The Formation of Blandy and Orland E. White: 1924-1955
Blandy Experimental Farm came into being in 1924 when Graham Blandy willed 700 acres of his land, part of the historic 'Tuleyries' estate, to the University of Virginia. His will stipulated that it should be called "Blandy Experimental Farm" and used to train college students in farming methods. In 1927, Orland E. White was appointed the first director of the farm and in addition to using it as a field research station and training ground for agricultural techniques, he began to turn it into an arboretum as well, planting a wide variety of trees around the property. Dr. White took a particular interest in planting trees not thought to be hardy in Virginia, including several Arizona cypress trees that are still alive at Blandy today. The ginkgo grove was also planted during this time, as part of an experiment to see how common each sex of ginkgo trees were in comparison to each other.
The Quarters at Blandy Graham Blandy
Radiation Experiments and the Slow Years: 1955-1982
In the late 1950s, Blandy received a federal grant to install a radiation pit and test the effects of radiation on plants. Under the direction of Dr. Ralph Singleton several radiation experiments were carried out, primarily on corn plants, in an attempt to cause mutations that might improve the crops in some way. The radiation pit has long since been dismantled and removed. Also during this time the American Boxwood Society was founded and headquartered at Blandy. By the mid 1960s however, most biological research was being done in a lab and UVA lost much interest in Blandy as a field station. Blandy fell into a low budget holding pattern until the early 1980s.
Corn near the radiation pit
Opening to the Public and the State Arboretum of Virginia: 1982 - Present
Until Dr. Ed Conner was appointed director of Blandy in 1982, the property had been closed off to the public, only accessible to the university students, staff, and faculty who worked there. Dr. Conner decided to turn the now well-established arboretum into a public garden, and began organizing significant fundraising and volunteer efforts to turn this dream into a reality. In 1984, the "Friends of Blandy" was formed to raise money for the arboretum (now known as the Foundation of the State Arboretum). By 1986, the Virginia general assembly designated the property as the State Arboretum of Virginia, and soon a number of popular public events became tradition, including the annual mother's day 'Garden Fair' plant sale and winter holiday workshops, both of which continue until the present day. In the 90s, many of the herbaceous gardens at Blandy were formed, including the herb garden and the native plant trail.
Research was still a priority during this time, and a summer research program for undergraduates was formed, as well as a seminar series and a visiting researcher program. Many research projects today at Blandy focus on the ecological relationships of plants and animals, as well as the effects of human influence on natural ecosystems.