Friends of Jensen-Olson Arboretum

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A Tribute to Caroline

Juneau’s foremost lay horticulturist and expert in primroses
Portrait of Caroline Olson in her garden

Caroline enjoying spring in the garden

Caroline in early 1960's starting to transform the old homestead

Caroline in early 1960’s starting to transform the old homestead.

The Jensen – Olson Arboretum exists primarily due to the vision and generosity of its benefactor, Caroline Jensen. In the community of Juneau her legacy provides an opportunity for school children to engage science simultaneously in the garden and in the intertidal zone; the foundation of a national collection of primroses, Primula, the plant genus that she dearly loved; a place where scientists, researchers, home gardeners and artists may observe the plants and animals associated with a cultivated garden in a temperate rainforest uniquely situated on ocean-front property; and, the inspiration for developing classroom space for experiential education.

View of the Jensen-Olson garden in spring

Through a conservation easement with Southeast Alaska Land Trust, Caroline gifted her property to the City and Borough of Juneau to eventually become the Jensen – Olson Arboretum. As noted by family members and friends alike, Caroline had a love of gardening and wanted to share that love in tangible ways even at her passing.

Below is an excerpt from the obituary printed in the Juneau Empire upon her death on February 21, 2006:

‘She was born Caroline J. Hoff on February 27, 1917 in Eureka, CA. She attended school in San Francisco, graduating from Commerce High School and later the Heald Business College. In San Francisco she worked for the California Department of Motor Vehicles, Rosenberg Bros. & Co., and the United States Geological Survey. In 1947 the Water Resources Division of the USGS transferred her to Juneau when that agency officially opened offices in Southeast Alaska. She was presented with an award by the Alaska Housing Authority of her many years of volunteer service at the Mountain View Senior Center. In 1951, she married Carl W. Jensen, who operated the Juneau Marine Ways from 1953 to 1965.

Family members said, “Caroline was an avid gardener receiving acclaim and recognition as Juneau’s foremost lay horticulturist and expert in primroses. Among her many observations and experiments, she developed a hybrid primrose which proved especially hardy for Juneau’s soil and environment.” In accordance to her wishes, she donated her historic property to the city of Juneau to be preserved as an arboretum for the public to enjoy and as an educational center for learning about gardening, horticulture and landscape design. She was a member of the Juneau Garden Club, Pioneers of Alaska, Gastineau Humane Society and American Primrose Society.’

Caroline, we tip our hats and raise our gardening trowels to your gift – may those of us entrusted with this gift be the very best of stewards for this valuable resource.

Merrill Jensen. first Arboretum Manager 2007-2020

Caroline's Ode to Gardening

For those who love to garden, there are deep spiritual rewards that transcend the constraints of logic, economics and time.

It’s the wonderfully peaceful feeling that comes from leaning on a hoe handle and contemplating a row of just–hilled potatoes. The connectedness you feel to the land when you just know today’s the day to put in your cabbage transplants. The beauty you appreciate in a perfectly turned and tilled seedbed. These and more are the kinds of spiritual rewards we get from gardening.

We’re not talking about religious joys, though many gardeners are devout believers. We’re thinking of the deep and subtle sense of connectedness to the seasons… the miracle of a sprouting plant… the cycles of life, death, and rebirth every gardener experiences in his or her garden.

The peacefulness of gardening is what has attracted us, and made lifelong gardeners of so many.

We find simplicity in a difficult world, when we count on the seasons changing as they have for millennia. Bees will pollinate the flowers and porcupine will get in the raspberries no matter who is president, how gas prices have risen or what problems we’re having at work or home.

We find beauty in nature when we look over the plot we’ve planned, planted and nurtured.

We find creativity and self-expression when we design a garden.

We find the peace that comes from within when we slow our lives long enough to stop and smell the roses.

Now, many of these joys can be had from other pastimes. But the unique attraction to gardening seems to be that there are substantial rewards for the novice as well as for the expert; that it’s so multifaceted that the fascination never wears out; that it is practical and, at the same time, deeply enjoyable; that it is very personal, and also an art and skill that is wonderful to pass on to those you love.

For us, gardening is no less than an essential and deeply rewarding part of life.

Gardeners are special people because we take time in a busy world to actually do something productive. Many of us come from families that have always gardened… and by doing so ourselves, we help carry that tradition to future generations. We’ve found a way to express ourselves, to keep in touch with nature, to set a wholesome example by quietly cultivating the beauty around us.

Gardeners have a special reverence for the earth. In a world that’s threatened by pollution, global warming and landfill crises, we’ve found a way to take a personal stand. Perhaps we as individuals can have no effect on the state of the planet, but in our own little corners of the world we can be morally responsible. As a group, gardeners have always practiced recycling, land conservation, and a reverence for the planet that others are only now learning about.

What more could you ask than just a little land, the blessings of nature, good health and the willingness to enjoy the garden way of living.

Caroline Jensen
February 18, 2006

Caroline age 19
Peterson Family Tree Diagram
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