Landscape Improvement Project Underway for Peetwood Pavilion
With a breathtakingly beautiful view of the Native Plant Trail meadow and the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Peetwood Pavilion for Environmental Education has become one of the most popular locations at Blandy since it first opened in 2005. Located about 50 yards east of the visitor parking lot, Peetwood Pavilion is primarily used for Blandy’s K-12 school programs. Over the winter it’s received a major facelift, funded with the support of the University of Virginia’s Arboretum and Landscape Committee as well as the Foundation of the State Arboretum. The project was developed by FOSA’s Collections Committee, chaired by Nancy Takahashi, in consultation with the Arboretum’s grounds and education staff. The goals of the project are to enhance outdoor educational space for K-12 programs through added seating areas and new plantings as well as to improve the aesthetics of the approach to the building.
One of the highlights of the improvement project is the creation of two stone walls that enclose the back patio of the pavilion. The seating walls extend Peetwood’s structural space and provide an outdoor gathering space for use in programming. Ben Smallwood, a local mason with Stone Works, began work on the new mortared seating spaces near the pavilion in late December and completed them in early March.
Further to the south, three curved seat walls arranged in a semi-circle will create a new focal location on the landscape. A large low flat stone will sit in the center, surrounded by embedded cobblestones marking cardinal directions and summer and winter solstice positions to highlight the change in day length across the seasons in the context of the landscape . Along with views of the giant native meadow grasses, visitors can enjoy a wildflower patch, installed and maintained by volunteers, which is in bloom all summer long.
The next phase of improvements will enhance the approach to the building with a sinuous new gravel path lined with new plantings including: American Persimmon, Sourwood, Sweetgum (fruitless), American Holly, and New Jersey Tea. These trees were chosen to tie in with the educational themes of plant forms and functions and local Native American uses, including wood for carving, food, dried sap for chewing gum, medicinal tea, and soup seasoning. A new planting bed in front of the building will include blue grama grass and small trees that obscure the view of the bathroom doors.
The overall renovation budget includes money for plants; grading, materials, and labor for seating walls; grading for entry; large planters for river cane; gravel for driveway and trails, as well as installation of gravel pathways. Improvements should be complete by the end of March, said T'ai Roulston, the Arboretum Curator who has overseen the improvements.
Peetwood Pavilion is open to visitors when not in use for scheduled programming.