Walks with Warren

ANGELICA DAYANDANTE / AGGIE
ANGELICA DAYANDANTE / AGGIE

Learn more about the the UC Davis Arboretum by taking a tour with the Superintendent Emeritus.

Want to learn more about the UC Davis Arboretum? There’s no better way to do so than to take a free tour. Named after the Superintendent Emeritus of the Arboretum, Warren Roberts, Wednesday Walks with Warren are monthly hour long tours from noon to 1 p.m. that explore the Arboretum’s changing gardens and collections throughout the school year.

“I talk about what the plants are and how they’re useful, focusing on showing things that are seasonal,” Roberts said.

Roberts completed both his undergraduate and graduate studies at UC Davis and became the superintendent of the Arboretum in 1972. After spending 37 years in this position, Roberts retired at the end of 2009 and has volunteered at the Arboretum since. He is heavily involved in donor stewardship, the curatorial aspect of the Arboretum and tours.

Warren said that people from all over the world come for a tour of the Davis Arboretum, with usually 12 to 24 people in each tour. The tour typically starts off at Shields Grove, with the exception of the month of March, where the tour starts from the Arboretum headquarters.

In addition to the monthly tours, Roberts also goes on the radio once a month to talk to Farmer Fred on KFBK 98.1 fm at 8:15 a.m. about the current happenings in the Arboretum.

“He’ll call me up and we’ll talk about what’s happening in the Arboretum, seasonal color [and] a bit about our programs,” Roberts said.

Besides Wednesday Walks with Warren, Roberts also does an additional one or two tours each month to accommodate specific tour requests. Roberts gives tours to university students, children, garden clubs and others, and once even CA Governor Jerry Brown and his wife.

“The Arboretum is one of the main public faces of the campus,” Roberts said. “We have a big volunteer program. I think our volunteers donate something like 30,000 hours a year. And the tours are one of the ways the community can participate directly.”

Wednesday Walks with Warren are not just ordinary tours, because Roberts incorporates a storytelling element that encourages audience engagement.

“He’ll choose a part of the Arboretum he wants to highlight,” said Arboretum Outreach Coordinator Melissa Cruz. “On the tour that I went on, we explored the Oak Grove and he essentially just talked about the history of the oaks and highlighted some of the history of a particular oak.”

Roberts is described by his fellow colleagues as knowledgeable and experienced.

“Warren is just a local treasure,” said Elaine Fingerett, Arboretum academic coordinator. “He knows so much about the plants. He knows about their uses, their context in literature and in history.”

Besides his knowledge and skills, Fingerett also described Roberts as humorous.

“I would say that his tours are fun and he’s a great punster,” Fingerett said. “He has a great and deep appreciation for plants and his enthusiasm and his deep knowledge about plants really comes through. That’s what makes his tours so wonderful and so much fun.”

For Roberts, the most enjoyable part about giving tours is the ability to show off the arboretum as well as interact with attendees.

“I enjoy seeing the plants and how they perform,” Roberts said. “I enjoy the interaction with the people — that’s always fun. And I always learn something!”

The last two Wednesday Walks with Warren will be on May 11 and June 8 at 12 p.m.

Written by: Jacqueline Chufeatures@theaggie.org