Thursday, June 21, 2018

Update on Veblen Birthday Gathering Sunday, 2-5pm

Bringing food/drink is optional for Sunday's birthday celebration. We'll provide some basics if anyone's hungry, along with some displays about Veblen House past and future, tours of the grounds, and some games.

The grounds have been getting more attention in recent weeks than perhaps at any time in the past 20 years, with rock walls getting rebuilt, the ground being restored to original grade, and paths being mowed to the edible forest plantings and to historic features like the horse run. This work builds on past clearings of invasive brush that reopened the views across this peaceful woodland setting that the Veblens called home.

"Windows into the Past" exhibits will include the stories of Herrontown Woods' magnetic rocks, a ten-year ecological study underway in the preserve, the Whiton-Stuart family that originally built and lived in the house, and some of the many facets of Veblen history.

As previously mentioned, park at the main parking lot off of Snowden Ave, across from the Smoyer Park entrance, then follow signs up to the house. Useful maps are at this link. We'll have refreshments and grill some hotdogs.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Weeding and Seed Bombing--A Girlscout Workday at Herrontown Woods

(Note: Join us for the June 24 Veblen birthday picnic.)

Thanks to Girl Scout Troop 72905 from the Princeton Service Unit, for participating in a spirited workday on a cool misty day. They started at the new botanical garden next to the Herrontown Woods parking lot, pulling out Japanese honeysuckle that would otherwise overwhelm the native species being planted there.

Then it was a short walk up to Smoyer Park, where the Friends of Herrontown Woods is taking care of a native meadow planted in the detention basin that catches and filters runoff from the fields and parking lot. The scouts mixed seed of native floodplain wildflowers and sedges into a shovelful of dirt, then made balls of a good size for throwing. "Seed bombing" is an activity originally mentioned by scout leader Pallavi Nuka, and we decided to give it a try.

Here, the merry gardeners are literally aiming to increase the plant diversity in the wet meadow.

It's a hail mari-gold approach to seed planting, although marigold wasn't in the mix. Species included rose mallow hibiscus, wild senna, ironweed, cutleaf coneflower, and several types of sedges. Already flourishing in the basin are big and little bluestem grasses, Indian grass, partridge pea and black-eyed susan.

The logic of the detention basin is to detain stormwater runoff long enough for it to seep into the soil and feed the groundwater reserves, rather than add to local flooding. The basin also makes a great place to show off the many native plant species that thrive in wet, sunny habitats. Kids, too, thrive in wet, sunny habitats, especially when they have rubber boots.

After the seed bombing, the girls stepped over the berm, behind the basin, to explore a seepage slope where consistently wet ground supports a lush natural wetland of sensitive fern, soft rush and sedges. With enough care, the basin could someday look this good.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

A Veblen Birthday Celebration on June 24, 2-5pm

Update: This event was originally posted as a potluck, but there's no need to bring food or drink. We'll provide refreshments and hotdogs. 

Come one and all to celebrate Oswald Veblen's 138th birthday on Sunday, June 24 on the Veblen House grounds at Herrontown Woods. Veblen was recently featured in a cover story by the Princeton Alumni Magazine, and the Friends of Herrontown Woods has decided to celebrate his legacy with a picnic next to the house he and his wife generously donated to the public trust.

The picnic gathering goes from 2-5pm, and will include displays about the past and future of the house and accompanying preserve, and tours of our work to restore the Veblen House grounds and create a new botanical garden. On the grounds are a horse run, the beginnings of an edible forest, and newly planted raingardens.

Park at the main parking lot off of Snowden Ave, across from the Smoyer Park entrance, then follow signs up to the house. Useful maps are at this link. We'll have refreshments and grill some hotdogs.

(The birthday picnic is a free event, but FOHW welcomes donations at this link.)

Pre-schoolers Plant Seeds at FOHW's New Botanical Garden

Four young families, part of a volunteer organization called Mini-Mitzvah Corps at the Jewish Center of Princeton, recently planted seeds of native wildflowers at Herrontown Woods. The planting was hosted by volunteers with the Friends of Herrontown Woods (, which is creating a botanical garden next to the parking lot where visitors can learn about the native flora of Princeton. 

The children helped plant a part of the garden we're calling the Veblen Circle, named after mathematician and visionary Oswald Veblen and his wife Elizabeth, who donated Herrontown Woods in 1957 as Princeton's first nature preserve. The seeds of Joe-Pye-Weed, Cutleaf Coneflower, and other native species were collected from local wildflower populations by FOHW president and naturalist, Steve Hiltner.

Thanks to Marci Meixler for her efforts to organize the workday, and all the kids and parents who joined us for an enjoyable afternoon.

As we were finishing up planting, we happened to see a bald eagle flying high overhead, which we took as a good omen.

The seeds have since begun to sprout, with the help of some wet weather.