top of page
The Builders
We owe a debt of gratitude to these SSC instructors who took the dream of an arboretum, made it into a reality, and sought to continually improve it.
Van Bobbitt was a Landscape Horticulture instructor at South, and the Arboretum Coordinator from January of 1999, until he retired in June of 2015. 
Van replaced longtime instructor and Arboretum advocate, Steve Nord. Before his retirement, Steve had begun discussions with Dianne and Robert Fincham of Coenosium Gardens about creating a dwarf conifer garden.  After Steve's retirement, Van took on a significant role in the development of that garden, which is now the "crown jewel" of the Arboretum, the Coenosium Rock Garden. Van shepherded the project from its beginning in 1999 until its completion in 2005.
During Van's tenure, the Aboretum became pesticide free, earning a 5-star Envirostars rating in 2008. The Coenosium Rock Garden was inducted into the Gardens for Peace program in 2010. In 2012, the garden became a National Wildlife Federation Urban Sanctuary. And in 2014, the conifer collections at the Arboretum were designated as an American Conifer Society Reference Garden. 
Even in retirement, Van continues to advocate for the Arboretum, leading tours, teaching continuing education classes, and serving on the Arboretum Advisory Committee.
Van Bobbitt
Of course, no history of the Arboretum would be complete without acknowledging the two Steves:
Steve Hilderbrand and Steve Nord.
Steve Nord, seen here in the early 1990s, taught Plant ID and pruning classes, from 1971 until 1998. His career advice for students was to learn to prune, because "you can prune when you're hungry."
In the early years of the Arboretum, plantings were pretty sparse, so to be sure students had the opportunity to learn all 300 plants on the WSNLA test, Steve took students on field trips to various public gardens and nurseries to learn the plants. This was an education in itself.
Steve Nord teaching a plant ID class in early 1990s
But Steve's greatest contribution was his tireless promotion of the Landscape Horticulture Program and the Arboretum. He sought out individuals who might be in a position to donate time or money, established relationships and succeeded in raising the funds needed for many of the gardens.
For years, he and Helen Sutton could be seen taking walks through the Arboretum, deep in conversation, planning new projects. He had great admiration for Jean Malmo, who was another prominent benefactor for the Arboretum. When there were few trees in the garden inventory, she donated 125 Bosnian pines that were planted throughout the Arboretum. When Dianne and Robert Fincham first discussed their dream of The Coenosium Rock Garden with Steve, he encouraged the idea. 
In 1985, Steve began hosting annual Arbor Day Tea and Tours events and invited the community to visit the Arboretum and to learn more about the LHO program. These events were an opportunity for him to share his vision for the Arboretum and bring in support for the garden and the Landscape Horticulture Program. 
Steve Hilderbrand with his landscape construction class
Once plans are made and the money is raised, someone has to make these projects a reality. That's where Steve Hilderbrand comes in.
Steve has been teaching at SSC since 1986.
His classes include: bidding and estimating, landscape construction and irrigation. 
Over the years, Steve and his students have installed all  of the gardens and irrigation in the Arboretum except for building the Gazebo, installing the Sensory Garden and doing the concrete work in the Entry Garden.
Here, in 2011, Steve is overseeing the removal of sod in front of the Gazebo before students replaced it with pavers.
In fall of 1999, Steve and his Landscape Construction students began building the Coenosium Rock Garden. This garden contains over 225 conifer cultivars and 100 alpine plants, arranged in a naturalistic setting. This setting features granite boulders, a pond and recirculating stream. 
Over a six year period, Steve and his students transformed the space you see above to the beautiful garden that
we enjoy today.
bottom of page