The arboretum was chartered in 1965 on the grounds of the antebellum "Lockerly" (originally "Rose Hill") mansion (1853) constructed by Judge & Mrs. Daniel R. Tucker whose grounds were influenced by their friend A. J. Downing. In 1998, Col. Oliver N. Worley donated an additional 200 acres (0.81 km2) to the foundation for an Environmental Education facility.
The arboretum is a horticultural laboratory, with collections of azalea, camellia, conifers, holly, rhododendron, and viburnum, as well as daylily, iris, and a greenhouse for cactus and tropical plants. The Rose Hill mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2017.
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