This year’s Longwood Graduate Program’s annual Symposium, “Daring Dialogue, Public Gardens Engaging in Today’s Tough Topics,” wove the themes of relevance, diversity, conservation and horticulture together to create a powerful narrative.
The day’s ten speakers addressed the theme of Daring Dialogue from a variety of perspectives. Keynote speaker Dr. Paul Smith, Secretary General of Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), began the day by describing how the world’s 2,500 botanic gardens can be part of the solution to many of Earth’s social and environmental problems. Dr. Smith pointed out that botanic gardens are well placed to deliver plant-based solutions to many of the major environmental challenges facing us, including food security and climate change.
An inspiring session of case studies followed the keynote. Joseph McGill addressed interpretation of slave-dwellings in public gardens, Sarah Pharaon discussed world-wide international sites of conscience, and Guina Hammond described the remarkable healing powers of community gardens. All three speakers received heartfelt rounds of applause.
Next, Nayra Pacheco of Just Communities spoke about the need for role models in public horticulture to foster diversity in our organizations. Using the concept of “mirrors and windows,” Nayra emphasized to the audience, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” It was a powerful reminder that there is much for public gardens yet to do to create more diverse and inclusive institutions.
Lunchtime was abuzz with conversation after the morning sessions! Lunch provided this year’s emerging professional travel award winners with the chance to meet local and international public gardens professionals, and also gave a break for the online audience, who participated from locations as far afield as Australia.
Jeff Jubelirer continued after lunch with a talk on crisis communication, followed by a conversation about creative engagement with Linda Norris and Rainey Tisdale. Next, at the Dessert and Dialogue breakout session, guests were challenged to deliberate on several of the biggest questions facing public gardens. The Dessert and Dialogue session was lead by skilled facilitators from our local public gardens, Cornell University, and BGCI.
Jack Shilley inspired the audience with his talk about his U.K. based YoungHort initiative. As Director of YoungHort, Jack works to encourage more young people towards the profession of horticulture. Paul B. Redman, Executive Director of Longwood Gardens, concluded the day with a rousing talk on why public gardens matter. The timeliness of Paul and Jack’s talks was highlighted by the launch, one day earlier, of the Seed Your Future campaign. Seed Your Future is an initiative of more than 150 partner organizations, including Longwood Gardens and the American Society for Horticultural Science, to promote horticulture as a vital and viable career choice.
By the end of the day, we were tired but happy Fellows. Our goal of sparking conversation around some of today’s challenging issues was made possible through the support of our sponsors, speakers and attendees.
We acknowledge and thank the contribution of all our speakers: Dr. Paul Smith (BGCI), Mr. Joseph McGill (the Slave Dwelling Project), Ms. Sarah Pharaon (International Sites of Conscience), Ms. Guina Hammond (Pennsylvania Horticultural Society), Ms. Nayra Pacheco (Just Communities/Comunidades Justas Santa Barbara), Mr. Jeff Jubelirer (Bellevue Communications Group), Ms. Linda Norris (The Uncatalogued Museum), Ms. Rainey Tisdale (Independent Curator), Mr. Jack Shilley (Founder and Director YoungHort), and Mr. Paul B. Redman, Executive Director, Longwood Gardens.
We are grateful to our sponsors for their support. The event sponsors: Longwood Gardens, the Parvis Family Endowment, the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, and the University of Delaware Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. The Emerging Professional Travel Award major sponsors: the American Public Gardens Association, the Chanticleer Foundation and Mount Cuba Center. We would also like to thank additional sponsors of the travel award, Adkins Arboretum and the Longwood Graduate Program alumni.
Our special thanks to the local public gardens dialogue sponsors, who contributed questions and facilitators for Dessert and Dialogue: Adkins Arboretum, Bartram’s Garden, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, Chanticleer, Delaware Nature Society, Hagley Museum and Library, Jenkins Arboretum and Garden, Longwood Gardens, Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania, Mt Cuba Center, The Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College, Tyler Arboretum, and Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library.