely Guelph program, that supports reforestation to connect the old growth forests at two corners of The Arboretum and other native plantings on the grounds. The ceremony, which draws nearly 3,000 people to campus each September, was cancelled this year. Instead, we recorded partner messages and created a video highlighting the sapling’s journey from our greenhouse to the planting site.

You can watch the short film Wall-Custance Memorial Forest Planting 2020 for dedication families and the public on The Arboretum website.

Photo by Justine Richardson.

Donations and Dedications

Colour photo of a dediction plaque Donations made to the University of Guelph Arboretum by December 31st can be claimed against your income for the current year.  2020 charitable tax receipts will be issued for gifts that are donated online at on or before midnight December 31, 2020.

Photo: A dedication plaque in the Arboretum.

From the Collection

Sean Fox, Manager of Horticulture
Winterberry Holly

The firm, red fruits of holly plants always seem to shine a little brighter as winter approaches. While many might think of hollies as being evergreen, there are also several deciduous species that drop their leaves in the autumn, including Ontario’s very own, native Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata).

Winterberry Holly grows naturally in our protected Arboretum Nature Reserve, but you can also find it throughout our publicly-accessible plant collections including the World of Trees, Wall-Custance Memorial Forest Grove and Gosling Wildlife Gardens. As they add quite a bit of cheer to winter gardens, they’ve also become a popular plant at nurseries, with dwarf varieties marketed under names such as Red Sprite and Berry Poppins being suitable for even the smallest of gardens. And while only female shrubs produce fruit, males plants are needed for pollination, so be sure to find room for both if you decide to grow your own!
Photo of Winterberry Holly by Sean Fox.

Enter our Making Memories Contest!

Making Memories graphic image celebrating The Arboretum's 50th year.We love making memories at The Arboretum and for our 50th year we would love for you to make some with us!

To enter this month:
Take a picture of your walking buddy or group on a stroll through The Arboretum. Walk the meditation labyrinth (near the Hospice Lilac Garden by the Arboretum Kiosk.) Tell us why you're thankful for nature. Count the Chickadees at The Arboretum bird feeders. Take a picture of a squirrel in The Arboretum.

Upload your photo and/or post to your Instagram, Twitter or Facebook and tag us at #ArbMemories for your chance to win some Arboretum SWAG! Each photo or post is a new entry!

The December making Memories contest closes on January 4.

Please be mindful of COVID-19 safety measures and remember to be safe!

New Merch!!!

ecorative photocollage of booklets, calendars, a pencil and silicone blowls Shop local & support The Arboretum this holiday season. We have new merchandise in our store and stocking stuffer ideas for everyone on your list!

Look forward to 2021 with an Arboretum desk calendar featuring thirteen stunning views of The Arboretum. Choose from nine different local wildlife booklets to help you and your family connect with nature. And just added: an Arboretum collapsible silicone bowl that is great for camping or as a portable water / food bowl for your pet; and an eco-friendly bamboo mechanical pencil - you may never have to purchase another!

Order by noon on Thursday, December 17  for the best chance of arrival by Christmas. Orders placed after December 17 may not arrive until January as the University is closed December 22 - January 4.
Shop Arboretum Merchandise

Arboretum Hours During the Break

The University of Guelph will be closed for business from December 23, 2020, through January 3, 2021, reopening on Monday, January 4. Arboretum buildings and operations will also be closed for the holiday break during this time.  

Arboretum parking lots, grounds and trails will remain open daily from dawn to dusk.

Ways you can connect with The Arboretum

Make sure to keep in touch with us on social media -  follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, and follow the #ArbAt50 for news on our 50th Anniversary events and online activities.
Make a Donation Download & Print an Arboretum Map Think About Volunteering
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camera icon for photo creditThe header of this month's newsletter is the reflecting pool at the OAC Centennial Arboretum Centre. Photo by Justine Richardson.