August Skywatch: Planets, Metors; and Two Full Moons!

Perseids meteor shower map

August begins with three bright first-magnitude objects, two of them planets, clustered near to each other in the southwestern evening sky for several hours after sunset. The planets are Saturn at magnitude +0.8 and Mars at magnitude +1.1. On August 1st they will be seen within 10 degrees of each other (Saturn above), and through the month they will appear to draw closer together. Between August 7th and 20th they will be within a 5 degree circle which will also include 1st magnitude (+1.0) Spica, the brightest star in the zodiac constellation Virgo. In fact on the night of the 7th, the three will actually appear to form a neat triangle!

Spica is a blue giant star some 4 times hotter than our Sun and while it does not appear to move out of its constellation from year to year because of its great distance from us, the planet’s do make noticeable changes against the background stars in their orbits around the Sun. Saturn is far enough away so that its changes against the stars are much less than Mars which, moves a lot faster. So Mars will appear to pass between Spica and Saturn so that on the nights of August 13 and 14, the three will look like they are in a nearly straight line. A week later on the 21st, the three will form another triangle shape, with a lovely crescent Moon joining them, just a few degrees below the line.

We can distinguish the three objects from each other by color. Mars is reddish-orange, while Saturn is a more golden-yellow, and Spica looks bluish-white. It will be fun watching during the month as the 3 appear to move around each other in the southwest sky (roughly 9 to 11 pm).

In the morning sky look East for Jupiter, rising about 2 am and then visible until sunrise and bright (-2.2 magnitude), and sitting some 5 degrees above Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus. On the morning of the 11th, the waning crescent Moon will be near Jupiter.

Even brighter Venus at –4.6 magnitude rises about 3 hours before the Sun and the crescent Moon will be seen near it on the morning of August 13th.

August always brings the best meteor shower of the year into view —– the Perseids —- so named because the meteors appear to come from the sky which is occupied by the constellation Perseus. Some years we have to compete with a bright Moon blocking our view of some of the meteors, but this year a waning crescent Moon will offer little competition, and the peak night is on a weekend. The best night is August 11/12 —- Saturday night into Sunday morning. Best views which may be up to 60 to 80 meteors per hour occur from midnight to dawn looking in the northeast sky halfway up from the horizon. Perseid meteors are hunks of rock and dust debris from Comet 109P Swift-Tuttle. Each August Earth plows through its debris field and the particles incinerate in our atmosphere by friction.

One other item of note this month is that August this year has two Full Moons —- August 1st and August 31st. Though two Full Moons in a single month happen about once every three and a half years, it is infrequent enough to be one reason for the expression “once in a blue Moon.” No, the Moon does not really turn blue when it is full twice in a month, but Earth atmospheric conditions do make the Moon look blue sometimes; and that is even rarer.


Popular Adkins Soup ‘n Walk – Saturday March 17

Track the changing landscape from winter to spring on Saturday, March 17 at Adkins Arboretum with their popular Soup ‘n Walk program. Following a guided walk with a docent naturalist, enjoy a delicious and nutritious lunch along with a brief lesson about the meal’s nutritional value. Copies of recipes are provided.

Buds and Early Blooms
Many trees and shrubs are sporting new spring buds, fiddleheads are emerging on Christmas fern, and early pink and purple blooms are beginning to appear. Register for a one-hour or two-hour walk to check out skunk cabbage, spring beauty, and bloodroot blooms and the soft buds of paw paw, dogwood, hickory, and tulip tree.

Carrot and cauliflower soup with herbs
Avocado and pink grapefruit salad
Dill rye bread with strawberry jam
Chocolate walnut cookies

Registration required. Click here to register. Fee: $20 members, $25 general public

Saturday, March 17, 2012
11:00 am – 1:30 pm

Adkins Arboretum to Host 7th Annual Arbor Day Run

Young runners dart off the starting line at Adkins Arboretum. The Arboretum’s sixth annual Arbor Day Run, scheduled for Sat., April 7, includes a 5K run, a 100-yard dash for kids and a one-mile fun run/walk for families.

Runners, walkers, families and nature enthusiasts are invited to enjoy emerging signs of spring when the Arboretum hosts its seventh annual Arbor Day Run Sat., April 7.

The event features a 5K Run, a One-Mile Family Fun Run/Walk and a 100-yard dash for kids. Participants will catch glimpses of spring as they run the cross-country trail plotted along the Arboretum’s network of scenic forest and meadow paths. Registration begins at 8 a.m., with the Kids’ Dash at 8:45 a.m. The 5K Run and Family Fun Run/Walk commence at 9 a.m.

“Green” prizes will be awarded and refreshments provided. 5K participants will receive white oak saplings in honor of Arbor Day. For fee information and to register, visit, call 410-634-2847, ext. 0 or e-mail

The Arbor Day Run is sponsored in part by Dr. Julio Ramirez and Cindy Draper Massage Therapists.

Landscape Design Workshop at Adkins Arboretum – March 3

Adkins Arboretum is offering a landscape design workshop on Saturday, March 3 which will address the typical challenges of homeowners in the Chesapeake Bay region. Three experienced landscape designers and avid gardeners will lead you through an all-day intensive design session. Come with your challenges and dreams, and leave with a landscape plan, ideas, and confidence to transform your home landscape for your enjoyment and pride.

Topics include analyzing the challenges and opportunities of your property; developing a plan for circulation and unique features; designing “rooms” for outdoor living; choosing materials for patios and walks; incorporating sustainable practices; and selecting ornamental plants. The day will be organized around presentations followed by breakout sessions for you to work one-on-one with designers. The designers will offer practical advice on to get started, what to do with wet areas, how to lay out a path, how to screen an undesirable view, and plants recommended for specific conditions. Step by step, you will develop your own landscape design.

Workshop leaders are Arboretum Executive Director Ellie Altman; landscape architect Barbara McClinton, formerly of the Baltimore landscape architecture and land planning firm Daft, McCune, Walker; and landscape designer and native plant enthusiast Chris Pax, a graduate of the George Washington University sustainable landscape design master’s program.

Bring your own lunch. Arrive at 8:30 am for coffee and a light breakfast. The workshop will begin at 9 am. Break refreshments will be provided. Also bring a property plat, photos, and other documentation of your property.

Registration required. Click here for info and to pay.  Fee: $85 members, $110 general public

Adkins Arboretum
12610 Eveland Rd
Ridegely, MD 21660
410 634 2847

2012 Art Competition, Discovering Native Landscapes, on View Now at Adkins Arboretum

From the wild flurry of a flock rising over a corn field to a bright-eyed fox stalking its prey, Discovering the Native Landscapes of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Adkins Arboretum’s thirteenth annual Art Competition, is a varied portrait of the Eastern Shore. Including

First place: “Native/Invasive,” Christine Neill’s combination of watercolor and digital photography

paintings, photographs, prints, and ceramics, the show is on view in the Arboretum Visitor’s Center through March 30. There will be a reception to meet the artists Sat., Feb. 25 from 3 to 5 p.m.

The Arboretum was honored to have Erik Neil, executive director of the Academy Art Museum in Easton, as the juror for this year’s show. Of the 122 entries drawn from as far away as California, Neil chose 22 of them to be in the show.

It was also his task to choose the winners of the annual Leon Andrus Awards. Named for the Arboretum’s first benefactor, these prizes were awarded by Neil to four of the artworks in the show.

First prize went to “Native/Invasive,” Baltimore artist Christine Neill’s nearly four-foot-tall scene combining watercolor and digital photography. Painted with confident strokes of subtle color, its two graceful plant forms float one above the other over a background of tangled underwater plants and watery reflections.

Neil said, “I selected this watercolor and digital print because I admired the ambitious scale, the sensibility of color, and the

“Mill Creek,” an acrylic painting by Mark Wotherspoon, 2nd place

satisfying composition.”

There’s a very different atmosphere in the second-prize winner, “Mill Creek,” an acrylic painting by Mark Wotherspoon of Dover. Still and hazy as an old mirror, its waterway runs through a wetland thickly bordered with billowing trees.

“I liked the mood and the combination of the intense green with an almost naive definition of the forms,” Neil explained. “The painting has a dreamy or even surreal feel.”

Neil also awarded two Honorable Mentions. The first went to “November Adkins Arboretum,” a photograph by Karen Klinedinst, of Baltimore, for her use of new technologies to create mood. In this case, it’s the bittersweet beauty of late autumn. Captured with her iPhone while she was walking in the Arboretum, the shadowy edges of this photo intensify the warm golden glow of a bare oak tree standing in a weedy clearing.

Very different is the second Honorable Mention. Chosen for its simple composition and mastery of technique, “Wild Ginger” by botanical artist Jerry Kurtzweg is a giclée print of a graphite drawing with every curve of its scalloped leaves precisely captured in a soft, understated drawing style.

This is a diverse and lively show. There’s beauty in the patterns of river birch twigs imprinted on a ceramic vase by Paul Aspell, and in the soft light slanting through the trees in a photograph taken with a pinhole camera by Mary Agnes Williams. There’s also food for thought in “Scarey House,” Julia Burr’s painting of the long-abandoned home, and the distant cooling tower rising over a quiet marsh in Richard Hall’s photograph, “Wetlands in the Balance.” Neil’s choice of these works reflects the wide variety of landscapes on Delmarva, from wetlands to farmlands to forests, as well as offers a view of the many ways that artists see them.

This show is part of Adkins Arboretum’s ongoing exhibition series of work on natural themes by regional artists, supported in part by Caroline County Council of Arts. It is on view through March 30 at the Arboretum Visitor’s Center located at 12610 Eveland Road near Tuckahoe State Park in Ridgely. Contact the Arboretum at 410-634-2847, ext. 0 or for gallery hours.

Artists Reception Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012
3 to 5 p.m

Show runs through March 30, 2012

Adkins Arboretum
12610 Eveland Road
Ridgely, MD 21660

Popular Soup ‘n Walk @ Adkins – Saturday, Feb. 18

Docent Julianna Pax points out the architecture of the winter forest during a Soup ’n Walk program at Adkins Arboretum. The winter Soup ’n Walk series begins Sat., Feb. 18.

Adkins Arboretum has announced the winter and spring lineup for its popular Soup ’n Walk programs. Discover green plants in winter, early blooms and fleeting ephemeral flowers. Following a guided walk through the Arboretum’s woodland, meadows and wetland, enjoy a delicious and nutritious lunch along with a brief lesson about the meal’s nutritional value. Copies of recipes are provided.

Each Soup ’n Walk program is $20 per person for members, $25 per person for the general public. Register at or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0. To schedule Soup ’n Walk programs for groups of 15 or more, contact Ginna Tiernan, Adult Program Coordinator, at 410-634-2847, ext. 27 or
Walks are 11 am–1:30 pm.

The Saturday, February 18 walk, titled, ” Seeking Snow and Winter Warmth,” encourages participants to p.m.
search out green plants that cherish the warm winter sun, and possibly snow-covered plants, on this wintry walk. Plants of interest include mosses, cranefly orchid, magnolia and holly leaves, pine and red cedar needles, Christmas fern and the stems of strawberry bush and greenbrier. Menu: Chicken soup with greens and sweet potatoes, broccoli bud salad, pumpernickel bread with mint jelly, and gingerbread with lemon sauce.

The Saturday, March 17 theme is “Buds and Early Blooms”
Many trees and shrubs are sporting new spring buds, fiddleheads are emerging on Christmas fern, and early pink and purple blooms are beginning to appear. Register for a one-hour or two-hour walk to check out skunk cabbage, spring beauty, and bloodroot blooms and the soft buds of paw paw, dogwood, hickory and tulip tree. Menu: Carrot and cauliflower soup with herbs, avocado and pink grapefruit salad, dill rye bread with strawberry jam, and chocolate walnut cookies.

April’s walk, Fleeting Ephemerals is set for Satursay the 21st.
Appearing in early spring, ephemerals flower, fruit, and die back in a short period of time. Join a one-hour or two-hour walk to catch glimpses of pink spring beauty, Mayapple, dogwood blossoms, yellow trout lily, golden groundsel, sassafras and spicebush blooms, and white beech tree blossoms. Menu: Kale, corn, and black bean soup, golden carrot salad, whole wheat cinnamon raisin walnut bread, and pumpkin spice bars.

Adkins Arboretum
12610 Eveland Rd
Ridegely, MD  21660
410 634 2847


Adkins Arboretum Staff Participates in Sentinel Plant Network Training

Two Adkins Arboretum staff members participated recently in training at Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum to support Adkins Arboretum’s partnership with the Sentinel Plant Network (SPN).

A collaboration between the American Public Gardens Association and the National Plant Diagnostic Network, SPN contributes to plant conservation by engaging public garden professionals, volunteers and visitors in the detection and diagnosis of high consequence pests and pathogens. The network is committed to identifying outbreaks of exotic plant pests so that strategies can be employed for their control, with the goal of avoiding devastations such as the loss of the American chestnut in the 1930s and the more recent Emerald Ash borer that is disseminated in native green ash populations.

Arboretum Youth Program Coordinator Jenny Houghton and ecologist Dr. Sylvan Kaufman attended the two-day conference along with 40 other professionals representing public gardens in the Northeast. Participants learned about best practices for scouting and reporting plant pests and diseases, as well as how to use SPN training modules and other resources in the Arboretum’s internal operations and public programming.

“I have offered several programs on invasive plants at the Arboretum, and the resources provided by the Sentinel Plant Network make it possible to share information on other invasive species that could appear in our region,” said Kaufman. “Many of the potential insect and disease threats are to trees, and this provides an early warning system for the Arboretum and local community that could save our forests.”

“The Emerald Ash borer has been found in Maryland but is not yet present on the Eastern Shore,” Kaufman explained. “Early detection of this insect could help save street trees and important specimen trees on the Shore. My hope is that people who walk regularly at the Arboretum and at Tuckahoe State park, volunteers, Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, boaters and community tree stewards will all learn how to detect signs of new invasive species and will learn how to report suspected problems.

“The Network provides training modules that can be used to create educational sessions for people who want to be able to detect invasive species threats in our area,” added Houghton. “These sessions will provide the public with information about the Sentinel Plant Network and will inform in-depth training of volunteers interested in monitoring the Arboretum’s woodland for plant pests and pathogens.”

The Arboretum will offer a program this spring about the Sentinel Plant Network. For more information, visit

Adkins Arboretum Names New Trustee & Board President

Adkins Arboretum announces that Henry Brandt of Centreville has joined its Board of Trustees. Brandt, a financial advisor with Lovett Advisors LLC in Wilmington, Del., has a background in banking, insurance and consulting. He is a longtime member of numerous community organizations, including Choptank Ruritan Club, Caroline County Farm Bureau and Caroline County’s chapter of the American Heart Association.

Sydney Gadd Doehler of Centreville was named president of the Arboretum Board of Trustees at its January meeting. Doehler boasts an extensive background in management and currently manages the Social Security Administration’s life-cycle AT&T program team. She is a member of Queen Anne’s County Historical Society, Chester River Association and Corsica River Foundation.

“We’re pleased to welcome Henry Brandt, a longtime resident of both Caroline and Queen Anne’s counties,” said Arboretum Executive Director Ellie Altman. “His experience serving on numerous local nonprofit boards, and his knowledge of business finance, will make him an invaluable member of the Board.”

Added Altman, “Sydney Doehler is passionate about the Arboretum’s mission, which makes her a tremendous ambassador for promoting the Arboretum’s program. Her way of tackling challenges is to engage others and never allow moss to grow beneath her feet.”

Adkins Arboretum Honors Federalsburg Scout for Construction of Paw Paw Playground

Chase Miller of Federalsburg recently was honored by Adkins Arboretum. Miller designed and constructed the Arboretum’s Paw Paw Playground natural playspace as an Eagle Scout project.

Adkins Arboretum recently honored Boy Scout Chase Miller in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Arboretum’s nature playspace, Paw Paw Playground.

In contrast to traditional playgrounds, nature playspaces are made almost entirely of natural materials and are designed to encourage creative outdoor play. Fourteen-year-old Miller, of Federalsburg, designed and constructed Paw Paw Playground as an Eagle Scout project. His design includes two wigwams, a turtle-shaped tree stump ring and a snake balance beam. Miller has a keen interest in Native American lore; the turtle and snake are both symbols of local Native American tribes.

As a museum in the Let’s Move! network, an initiative launched by First Lady Michelle Obama, the Arboretum is committed to promoting healthy physical activity for children and families. Paw Paw Playground is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Use of the playground is free with Arboretum admission.

Donations from Tri Gas & Oil, American Legion Post 29, Nice Farms Creamery, Easton Elks Lodge and VFW Post 5118 supported the project in part.

Adkins Arboretum
12610 Eveland Rd
Ridgely, MD 21660

Howard & Mary McCoy Named Adkins Arboretum’s Volunteers of the Year

Howard and Mary McCoy of Centreville were named Adkins Arboretum’s 2011 Volunteers of the Year.

For more than a decade, visitors have marveled at the art created in the Adkins Arboretum forest by Howard and Mary McCoy. Composed primarily of elements found naturally in the landscape, and drawing attention to the inextricable connection between nature and art, the artists’ work is in harmony with the Arboretum’s conservation mission. Few may know, though, of this husband-and-wife team’s work behind the scenes. From coordinating invitational shows to hanging countless exhibits to arranging the annual Art Competition, they are the very lifeblood of the Arboretum’s thriving arts program. For their contributions and dedication, they were honored recently as the Arboretum’s Volunteers of the Year for 2011.

Introduced to the Arboretum by Marion Price, the late artist and gallery owner who initiated the Arboretum’s art program, the McCoys exhibited their first Arboretum show in 1999. They brought the idea of outdoor art to the Arboretum, creating installations in the forest and meadows and curating an every-other-year outdoor sculpture invitational that draws artists from around the country. The McCoys also serve on (and Mary McCoy chairs) the Arboretum Art Committee, the panel that selects artists for future exhibits.

“Talented artists in their own right, Howard and Mary have been involved in curating the Arboretum’s art exhibits for more than a decade and have been involved in attracting more than 100 of our region’s most creative artists to exhibit at the Arboretum,” said Arboretum Executive Director Ellie Altman. “They are a constant at the Arboretum. Without them, the art program would not exist.”

As the Arboretum values the McCoys’ involvement in the art program, so do the artists benefit from the opportunity to work and create at the Arboretum. “We get to work outside and have the freedom to do what we want,” said Mary McCoy. “We can go out into the woods and experiment. Over the years, we have gotten to know the forest and many individual trees. The Arboretum gives us the chance not only to bring art to people but to interact with other artists who exhibit at the Arboretum. We’ve made some wonderful friendships that way.”

“Working in the woods has been a golden opportunity for us,” said Howard McCoy. He told of his interest in the evolution and deterioration of subject matter and how that interest led him from working with industrial materials to working in and of nature. “One of the things that fascinates us is how nature reclaims our sculptures. You see the cycles of nature, and we like how the sculptures change as nature changes.”

This natural progression is one of the reasons the McCoys created their most recent sculpture installation (Second Sitings, June–September 2011) entirely with materials found at the Arboretum. “Creating with materials on the site and of the site makes people stop and consider what is natural and what is art,” said Mary McCoy.

“One thing that we really enjoy is when people tell us the thing they found interesting about an area where we do a sculpture at the Arboretum,” added Howard McCoy. “It gives them the opportunity to pay closer attention to what’s going on in that area around the sculpture. That resonates for us, to have that response. It’s really quite wonderful.”

The McCoys are wonderful as well. Their creativity, their vision, and their kind and gentle nature make them assets to the Adkins Arboretum community. This lovely couple has truly mastered the art of volunteering.

Howard and Mary McCoy live near Centreville in a house designed in the 1930s by Mary’s grandmother on the banks of the Chester River. They were honored on Jan. 21 at the Arboretum’s Annual Volunteer Recognition Brunch.

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