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Harold Elmore - "Mr. Holly"

Harold Elmore The following is an exerpt from a tribute to Harold Elmore written by Richard Evans, Former UT Forest Resources Center and Arboretum Director, that was published in the Holly Society of America Journal, Volume 21, Number 2, 2003.

It is hard to talk about hollies at the UT Arboretum without thinking about Harold Elmore. Harold nurtured the vast majority of our hollies in their fore-life, before they became Arboretum specimens. Harold either propagated the hollies or otherwise secured them from other sources and grew them to plantable size. Harold also went one step further; he usually had a hand in putting them in the ground as well!

Our "Holly Planting Day" at the UT Arboretum has been a tradition for many years. Harold arranged the event and announced the date far in advance. In his gentle, but persuasive way, he would encourage UT Arboretum Society members to show up at the Arboretum on a designated Saturday to "shovel a few planting holes." The day's activity would always begin the same. Harold would instruct each participant in the proper way to plant his "little babies" - the right size hole, the right planting depth, the right way to compact the fill, etc; he left nothing to chance. He had the area staked out, with the name of each specimen on the stake and tags on each plant. The whole planting process was like an old fashion Tennessee hoedown - grab your partner, grab your plant, everyone to the stake, and round we go! Harold choreographed each step, played the tune, and called the dance.

The day's activity ended with special homemade refreshments off the tailgate of pickup trucks and Harold's guided walk through the garden. We would stop at almost every holly and listen to Harold as he weaved the history, naming, and unique features of a plant into a sotry, as if he was talking about an old friend.

Harold Elmore died on December 2, 2002, less than two weeks after the Fall 2002 Holly Planting Day. Later, I was given an envelope with a typed inventory list of the plants that were planted on that cloudy Saturday in November. Apparently, one of Harold's last actions before his death was preparing this list for entry into the Arboretum's plant database. As I sat at my desk on that day holding this list in my hands, I reflected on that Holly Planting Day, and Harold's un-ending dedication to his hollies - right up until the end.

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