Thesis Summary: Racial Diversity in Public Garden Internship Programs

Public horticulture is at the intersection of the horticultural sciences and the world of cultural nonprofits. Cultural nonprofits generally have difficulty attracting and retaining racially diverse staff. Public gardens are part of this group of organizations that are overwhelmingly white. As a part of the field of horticulture, public gardens are also facing a deficit of educated, skilled and experienced people entering the field. The lack of skilled horticulturalists and the lack of racial diversity in public garden staff are two issues of major concern for public gardens.

Philadelphia Area Regional Intern Outreach Day

Job pipeline programs such as internships have the potential to be important resources both in creating staff diversity as well as fostering new public horticulture employees. Young people entering the field of horticulture know how important internships are for future employment. If you count the number of internships done by the 5 current Longwood Graduate Fellows, they have done a total of 10, or an average of 2 internships per person! But could internships be part of the problem?

High-income students have more internship opportunities due to their preferences, social networks, and status, and are more likely to have paid internships. Internships are also tied to colleges and wealthier high schools. For the 70 percent of Americans who do not graduate from college, internships are rarely on the radar. A typical white family in the USA has 16 times the wealth of a typical black family. Due to this disparity in wealth that falls along racial lines, if the internship system favors richer students, it also favors whiter students. Since participation in one or more internships is one of the main factors employers consider when hiring, this inequity has serious consequences for who is considered employable.

Fellow Alice Edgerton first gathered basic information about the internships available in the Philadelphia region. The second part of her research consisted of qualitative narrative interviews with internship administrators and people of color who had done a public garden internship. Her final thesis will help illuminate the issues surrounding diversity and public garden internships and offer suggestions for internship administrators to build stronger and more racially diverse programs.

Thesis Summary: Public Gardens Engaging Millennials on Social Media

Public garden leaders are interested in engaging millennials, the first ‘digitally-native’ generation. But are millennials interested in public gardens? If so, how can public gardens customize their digital and social media strategies to engage a millennial audience?

Elizabeth Barton explores social and digital media strategies for getting millennials involved as visitors, members, and donors for public gardens. Her project combines research on existing public garden social media use, narrative interviews, and a survey of millennials to provide insight into effective social media engagement strategies for gardens.

Millennials — the Me Me Me Generation?

Elizabeth’s project has demonstrated that:

  1. Millennials are enthusiastic about involvement with public gardens!
  2. Millennials want to interact with gardens through social media.

Learn more about how public gardens are embracing social media to reach the next generation by contacting Elizabeth at, or joining her and the rest of the Fellows as they present their theses on May 26 at 10:00 AM at the University of Delaware. RSVP at our Eventbrite link!

Thesis Summary: Succession Planning in Public Gardens


This gallery contains 6 photos.

  In order to ensure the security and longevity of an organization, it is necessary to identify  future challenges and plan for them long before they unfold. One of the most daunting issues can be how to embrace change in … Continue reading

Thesis Summary: Food Systems Education in Public Gardens

A plant tag from an heirloom apple tree at Tower Hill Botanic Garden. Fellow Erin Kinley visited Tower Hill last November to investigate how their heirloom apple orchard, featuring 119 pre-20th century apple varieties, teaches visitors about food systems.

“Do you know where your food comes from?”

Erin Kinley despises this question. After eighteen years of living on a farm, four years of studying horticulture and plant biology, and two years of researching food education, she recognizes that today’s food system is a complicated beast. Between farm and fork, almost all food is influenced by many combinations of processors, distributors, government policies, and marketing gimmicks; simply teaching people that their tomatoes come from plants that grow on farms isn’t enough to help them make informed choices about their food.

Her thesis, Evaluating Food Systems Education and Interpretation in Public Gardens, explores how gardens are educating their visitors about the complexity of today’s food supply. Public gardens, already trusted resources for plant education, have incredible potential to teach people about the plants that form the base of every food chain. Erin’s research utilized a survey, phone interviews, and on-site observations to evaluate gardens’ current food systems education programs and identify opportunities for program growth. Based on her findings, Erin believes that with the right resources and partnerships, public gardens can become leaders in food systems education.

Want to learn more? Contact her at, or join all the Fellows as they present their theses on May 26 at 10:00 AM at the University of Delaware. RSVP at our Eventbrite link!

Snapshots of the 2017 Longwood Graduate Symposium

With over 100 attendees, the 2017 Longwood Graduate Symposium was an exciting day of economic discussions pertaining to public gardens. We had a great time exploring topics such as the Greater Philadelphia Gardens Economic Impact Report, Cleveland Botanic Garden’s Vacant to Vibrant program, gardens’ impact on community revitalization and gentrification, and the story of Singapore, a “city within a garden”.

Below are some of our favorite photos of the day, taken by Gene McCutchen, a Longwood Volunteer Photographer.

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Only One Week Left! Symposium and Webinar Registration, Day-Of Program, and Announcing Travel Awardees!

Only one week left until the symposium on March 3rd, 2017! This year’s symposium, Growing Together: Cultivating Change in the Economic Landscape, brings together a variety of speakers to discuss the economic impacts of public gardens.

Registration for the symposium is $119, with a student pricing of $59! If you can’t make it in person, consider joining us via interactive live webinar, where a Fellow will be available to moderate, take questions, and engage the audience in discussion.

Click here for a copy of the Day-Of Program!

We are also pleased to announce the 2017 Longwood Graduate Program Symposium Travel Awardees, who will join the us to learn about economic impacts of public gardens, and to make connections in the public horticulture field.

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Growing Together: Symposium Registration Open!

Registration is now open for the Longwood Graduate Symposium – Growing Together: Gardens Cultivating Change in the Economic Landscape! Registration is $119, and $59 for full-time students with ID. If you can’t make it in person, consider signing up for the webinar ($35), where a Fellow will be moderating and taking questions for the speakers.

The Fellows are excited to present this year’s line-up of speakers. They represent some great minds in economics and public horticulture alike, and are all looking forward to the discussion that the Symposium will bring.

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Reminder: Submit your LGP Symposium Travel Award Applications!



Speakers at the 2016 LGP Conference included Paul Smith (BGCI), Nayra Pacheco (Just Communities), Joseph McGill (Magnolia Plantations and the Slave Dwelling Project), and Guina Hammond (PHS)

The Fellows would like to remind students and emerging professionals of the Travel Award opportunity for the 2017 Longwood Graduate Symposium and encourage anyone interested to apply. The deadline is Sunday, January 8th, 2017. Additional information and applications can be found here.

This week, we are excited to feature Alexa Wright – current Education Intern at Longwood Gardens! Alexa has a BA in Biology from Oberlin College, and her MS in Horticulture from NC State. Below, she shares her experience as a Travel Awardee in last year’s Longwood Graduate Symposium!

“Attending the 2016 Longwood Graduate Program Symposium immersed me in the culture and organization of the public garden world. I was able to partake in conversations about issues that cultural institutions (especially public gardens) face and help brainstorm ways to overcome them.  I was also able to engage with those who share my passion for horticulture and environmental education. I enjoyed all of the wonderful aspects of attending a symposium from the thought-provoking dialogue and networking to the sense of inspiration from the unique experiences and knowledge obtained. As an Emerging Professionals Travel Awardee I was also able to be behind-the-scenes and have excellent one-on-one conversations with the guest speakers and surround myself with others like me, current students, recent graduates and those who were beginning their careers in the public horticulture field.

The 2016 Graduate Symposium was a stepping stone for my career. After attending the symposium I applied and was selected for a yearlong internship in the education department at Longwood Gardens. Being a travel awardee at the graduate symposium gave me unique perspective, fresh ideas and an edge in the job market. Additionally, meeting, conversing with and receiving advice from attendees helped and motivated me as an emerging professional in the field. The people (especially the graduate students) were awesome, the conversations (and meals) were amazing and overall it was an incredible experience!”


Longwood Graduate Fellows and Travel Awardees take a photo with Paul and Martha Parvis, long-time supporters of the program and Symposium! Alexa Wright is second from the right in this photograph.


Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Alexa! The Fellows look forward to meeting 2017’s Travel Awardees!

Further updates (including open registration and speaker announcements) will be posted through this blog ( as well as our Facebook page.

For questions about the Travel Award, please contact Erin Kinley at Questions about the Symposium event can be sent to Elizabeth Barton at





The Sounds of the Season: It’s Christmas at Longwood!

Happy Holidays from the Longwood Graduate Program!

Each year, A Longwood Christmas invites guests to experience a garden transformation like no other. Featuring intricate design, holiday cheer, and horticultural excellence, this year’s theme, The Sounds of the Season, resonates throughout the indoor and outdoor gardens during this musically-inspired display.

This year's theme: The Sounds of the Season

This year’s theme: The Sounds of the Season

As Longwood’s most popular season, thousands flock to the conservatory to take shelter from the cold and marvel at the elaborate sights. If you’ve ever found yourself stopped in your tracks when greeted with an indoor display and wondered, “How on earth did they do that?”, you’re not alone! Thanks to the LGP’s Mentorship Program, which pairs each Fellow with a Longwood staff member, I consulted Jim Sutton, Display Designer and my mentor, on this very question. The short answer: it takes a village, specifically a Longwood village.

As a mentor, Jim understands the importance of highlighting lessons in project management through experiential learning opportunities at Longwood. When it comes to preparing for and installing A Longwood Christmas, the lesson is clear: communication and teamwork. This is exemplified in one of this year’s grandest features, a two-story Christmas tree displayed on the Fern Floor in the Exhibition Hall. Supporting over 1,000 potted poinsettias, orchids, ivies, and ferns, if you look closely you will find it’s not a tree at all! In fact, it is a modular structure designed, constructed, and maintained by numerous teams of Longwood staff.

While Jim and Display Design intern, Greg Schival, produced the concept and drawings for the tree, Longwood’s carpenters and metal shop brought the structure to life, building each section like a puzzle piece able to lock in and come apart. Meticulously crafted with safety in mind, the tree’s base is comprised of wood and rests on the floor. Its top, however, is a separate metal piece suspended from the ceiling and secured through a base within its counterpart. Outfitted with lights and irrigation, Koa Kanamee, Senior Gardener, made sure plants were added in a top-down fashion to preserve a finished look throughout the installation process.

Longwood’s strong culture of teamwork has been bolstered in recent years with another Mentorship Program, one specifically designed to support the Horticulture staff in the Christmas season. Voices and talents from throughout the gardens form a network of committees, collaborating among themselves and with one another, to create the wonder that is A Longwood Christmas without losing site of the nuances that make for an enchanting guest experience.

Make your plan to visit A Longwood Christmas: Sounds of the Season today!

Make your plan to visit A Longwood Christmas: Sounds of the Season today!