UD class presents award-winning display at Philadelphia Flower Show

March 4, 2014 under CANR News

UD class presents award-winning display at Philadelphia Flower ShowThanks to an interdisciplinary class and a new registered student organization (RSO), the University of Delaware again has an exhibit at this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show, which runs through March 9 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. This year’s educational exhibit takes on an ecological theme, specifically the key role of American shad, a fish that once held a prominent place in the Brandywine River but has seen a drastic population decline in recent years.

The project aims to raise public awareness of the issue by helping educate those in attendance on the importance of shad and the ecosystem services they provide to the Brandywine, which supplies the city of Wilmington’s drinking water. The UD group received a “Special Achievement: Best Achievement in Social Change Messaging” award for the display.

The class is called Design Process Practicum and is taught by Jules Bruck, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences; Anthony Middlebrooks, associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration; and Jon Cox, assistant professor in UD’s Department of Art.

The newly formed RSO is called Design and Articulture (DART) and its members — many of whom are also in the class — helped with the creation of this year’s display.

The exhibit examines the Brandywine River and features flowers native to the Brandywine Valley that would naturally grow along its banks in the spring, as well as showing how shad once populated the river in large numbers. “Prior to settlement along the Brandywine we’ve read accounts of the water ‘boiling black’ with shad,” said Bruck, who explained that a lot of the dams along the Brandywine have prevented the shad from swimming upstream.

Some of these dams are historical treasures that can’t be removed — such as the dam at Hagley Museum — and part of the exhibit displays an alternative to dam removal known as a fish ladder. Bruck explained that a fish ladder is one of several techniques that can be used when there is a dam impeding fish trying to upstream.

“A fish ladder has short steps that the fish can flop up and over and get through them pretty easily, and depending on how high the water is, it’s easier at some times than others,” said Bruck, who explained that the group’s version of a fish ladder was a very contemporary version, not a realistic one. “It’s an idea that we just want people to be aware of,” she said.

The reason the group chose to focus on shad is that the fish is important culturally, historically and as indicator species to the relative health of the Brandywine.

Culturally, the shad were once linked to the Brandywine much like blue crab are linked to Baltimore. Middlebrooks explained that Gerald Kauffman, project director for the Water Resources Agency, was a guest speaker at a class session and explained the historical significance of the shad. Kauffman related to the class a story about how Washington’s troops were starving at Valley Forge and the shad migrated north just in time to provide a food supply.

Shad are also a very important indicator species. “Of course we’re interested in the species and their success but as many experts have now told us, shad are very indicative of water quality in the Brandywine watershed, which, of course, supplies all of Wilmington’s drinking water,” said Middlebrooks.

UD class presents award-winning display at Philadelphia Flower ShowDART

DART is a relatively new RSO and Weber Stibolt, a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and club president, said that its members wanted to form a group to get more recognition for the project. “It’s been kind of an underground project these past couple of years; not a lot of people have known about it.”

Stibolt said that the club has 12 members right now and that his favorite part of working on the project has been learning about aspects of agriculture that he doesn’t get exposed to in his major.

Sydney Bruck, freshman in CANR and member of DART, said the RSO offers students who are in the class now and want to help out with the exhibit next year — but might not have room in their schedule to take the class again — a chance to participate. “If you don’t want to take the class again next year to be involved, you can still be part of the RSO and be involved,” said Bruck.

Bruck also said she enjoyed the interdisciplinary aspect of the project. “I think when you get a bunch of landscape designers together for a flower show, it’s missing something. It’s not complete. Or if you have a bunch of designers or art majors for an art project, it’s still very one sided. But I think we have a very well-rounded exhibit because of all the people, and I think the students really enjoy learning from each other, too.”

Future benefits

Another reason the professors enjoy having the students work on the flower show is that it looks great on their resumes when they apply for future jobs or internships.

Jules Bruck said that a student who worked on the show in the past came to her and said he applied for an internship and the Philadelphia Flower Show project was on his resume. “There’s no doubt in my mind that I got my internship because of the Philadelphia Flower Show. When I got my interview, that’s all they wanted to talk about,” Bruck said the student told her.

Middlebrooks said that the project is “really much more consequential for students long term. It provides yet another opportunity for them to get engaged with professors, get engaged outside the University. They make a variety of connections and I know a number of students have explicitly credited the flower show being on their resume with landing internships, even a Disney internship.”

Middlebrooks also noted that the interdisciplinary and creative aspects of the class help the students in the long run because, in his experience, when people apply for jobs, companies are looking for two main things: creativity and collaboration. “So we’re always looking for ways to really maximize that. And that’s really limited if you just do that in your own discipline, or in a single class, so the flower show has always and continues to serve as an opportunity to cross disciplines,” said Middlebrooks.

Hometown roots

The project is particularly important for Cox who grew up along the Brandywine and said that he remembers playing in the river as a child.

“Some of my earliest memories are actually going down the Brandywine in this little inflatable Sevylor two-person boat with my sister,” said Cox. “So the Brandywine has always been special to me and we go canoeing a couple times a year and we started taking my son there now and he is two and a half now and so he’ll be able to grow up and have some of the same experiences.”

Group effort

Of course, the flower show couldn’t happen without the flowers, and getting the native plants to bloom and look like they would in the spring was no easy feat, especially during such a rough winter.

Bruck was in charge of growing the plants and the students helped out as well. Bruck also thanked Rodney Dempsey, Bill Barts and Joyce Zayakosky, members of the UD Greenhouse staff, for all that they did to get the flowers blooming on time.

The group also thanked the Center for Teaching and Effectiveness and Learning (CTAL), the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society for help funding the project, and Kauffman and Sherri Evans-Stanton, director of the Brandywine Conservancy, for speaking to the class about the shad.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Jon Cox

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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Interdisciplinary team uses OEIP Spin In program to create iPhone app

October 23, 2013 under CANR News

students turn professors' iDEA Fan Deck into an iPhone appIn 2012, University of Delaware faculty members Jules Bruck and Anthony Middlebrooks created the iDEA Fan Deck, a handheld design-based tool that provides prompts for people needing problem-solving help in any field.

The tool was a success but those who used it all had the same observation – that it would make a great iPhone app.

To make that suggestion a reality, Bruck and Middlebrooks, in partnership with the University’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships (OEIP) Spin In program, teamed with three UD students.

Through Spin In, OEIP matches entrepreneurs who are developing innovative early stage technology with a team of UD undergraduate students to further develop both the technology and the marketing strategy.

The student team is mentored by UD faculty and works side-by-side with entrepreneurs to provide solutions to challenges that need to be overcome on the path to commercialization.

After a project has been completed, the technology is spun back out of the University, and the entrepreneur moves forward with plans for product development.

“Spin In arose out of part of our mission, to provide a unique experiential learning opportunity to undergraduate students in the areas of innovation, entrepreneurship and product development,” said David Weir, director of OEIP.

“Working with Spin In is a really amazing opportunity for a business,” said Bruck, associate professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, explaining that while their product is a useful tool as a physical fan deck, “it could be more accessible as an app, and more iterative, so we can make updates and be more fluid with it.”

The iDEA Fan Deck is color-coded and icon based, dividing the problem-solving process into three major phases: understand, imagine, and iterate. The tool can be used to address problems from pre-start to implementation, or as a prompt to spark a stalled process.

The graphic design of the original fan desk was created by Keefer Charneau, a visual communication major who graduated from UD in 2012 and has since moved on to work at a design firm in New York City.

“We thought if we could prompt people to pay attention to all the phases of the problem-solving process, then that would be a more effective way of helping them innovate,” said Middlebrooks, associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration in the College of Arts and Sciences, who explained that the fan deck went through 17 iterations before the final version was created.

“The fun part about working with Spin In is that it prompted us to really advance the tool itself,” said Middlebrooks. “The app has two or three major features that are above and beyond the physical fan deck. It has a decision tree, a brand new design thinking development facet that is a major feature, and the Spark Me random question generator. The app allows us to do some things that we couldn’t do with the physical fan deck.”

Interdisciplinary student team 

The students assigned to work on the project included Candace Galentine, Sarah Minnich and Jacob Nachman.

They all agreed that working in an interdisciplinary team — something Middlebrooks and Bruck stress in their combined leadership classes — was greatly beneficial to their educational experience.

“It’s something that you don’t get in the classroom,” said Galentine, an Honors Program junior double majoring in finance and management information systems. “When you work in groups in classes, you’re working with people who are in a similar major. When I’m in a finance class working with a group, they’re finance students, but for this I’m working with a graphic designer and a computer engineer, so it’s completely different.”

Minnich echoed these sentiments, saying, “Working in a multidisciplinary team was probably the most beneficial aspect of the project. I learned a lot about Jake’s discipline and Candace’s discipline, I learned a lot more about their fields, and I’m sure they learned about my field and my background as well.”

Galentine said she started working part-time on the project in February. As the project manager, she worked on many aspects ranging from facilitating meetings and communication between IT, design and entrepreneurs to working on market assessment, developing potential business models, finding business opportunities, forming a project plan, and helping create a wireframe for the project.

Galentine also focused the project on the end user by performing research and testing — both with people who had heard of and used the iDEA Fan Deck and those that had not. It was through this research that Galentine decided to make the app available as a “freemium.”

“The app is free to download, with limited content, and then the rest you have to purchase for $2.99,” said Galentine. “We felt that this would eliminate the barrier for people who don’t know what the iDEA Fan Deck is so they can download the free version, see if they like it, and then be able to purchase it.”

Summer project

Nachman, an Honors Program sophomore majoring in computer engineering, came aboard a month after Galentine. By summer, Minnich joined the team and they were able to work full time on the project.

As the programmer, Nachman was in charge of writing the code and adding functionality to the app, something that he said took anywhere from 200 to 300 hours of work.

Not only did he have to invent the code for the app, something that he had never done before, but he also had to get that code approved by Apple.

“That was a little bit difficult — it got rejected once and then it took a several updates to get it up to date with everything they wanted,” he said. “But learning how to do the work was great because I had no idea how to do it when I went in to the project; I just had to figure it all out.”

Spin In students conducting a presentation for President Harker about an "iDea Fan Deck" app for the iPhone that they helped develop and market.Nachman also said that working with a problem-solving tool came in handy when the group encountered problems of their own on the project. “The iDEA Fan Deck was helpful during the process because when we got stuck, we were already looking at information that could help guide us through the process. I think it’s a very useful tool. I’ve used it for a few projects that I’ve worked on during the school year to get my thoughts started.”

Minnich, who received a bachelor’s degree from UD in 2010 and a master’s in plant and soil sciences this year, and who and now works for OEIP, served as the project’s graphic designer. Having worked with Bruck and Middlebrooks in the past to create one of the first fan deck prototypes, Minnich was familiar with the product from the outset.

“In past courses they’ve taught, they have structured the curriculum to be design challenged-based and the fan deck is a really helpful tool in guiding the students along the way in their design process,” said Minnich.

As a previous teaching assistant for some of those courses, Minnich said that it is interesting to see how students from non-design backgrounds utilize the iDEA Fan Deck. “I think that it is most helpful for them because it pushes them to think in a different way then they’re used to in their regular curriculum.”

As for this project, Minnich said that it was great to work with Bruck and Middlebrooks, who gave the three students the autonomy to make the project their own. “They trusted us and we felt very responsible for what we were creating and we had a real handle on it,” said Minnich.

As designer, Minnich worked closely with Nachman, who would input the code. “Our jobs were pretty intertwined,” she said. “I would design some of the graphics and then he would import them, including things like the buttons, the layouts, fonts, and the backgrounds.”

Minnich said the students agreed that they benefited greatly from working on the project, getting real-world, hands on-experience and learning how to work as part of an interdisciplinary team.

“The whole process started out really rough and there was this level of uncomfortability because none of us had ever worked on designing an app before and we weren’t really sure what it was going to entail,” said Minnich. “But we sat down and made timelines and benchmarks, and the whole process of seeing it come together was really satisfying.”

Click here to download the app.

Article by Adam Thomas

Video by Adam Thomas and Danielle Quigley

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UD class displays project at Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts

June 5, 2013 under CANR News

students at UD have a display at DCCA looking at water pollution in the Brandywine RiverWhen students in an interdisciplinary class at the University of Delaware set up a “Who’s Downstream” exhibit at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts (DCCA), they wanted to show the path that stormwater takes through urban and industrial areas — specifically how the Brandywine River flows through the city of Wilmington — and also find out what the city’s residents know about their drinking water and how concerned they are about its quality.

The “Who’s Downstream: An Exploration of the Impact of Urban Water Runoff” project is on display as part of the imPERFECT City exhibit at the DCCA, with a reception scheduled Saturday, June 8.

The UD class is led by Jules Bruck, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Jon Cox, assistant professor in UD’s Department of Art, and Anthony Middlebrooks, associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration. It engages students in several real-world projects as a way of learning design processes and enhancing innovation.

Cox explained that the class began the project by visiting the Brandywine Conservancy and got information as to the health of the Brandywine River, which is the source of Wilmington’s drinking water. It was there that they realized that a lot of the pollutants found in the river were occurring upstream from Wilmington but that the city was spending money to rid its drinking water of those pollutants.

The exhibit is part video and part display, as a large wall map uses different water samples to show how the quality of water varies at different parts of the river, getting progressively worse as it flows toward the city.

“Students worked in small teams to create different aspects of the exhibit,” said Bruck. “It was a significant project because the results of their efforts are on display for well over a month at DCCA. I consistently find that class projects with real-world results motivate students to higher levels of achievement.”

For the video portion, Cox said, “The students went and interviewed some residents in Wilmington. They basically just took a walk in Brandywine Park, going up and down and talking to some of the different local residents and getting ideas of how people are using the Brandywine. They have some shots of people fishing, some shots of people walking around, kids playing in the river.

“They also asked people if they knew where their water came from. And some of them said, ‘No. I hope it doesn’t come from there,’” as they pointed to the river.

The video also includes an aerial shot of the Brandywine taken by attaching a camera to a suction cup on the bottom of a small airplane.

In addition to the exhibit, the students are encouraging people to make a difference in the community. “Students are asking the public to take some sort of action and pledge to use less fertilizer, use less water, plant a tree, or sign our petition to pass legislation to help keep the Brandywine clean,” said Cox.

Kyle Gordon, a senior landscape horticulture major with a concentration in landscape design, said that he did not know that the Brandywine was the main source of drinking water for Wilmington before working on the project. He said he learned a lot about runoff because of the project, especially that “when we dump loads of fertilizer on our landscapes, it typically doesn’t have a chance to penetrate the soils. It gets collected in the rain water and that washes into our streams and causes eutrophication problems that can kill off wildlife.”

Gordon said his favorite part of the project was “finding out a lot of information about our source of water because I think that really has a big impact on people’s psyche when you hear what goes into our water and how it is adversely affecting it.”

Christine Stallone, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences who worked as the project manager, said it was a great experience. “Working with the DCCA was a really wonderful opportunity but alongside that, it’s a huge responsibility knowing that student work is going to be exhibited in a space that is usually held for professional artists and other members like that.”

Stallone added she enjoyed working on a project that would benefit local communities. “I think working with the Brandywine and working in Wilmington, we’re able to help tie this back to our local environment and to recognize what we can do and what we should be doing as a way of education as well as execution in this task, and that’s what we were trying to acknowledge throughout this exhibition.”

For more information about the imPERFECT city exhibit, visit the DCCA website.

To view the video that the class made for the project, click here.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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UD students, professors create display for Philadelphia Flower Show

March 5, 2013 under CANR News

“You are brilliant and you can design your own garden.” That is the message that professors and students from the University of Delaware want observers to take away from looking at their display, which is on view and received a “Special Achievement” award at the 2013 Philadelphia Flower Show.

“We’re going to teach people how they can design their own back yard space because we’re all brilliant,” said Jon Cox, assistant professor in UD’s Department of Art. “They just have to figure out what their interests are and how they can design their space for their needs.”

2013 Philadelphia Flower Show exhibitCox is teaching a class — with Jules Bruck, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, and Anthony Middlebrooks, associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration — that has worked on the UD display.

This year’s Philadelphia Flower Show, which runs from March 2-10 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, has a British theme titled “Brilliant.”

Led by the professors, an interdisciplinary group of 17 UD students in plant science, leadership and art have been working on the University’s project, designed to tie in to the overall theme and titled “You Are Brilliant.”

The class is aimed at teaching the students about the design process and showing them how to work together to design a garden suited to a client’s needs.

However, the overall project began last summer and has required students to engages and tackle various facets of the project. “The leadership major emphasizes creativity, innovative problem-solving and collaboration,” Middlebrooks said. “This project offers students so many opportunities to build their creativity and develop their leadership.”

“I think the biggest take away for all of us is how collaborative landscape design is,” said Bruck. “Most of the time, landscape designers work in a vacuum — ‘I’m the creative genius and I’m going to sit at my drafting table and it’s going to be my endeavor with input from the client.’ But this is like what happens when you get lots of people from lots of different majors, backgrounds, interests and experiences working together on a design challenge. It just ramps everything up. Everything gets better, more creative and more interesting.”

One of the students who is helping out the class is Emma Brown, a freshman majoring in landscape horticulture and design. Brown said that the process has been incredible, as helping out with a project for the Philadelphia Flower Show has been something that she has wanted to do for a while.

“I’ve been to the flower show before and when I came here, it wasn’t one of the things mentioned right off the bat but somewhere along the line someone mentioned the class and I thought that would be a really, really cool thing to do,” she said.

While she is not officially a member of the class, Brown said she has enjoyed watching the class work and the interaction between the professors and students.

“The professors allowed the students to design elements of the show and I thought that was spectacular,” Brown said. “I know I’m not at that level yet but the higher level students in horticulture and landscape design – and even people who aren’t in our major but are interested in doing this – have been able to utilize these skills, put them to the test and really accomplish something immense and incredibly beautiful. The finished result will be spectacular, I know it.”

The clients

Using three clients, the goal of the project was to build three different gardens based on the clients’ individual personalities. The result was three very different gardens.

students and professors work on the flower show displayThe first one is titled “Connector” and was made for Dan Walsh, who lives in Wilmington and works as a banker. The name comes from the fact that Walsh is politically connected and does a lot for the community, including running a not-for-profit organization called Mustaches for Kidds, in which people grow mustaches during the month of November for the Supporting Kidds center for grieving children and their families.

Cox explained that as a bachelor, Walsh “doesn’t want to do a lot of plant maintenance, so his garden is very low maintenance. But he has an outdoor theatre, and he has an outdoor fireplace, so it still features a lot of things that a bachelor would want in his particular garden.”

The space is also equipped with a doghouse for Walsh’s brown Labrador retriever named Willie.

The second space is titled “Transitional,” as it is designed for 24-year-old Carly Burrus, a UD graduate who is a young artist. The idea behind the garden is that since Burrus is in a transitional part of her life and not really sure where she will be a year from now, everything in the garden is easily transportable.

Bruck said the garden is “very artsy, very much showing off her personality and the youngness of being a 20 something-year-old artist.”

Cox added that the space has a yoga mat made out of corkboard and lots of easily moveable planting containers. “We know a 24-year-old probably isn’t going to be in the same space for a very long time so everything she can just pack up and take with her to the next spot,” he said.

The last space is called “Legacy” and is designed for Josh Taylor, a naturalist and photographer who teaches photography workshops in the Mid-Atlantic region. The idea behind this garden, according to Bruck, is “if this was your last garden and you were going to leave a legacy what would you put in your garden?”

Because of it’s “Legacy” inspiration, this garden has one big tree that will be around for future generations, shrubs, a pond with a waterfall and lots of native plants to allow Taylor to relax and watch birds in his garden.

“Josh’s garden uses a lot of native materials and we’re hoping to show the design process — how the students designed all these gardens and how they picked out the things, and that observers can do this, too. There will be design process pieces, and take-aways that you can take with you so you can understand how to do this on your own,” said Bruck.

Cox added, “All of our elements are also highlighting sustainable processes so we’ve got recycled materials, and we have things that you can use over again.” He singled out the yoga mat made of materials from a cork tree as an example of sustainability.

The actual flowers for the show have been grown in University of Delaware greenhouses by Taylor Fehmel, a senior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, who has worked with the flowers as an independent study project since fall 2012.

Bruck said that Fehmel has been “forcing” the flowers, or getting them to grow early. It is a complex project and Bruck said of Fehmel, “She’s been cool under fire, because this has been a trial by fire.”

Bruck added, “It’s funny, we spend so much time on the construction of the exhibit but there’s only so many people who can be in there working on the plants. You can’t just sit there watching the things grow, but it’s the most important part, and the Philadelphia Horticulture Society (PHS) is always quick to remind us that it’s a flower show and, as cool as your exhibit might be, you need to have a lot of greenery and a lot of flowers. She’s been working hard on that.”

Bruck was also quick to point out that the show would not have been possible had it not been for the contributions from various donors. PHS donated funds to support the project, as did Shift Design in Philadelphia. The team also received a generous Scholarship of Engagement grant through Lynnette Overby, director of UD’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Experiential Learning, she said.

Once the flower show is over, the exhibit will not be gone. Bruck explained the class will transport the exhibit to a local park in Wilmington where it will be on display and serve to beautify that section of the city.

“We’re then going to take the pieces and the plants and everything and reconfigure it and they’ll get a chance to design and build a little urban park for a community in Wilmington,” said Bruck. “This spring, our students will clear out the park of all the invasive plant matter and debris and use the materials to create a beautiful space for the community in the Brandywine Mid-Town Park.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Jon Cox, Danielle Quigley and Anthony Middlebrooks

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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UD alumnus Lemheney directs Philadelphia International Flower Show

September 21, 2012 under CANR News

When the Philadelphia International Flower Show’s “Brilliant” opens on Saturday, March 2, 2013, University of Delaware alumnus Sam Lemheney will be on hand making sure that visitors enjoy the sights and scents of summer in the middle of an East Coast winter.

Lemheney, who graduated from UD in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in plant science, serves as director of America’s oldest and largest indoor flower show.

During a campus talk, “The Making of the Philadelphia International Flower Show,” held Sept. 5 in Smith Hall, Lemheney described what it takes to turn 10 acres of the Pennsylvania Convention Center into a world-class horticultural extravaganza.

The Philadelphia International Flower Show is sponsored and managed by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1827.

Building on a legacy that began in 1829, the year Andrew Jackson was inaugurated as America’s seventh president, the show has blossomed into an event that draws nearly 300,000 visitors annually.

“The Philadelphia Flower Show has a tradition of introducing new plants to the industry and has had some famous visitors, including U.S. Presidents Herbert Hoover and Calvin Coolidge,” Lemheney said. “Each new show combines a lot of the old traditions with cutting edge flowers and garden designs, different, but with similar classes of plants and flowers on display.”

Meeting the high expectations of visitors of all ages, each year’s show demands a commitment to cutting edge design and floricultural and arboricultural excellence, Lemeheny said.

“Getting tulips to bloom during the first week of March takes a combination of science and art,” Lemeheny said. “We have built the show into a powerhouse brand across the United States that has the same impact on the flower industry as the New York City Fashion Week has on the fashion industry.”

Working for the “wow factor” calls for a creative approach incorporating innovative uses of color, movement, scale and entertainment venues, Lemheney said.

“The effective use of colors range from a rainbow display of flowers and bulbs to a uniform, mono-colored display themed around certain related shades,” Lemheney said. “When we bring professional actors to the show, they are amazed when we tell them it’s the flowers, not the performers, who are the main attraction. Once they see this for themselves, they start having fun.”

Popular also are the series of contests in which designers are invited to fashion creative designs that are voted on by audiences of nearly 600 visitors per competition.

Passion and energy

Lemheney noted that show attendees are not the only ones who get caught up in the enthusiasm of the competitions, educational displays and cornucopias of roses, tulips, trees and orchids.

“I thought I knew what passion for my work was before I got to the Philadelphia Flower Show,” Lemheney said. “Nothing can match the passion and energy and time that our staff and volunteers have for horticulture.”

The logistical challenges tackled by the staff of the Philadelphia Horticultural Society and its 3,500 volunteers include hauling in 2,000 yards of mulch (that’s 30 tractor trailer loads), and 18 truckloads of stone and block, all driven right onto the convention center floor.

“We couldn’t do it without our volunteers,” Lemheney said. “It takes us 10 days to set up, and three days to tear down the show and make it look like we had never been there.”

As the Philadelphia Horticultural Society’s largest fund raising event of the year, the show benefits a host of programs, including community gardens, the city harvest program and vacant land management programs.

UD presence

Once again there also will be a UD Blue and Gold element at this year’s “Brilliant” show, which highlights the storied history of traditional and contemporary garden and landscape design in London and the United Kingdom.

Freshmen students from plant and soil sciences, public policy and administration and art classes are designing an educational exhibition for the show.

University faculty assisting with the 2013 UD Philadelphia Flower Show project include Jules Bruck, associate professor of plant and soil sciences; Anthony Middlebrooks, associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration; and Jon Cox, assistant professor of art.

Students participating in the flower show project are trying to raise $25,000. To make a donation and learn more about the program, visit the website.

About the 2013 UD Philadelphia Flower Show

For UD students in organizational and community leadership, the Philadelphia Flower Show project provides many opportunities to engage in a real-world, cross-disciplinary creative problem solving. As individuals aspiring to leadership positions in a variety of fields, the capacity to innovate will be a highly valued tool for these students. And, working with students and faculty from art and landscape design greatly enhances students’ opportunity to ‘see differently’ and develop their creativity.

Students engaged in this project get to see the full range of the process – from conceptual to prototype to construction to implementation to assessment and iteration – all within a context of collaboration and community impact.

Article by Jerry Rhodes

Photos by Evan Krape

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UD-created computer game teaches Delaware State Fair goers about ‘green’ plants

August 2, 2012 under CANR News

Native plants rule when it comes to stormwater management – that’s the lesson children and other visitors to the Delaware State Fair learned when they stopped to play computer games at the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) exhibit in Harrington last week.

The games, developed by computer science and art students at the University of Delaware, aimed to help the public understand that some garden and lawn plants are better for the environment than others. Players chose different plants and then watched to learn how the plantings affected water, wildlife and people in the game.

In one example, players who chose plantings considered invasive saw the plants spread across the board and prevent them from planting other beneficial plants. This visual illustration quickly demonstrated what it might take people seasons to witness in their own backyard.

In particular, the games educated the public that selecting the right native species can help manage stormwater runoff – water created during rain or snow that does not soak into the ground but flows into surface waterways and storm sewers.

“People visit the exhibits because they are interested in learning. This is an ideal time to explain the tightly connected parts of the Delaware ecosystem,” explained Terry Harvey, UD assistant professor of computer and information sciences, who along with Troy Richards, associate professor of art, helped and advised the students in developing the games.

In the past, stormwater has been managed with engineering solutions such as large storm water systems built to quickly collect water and move it to another location. According to Susan Barton, a UD associate professor and Cooperative Extension specialist in plant and soil sciences who was involved in the project, properly managed stormwater is best left where it falls.

“As water collects, it becomes more forceful and dangerous,” she remarked. “Pollutants such as pesticides and herbicides picked up along the way become concentrated, posing a potential hazard for rivers and causing erosion problems. Native plants, well-adapted to Delaware’s conditions, can help by intercepting rainwater that filters into the landscape, slowing it down and allowing it to be transpired back into the atmosphere.”

As more and more of the Delaware landscape is paved, there is less surface for proper water infiltration, causing even the smallest rain to puddle on roads and sidewalks. Rain gardens, for example, can help minimize runoff while providing important support for insects and birds. Using plants in unexpected places like rooftops and parking lots may also offer similar benefits, Barton said.

Students of Harvey and Richards initially developed 11 different games as part of a software engineering and art course last spring. Marianne Walch, environmental scientist, and Randy Cole, manager from DelDOT’s stormwater management program, evaluated the games for playability, educational potential and fun, selecting two of the games to debut at the state fair.

“Playing the games has been very effective in helping us deliver the message to both kids and their parents that small changes in the way they plant and maintain their own yard can have a large impact on the health of our waterways and ecosystems,” said Walch. “Professors Harvey and Richards and their students brought a lot of enthusiasm, talent and creativity to this project.”

UD faculty and students involved in the project include:

Article by Karen B. Roberts

Photos by Danielle Quigley and Troy Richards

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UD research project hopes to curb water pollution from lawns

June 4, 2012 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

At first glance, Tim Schofield’s internship duties don’t appear much different from what any landscape worker does. Every week, June through August, this rising junior at the University of Delaware will weed landscape beds, cut back straggly branches and rake up plant debris on a one-acre yard in Applecross, a neighborhood off Route 100 in Greenville.

But Schofield also will catalog the diversity of beneficial insects, birds and other wildlife on the property, document evidence of soil erosion, and keep precise records of the time it takes to complete his tasks. It’s all part of a UD research project to see if replacing the typical suburban yard of mostly grass with one containing diverse vegetation can help protect the environment and make landscapes more sustainable.

One of the primary goals of the project is to curb water pollution at its source — preventing pollution in the first place rather than waiting to treat contaminated water after it enters waterways.

“I think people understand that water quality in urban watersheds is degraded when you increase impervious surfaces, such as roads and parking lots,” says Doug Tallamy, chair of UD’s Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology and a co-investigator of the research project. “But they don’t always realize that increasing the amount of grass in an urban watershed also degrades water quality.”

A landscaping philosophy that views plants as mere ornaments has prevailed for more than a century, resulting in the replacement of native plant communities with expansive lawns. Today, a whopping 92 percent of all suburban yards consist of turf grass. Because plants are the mechanism in which water is cleaned and stored, carbon is sequestered and complex food webs are maintained, any reduction in native plant communities can only mean bad things for water quality.

“People care about clean water,” says Tallamy. “If homeowners realize that they can use their properties to clean water, sequester carbon and help pollinators, it could help change the mind set of those who demand huge lawns.”

The Applecross property is just one aspect of the UD multidisciplinary project involving five faculty members and dozens of undergraduate and graduate students. Another research site is located at Winterthur, where the team will compare the quality of a stream impacted by traditional mowed landscapes versus another stream that only receives runoff from meadows, forests and landscape beds.

Co-researchers Sue Barton, Cooperative Extension ornamental horticulture specialist and Jules Bruck, associate professor of landscape horticulture and design, worked together to create a landscape plan for the Applecross property to replace the existing turf grass monoculture. The homeowners received the landscape installation at no cost and have agreed to allow researchers onto the site every week for the next three years.

“We were starting with the typical suburban landscape with lots of grass, some foundation plantings and one or two trees in the yard,” says Barton.

Last month, Schofield and other students and volunteers set to work on the new landscape, planting 200 woody plants and 1,200 plant plugs in a matter of days. They created a 6,000 square-foot meadow of native grasses and reforested an area of lawn that adjoins a wooded tract. Invasive plants were removed and replaced by white oaks, blueberry bushes, ornamental grasses and other native species.

“There is still turf on the property but it’s being used purposefully, for recreation areas, circulation, or as the green carpet that sets off other plantings,” notes Barton.

Although the new landscape will need a year or so to fully fill in, it’s already attractive and a vast improvement over the previous vast expanse of grass.  The UD researchers recognize that homeowners aren’t going to change their ways to improve the environment unless the results look good.

“Some people have the misconception that native plants are sloppy or somehow less appealing than non-natives,” says Barton. “I think the landscape we have created in Applecross is dense, rich and beautiful and should put such misconceptions to rest.”

UD will host several public tours of the Applecross property beginning in 2013. To receive a notification of tour dates, email Barton at sbarton@udel.edu.

Schofield, who is double majoring in landscape design and agribusiness, is excited to be a part of the research project. He says he wants to learn as much as he can about sustainable landscaping so he can incorporate into his own practices. He has operated a small landscape company in Malvern, Pa., since high school and hopes to expand the business after college.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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UD professors gear up for study on lawns, water quality and ecosystem services

October 6, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Taking a fresh look at water quality management, a University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) research team is studying how the replacement of urban lawns with more diverse vegetation can help protect the environment and make our landscapes more sustainable.

The researchers have been awarded a $595,000 grant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and will be working at the Winterthur Gardens on their project.

Shreeram Inamdar, CANR associate professor of plant and soil sciences, is the principal investigator and the research team includes Doug Tallamy, chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology; Susan Barton, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and a Cooperative Extension specialist; Jules Bruck, assistant professor of landscape horticulture and design; and Joshua Duke, professor in the Department of Food and Resource Economics.

One of the main goals of the three-year study, funded through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) National Integrated Water Quality program, is to try to curb water pollution at its source — preventing pollution in the first place rather than waiting to treat contaminated water before it enters waterways.

“In the past, standard water quality management has focused on intercepting dirty water before it gets into water systems,” explained Tallamy. “We’re doing the opposite — we’re trying to keep the water clean from the start.”

The researchers believe this can be accomplished by shrinking the lawn and replacing it with more diverse vegetation, thus reducing fertilizer and herbicide inputs and enabling water filtration, which will lead to less storm water runoff and cleaner water.

Diverse vegetation also is expected to provide other natural ecosystem services — such as carbon sequestration, preserving biodiversity and natural pest control — that are associated with mixed vegetation landscapes.

Inamdar noted that the ability to look at both of these aspects is a unique opportunity for the researchers. “One of the great things on this proposal is that we get to look at water quality as well as ecosystem services,” he said. “Not many projects take that view, so I think that’s a very novel approach.”

To conduct the study, the group will be comparing watersheds with different vegetation types at Winterthur.

Barton explained that the group will look at runoff from different types of watersheds at Winterthur — one site will be a mown turf field that will be managed in the manner of a residential lawn and the other will be primarily forest and meadow.

By doing this, Barton explained, “We can directly compare these two streams, which are very close to each other, under the same weather conditions. One gets the residential lawn runoff and one gets the diverse landscape runoff.”

The team has also secured a local homeowner’s landscape for the research. Bruck said the property will be “used as a test garden, and will become a demonstration garden to show these different sustainable principles and practices.”

Barton noted that public tours of the sites will eventually be offered.

Planting will begin next spring and as soon as the team gathers enough information and data, it will provide educational courses at Winterthur to disseminate key information to the public.

Tallamy said that making this information readily available is an effort to “change the status symbol. Right now, the status symbol is a big lawn and we’re trying to make it more diverse.”

This is also one of the main focuses of the Center for Managed Ecosystems, of which Tallamy is the director.

Duke’s role will be to determine how much it would cost a homeowner to manage their property in a more diverse manner, as opposed to how much it costs to simply manage a big lawn. Said Duke, “We suspect that it might not be that lawn is actually the cheapest way to manage things. It may be that it’s cheaper for an owner to manage in a more sustainable manner; they might just not realize it because it’s not the status quo.”

Undergraduate and graduate students will be involved in many aspects of the research, from helping the group gather information on water quality, ecosystem services and the economic implications to helping in the design of the more sustainable garden.

Bruck explained that students in her Basic Landscape Design course will “work through the design process to come up with demonstration plans that will be presented to the University of Delaware Botanical Gardens (UDBG) and then we’ll post the plans on our website, for educational purposes for other homeowners.”

For now, the team is gearing up for the spring and ready to get the study under way, hoping to improve water quality and change the status quo from large lawns to diverse, more sustainable ecosystems.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Danielle Quigley

Graphic courtesy Jules Bruck

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UD professors showcase rainwater harvesting at Philadelphia Flower Show

March 7, 2011 under CANR News, Events

Jules Bruck (left) and Jonathan Cox, as UD's Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit takes shape.

Jules Bruck, assistant professor of plant and soil sciences, and Jonathan Cox, instructor in art, along with students and faculty from the University of Delaware, have put together a display to be showcased at the Philadelphia International Flower Show, March 6-13, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

The theme of the show is “Springtime in Paris,” and Bruck explained that their project is a model two-story structure resembling a Paris street scene, with the purpose of the exhibit to be both aesthetically pleasing and educational, informing spectators of the values of residential rain harvesting.

Said Bruck of the structure, “The two facades represent a flower shop on one side and a winery on the other. The front represents a vibrant cafe — and shows rain coming out of gutters into decorative rain storage systems that can be used to water the street trees and containers. The backyard shows the ‘Paris underground’ and the ‘basements’ of the two shoppes.”

To watch a student-made video showing the construction of the exhibit, click here.

Once she and Cox heard the theme, Bruck said that they got invested in the idea of decorating the display like a catacomb.

“The rooms have a catacomb theme so they are dark and we have skulls as shelving and various decorations. The flower color theme is red — as in red wine. So, we are forcing a lot of red flowering and foliage plants.”

Bruck said that the goal in designing a model house was “You own a house, you’re at the Philadelphia Flower Show and you go ‘Oh, I never thought about harvesting rain to use to wash my car or to use to water my plants.’ So the idea of building a house is that visitors can translate the information really easily to their own scale.”

When homes are not set up for rainwater harvesting, Bruck said, “the typical path for that rainwater is out to the storm sewers and ultimately into a watershed.

“So anything you’ve applied to your lawn in terms of chemical fertilizers, any detergents you’ve used to wash your car, any oil that’s on your driveway, all gets swept away with that rainwater into the storm system, which typically end up in streams and rivers.”

Bruck said that they are advocating for people to try and collect rainwater through a variety of means, such as rain barrels that sit under down spouts, or an underground cistern, or designing a rain garden, which Bruck said makes sure “all the rainwater on your property is graded toward a garden full of plants that can handle wet conditions.”

The rain garden also allows rainwater to naturally percolate back into the ground, which filters and cleans the water naturally.

With so many people from departments across campus pitching in, Bruck couldn’t stress enough that the exhibit wouldn’t have been possible without a partner like Cox and all the support from everyone involved.

Students involved in the project include Chris Rocco and April Starkey, both seniors in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, who worked to grow plants in the Fischer Greenhouse. Starkey’s husband, Steve, works as a cabinet maker, and Bruck said that he was a huge help as the group built the structure.

Taylor Fehmal, a freshman in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Rebecca Zerby, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, both members of the Design Interest Group (DIG) helped design the innovative rain storage system on the display as part of a design club challenge.

Bruck also said that her construction students worked on the build this fall as part of their coursework.

Anthony Middlebrooks, an associate professor in the School of Urban Affairs, helped out with the project by having his leadership students work on a design challenge that focused on the educational aspects of the show.

The group also has received generous financial support and donations to help with the building of the model. Alumni Jordan (’96) and Erinne Hammell, Doug (’81) and Mai Blonski, and Jane Pepper (’76) all contributed funds to the project, as did Lele and Brad Galer.

Zach Starke is creating custom metal work for the project, while Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery supplied wine barrels and other accessories.

Erik Castle also helped out by contributing irrigation supplies.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed online on UDaily by clicking here

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CANR researchers promote native plants for suburban lawns

October 4, 2010 under CANR News

University of Delaware entomologist Doug Tallamy has been conducting research studies on the interaction between native plant species and native wildlife since 2000. Author of Bringing Nature Home, which met with critical acclaim in The New York Times and other publications, Tallamy is well aware that most suburban homeowners plant few shrubs and trees, preferring instead vast expanses of grass.

But his latest research, conducted this summer with Jules Bruck, assistant professor of landscape design in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, amazed even him. The duo analyzed the composition of 65 suburban yards in New Castle County and Chester County, Pa. They discovered that, on average, homeowners dedicated 92 percent of landscapable areas to lawn.

Read the full story on UDaily by clicking here.

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