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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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 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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