NAX Day 2: South Carolina Botanical Garden

Today we spent a scorching afternoon with Dr. Patrick McMillan at the South Carolina Botanical Garden on the Clemson University campus. Our tour focused on the Natural Heritage Trail, a quarter mile experience that takes the visitor through all of the major ecosystems of South Carolina.

Several signs like this one are installed over the length of the Natural Heritage Trail to orient visitors.

Several signs like this one are installed over the length of the Natural Heritage Trail to orient visitors.

A holistic, ecosystem-focused approach is evident in this garden as the team strives for healthy authenticity. We saw thriving pollinator communities, many federally threatened plant species, and visually stunning displays.


Many plant species along the trail were swarming with healthy pollinator communities

The Natural Heritage Trail is a fascinating work in progress and the Fellows look forward to following the future of this innovative garden. Thank you to Dr. McMillan and to the staff and students of the South Carolina Botanic Garden for generously sharing your time and knowledge!


The Natural Heritage Trail winds through South Carolina forest ecosystems, providing welcome shade.



American Public Gardens Association 2016 Annual Conference

The American Public Gardens Association Annual Conference in Miami was an amazing and educational experience for the Longwood Graduate Fellows and a fitting send-off for the Class of 2016. The conference theme, Changing Perspectives: Planting for the Future, was well supported with panels, presentations and workshops.


Erin Kinley and Tracy Qiu before setting off on a wet hike in Big Cypress National Preserve

Highlights included incredible tours of local gardens, two thought-provoking keynote presentations, and a round of Plant Jeopardy hosted by Association President, Casey Sclar.


Casey Sclar (aka Alex Tree-bec) hosts a stimulating game of Plant Jeopardy

The Emerging Professionals Student Presentations illustrated the thoughts of the next generation of public horticulturists. Documenting, verifying and protecting our living collections was one theme featured by Emily Detrick (“Documenting Living Collections”, Cornell University), Ben Stormes (“Verification of Identify in the Living Collections”, Cornell University), and Fran Jackson (“Managing the Risk of Water Shortage”, Longwood Graduate Program). Another theme was the connection of gardens with the community, exemplified by Mackenzie Fochs (“Culinary Connections at Public Gardens”, Longwood Graduate Program), Michelle Gluck (“How Green are the Greenest Blocks?”, Pratt Institute), and Stephanie Kuniholm (“A comparison of Public Garden Membership Programs”, Longwood Graduate Program).


Fellows from the Class of 2015 (Sarah Leach-Smith), 2016 (Stephanie Kuniholm), and 2017 (Elizabeth Barton) came together at Vizcaya

Thank you to the American Public Gardens Association, the host gardens, and to all the conference attendees for making this a week to remember!


Final Day in Oz

The Longwood Graduate Fellows spent a second day exploring the various sites of the South Australia Botanic Garden. We had a productive meeting in the morning with the coordinators of programming and adult education. We got a chance to learn more about City Crop, an exciting agricultural interpretive initiative.


First-Year Fellows meeting with Adelaide Botanic Garden staff (Photo by Elizabeth Barton).

A section of Adelaide Botanic Garden, the most urban of the three gardens in the South Australia Botanic Garden, is devoted to an agricultural crop. This crop creates an opportunity for fun and educational events. The plant choice changes from year to year; past crops have included barley, wheat, and corn. This year the crop is lucerne, a grazing crop for cows. The space devoted to the crop would make enough milk for a family for 4 months.

This year's city crop, lucerne, under netting (Photo by Erin Kinley).

This year’s city crop, lucerne, under netting (Photo by Erin Kinley).

We were excited to see agricultural education framed in such a fun and tangible way. Adelaide Botanic Garden brought in dairy cows last week and is planning an ice cream making event for children and families later in the season. This program was particularly exciting to First Year Fellow Erin Kinley, whose research focuses on food systems education programs in public gardens.

Wide open spaces and large trees define the well-loved Wittunga Botanic Garden

Wide open spaces and large trees define the well-loved Wittunga Botanic Garden (Photo by Grace Parker).

The Fellows rounded out the day with a trip to Cleland Park to visit with Australian animals, the Mount Lofty overlook, and Wittunga Botanic Garden. This has been an amazing trip. We are eager to process the information we collected and to keep working on this project.

A Mid-Trip Reflection

The First-Year Fellows have been having amazing experiences in Australia. At each organization we visit, we learn more strategies for community engagement and for program evaluation. We are excited about the relationships we are developing with Australian organizations.

The Fellows and Dr. Brian Trader pose for a picture at The Blue Mountain Botanic Gardens, Mount Tomah.

The Fellows and Dr. Brian Trader pose for a picture at The Blue Mountain Botanic Gardens, Mount Tomah.

In addition to our meetings, the Fellows have  been fortunate to tour each of the gardens and have been blown away by our visits. We have seen gorgeous views, creative garden designs, and fascinating biodiversity.

Australian gardens certainly have some different pest management issues.

Australian gardens certainly have some different pest management issues.

We have been impressed by the openness and generosity of all the host organizations! We are grateful for all the time and insights we have gotten so far and look forward to learning more.

G’day Mates!

First Year Fellows here, checking in from Sydney, Australia.

We made it! No speed bumps so far (except for one lost piece of luggage). We hit the ground running today with an amazing afternoon at Taronga Zoo. The ferry across Sydney Harbour provides a picturesque approach to the zoo site. We were able to see gorgeous views of the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the zoo itself.


On our way to Taronga Zoo with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background.

The Fellows spent the afternoon in conversation with Taronga’s Institute and Project Manager, Education Manager, Aboriginal and Community Programs Manager, and the Community Conservation Manager. Thank you to the generous Taronga Zoo staff for their time and wisdom; we are excited to continue these conversations! After our meeting we spent some time bonding with the Australian wildlife. Some of my personal favorites were the echidnas and the quolls. Unfortunately, the platypus didn’t make an appearance for us today; he was relaxing in his nest-box after a long day of happy visitors.


When you’re at Taronga, don’t forget to look up! This ropes course provides a fun activity for a wide range of ages.

Our time at Taronga Zoo really set the stage for a fantastic trip. Stay tuned! We’ll keep you up to date throughout our journey.

Follow along with us on social media using twitter (@ElizabethTau) and our trip hashtag: #LGPDownUnder



Shaping the Future of Horticulture at Ladew Topiary Garden

The first year Fellows visited Ladew Topiary Gardens on a gorgeous sunny day in August. The naked ladies (Lycoris squamigera) were in full bloom and the topiaries were looking sharp!


Naked ladies and a view of the hunt topiaries

As a Maryland Historic Site, Ladew Topiary Gardens faces unique heritage challenges. Harvey S. Ladew purchased the property in 1929 and created the gardens with intentional imperfections and an eye for whimsy. This brings up questions for current staff such as: should the original bright colors be maintained? What about the off-centered focal point of the sculpture garden? Some bright colors have been kept and some now live only in historical photographs. The sculpture garden focal point is maintained as it was in Mr. Ladew’s original design.


Mr. Ladew created this fountain by combining different sculptural elements he found during his travels

Although projects such as upgrading aging hardscaping, replacing invasive species, and addressing the occasional fallen tree are present throughout the field of horticulture, considering them in light of Mr. Ladew’s original intent adds a layer of intrigue.

Thanks to a talented horticultural team and inspired garden leadership, the Ladew Topiary Gardens are thriving. The staff strikes an admirable balance both maintaining historical integrity and modernizing to fit the times.

Erin cropped

First Year Fellow Erin Kinley enjoys a visit from a monarch during her time in the Butterfly House

One of the modern choices made in recent years is the Butterfly House. Opened in 2014, this beautiful structure houses native butterflies found in the surrounding meadow and provides ideal space for community education. The caterpillars are collected from the area and adult butterflies are released back into the ecosystem. The Fellows are looking forward to the growth of the Butterfly House in addition to everything else Ladew has in store for the future!

First Year Fellows at Mt. Cuba

Despite the rainy weather, Mt. Cuba Center shone brightly during our visit. The native woodland gardens were especially charming on a rainy day and the downpour was kind enough to hold off until we made it back to the house. Our docent guide, Judy Stallkamp, gave us a great tour filled with personal touches about her favorite plants and Copeland family anecdotes.

The beauty of the site can be summarized by Mrs. Copeland’s desire for visitors to “look up as well as look down.” The tall, straight trunks of the tulip poplars draw one’s gaze up and allow the visitor to appreciate the overall woodland beauty in addition to the smaller floral accents.


Tulip poplars draw one’s eyes upward

A floral accent by the large pond

A floral accent by the large pond

I particularly enjoyed the chance to see the trial gardens. Even on a cloudy day the native plants were abuzz with pollinators and the whole garden was full of color.

Trial gardens at Mt. Cuba

Trial gardens at Mt. Cuba

The Fellows were charmed by the story of Mrs. Copeland’s mailboxes, which are scattered throughout the garden. She had these mailboxes placed in the garden so she could leave notes for herself or the gardeners. She also left books to read so they would be easily accessible.

Thank you, Mt. Cuba, for such a great visit!