Info on Jane Henley

November 8, 2009

Categories: Daffodil Enthusiasts, General

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Some time back Jaydee asked what happened to a former ADS member.  Here is a clip from today’s Daily Press, Newport News, Virginia.,0,2141035.story
Jane Henley always surrounded herself with plants at her 20-acre home in the Maxwell area of Newport News.During the decades she lived there, she experimented with wildflowers, orchids and roses. She discovered bamboo was the devil’s doing. She won prizes for her daffodils, and mastered the art of bonsai.There wasn’t anything Jane wouldn’t try to grow or couldn’t grow.

Today, Henley, 94, resides in a retirement community in Newport News, still loving plants like she always has. Ferns are her favorite plants because they require little care and go with everything, she says.

Over the years, her generous donations to the College of William and Mary enabled the college to develop and expand its own collection of plants. She attended the college in the 1930s.

In recognition of Jane’s contributions, there is the Henley Walking Tour of the Campus Plants, a self-guided tour that takes in many of college’s 300 types of woody species that also honor John Baldwin Jr., professor of biology 1946-74.

That tour is now revised and called the Campus Tour of Woody Species. It’s outlined online at tour/index.php, so the public can see first-hand what the campus offers in the way of historical, unusual and interesting trees and shrubs — even wildflowers, ferns and garden sculpture.

“There’s a duck sculpture Jane gave us in honor of her late husband H. DeShields Henley,” says Martin Mathes, an emeritus biology professor at the college, as he guides visitors along the walking tour.

Trees are turning fall colors and the air is crisp. It’s a great time to take a leisurely stroll along the college’s five miles of paved paths and experience the ancient, the old and the new sites at the historic campus.

The bronze duck Mathes points to is nestled into the two-acre wooded Wildflower Refuge that runs along a natural ravine. Established in 1974, the moist, shady area is home to rare species — bloodroot and trillium — that were rescued from construction sites. A small amphitheater at the entrance provides seating for quiet observation and small performances.

“It’s a marvelous, marvelous area in the middle of the campus,” he says.

Across the winding road, the Crim Dell area is the most photographed — and romantic — spot on campus. A four-foot great blue heron statue by Eastern Shore bronze sculptor David Turner is located in the pond; pathways around the Crim Dell bridge are planted with spring-flowering shrubs.

Once you cross the red-and white wooden bridge, you encounter another pleasant surprise — bronze sculptures of a young woman reading a love letter while a young man studies a book. They enjoy “spring” under the beauty of a 1948-planted dawn redwood that Mathes calls his favorite.

“The dawn redwood is unique — and a survivor,” he says. “It’s a deciduous evergreen with unique cones and was once thought to be extinct.”

Situated on 1,250 acres that include Lake Matoaka, the William and Mary campus occupies 425 developed acres. Landscaping at the college started with formal gardens in 1694. Recently, the college’s plantings emphasize native plants, especially species like buttonbush that are original to the southeast.

“The use of native plants is part of the college’s move to sustainability,” says John McFarlane, associate director for the department of facilities management, which oversees the landscape’s plantings and care.

“Native plants demand less and are better for the environment.”

The walking tour is also used to teach biology students. They look at stems, buds, flowers, leaves and fruits to identify species. Ripening seeds on the magnolia tree tell the story of reproduction. Similar but different foliage on the dawn redwood and bald cypress distinguish the two. Fruits or no fruits on the ginkgo determine the sex.

“These features not only enhance the classroom experience, but provide a living laboratory in which faculty and students maintain ongoing research projects that advance our scientific knowledge of the flora, fauna and ecology of our area,” says Martha Case, associate professor of biology.

For the public, the lesson plan is simple and straightforward. Get some fresh air and exercise while you admire the handsome cones on blue atlas cedar. Smell the sweet scent of fall flowers on holly-like osmanthus. Guess how many feet the two coastal redwoods rise into the sky.

That’s what Jane Henley would do.

Take the tour

What: Campus Tour of Woody Species

Where: The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg

Details: The self-guided walking tour takes you along several miles of paved walkways to see many of the college’s more than 300 species and varieties of woody plants. Learn more about the collection and the 15 gardens associated with it at


To purchase a tree and plaque or bench for placement on the campus to honor someone, contact Lesley Atkinson, director of donor relations at 221-7696 or e-mail  title=.

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