Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire 
Ginger Hudson, seen here on July 23, 2021, stepped up as the manager of the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in January of 2021, taking over one of the northernmost arboretums in the world, as well as one renowned internationally for its collection of primrose plants.

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire Ginger Hudson, seen here on July 23, 2021, stepped up as the manager of the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in January of 2021, taking over one of the northernmost arboretums in the world, as well as one renowned internationally for its collection of primrose plants.

New arboretum manager takes root

It’s a rare gardner that has experience growing plants this far north.

The Jensen-Olson Arboretum was left with a conundrum last year: How do you find a good manager for one of the northernmost arboretums in the country?

The City and Borough of Juneau neatly solved that by looking even further north, bringing Ginger Hudson on board from the Alaska Botanical Garden in Anchorage in January.

Now, with her feet firmly planted, Hudson looks forward to a bright future for the arboretum.

“Ginger came down from Anchorage. She has a ton of wonderful experience from the Alaska Botanical Garden,” said CBJ Parks and Recreation director George Schaaf in a phone interview. “She knew a lot about the Jensen-Olson Arboretum, and it was clear to us she’d be a good fit for the gardens.”

Ginger Hudson, seen here on July 23, 2021, stepped up as the manager of the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in January of 2021, taking over one of the northernmost arboretums in the world, as well as one renowned internationally for its collection of primrose plants. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Ginger Hudson, seen here on July 23, 2021, stepped up as the manager of the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in January of 2021, taking over one of the northernmost arboretums in the world, as well as one renowned internationally for its collection of primrose plants. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Hudson came to Anchorage more than a decade ago after spending most of her life in Austin, Texas. The opportunity for someone with that northern garden management experience was a fortuitous one for her and the city

“There are very few botanical gardens up north,” Hudson said in an interview at the arboretum on Friday. “It just all worked out great that I had the in-state experience and the willingness to move and understand the location.”

Hudson’s background in outreach in teaching also lends itself well to a vision of an expanded role for the manager of the arboretum.

“We would like to have more workshops out here, more teaching seminars,” Hudson said. “There’s been a lot of children’s programs historically, but not a lot of adult programs.”

[Growing from the ground up: Longtime arboretum manager retiring]

The Jensen-Olson Arboretum is world-famous in certain circles for its primrose collection, leaving a weighty responsibility on Hudson’s shoulders to maintain the garden well for the flowering plant.

“It’s really important nationally and internationally,” Hudson said. “It is a really big weight. Fortunately, I was familiar with the plant family so it’s not a huge learning curve. There is a learning curve with the weather, which is a little different.”

Hudson also said getting used to the arboretum’s plant and wildlife, different from Anchorage’s in ways big and small, has been pleasant. Some of the plants growing in the arboretum grow in very few places else on the planet, such as the Himalayan Blue Poppy.

Ginger Hudson, seen here on July 23, 2021, stepped up as the manager of the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in January of 2021, taking over one of the northernmost arboretums in the world, as well as one renowned internationally for its collection of primrose plants. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Ginger Hudson, seen here on July 23, 2021, stepped up as the manager of the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in January of 2021, taking over one of the northernmost arboretums in the world, as well as one renowned internationally for its collection of primrose plants. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

“They only grow in particular areas,” Hudson said. “For example, people in Seattle can’t grow them.”

The fauna of the arboretum is also outstanding, Hudson said, with birds alight in the trees and the sound of whales exhaling echoing over the Lynn Canal.

“The variety of birds that I saw here, learning new plants that I wasn’t familiar with in Southentral, that’s been fun. Some snow buntings landed here on their way north. There was a harrier up here the other week. There’s been a couple of loons. I’m used to seeing them in freshwater,” Hudson said. “There have been some baby hummingbirds. I don’t know where they’re nesting but I know they’re here.”

Managing the seaside grounds given to the city by Caroline Jensen to be used as an arboretum has been a gift, Hudson said.

“We are very fortunate here in Juneau that Caroline provided this place to be open free of charge and the city accepted and took on responsibility. We should really value this place for that respect,” Hudson said. “This is pretty unique. As much as I’ve travelled, I don’t recall one like this, even the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.”

Know and Go

The Jensen-Olson Arboretum is located just beyond the Shrine of St. Therese at 23035 Glacier Highway, and is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday year round.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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