Each summer the Longwood Graduate Program partners with an outside organization to accomplish a task that is both beneficial to the partner organization and educational for the fellows. In April the (then) first-year fellows sat down for the first meeting of the 2013 Professional Outreach Project (POP). Since that meeting we sent out our Request for Proposals, attended the 2013 APGA national conference, selected our partner organization for POP, tearfully said good-bye to the graduating class, and cheerfully said hello to the incoming LGP class of 2014. With all that excitement behind us now, we have gotten to work on this year’s POP.
We are excited to be working with Tyler Arboretum this year in Media, PA; a historic arboretum and landscape, Tyler is home to the historic collection known as the Painter plants. The Painter plants were planted in the mid-1800s by the Painter brothers, who lived on what was then their family farm. They were two Quaker brothers, who were true amateur naturalists – interested in minerals, animals, plants, and all things scientific.
During their lives they planted over 1,000 trees, shrubs and perennials around their house and barn (which are both still standing today), in hopes of gaining a better understanding of the natural order of life. After their deaths, the estate continued to be passed down through the family, until it was finally transitioned into a public arboretum in 1944.Unfortunately, many of these plants have not survived the decades, but those that have are magnificent specimens, many of which are now state champion trees.
This summer the Longwood graduate fellows are undertaking the task of preserving and reinterpreting these historic plants. We started our process by combing through boxes of archival material from the Painter brothers, now stored at Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College, and reaching out to other historic institutions to learn as much as we could about the brothers, their plants, and about the era in which they co-existed.
As we move forward we will be looking at modern-day best practices for maintaining the health of historic trees, ways to propagate these plants in order to preserve their unique genetics, and how to best showcase these plants to visitors of all ages at Tyler Arboretum. It is a very exciting project we are undertaking, and we are excited to move forward with it. Check back later in the summer for more updates!