Tour of Massachusetts: Day 1

The newly minted 2nd year Fellows traveled to Massachusetts for this year’s Longwood Graduate Program North American Experience. Our first night was spent in the picturesque seaside city of New Bedford, former whaling port, and home to the largest Portuguese-American population in the US. The next morning we set off for Westport Town Farm, one of the ten Trustees of Reservations properties we are visiting on this tour.

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Tranquil Westport River views from the meadow.

The beautiful esturine landscape of Westport Town Farm belies its poignant history, the place having been a ‘poor farm’, an asylum for the poor and destitute, for nearly 100 years. The extensive stone walls that cross the estate’s meadow lands are testament to the backbreaking work of generations of farmers who cleared the rocky land for cropping and grazing. These days, a farmer’s market is held every Saturday during the warmer months, helping to forge new connections with the local farming community and residents of the Westport Town area.

The network of stone walls are a visual reminder of the hard work involved in farming the rocky ground in the Westport area.

Just up the road from Westport Town Farm is the most recent addition to the Trustees of Reservations portfolio, the Allen C. Haskell Public Gardens. The Gardens are the former nursery and garden of well-known horticulturist and designer Allen C. Haskell, offering six acres of precious green space in the city of New Bedford. The Garden is obviously a plantsman’s garden, with a striking range of Hosta, Acer and Magnolia, as well as eye-catching variegated plants contrasting with an array of purple beeches and other assorted woody perennials and trees.

The studio is now the Garden's visitors information and welcoming point.

The studio is now the Garden’s visitor information and welcoming point.

The Master Plan for the Gardens includes plans for a Growing Program, aiming to engage the surrounding community in local food production. It is hoped that its 30,000 square feet of greenhouse space can be utilized to some extent in this endeavor.  Meanwhile, the massive task of cataloging the living collection, the artifacts, and the building structures continues.

The 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 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 last stop for the day was the Archives and Research Center, The Trustees of Reservations’ new facility, which supports research across the organization’s 114 places and specialist storage for archives, objects, and artifacts. A wealth of information about the history of the Trustees of Reservations and its properties is held in the documents, letters, photographs, maps, plans, books, scrapbooks, and ephemera contained within the Archives.

The Fellows with Alison Bassett, ARC Manager.

The Fellows with Alison Bassett, ARC Manager.

The property now housing the Archives was once a farm, becoming the Sharon Sanatorium for Pulmonary Diseases in 1891. Patients with tuberculosis were exposed to the ‘good clean country air’ that was thought to be so essential in the healing process, until antibiotics were discovered and TB could be cured with a course of penicillin. In the early 1950’s the property became a whaling museum, and  in 2007 was gifted to the Trustees.

Day one of our North American Experience was completed with an overnight stay in Boston, and a growing appreciation of the work of the Trustees of Reservations in the State of Massachusetts.

Whilst object storage is not the main function of the Archives and Research Center, nonetheless we did stumble across a room entirely devoted to the storage of chairs!

Whilst object storage is not the main function of the Archives and Research Center, nonetheless we did stumble across a room entirely devoted to the storage of chairs!

 

BGCI Education Congress in St. Louis

Biodiversity for a Better World: Wild Ideas Worth Sharing

Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) is the global organization of botanic gardens. BGCI is devoted to plant conservation and educating the world about plants and biodiversity. BGCI’s Education Congress is held every three years, bringing together garden educators, horticulturists, and plant scientists to share their insights. This year the congress was held at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, and with over 300 delegates attending from nearly 40 countries, it was a wonderful opportunity to catch up on the latest thinking in education, interpretation, and communication at botanic gardens.

Fran and Mackenzie were just happy to be here!

Fran and Mackenzie were happy to be representing the Longwood Graduate Program!

A focus of the congress was reflecting on how botanic gardens in the 21st century can ensure that they become firmly embedded in the fabric of the community in which they are located, and are not seen as a place that only cetain sections of the community can access and enjoy. Dr. Bernadette Lynch’s presentation on the five-year initiative Communities in Nature, a program that aims to encourage botanical gardens to grow their social role was particularly fitting. Kew Gardens’ Grow Wild campaign, and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s BioTECH High School were two outstanding examples of forward-looking gardens. A high school for botanists – can you imagine? Fairchild not only imagined this, but worked with the local school board to make it happen.

The Japanese Garden at Missouri Botanical Garden

The Japanese Garden at Missouri Botanical Garden

Shoots & Roots Bitters, a New York-based company founded bybbotantists, hosted a Science of Taste workshop, which taught participants the science of why food tastes the way it does, and why humans taste food as being sweet, sour, bitter, salty or umami. A favorite activity tricked our taste buds into thinking we were eating something particularly sweet after we ate miracle fruit, although we were really eating lemons.

Missouri Botanic Garden was the perfect setting for this Congress, and delegates enjoyed an idyllic welcome reception at the gardens proper as well as a Bluegrass and BBQ dinner at the beautiful Shaw Nature Reserve – 2,441 acres of natural area, with at least eight different vegetation communities, including woodland and forest, tall grass prairie, and a spectacularly beautiful wildflower garden. The reserve is a must-see when visiting St. Louis; it’s a great way to gain an understanding of the different plant communities in the Ozark Border country.

Shaw Nature Reserve's wildflower walk

Whitmire Wildflower Garden at Shaw Nature Reserve

Missouri Botanical Garden was dressed in its very best spring color and the weather could not have been better. The irises were timed to perfection, the dogwoods were in full bloom, and the azaleas at their peak, too. A delightful place for a congress about education in botanic gardens–kudos to our hosts from Missouri Botanical Garden and BGCI!

Getting to know Missouri's trees a little better: A wonderful interpretation tool - tree climbing for absolute novices at Shaw Nature Reserve

Getting to know Missouri’s trees a little better: delegates try their hand at tree climbing at Shaw Nature Reserve

Longwood Gardens student representation at the St. Louis Cardinals baseball gam-- they were playing the Phillies! L to R: Fellows: Mackenzie Fochs, Fran Jackson; International Interns: Ashley Edwards, Leon Charalambous, Pippa Lucas; Intern Caity Chandler (photo credit: Caity Chandler)

Longwood Gardens student representation at the St. Louis Cardinals baseball gam– they were playing the Phillies! L to R: Fellows: Mackenzie Fochs, Fran Jackson; International Interns: Ashley Edwards, Leon Charalambous, Pippa Lucas; Intern Caity Chandler (photo credit: Caity Chandler)

Island Interval

The Fellows travelled to Awaji Island on Wednesday, crossing over the world’s longest suspension bridge to get there. The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge has a central span of 1,991 metres (1.2 mi); with a total length of 3.9 km (2.4 mi). Crossing the bridge gives a very impressive view over Kobe and Awaji Island!

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Our first stop on the Island was Awaji Yumebutai, a place that had been excavated to provide fill for Kansai International Airport – the construction of Kansai Airport, in Osaka Bay, required 27 million square meters of fill! Awaji Yumebutai was rehabilitated afterwards, and a hotel and conference center built on part of the site. The complex, including Miracle Planet Museum of Plants was designed by the Osaka born Pritzger Prize winning architect Mr Tadao Ando. The large (6500m2) conservatory is the showpiece of the Museum, with a constantly changing plant display based on landscapes.

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Miracle Planet Museum of Plants adaptively reuses many objects. This one was a soil sieve, now ‘upcycled’ to become a living plant sculpture.

The latest display was being installed when we visited, and will feature Japanese themed horticultural displays, including a ‘garden of everyday life’.

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Ms Tomoko Tsujimoto looks down onto the conservatory at the Miracle Planet Museum of Plants.

The overall effect of the different spaces is stunning; the design and level of detail of the horticultural displays is of the highest standard, and makes the Miracle Planet Museum of Plants a ‘must do’ for anyone interested in architecture, landscape architecture or horticulture.

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Just one of the display spaces inside the Miracle Planet Museum of Plants. The place was a hive of activity the day the Fellows visited, with the entire conservatory undergoing a complete display changeover. This happens six times per year, so there is always something new to see.

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Sundial in the Tadao Ando designed Awaji Yumebutai complex

Awaji Landscape Planning and Horticultural Academy (ALPHA) of Hyogo Prefecture is located in an idyllic 13 hectares in the hills of Awaji Island. The Academy focuses on graduate education of horticultural landscape designers, horticulturists and horticultural therapists. The Fellows met some of the Grad Students, discussing our thesis subjects and career plans. We discovered we had much in common with these Japanese horticulture grad students!

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The tranquil campus of the Awaji Landscape Planning and Horticultural Academy (ALPHA)

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The Fellows were fortunate to have the opportunity to meet with some of the graduate students from ALPHA, discovering we had many common professional interests.

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The Fellows with Ms Tomoko Tsujimoto at the Miracle Planet Museum of Plants

Temples and Tofu

Today was World Heritage Site day – with the Fellows clocking no less than three world heritage sites in Kyoto, although admittedly they were all part of the one Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto world heritage site. The Site is made up of 17 locations in the Kyoto region, and includes 13 Buddhist temples, three Shinto shrines and a castle. There are eight gardens within this World Heritage site; the Fellows visited three of them today.

The fellowship of the temple slippers

The fellowship of the temple slippers

Tenryū-ji Temple in Arashiyama district was founded in 1339; the garden designed by Musō Soseki, the temple’s first chief priest. Just outside the Temple garden is the incredible Sagano bamboo forest, a towering curtain of bamboo which was something straight out of Lord of the Rings.

Sagano bamboo forest near Tenryū-ji Temple

Sagano bamboo forest near Tenryū-ji Temple

Arashiyama is a busy tourist destination, but the temples and bamboo grove are still a peaceful and beautiful reminder of Kyoto’s long history.

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Everyone was taking photos at Arashiyama

Continuing on with the Lord of the Rings theme from the morning, every speck of ground in the garden at Saiho-ji temple, also known as the Moss Temple ‘Kokedera’ is covered in moss. This area was much quieter, with visitors to the temple required to write at least a week in advance.

Kokodera, the Moss Garden

Kokodera, the Moss Garden

In contrast to the mossy environs of Kodedera, the last temple of the day, Ryoan-ji Temple, is famous for its dry landscape rock garden; its 15 rocks are arranged on a surface of white pebbles to symbolically represent nature.

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The Zen garden at Ryoanji Temple

An appropriate end to our day of temple-going was dinner at one of Kyoto’s fantastic tofu restaurants, where we we were served in traditional Japanese style, with a tofu heater on the table. We were joined by a former intern at Longwood Gardens, Mr Suguru Shimizu from the Kusatsu Aquatic Botanical Garden.

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Dinner with Mr Suguru Shimizu from the Kusatsu Aquatic Botanic Garden

 

Trains, Planes, and a few Buses as well

After having a magical mystery tour on the Tokyo subway, the Fellows miraculously arrived at Jindai Botanic Gardens without getting hopelessly lost, an achievement we all plan on putting on our CVs. Section Manager Mr Shinobu Kawamura generously answered a multitude of questions and led us on a tour of the Gardens. Jindai Botanic Garden has two main objectives; for people to enjoy flower displays throughout the year, and to preserve the flowers from the Edo period, a time in Japanese history characterized, among other things, by enjoyment of arts and culture.

Wintersweet, or Japanese Allspice Chimonanthus praecox var. grandiflora  the subject of plenty of photographer attention.

Wintersweet, or Japanese Allspice Chimonanthus praecox var. grandiflora the subject of plenty of photographer attention.

Jindai Botanic Garden grows 150 cultivars of Chrysanthemums including classic varieties from the Edo period and hosts a keenly contested competition each year for amateur and professional growers to display their Chrysanthemum cultivation skills. The Gardens aims to have flowers throughout the year, featuring Wisteria, Chrysanthemum, Primulas and Camellia. We met a rock star of Japanese flowers at the Gardens, the Chimonanthus praecox var. grandiflora, which had its very own crowd of paparazzi keen to get the perfect photo. The flowers had the most fabulous scent, contributing to their rock star aura.

The Jindai precinct was crowded with visitors. Part of the ritual of welcoming in the new year is visiting the Temple.

The Jindai precinct was crowded with visitors. Part of the ritual of welcoming in the new year is visiting the Temple.

650,000 people visit the Gardens each year, with many also going to the Jindai temple, established in 733 and located just a short walk away.

A stallholder encouraged our group to play dress-up.

A stallholder encouraged our group to play dress-up.

We completed the day by eating what seemed to be a mountain of noodles at one of the many soba restaurants near the Temple, celebrating the tradition of soba cooking which Jindai is renowned for.

The Longwood group with Mr Shinobu Kawamura of Jindai Botanic Garden, and Mrs Ayumi Green, the group’s interpreter.

The Longwood group with Mr Shinobu Kawamura of Jindai Botanic Garden, and Mrs Ayumi Green, the group’s interpreter.

Mount Cuba’s Native Garden Wonderland

The Class of 2016 visited Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin, Delaware on August 4th. Entering through the house, we were briefed in the beautifully proportioned Colonial Revival style former residence by the senior staff, and were quickly made aware of the scope of Mt. Cuba’s work.

Yet another photo opportunity!

Yet another photo opportunity!

However, the briefing did not prepare us for the horticultural impact of the gardens once we stepped outside. Our garden tour with Eileen Boyle, Mt. Cuba Center’s Director of Education, probably took twice as long as projected, with the Fellows stopping every few yards to photograph the abundant butterflies, flowers, and insects, and exclaiming over each new plant discovery!

Mt. Cuba Center was formerly the home of Mr. and Mrs. Lammot du Pont Copeland. The du Pont Copelands were at the vanguard of encouraging the use of native Eastern North American plants to create ecologically vibrant and beautiful horticultural displays. Mrs. du Pont Copeland was a forward-thinking conservationist, advocating the use of native American plants in gardens. The extraordinary garden was designed in stages by three landscape architects, beginning with the gardens and terraces closest to the house in the mid-1930s. The woodland gardens were completed in the 1960s by landscape designer Seth Kelsey. Dr Richard Lighty, the first Director of The Longwood Graduate Program, was appointed Director of Horticulture at Mt. Cuba in 1983.

The garden is quite formal near the house, playful sculptures  and carefully selected native perennial borders inviting the visitor to explore further.

The garden is quite formal near the house. Playful sculptures and carefully selected native perennial borders invite the visitor to explore further.

The 583 acre estate features 50 acres of display gardens and managed landscapes, the remainder of the estate being primarily natural lands featuring a variety of the landforms and habitats of the Appalachian Piedmont.

Mt Cuba is an important habitat for bees and other insects

Mt. Cuba is an important habitat for bees and other insects.

The gardens contain a diverse range of native Eastern North American plants arranged in displays reflecting various habitats ranging from perennial borders to meadows, woodlands, and ponds. The result is a harmonious series of gardens that are exquisite works of beauty as well as functioning ecosystems alive with butterflies, beneficial insects, and birds. Achieving this natural look is deceptively complex and requires an eye for shape, form, and color.

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The chain of ponds featuring moisture-loving plants of eastern USA

Mt. Cuba is slowly unfurling its public garden identity, taking careful and considered steps towards increasing the audience for its remarkable landscapes and living collections.  ‘Gardening on a Higher Level’ is the recently adopted tagline for Mt Cuba. The line is reflected in its educational offerings, including Mt. Cuba Center’s Ecological Gardening Certificate course, with units including “Sustainable Landscape Techniques” and “Inviting Wildlife Into the Garden”. Other offerings include gardening, art, and photography. Seven summer internships are also offered each year. An internship typically involves four days per week working in the garden with the other day spent on projects, field trips and classroom activities.

Mt. Cuba Center undertakes plant trials of native American plant species. Evaluations thus far include Coreopsis, Echinacea, and North American Asters. Currently 53 cultivars and selections from 14 different species of Baptisia – false indigo – are undergoing evaluation to assess their horticultural potential. Over fifteen cultivars and selections have been introduced to American gardens by Mt. Cuba including the Golden Fleece goldenrod (Solidago sphacelata ‘Golden Fleece’), and Trillium grandiflorum ‘Quicksilver’.

Owen Cass explaining insect monitoring techniques. He's using a fine screen over a garden vacuum to collect insects in the trial area

Owen Cass explaining insect monitoring techniques. He’s using a fine screen over a garden vacuum to collect insects in the trial area. Eileen Boyle, Director of Education, is in the right foreground.

A research collaboration between Mt. Cuba Center and the University of Delaware is comparing the ecological value of native plants with their corresponding cultivars and improved varieties. Owen Cass, Mt. Cuba Fellow and University of Delaware Masters candidate explained that the research is aimed at determining whether plant cultivars, which may differ from their ‘wild’ cousins in terms of flower size, color, or shape, offer the same or similar ecological services as their wild counterparts.

This remarkable garden is open to the public. For details on visiting take a look at the Mt. Cuba Center website.