Author Archives: Felicia Chua

North American Experience Trip – Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens and Muir Woods

The first year Longwood Graduate Fellows commenced our garden adventures at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, Fort Bragg, California. Mary Anne Payne, Executive Director and Jim Bailey, Head Gardener of the garden, greeted us at the entrance of the garden on a cool morning.

Mendocino Coastal Botanical Gardens entrance sign

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens entrance sign

Ernest and Betty Sohoefer, who had deep passions in gardening and a special interest in Rhododendron species, started Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens (MCBG) in the 1960s. MCBG has a garden area of 47 acres, framed by the grand coastal ocean and currently has over 1,200 cultivars and species of Rhododendrons. The diversity of plant varieties in the garden attracts and supports the highest concentration of birds to its premises. MCBG held a strong community support, attracting about 350 volunteers, on top of its 11 full time and 11 part time staff. Due to the natural high water table present in the land, MCBG joined partnership with the Water Coastal Conservancy to preserve and better utilize the existing available water.

Mendocino Coastal Botanic Gardens heath and heather collection

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens heath and heather collection

MCBG attracts about 17,000 visitors annually, and generates its revenues through general admission, gift shop, retail nursery, café and fund-raising events such as ‘Art in the Gardens’. MCBG manages its own vegetable garden and orchard within its premises and 80% of its produces are given to the local food bank while the remaining 20% are given to its in-house ‘Rhody’s Garden Café’. The management utilized the vegetable garden and orchard to educate the public through educational tours and interpretative signage.

Mendocino Coastal Botanical Gardens coastline panorama

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens coastline panorama

Art and bench sculptures are displayed throughout the gardens. Mary Payne explained that each art and bench sculptures were for sale and that the profits will be spilt between the artist and MCBG. Jim led us towards their composting backyard and told us an interesting story about how they used the spare hops and grains by the brewery restaurant in their compost. He explained that the hops are able to heat up to about 140oF, sanitizing and killing all bacteria and insects within the compost.

Muir Woods entrance After lunch, we made our way down south towards Muir Woods National Monument, where it houses the world’s largest giant coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). Local businessman William Kent and his wife Elizabeth Thacher Kent established Muir Woods in 1905 to protect the one of the last standing redwoods. We took a hike through the Muir Woods trails and one felt like we were in the ‘Twilight’ movie. The golden rays of the sun beamed and streamed through the majestic redwood forest like a flowing waterfall, reflecting and surrounding its warmth around us. Along the trail, we spotted a few of the legendary ‘banana slug’ – a greenish and slimy slug that survived in the undergrowth of the forest. Myth has it that one may make a wish after kissing the slug and a few brave female ‘warriors’ decided to make myth come true by bestowing their precious lips upon the innocent slugs.

Muir Woods

Muir Woods

Banana slug wishes

Banana slug wishes

The trips to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens and Muir Woods have opened our eyes to further appreciate nature and extend our networking in California. We look forward with great anticipation and excitement towards the rest of the trip!

Blog by Felicia Chua and photos by Kevin Williams

International Experience New Zealand Day 13 – Christchurch Botanic Garden with Jeremy Hawker

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We set out with the sun casting its warmth through the midst of the chilly morning breeze as we made our way towards the Christchurch Botanic Garden. We were greeted by the pleasantly warm and friendly Jeremy Hawker, who is the team leader for the Garden and Heritage Parks in Christchurch. Jeremy has an impressive fourteen years of horticulture and management experience for the Botanic Gardens such as Christchurch Botanic Garden; City Heritage Parks such as Hagley Park; and other Central Business District Parks that have been placed under his care. Some of these gardens and parks are currently undergoing major re-development due to the earthquake damage during 2010 and 2011.

IMG_2208Christchurch Botanic Garden has over 1.1 million annual visitors to its 17 hectares garden. It was established in 1963 and is in its 150th year anniversary this year. It is mostly funded by the City Council and held events such as musical concerts, a wine festival, changing plant displays for the Flower Festival, and public education for the schools and community. At any one time, these events attract about 100,000 visitors to the Garden. Christchurch Botanic Garden has suffered its pain through the horrendous earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 and is painstakingly in the midst of recovery. During the tremors of the earthquakes, Jeremy had to relocate the staff who were left homeless and provide additional support and counseling for them. The visitor center had to be relocated to the entrance of the Botanic Garden, while the bus depot was relocated to another end of the Garden. A police recovery center was set up to provide assistance to anyone who seeks it.   

IMG_2197Jeremy recalled that all the electricity was cut off and he suggested that a hard-copy of important telephone numbers and documents should be kept since all the computers were down due to the electrical failure. Water supply was no longer available to the plants, which struggled through the strenuous period of the aftermath of the earthquakes. Capital funding was utilized to re-build damaged recreation facilities and infrastructure such as the tennis courts at Hagley Park. Underground sewage spilled into the river system that flowed through the Botanic Garden and remained a priority for repairs as the staff scrambled to remove the spills from the river. Jeremy described with awe that during the earthquake, the water in the shallow rivers was seen bubbling furiously as if in a volcano eruption and then suddenly disappeared into the grounds below. 

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Spontaneous pallet pavilion with bucket seats built immediately after the earthquakes of 2010 & 2011.

IMG_2254We left Christchurch Botanic Garden and walked around the city as Jeremy explained that the government is still in the midst of deciding whether to re-build the same damaged building or to replace the building with a brand new look. The damage around the city is being repaired and Jeremy estimated that the recovery for the entire Christchurch city would be within 25 – 30 years. Though the city looks devastating, the people of Christchurch lifted the dull and empty atmosphere with cheerful and creative art instruments, such as hand-made musical instruments made out of boards, brushes and pipes; enormous green and velvety furniture were erected and stand-up cafes were made out of shipping containers. The Christchurch city may be greatly damaged, but unity and love can definitely be seen and felt within each person’s heart. 

Blog by Felicia Chua, photos by Sara Helm Wallace

International Experience New Zealand Day 8 – Wellington Botanic Garden and Otari-Wilton’s Bush

It was a breezy and sunny morning as we made our way to the Wellington Cable Car Station to catch the ride to the Wellington Botanic Garden (WBG). David Sole, who has been the manager of the WBG for the past ten years, greeted us upon our arrival. WBG has a garden area of about 25 hectares and was established in 1868. It is funded by the City Council and attracts about one million visitors annually. A master tree plan consisting of about 1,800 trees has been in place since 2011, with 40% of the plan dedicated to regeneration of native plants. David explained that native plants would be replanted in place of any deceased exotic plants in order to promote the use of native plants.

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Though there are many themed gardens in WBG, the gardens are inter-connected to weave a seamless design and flow for the visitor experience and education. A new Children’s Garden with an area of about 1,500m2 is under-going development and is scheduled for opening in 2016. The in-house nursery was recently renovated in 2010 and the roofs of the greenhouses were modified to collect rainwater for irrigating the plants. There are free summer concerts six times a week during January to attract more visitors and a display of about 1,200 Begonias in the Begonia House adds to the attraction.

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Rewi Elliot, who has been the curator of Otari-Wilton’s Bush (OWB) since 2005, joined us after lunch. OWB has a natural bush area of about 100 hectares and is divided into two separate themes – the forest (or bush) and the garden. The forest was founded by Job Wilton, a farmer, who decided to protect the site and fence off seven hectares to preserve the native plants. Dr. Leonard Cockayne and J.G. McKenzie founded the garden in 1926 to restore and promote the growth of native plants. OWB is the single largest collection of native plants with over 1,200 species and cultivars growing in the garden. An 800-year old, healthy, Dacrydium cupressium can still be seen growing on the steep mountain across OWB. Before the end of the tour, David gave us his enlightening quote of the day – “At the end of the day, gardens are all about the people.”

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Blog by Felicia and Photos by Bryan

Planting day at Longwood Gardens’ Webb Barn

2013-10-03 07.31.49It started on a cool, beautiful and misty morning on 3 October 2013. Longwood Graduate Program (LGP) first year Fellows Sarah Leach, Felicia Chua, Gary Shanks, Kevin Williams and other volunteers gathered at 7am to prepare for a day of meaningful planting at Longwood Gardens’ Webb barn.

 

2013-10-03 07.12.28The plants arrived on site and before commencing the planting, Bill Haldeman and Tom Brightman from the Natural Lands Management team conducted a brief meeting and handed out hard hats and vests to all the volunteers.

 

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After gearing up, the four of us dived straight into working the grounds.One of Longwood’s staff prepared the planting holes by drilling into the ground with a hand-held machine, while Kevin went alongside him and cut off any excessive long grasses with his hand-held grass cutter.

 

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Sarah, Gary and Felicia took different trays of the plug plants and worked their way from the existing walnut tree and outwards towards the stream at the site. There was a lot of laughter and everyone took the opportunity to get to know each other better while getting our hands dirty and planting in new lives into Mother Nature.

 

2013-10-03 11.02.12After we finished a whole stretch of the plantings at about 11am, Tom Brightman gathered us together and gave us a brief introduction and the history of the Webb Barn Project. He encouraged us to return and take a walk through the Webb Barn property during the winter season and promised that we will see many interesting things during our walk.

It was truly an enjoyable and therapeutic day for us to be able to know more people and playing our parts in greening the earth. We look forward to the next planting day and will certainly love to do it again!

 

Photos and Content by: Felicia Chua