Published: Tuesday, April 21, 2015
By Rita Manno
She was a young woman in the early ’70s when her family, on a Sunday afternoon, drove out to the empty fields in Medford Township. She was unaware that in time her father would use his landscaping skills to turn that untouched land into the nationally recognized Barton Arboretum and Nature Preserve.
The Arboretum and its vast array of trees, plantings, and shrubs, weaves in and out of the homes at Medford Leas, a Quaker-related residential community where some 600 residents over 55 enjoy the peaceful landscape.
“My father started working on the landscaping right away. He had a grand time,” says Nancy Barclay, the daughter of Lewis W. Barton. All Nancy can remember back to those early trips was a lone holly tree and lots of land.
It wasn’t unusual that Lewis Barton would charge forward so enthusiastically into the landscaping of what would become 200 acres of preserved land.
Not unusual because the Bartons were an outdoors family, living on a dairy farm in Cherry Hill, spending their free time hiking, going on canoe trips in the Pine Barrens and anything that would take them out into nature.
Lewis Barton lived at Medford Leas for some 20 years. He died in 1994. Nancy and her husband David have been at the residential community for the last four years. She is 80.
The Arboretum features a stunning array of native plants, shrubs and trees framing multiple walkways and observation points. The grounds are a unique blend of public gardens, collections and preserved natural areas around private residential space.
Nancy said her father’s guiding principle in landscaping was “open space.” He didn’t want things to appear crowded. He also wanted to educate the public about the value of native New Jersey plants and their rightful prominence in any landscape plan.
The Arboretum promotes horticultural knowledge and integrates nature into living, working and recreational environments. Good land stewardship and ecological responsibility through its bio-diverse and sustainable practices are also part of its mission.
There were others, Nancy said, in addition to her father who were instrumental in designing and creating the Arboretum — Lois Forrest, then executive director of Medford Leas in 1971 and Paul Meyer, Director of the Morris Arboretum. To learn more, visit www.bartonarboretum.org
Nancy looks forward to the annual Evening in the Arboretum event at Medford Leas on Saturday, April 25, 6 to 8:30 p.m. with tickets $85 per person.
Proceeds from the evening of wine tasting, hearty hors d’oeuvres and splendid deserts will benefit the upkeep of the Arboretum, a task that Medford Leas considers a high priority.
What attracts a high amount of interest and great competition at the event is the silent auction. The prizes range from four, one-day passes to Walt Disney World, a mini I-Pad, gift certificates to local restaurants and merchants including Zinc’s, Carlucci’s, Capital Grill and Murphy’s Markets, spa packages, season passes to Morris Arboretum and Mt. Cuba and tickets to the Walnut Street Theater. Also, there will be plants, shrubs, container gardens, gift certificates for local nurseries, baskets of wine and artwork.
If interested in the event, visit www.medfordleas.org for a reply card or call Jane Weston for more information at 609-654-3007.
“It’s a fun evening,” says Nancy. It’s a time when she can’t help but think how far the Arboretum and Nature Preserve has come from those early days of green fields.