A Trip to Cornell

Photography: Longwood Graduate Fellows

At the peak of fall color in mid-October, all ten Longwood Graduate Fellows and our Director, Dr. Lyons, journeyed to Ithaca, New York for a field trip to Cornell Plantations. Before sunrise on the first day, we set out from Townsend Hall.

Cornell Plantations at Cornell University offers a Master’s Degree of Professional Studies in Public Garden Leadership not unlike Longwood Gardens and the University of Delaware’s Master’s of Science in Public Horticulture. Cornell’s program has four Fellows (two a year,) University of Delaware’s program has ten (five per year.) Both programs focus on leadership in public horticulture. The trip provided a wonderful opportunity for all of us to connect.

Director Don Rakow and the Cornell students planned an interesting, personalized two-day excursion. Upon arrival we enjoyed lunch and introductions. We met with various members of the Plantations staff to discuss interpretation and new signage and then participated in a small project with the Youth and Education staff. Later, we embarked on our tour of the Botanic Garden and the Arboretum. Many beautiful views, vantage points and photo ops ensued.

Day two started in a downpour. Undeterred, we walked Cornell’s picturesque campus to find our lecture hall. Professor Mike Hostetler, whose main research and teaching interests are in strategy, decision-making, leadership, and high performance, generously led us in a leadership workshop. The discussion centered on an article by John Kotter called, What Leaders Really Do. We discussed the differences between management and leadership, the importance of both and how to cultivate them. The topics were stimulating and insightful and I think I can speak for all when I say that we didn’t want the session to end.

The rain cleared, giving way to blue skies and glistening colorful foliage. Venturing into one of the many Plant Science buildings, we enjoyed a delightful lunch arranged by the Cornell Fellows. After that we visited the Hortorium and learned a bit of Cornell history. We toured the natural lands for an in depth view of deer destruction, the current methods of mitigating the problem and a grim prediction for the future of our forests if we don’t do something soon! We enjoyed an interesting late afternoon hike of Park Park with Botanist, Robert Wesley. Park Park boasts Sugar Maples, Black Maples and Eastern Hemlock that are hundreds of years old. Our final stop was the Ithaca Children’s Garden, where we met with Director and former Cornell Graduate Fellow, Erin Marteal. Ithaca Children’s garden is doing wonderfully innovative work engaging children of all ages.

We finished our trip with a delicious dinner at the Boathouse Restaurant. Armed with photographs, new friendships and new knowledge for career connections we departed, leaving behind an invite to the Cornell Fellows for a visit us at UD and Longwood gardens next year!

First year Fellows visit Chanticleer

(written by Laurie Metzger, photographs by Chunying Ling)

It was a sunny, sometimes cloudy– typically capricious Autumn day in Eastern PA when we made a visit to Chanticleer. A seeming anomaly in a region dominated by DuPont estates turned public gardens, Chanticleer is the estate of the Rosengarten family, of pharmaceutical fame. Named after an estate in Thackeray’s novel The Newcomes, Chanticleer was originally the family’s summer home.  They spent a pretty penny readying the house to become their full time residence. The name consequently came from a line in from the novel, “mortgaged to the very castle windows but still the show of the county.” In addition the family played on the fact that Chanticleer is the name of the Rooster from the Nun’s Priest Tale in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.  Over time, the rooster became a kind of mascot for the estate.

Chanticleer’s website explains that “everything is carefully orchestrated…” in the garden. This truly describes the enchanting impression that Chanticleer left with us.  I would add to it, “thoughtfully, with love and appreciation.” The ambiance at Chanticleer is like being in the presence of a person who celebrates each tiny detail of life’s rhythm, the vast variety of beauty in plants, and the special qualities that make people individuals.  The stories of the landscape, of the family, and of each structure, inspires awe wrapped in a feeling of affection. Creativity abounds.  Beautiful patterns are revealed in furniture, banisters and container gardens. No pattern is repeated yet everything fits.  In this way, Chanticleer is like walking in a tangible dream.

The garden design seamlessly mixes old and new.  This allows guests to imagine they had walked into another time, but still feel right at home. Chanticleer aims to be ‘a pleasure garden.’ Forgoing plant labels for plant lists hidden in beautiful boxes, each one is creatively constructed by one of Chanticleer’s staff.  One gets the feeling that the Horticultural staff members are like elves, displaying their secret talent for detail as metal artisans, master wood workers and florists all over the 37 acre garden.

The first frost was predicted for the evening of our visit, so the staff was hard at the more practical work of covering, moving and preserving the plants in the outdoor tropical displays.  We were gifted with a special tour by Chanticleer’s director, Bill Thomas.  He wove the story of Chanticleer, revealing a philosophy of generous freedom and trust in his staff.  In addition, working at Chanticleer sounds delectably creative and full of opportunities to grow.  Each member of the staff is encouraged to “take their time,” knowing they are a part of “the important garden experience.”   Chanticleer believes in doing a job well to start because it will last longer in the end.

The garden shed mimics a carriage house and has always stood that way.  The vegetable garden is filled with charming cultivars, especially the hardy Kiwi—a juicy snack for an observant, hungry passer by.  A restroom facility was recently built in the Asian Woods (the point furthest from the entrance.) Designed to look like a Japanese Tea house it’s humorously and unofficially called the “Pee House.”  Featuring stonework and artwork by staff and friends, this project gives opportunity to artist, horticulturist and facilities manager alike.

Chanticleer is lovely from start to finish, magnificent, splendid, special and not unlike Chaucer’s description of the Rooster…

 …There was not his equal in all the land. His voice was merrier than the merry organ that plays in church, and his crowing from his resting place was more trustworthy than a clock. His comb was redder than fine coral and turreted like a castle wall, his bill was black and shone like a jet, and his legs and toes were like azure. His nails were whiter than the lily and his feathers were like burnished gold.

-The Nun’s Priest Tale, Canterbury Tales

 

POP 2012 Comes to an End

Summer is at an end, and so, sadly, is this year’s Professional Outreach Project (POP). On October 8th the Fellows had their third and final POP Advisory Committee (POPAC) meeting. Since the last POPAC meeting, we have been working to finish the internal way finding and interpretation material, compiling the final report, and printing our first real signs. The Fellows are now taking the final steps to finish the project and summary report.

To complete the internal signage portion of the project, Fellows first talked with staff members, studied maps, and analyzed the landscape. We wanted to find where material would be most effective in reaching guests with their message, as well as helping them navigate inside the garden. In total, six different garden landscapes were chosen for new interpretation signs. The goals in designing these signs was visual consistency throughout the whole garden, quick and easy to locate and read, and most importantly, informative. The design template and wording for all the interpretation signs were presented to POPAC and all agreed that they were very well done.

The Fellows also started work on the final report, the culmination of the past three-month’s work. Everyone chipped in to help write, revise, and compile the report, which has now been submitted. General Manager and POPAC member, Chris van de Velde and Awbury Arboretum’s board will now have the opportunity to review the work completed by the Fellows.

One of the most exciting events leading up to the final POPAC meeting was printing the first sign. With the help of Barry & Homer in Philadelphia, the Fellows were able to print a mock-up of one of the smaller entryway signs. After months of looking at computer images, it was exhilarating to hold the actual sign in our hands. Better yet was being able to present it to the committee. We have decided to try to print all the exterior signs and have them installed first, before going forward with printing and installing the internal signs.

Although the project is almost complete, and POPAC had great comments and feedback on our progress thus far, still, there are a few final tasks to be completed. The plant list for the entranceway areas will be completed in the coming weeks, but the beds won’t be planted until after the signs are installed. We are also in the process of updating the location of walking paths on Google maps.

This project has been a great learning experience for all of us. We would like to extend special thanks to Awbury Arboretum and to our Advisory Committee, which includes Chris van de Velde, General Manager of Awbury Arboretum, Dottie Miles, Interpretation and Exhibits Manager at Longwood Gardens, Beth Miner, Director of Outreach at Awbury Arboretum, and Dr. Robert Lyons, Chair, and Director of the Longwood Graduate Program.