A Growing Reminder: How the Mariana H. Qubein Botanical Gardens and Arboretum Inspire Reflection

This story is featured in the Spring 2018 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how the Mariana H. Qubein Botanical Gardens and Arboretum serve as a place of serenity and education for HPU students.

Like High Point University itself, the Mariana H. Qubein Botanical Gardens and Arboretum are noticeably beautiful. But every aspect of their design, from their collections to their colors and size, also serves an important purpose on campus.

They are a refuge and respite from the day-to-day for students. They are learning tools for classes. They are a haven for wildlife.

Comprised of 26 different gardens and 3,700 recorded taxa, of which more than 700 are trees, the HPU gardens invite passersby to slow down, reflect and admire the beauty they encounter.

Benches beckon visitors to relax. Quotations selected by students provide moments for reflection. Walkways that connect students from one building to the next are lined with blooms — a reminder to pause and appreciate.

And within these gardens that spread throughout campus are various collections, each one having its own story.

Plants with Purpose


When Jon Roethling describes HPU’s collections and the number of magnolias, azaleas or any other varieties they include, people tell him that they never knew there were so many.

“They only know the few that might be in mainstream commerce and are astounded by the diversity out there,” says Roethling, curator of the gardens and arboretum. “I seek out all these lesser-known plants and selections so others might become aware of them. The same can be said for education. There is a basic set of knowledge that most are exposed to, but people who are truly extraordinary seek out more and delve deeper into things.”

Additions to the plant collections and expansion of the gardens is a continuous process. These collections continue to distinguish HPU from other campuses. International groups such as the Magnolia Society International and the International Plant Propagators Society have visited campus to admire the collections, bringing national recognition with them.

Roethling knows that gardening is both an art and a science. Plants serve a variety of purposes, like feeding the body. But of equal importance, they feed the soul.

Science has proven that shrubs, trees and flowers have a practical application in hospitals. The soothing effect of plants is so great that having daily views of flowers in landscaped areas outside a patient’s recovery room significantly speeds up recovery time.

At HPU, spiritual growth on campus continues through the collections. They blanket the campus in a bounty of beautiful color, but also serve as an important reminder for students and visitors to pause and reflect.

There are nine total collections on campus, and some of them stand in honor and memory of those who have served the gardens over the years.

Like the Gerald Smith Rain Lily collection, named for a retired biology professor. Rain lilies were part of Smith’s research, and he authored an article on rain lily treatments, published in the book “Flora of North America.”

Then, there’s the Raylene Fealy Crinum Collection, named for the wife of retired High Point Chief of Police Jim Fealy. Raylene Fealy is a dedicated volunteer and supporter of the gardens. As a gift to his wife for her support through his tenure, Chief Fealy reached out for the chance to honor her through the gardens.

Other collections around campus include the magnolia, redbud, dogwood, evergreen azalea, deciduous azalea, deciduous holly and flowering cherry collections.

Students, faculty and visitors are reminded of the hard work that others have committed to the gardens with plaques that note their presence. They’re reminded of the importance and beauty that come from dedication and persistence.

A Collaborative Collection

HPU will soon boast one of the largest magnolia collections in North Carolina thanks to the Steel Magnolias. This active group of alumni women who graduated from 1953 to 1980 has led the campaign of more than 100 magnolia trees sponsored on campus. They also have established an endowment that supports the long-term care of the trees.

The campus is filled with 171 different magnolias, the second largest magnolia collection in the state. Lining walkways and framing buildings, they’re an on-campus reminder of the power produced through collaboration.

Led by their president, Anne Kerr Walker, in collaboration with Roethling, the Steel Magnolias have set a goal of adding 200 different magnolias to the collection within five years.

Many individuals and groups have given to the collection, and each new magnolia is planted with a plaque of recognition.

These trees have meaning. They’re an example of how the HPU gardens grow more than just plants — they grow the legacy of university family members and the values on which HPU is built.

“I have donated three trees in memory of my husband, my sister and my brother,” says Walker. “Everyone has a different reason for supporting these trees, but whatever the reason, it is a wonderful idea and a beautiful thing to do.”

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