A Fond Farewell from the Class of 2016

The Longwood Graduate Program Class of 2016 extends a fond farewell, with their sincerest appreciation to Longwood Gardens and the University of Delaware, as they prepare to graduate on Friday, May 27th. The Fellows’ time over the last two years has been shaped by the many amazing opportunities they took part in during the program.  They learned and gained hands-on leadership experience through many classes at the University of Delaware and projects through Longwood Gardens. Projects included supporting local organizations through two Professional Outreach Projects and leading the conversation on current public horticulture topics by organizing two symposia.  The Fellows were also able to expand their world perspective through domestic and international travel, such as their International Experience trip to Japan, North American Experience trip to Massachusetts, and numerous field trips to local public gardens and arboreta in the greater Philadelphia region.

The Class of 2016 at the Kyoto Imperial Palace during their International Experience study abroad trip to Japan. (Left to right: Keith Nevison, Mackenzie Fochs, Stephanie Kuniholm, Fran Jackson, and Andrea Brennan)

The Class of 2016 at the Kyoto Imperial Palace during their International Experience study abroad trip to Japan. (Left to right: Keith Nevison, Mackenzie Fochs, Stephanie Kuniholm, Fran Jackson, and Andrea Brennan)

The Fellows will graduate from the University of Delaware on May 27th and will be sharing the results of their thesis research during public presentations taking place at Longwood Gardens on the same day from 9:00-11:00 am in the Visitor Center Auditorium. No RSVP is necessary; all are welcome to this free event.

The seminar will be live-streamed and recorded through the Longwood Gardens Continuing Education Program. Interested individuals can register to watch for free via this link. Participants will be able to ask questions of the Fellows via a live chat and should sign in beginning at 8:45 am.

Here is a quick preview of each of the graduating Fellows’ seminar presentations:

Andrea Brennan – Conserving Oaks Through Tissue Culture

Oak acorns are recalcitrant, meaning they cannot be seed banked.  This eliminates an important method of conserving threatened oak species, and increases the importance of other techniques, such as tissue culture. This process involves growing plant tissues, like shoot tips, on nutrient media in a sterile, enclosed, and controlled environment.

Mackenzie Fochs – Exploring Culinary Arts Programming at Public Horticulture Institutions

Public gardens are a natural fit for learning about and enjoying all the culinary world has to offer. Through interviews and participant surveys, this research provides insight on the types of culinary programs currently being offered at public gardens, the audience attending them, and recommendations for creating successful and sustainable programs.

The 2016 Fellows and Judy Stevenson of Longwood Gardens, Kristin McCullin, Superintendent of Allen C. Haskell Public Gardens, and Dr. Brian Trader, Interim Director, Longwood Graduate Program.

The 2016 Fellows and Judy Stevenson of Longwood Gardens, Kristin McCullin, Superintendent of Allen C. Haskell Public Gardens, and Dr. Brian Trader, Interim Director, Longwood Graduate Program.

Fran Jackson – Managing Plant Collections Under Threat From Water Shortages

Are public gardens ready to deal with water shortage? This research documents the level of planning undertaken by gardens in Australia and the United States to manage water shortage, and explores the variety of ways they are dealing with this threat.

Stephanie Kuniholm – A Comparison of Membership Programs at Public Gardens in the United States

Public gardens seek revenue from diverse sources, including individual contributions in the form of membership dues. Despite widespread popularity at cultural institutions, the role and importance of membership programs is not well documented. This study explored differences in the administration and success of nearly 300 membership programs at public gardens.

Keith Nevison – Evaluating the Role of Phlox Cultivars in Ecological Landscaping

In 2015, Keith conducted this experiment at Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin, DE, to compare insect attraction and nectar quality between cultivars and straight species of Phlox. This research was designed to address the growing popularity of native plant cultivars in the nursery marketplace and whether their use in ecological landscaping provides similar habitat benefits as straight species for native wildlife.

The Class of 2016 and several other members of the International Experience Japan trip in 2015, join a young couple in their wedding pictures at Okayama Kōraku-en. Okayama Castle is in the background.

The Class of 2016 and several other members of the International Experience Japan trip in 2015, join a young couple in their wedding pictures at Okayama Kōraku-en. Okayama Castle is in the background.

A Happy Oaktober at the International Oak Society Conference

Second year Longwood Fellow, Andrea Brennan, was excited to be able to take part in the recent International Oak Society (IOS) Conference in Lisle, IL.  The conference was hosted by the Morton Arboretum in late October – prime time of year to catch the trees resplendent in their fall color!  The oak is the state tree of Illinois. In honor of this, and of the value contributed by Morton Arboretum to the state, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner recently declared October to be State Oak Awareness Month, better known as “Oaktober”.

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Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) leaves frame the view of a pond at the Morton Arboretum

In reference to the genus name of oaks, Quercus, oak fans proudly call themselves “quercophiles”. The IOS conference was quite inclusive and welcomed anyone with a love of oaks, from the hard-core scientist to the homeowner with the majestic trees planted in their yard. The wide diversity of attendees made for a fascinating variety of presentations, workshops, and tours in areas such as conservation, propagation, breeding, phylogeny (evolutionary history), collections management, and ethnobotany (study of the relationship between plants and people).

A line of trees, including a White Oak (Quercus alba), silhouetted against the setting sun at the arboretum

A line of trees, including a White Oak (Quercus alba), silhouetted against the setting sun at the arboretum

Andrea presented a poster on her thesis research of oak conservation through tissue culture. Tissue culture involves taking a piece of a plant, called a tissue, and placing it into a small container such as a test tube.  At the bottom of the container is a gel-like material that contains all the nutrients the tissue needs to survive and grow into a new plant.  Oaks tend to be difficult to grow via tissue culture, and so more research is needed to determine the best conditions for reproduction.

Oaks play a vital role in ecosystems across the globe, but the survival of many species is under threat. Tissue culture could be a valuable tool in saving these important trees.

Andrea’s remaining “oak army” growing in tissue culture

Some of Andrea’s “oak army” growing in tissue culture

Andrea had a number of oak tissues, called explants, still growing in tissue culture left from her recently concluded experiment, so she took the conference as an opportunity to give them to one of her committee members, Dr. Valerie Pence.  Dr. Pence is Director of Plant Research of the Center of Conservation Research of Endangered Wildlife at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, and will continue to study and grow the young oaks in her lab there.

Oaks standing tall at the arboretum’s Schulenberg Prairie

Oaks standing tall at the arboretum’s Schulenberg Prairie

The International Oak Society Conference was a wonderful experience with immense and enjoyable learning, engagement, and networking opportunities. This gathering of quercophiles gave attendees the chance to … branch out.

Explorations of Boston

The second day of the Fellows’ time in Massachusetts began in Boston with a fascinating visit to The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. The group was greeted by Andrew Gapinski, Manager of Horticulture and Longwood Graduate Program alumnus (Class of 2010), and Michael Dosmann, Curator of Living Collections. These skilled plantsmen provided an excellent overview of the Arboretum, its inner-workings, and of course, its plants! The Arnold Arboretum was founded in 1872 and designed through a collaboration between the organization’s first director, Charles S. Sargent, and famed landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted.

The tranquil Linden Path of the Arnold Arboretum.

The tranquil Linden Path of the Arnold Arboretum.

The living collections, in conjunction with research involving those collections, are at the heart of everything the Arboretum does. This is evidenced by the well-cared for and meticulously curated plants, as well as the extensive greenhouses, nursery, laboratories, library, and other growing and research facilities.

The Fellows were given a wonderful look at the vast horticultural library of the Arnold Arboretum.

The Fellows were given a wonderful look at the vast horticultural library of the Arnold Arboretum.

The Fellows were excited to encounter a number of unique and famous plant specimens during their tour of the grounds, including the oldest specimen of paperbark maple (Acer griseum) in North America. This tree is one of three individuals collected in central China in 1907 by notable plant collector, Ernest H. Wilson. While all paperbark maples of this species in the United States were derived from one of these three specimens, very recent efforts have begun to bring in additional trees to diversify the genetics of the species cultivated in North America.

The oldest Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) in North America growing in the Arnold Arboretum.

The oldest paperbark maple (Acer griseum) in North America growing in the Arnold Arboretum.

The horticultural exploration of Boston continued at Mount Auburn Cemetery. The Cemetery’s President, Dave Barnett, and Vice President of Cemetery and Visitor Programs, Bree Harvey, met the Fellows and guided them throughout Mount Auburn’s vast and beautiful landscape.

  One of the integral components of the Mount Auburn Cemetery are the numerous large, mature shade trees that grace its landscape.

One of the integral components of the Mount Auburn Cemetery are the numerous large, mature shade trees that grace its landscape.

The Cemetery was founded by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, which purchased 77 acres of land in 1831 with the purpose of creating a “rural cemetery” and experimental garden.  Since then, Mount Auburn Cemetery has grown to 175 acres situated in a very urban area and has nearly 100 staff.

The lovely Rhododendrons of the cemetery were in full-bloom and provided striking “pops” of color throughout the grounds.

The lovely Rhododendrons of the Cemetery were in full-bloom and provided striking pops of color throughout the grounds.

The nearly completed Boston Public Market provided an inspiring finish to a jam-packed day in this lively city. The Market’s goal is to make local food from Massachusetts and New England readily available in Boston through diverse vendors housed in one location. Jeremy Dick, Superintendent of the Trustees of Reservations Boston Management Unit, explained that the Boston Public Market arose from a collaboration between local organizations, including the Trustees. They will be responsible for engaging the public through educational programming such as workshops, demonstrations, tours, and events. Jeremy helped the Fellows better understand the context of the Boston Public Market by leading them through the nearby Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, which provides a refreshing oasis for the people of Boston.

A long, vine-clad pergola along the greenway near the site of the soon-to-be-opened Boston Public Market.

A long, vine-clad pergola along the Kennedy Greenway, near the site of the soon-to-be-opened Boston Public Market.

Bonsai Lessons and a Castle

While only just having arrived in Osaka the previous afternoon, we headed out this morning to another new prefecture, Hyogo, for the day.  We started out in the morning with amazing beginning lessons from Mr. Koji Matsusue, a bonsai suishoen (master).

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Mr. Matsusue explained how the original inspiration for bonsai came from plants found naturally growing in small, concave areas of rocky mountains where leaves, sand, and other particles and organic matter have accumulated.  These plants not only have to struggle with a limited root system and resources, but also against the wind, snow, and other elements as well, resulting in the beautiful, artistic growth and branching typically associated with bonsai.  While plants such as this may seem smaller, skinnier, and weaker, they are actually tougher and more able to resist stressors, such as drought or pests, than a plant that has only known ideal growing conditions.

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Mr. Matsusue continued, saying that it is important to understand that bonsai are like people, in that each one is unique.  To properly care for their plants, bonsai growers need to “talk” with them everyday to understand their individual characteristics and idiosyncrasies.  This, the bonsai suishoen states, is the virtue of growing bonsai and if you are to grow one, it should be a necessary part of your life.

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Throughout this fascinating lecture, we were also held spellbound by the bonsai trimming and training Mr. Matsusue was demonstrated on a lovely juniper tree belonging to one of his clients.  We watched in awe as he deftly and artistically shaped the tree to reveal its true beauty and ruggedly handsome characteristics.

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With the conclusion of these extraordinary bonsai lessons, Mr. Matsusue joined us for lunch nearby at Fukukura.  We each enjoyed delicious traditional Japanese set course meals with hot tea while sitting on floor cushions at a large, low table and were happily stuffed by the end of our time at the restaurant.

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We bid a fond farewell to Mr. Matsusue and per his suggestion we quickly finished off our time in Hyogo with a half hour walk around the grounds of the massive Himeji Castle, also known as the White Heron Castle, due to its resemblance to the lovely bird in flight.

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This enormous structure traces its origin back to 1333 when it was first built as a fortress.  It wasn’t until 1609, though, after being turned into a mansion in 1346, and then extended with additional buildings in 1581, that Himeji Castle reached its current impenetrable form, complete with three moats and absolutely tremendous stone walls.

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A Pleasantly Rainy Day

Our first full day in Kyoto was marked by pouring rain, but there was not a damp spirit in the group!  We started off the day with an interesting, albeit wet, tour of the large Kyoto Imperial Palace and grounds.

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Before the Japanese capital was moved to Tokyo in 1869, the Emperor, his family, and other important nobility resided at this formidable estate.  The Chrysanthemum is a primary focus of our studies here in Japan, and we were excited to see the royal crest, a sixteen-petaled version of the flower, gracing numerous parts of the palace structures.

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The next stop of the day was to Heian Shrine.

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While certainly impressed by the large, beautiful orange buildings of the shrine, like any good group of horticulturists we were absolutely blown away by the vast and carefully created gardens of the shrine.

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We could clearly see the long, thoughtful consideration that was put into the construction of this garden, which was built over a 20-year period.  The plants were meticulously cared for and resplendent in their winter protection.

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With each bend in the path, a new and exceptional view was found, illustrating to us, first-hand, a key component of Japanese gardening.

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Finishing off our day was a visit to the very nearby Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts.  This fascinating museum highlighted and demonstrated some of the finest classical craftsmanship of Japan, including  kimono-, fan-, basket-, pottery-, and porcelain- making.  We felt very inspired by this museum and left with several ideas for possible application at Longwood Gardens.

International Experience 2015: Japan

The First Year Fellows are gearing up for their January 2015 International Experience trip to Japan!  After extensive research, the Fellows have put together a full itinerary for exploring Japanese horticulture and traditions in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka.  A central theme for their study abroad is the Chrysanthemum, or Kiku, which has historically been an important part of Japanese culture.  The flower first arrived in Japan around the 8th century A.D. and was quickly adopted as the official seal of the emperor.  The popularity of this flower and its continued prominence in Japanese culture can be easily seen today in the country’s National Chrysanthemum Day, also referred to as the Festival of Happiness.

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Longwood Gardens also takes part in the festivities honoring this beautiful flower with its annual Chrysanthemum Festival and their cultivation of the Thousand Bloom Mum (pictured above for 2014, with over 1500 blooms).  In order to enhance both programming and the Chrysanthemum core collection at Longwood Gardens, the First Years will be exploring and documenting Japanese horticultural traditions and techniques not yet practiced at Longwood.  The Fellows will be departing from the United States on January 9th to begin their exciting two-week research expedition through Japan and will be providing frequent narratives of their journey through this blog.

Bartram’s Garden: Reconnecting People, Plants, and Place

John Bartam was a Quaker farmer, passionate botanist, and life-long plant collector of the 1700s.  He traveled extensively, particularly around the southeastern United States, and brought back many plants to his 102-acre Philadelphia garden.  From there, Bartram propagated and sold these species to other avid plant collectors, especially those in Europe.  The garden was able to stay in this family of plant enthusiasts through three generations and is now being cared for by the John Bartram Association.

Standing at the Bartram's Garden entrance, Longwood fellows listen to curator Joel Fry, as he describes the development of the city of Philadelphia around the garden. (Left to right: Joel Fry, Andrea Brennan, Mackenzie Fochs, Keith Nevison, and Fran Jackson.)

Standing at the Bartram’s Garden entrance, Longwood fellows listen to curator Joel Fry, as he describes the development of the city of Philadelphia around the garden. (Left to right: Joel Fry, Andrea Brennan, Mackenzie Fochs, Keith Nevison, and Fran Jackson.)

On August 15th, the Class of 2016 was able to explore the remaining 45 acres of the historic Bartram’s Garden.  They were welcomed by executive director, Ms. Maitreyi Roy, and curator, Mr. Joel Fry, clearly talented individuals, both devoted to the garden.  Bartram’s Garden is composed of a diversity of landscapes: tidal wetland, meadow, water front, and urban farm.  It was first conceived that the garden would be surrounded by city housing, but the area actually became quite industrial, making Bartram’s Garden an oasis.

Unfortunately, Bartram’s Garden went through a period of mild neglect, but this was followed by a major revitalization effort in 2007 that still continues today.  Ms. Roy and Mr. Fry were excited to tell the Fellows about three new capital projects currently in process at Bartram’s Garden:  the Schuylkill River Trail expansion, the Carr Garden Restoration, and the John Bartram House restoration.  Bartram’s Garden is also now offering after-school programs to channel and engage neighborhood children with environmental stewardship.

Curator Joey Fry chronicles the history of the John Bartram House and the surrounding garden. (Left to right: Joel Fry, Mackenzie Fochs, Stephanie Kuniholm, Fran Jackson, and Keith Nevison.)

Curator Joey Fry chronicles the history of the John Bartram House and the surrounding garden. (Left to right: Joel Fry, Mackenzie Fochs, Stephanie Kuniholm, Fran Jackson, and Keith Nevison.)

Another major effort at Bartram’s Garden involves the Schuylkill River, which, given the two acres of waterfront, plays an important role at the site.  In the past though, the community has had understandably negative views of the river due to a history of pollution and crime.  However, Bartram’s Garden is working to change these perceptions, even creating a new staff position to address the issue.  River pollution is down considerably, aided by Bartram’s very successful and thriving tidal wetland.  Now the garden is working to reconnect the community to the river with engagement initiatives like the trail expansion and River Festival.

This tree is believed to be North America's oldest specimen of Ginkgo biloba.

This tree is believed to be North America’s oldest specimen of Ginkgo biloba.

After hearing about the fascinating history and numerous exciting community engagement efforts of Bartram’s Garden, the Class of 2016 had the opportunity to explore the site.  Mr. Fry led the tour and provided a wealth of information.  The fellows were able to see a wide variety of historical plants, including the 21 medicinal species described by John Bartram in 1751 and what is thought to be North America’s oldest specimen of Ginkgo biloba.  Also encountered were various species and variants of Magnolia, Rhododendron, Dahlia, and Zinnia, discovered and made available by John Bartram.

The Class of 2016 completed their tour of Bartram’s Garden with one of the most significant species of the garden: a blooming specimen of Franklinia alatamaha.

Bloom of the Franklin tree (Franklinia alatamaha)

Bloom of the Franklin tree (Franklinia alatamaha)

This tree is descended from the seeds of the original specimens discovered by John Bartram and his son, William, in southern Georgia in 1765.  Franklinia alatamaha is now extinct in the wild, but is still able to exist in cultivation today, thanks to the botanical passion of the Bartram family.

For more information on this fascinating family and garden, please visit: http://www.bartramsgarden.org/.