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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Garden Club of Ohio to Secrest: 'We Want to Help'

November 19, 2010

WOOSTER, Ohio — A statewide gardening organization is helping a major Ohio plant collection come back from a devastating tornado.


The Garden Club of Ohio recently presented a $500 seed gift to Ohio State University’s Secrest Arboretum in Wooster, where a Sept. 16 twister leveled a visitor center and about 1,500 trees.

Club member Bonnie Popa said it’s the first step in a new, long-term project by the club to generate donations for the facility. She’s serving as chairman of the effort.

“I was here from the beginning after the tornado,” Popa, of nearby Canton, said Nov. 16 during a short ceremony in the arboretum. “I couldn’t believe what I saw. I took the idea (for the project) to the club and said, ‘We need to help them.’ ”

“The goals of the Garden Club of Ohio are to support floriculture, horticulture and stewardship of our land,” said Club Treasurer Deanna Stearns, also of Canton. “So we want to help here. We’re excited about it.”

In the coming year, Stearns said, the state club will be asking its local member clubs to consider donating to the project. The money collected will go directly to the arboretum’s tornado renewal fund.

“Secrest Arboretum is a public-private partnership,” said Ken Cochran, the facility’s program director. “We rely on partnerships like the one we have with the Garden Club of Ohio. They have programs here, they bring expertise to the type of work we do, we lend advice in turn.

“It’s a good partnership, an important partnership, and we appreciate their generosity.”

“We’re just humbled by the support pouring in,” added Joe Cochran (no relation to Ken), the arboretum’s operations manager. Yellow caution tape still fluttered behind him. A snapped-in-half magnolia tree stood to his left.

The twister caused extensive damage to the university’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), of which the arboretum is a part, and surrounding neighborhoods. But officials reported only one minor injury.

The National Weather Service rated the tornado as an EF-2 on a scale of 0-5 with winds of up to 130 mph. About 30 of the arboretum’s 120 acres were virtually clearcut.

At the time of this writing, the arboretum and main OARDC campus remain closed to the public for cleanup and repairs.

Learn more about the Secrest Arboretum renewal fund at or call 330-464-2148.

The Garden Club of Ohio's website is at

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Caption: From left: Secrest Arboretum Program Director Ken Cochran, Bonnie Popa and Deanna Stearns of the Garden Club of Ohio, and Joe Cochran (no relation to Ken), the arboretum's operations manager, Nov. 16 in Secrest Arboretum, Wooster. (K.D. Chamberlain image)

Kurt Knebusch
Ken Cochran