Author Archives: Joshua Darfler

About Joshua Darfler

Joshua grew up in rural New York spending much of his time outside in gardens, parks, and natural environments. While at Binghamton University he received his major in Cellular Molecular Biology and a minor in Environmental Studies. Even though his classes required a lot of time inside a lab, he took every opportunity to be outside working with plants. Every summer he would return to his hometown to work at a native plant nursery or help on small-scale organic farms in the region. During his senior year he helped start a community support agriculture program focused on students at his university and also started a student volunteer program to help clean up and improve local parks and green spaces. After graduating in 2011, Joshua accepted the propagation internship position at the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania. Here Josh truly cultivated his love for plants, greenhouses, and public gardens, thus driving him to pursue and accept a position in the Longwood Graduate Program.

Quick Trip to Ithaca

Blog by Joshua Darfler, photography by Sara Helm Wallace and Lindsey Kerr

Several months ago I was talking to my mom on the phone and mentioned the documentary “A Man Named Pearl“.

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Pearl Fryar- a great man.

For those who are not familiar with it, you should go watch it right now! It is a fantastic documentary produced in 2005 about Pearl Fryar – founder, creator, and artist behind the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden. This independent film explores the history and motivation of Pearl, the dire (but optimistic) economic conditions of Bishopville, SC – where the garden is located – and the truly moving message behind the garden. It is an award-winning film that can be enjoyed by all, even those who are not obsessed with Public Horticulture as we are here.

I tried to explain all of this to my mom, and eventually got her to hesitantly agree to watch it. After a few more prods, I got a text saying she had rented the DVD and her and my dad would watch it that night. I got another text and a phone call later that evening from both of them saying how the good the movie was, how motivational Pearl was, and how they now really wanted to show it at the local library as part of their movie series.

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Pearl and Lindsey at the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden

There then ensued many more emails, texts, and phone calls, and a program started to come together surrounding the showing of this movie at the Lansing Community Library in Lansing, NY (my hometown). The highlight of the program though, was to be a special speaker – the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden’s Communications Director, Lindsey Kerr. Yes that Lindsey Kerr, the Lindsey Kerr who is currently a second year fellow in the Longwood Graduate Program. Not only is she busy writing a thesis to help preserve historic cultivars of plants, serving on the University of Delaware’s Graduate Student Senate, Leader of the Speakers Team for the 2014 LGP Symposium, and volunteering at various gardens around the area, but she has also been continuing her job at the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden.

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Lindsey Kerr speaks about the Pearl Fryar garden in Bishopville, SC

So on Friday, February 21, Lindsey and her cheering squad (five other members of the LGP, including myself) all piled into a car and took a fun trip up to Lansing, NY (a few miles north of Ithaca, NY)! We arrived Friday evening and were able to meet up with some Fellows from the Cornell University Professional Garden Leadership Program, as well as other former Longwood interns who are now up at Cornell University continuing their studies, for dinner in downtown Ithaca.

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We were so happy to see Dr. Don Rakow, former Director of Cornell Plantations after Lindsey’s talk. Dr. Rakow is now a full-time Associate Professor at Cornell and oversees the Cornell’s Public Garden Leadership program.

The next morning we went to the Lansing Town Hall (the audience was too big to fit in the library) to help set up for the event. The afternoon started at 11:00 with a showing of the documentary, and was then followed by Lindsey’s presentation and a Q&A session. Lindsey did an incredible job providing more insight into what it is like to work with Pearl Fryar as well as in Bishopville, SC. Since it’s been almost eight years since the filming of the documentary, Lindsey also talked about how the garden has changed over the years, and what is being done to help ensure the continued existence of Pearl’s topiary art in the future.

A sizable turnout at the Lansing Town Hall

A sizable turnout at the Lansing Town Hall

Once the audience left, the chairs were stacked, and all the A/V equipment put away, we had the rest of the afternoon to explore Ithaca. We headed down to the commons, a pedestrian mall located in the heart of Ithaca, where we enjoyed both the outdoors, with its almost spring-like weather, and the numerous indoor shops the commons has to offer. The day ended with a fantastic dinner at Moosewood Restaurant, a famous vegetarian restaurant.

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Ithacopoly on a wall in Ithaca’s Commons

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The Salix were in full bud by Cayuga Lake, one of New York’s famous Finger Lakes

The next morning we packed up our gear, got back in the van and headed back down to Newark, DE. It was a great weekend, and wonderful weather…which seems to have quickly disappeared this week….

 

Mount Auburn Cemetery – NAX day 4

Photography by: Lindsey Kerr

In rural countryside outside of Boston, before Frederick Law Olmsted designed the Emerald Necklace system, a new public space opened that had a profound impact on society. Mount Auburn Cemetery was founded in 1831 by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in response to urban land use problems that were appearing as Boston grew in population.

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Grand vistas at Mt. Auburn Cemetery

One hundred and eighty two years later, on a beautiful, cool summer day, the Longwood Graduate Program visited the 175 acre arboretum and cemetery located in Cambridge, Massachusetts; now a bustling suburb of Boston. As we arrived, we were greeted by DaveDSC_0128 Barnett, President and CEO of the Mount Auburn Cemetery, and, after short introductions, departed for a tour of the grounds. Mount Auburn is still an active cemetery, but one that would defy many preconceived notions one might have about such places. As we toured through the native wetlands, and wooded slopes, we learned how the grounds are laid out to both honor the deceased while also providing a space for the living to contemplate, heal, and find tranquility. The staff is devoted to conservation of the natural landscape, native biota, and historic fabric that all come together to make Mount Auburn the national treasure that it is. We ended our walking tour on top the Washington Tower surrounded by a native wildflower meadow, staring out towards Boston’s skyline in the distance.

Washington Tower

Washington Tower

Native Wildflower Meadow

Native Wildflower Meadow

We then jumped in a van and drove over to the brand-new greenhouse complex and composting facility, where we learned even more about Mount Auburn’s commitment to sustainability. The organization operates six new organic growing greenhouses, which allow them to grow many of the plants for the grounds and floral-shop on premises. They also collect many of the fallen leaves each autumn, along with all horticultural waste, and create their own compost on site to be used throughout the grounds. They have also installed a large underground cistern to collect rainwater runoff from the greenhouse complex that is then used to water the grounds during most of the year. Though the grounds are historic and reserved, the staff has a wonderful forward-looking mentality and a deep commitment towards the future.

Bigelow Chapel

Bigelow Chapel

After viewing the back-of-house facilities, we drove to the Bigelow Chapel for lunch. This Chapel was built in 1840, and was the original space created on the grounds for funerals and memorial services. It is now a multi-purpose building that can be used for funerals, weddings (yes this is true), board meetings, or, in the case of the LGP’s visit, a banquet hall. Dave Barnett and several other key staff members joined us for lunch and to discuss all aspects of the organization. Mount Auburn Cemetery is unique in the sense that as you browse their educational offerings you will notice classes about both horticulture and end-of-life planning. As with many small arboreta, the staff must wear many hats, including cemetery services, a situation that is absent in most public horticulture institutions.

After a wonderful lunch, the Fellows were able to enjoy some more time strolling the grounds and talking with staff members before getting back in the van and heading down the road to Harvard University to view the Glass Flowers. This spectacular collection of botanical specimens, created purely of glass, is mesmerizing as well as educational. It was a wonderful way to end our time in Boston before all piling into the van one more time to travel up to Maine.

Historic Beech

Historic Beech

2013 Professional Outreach Project Begins

Each summer the Longwood Graduate Program partners with an outside organization to accomplish a task that is both beneficial to the partner organization and educational for the fellows. In April the (then) first-year fellows sat down for the first meeting of the 2013 Professional Outreach Project (POP). Since that meeting we sent out our Request for Proposals, attended the 2013 APGA national conference, selected our partner organization for POP, tearfully said good-bye to the graduating class, and cheerfully said hello to the incoming LGP class of 2014. With all that excitement behind us now, we have gotten to work on this year’s POP.

Tyler Arboretum's Logo

We are excited to be working with Tyler Arboretum this year in Media, PA; a historic arboretum and landscape, Tyler is home to the historic collection known as the Painter plants. The Painter plants were planted in the mid-1800s by the Painter brothers, who lived on what was then their family farm. They were two Quaker brothers, who were true amateur naturalists – interested in minerals, animals, plants, and all things scientific.

During their lives they planted over 1,000 trees, shrubs and perennials around their house and barn (which are both still standing today), in hopes of gaining a better understanding of the natural order of life. After their deaths, the estate continued to be passed down through the family, until it was finally transitioned into a public arboretum in 1944.Unfortunately, many of these plants have not survived the decades, but those that have are magnificent specimens, many of which are now state champion trees.

Tree at Tyler

This summer the Longwood graduate fellows are undertaking the task of preserving and reinterpreting these historic plants. We started our process by combing through boxes of archival material from the Painter brothers, now stored at Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College, and reaching out to other historic institutions to learn as much as we could about the brothers, their plants, and about the era in which they co-existed.

As we move forward we will be looking at modern-day best practices for maintaining the health of historic trees, ways to propagate these plants in order to preserve their unique genetics, and how to best showcase these plants to visitors of all ages at Tyler Arboretum. It is a very exciting project we are undertaking, and we are excited to move forward with it. Check back later in the summer for more updates!

Students at Tyler

Visiting Tyler in the Rain

Post-Symposium Celebration

Photography by: Longwood Graduate Fellows

It has already been two months since we had our annual symposium, though it feels much longer. Since then the second years have been working hard on finishing their theses, the first years have dived head first into theirs, plans for the annual APGA conference have been made, the graduation dinner has been organized, and overall we have all been very busy…however not too busy to take time to visit some public gardens and celebrate all of the hard work we put into this years Symposium.

On May 8, early in the morning, Laurie, Lindsey, Ling, Josh and Quill (the rest of the second years were busy – see above) all set off to visit gardens in northern New Jersey. We were fortunate enough to not hit too much traffic and arrived on time to our first destination, Greenwood Gardens in Short Hills. We were met here by Louis Bauer and Brendan Huggins, the two horticulturists on staff at this newly opened public garden. Greenwood Gardens opened to the public for the first time this year, and is a historic house and garden rooted in the Arts and Crafts and Classical approach to garden design. The site is located on a lush hillside, adjacent to a large nature preserve and recreation complex owned by the state. It is easy to forget that you are less than hour away from Manhattan as you stare off into the distance of green rolling hills. The whole garden is a series of gorgeous grottos, terraces, balustrades, allées and water features; there is even a small farm with goats, chickens, and geese – a remembrance of the past owners. Louis and Brendan showed us around the gardens and explained the history of the land, as well as some of the challenges in restoring a garden back to a specific time period. We finished our tour of Greenwood inside the house where we were able to go through some historic photo albums of the family and the gardens.

GoatAfter Greenwood, we headed into the small, nearby town of Summit, NJ, and found a great lunch restaurant simply called Food. As we walked in we commented on how lucky we were that it had not rained on us, and in fact how it was even getting a little sunny out. No sooner than we had sat down though, the sky opened and it began to pour. We were in no rush so we took the opportunity to eat a leisurely lunch and we even took some time to talk about next year’s symposium.

DSCN8424As the downpour subsided we headed out for our second garden, Reeves-Reed Arboretum, located about five minutes away from Greenwood Gardens. At Reeves-Reed Arboretum we were greeted by 2010 LGP alumna Shari Edelson, who is now the director of horticulture at the garden. Reeves-Reed Arboretum is a historic house and estate that has been graced DSCN8426with the design work of several prominent landscape architects throughout its history, including Calvert Vaux and Ellen Biddle Shipman. The garden has many wonderful treasures including its narcissus bowl, several champion trees, a rose garden, and traditional herb garden. Though the area has been victim to natural disasters in the past two years, the garden looked magnificent and they are still moving a head with their plans to expand their children’s programming, including the new children’s vegetable garden being installed for this summer. And to make our visit even better the rains held off for us yet again, though Shari did provide some wonderful Reeves-Reed umbrellas just in case.

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It was a long day, but a wonderful way to celebrate the success of Symposium 2013 and look forward towards Symposium 2014!

Farewell Brazil

Photography by: Longwood Graduate Fellows

IMG_0794Some how two weeks have already flown by and today is our last day in Brazil. Thankfully, we get the morning off to relax, pack, and prepare ourselves for the journey off.

DSCN8153At 2:00pm our guide Vera picked us up for our final adventure in Brazil; Parque Das Aves. The Bird Sanctuary is a private business that works to preserve native birds, reptiles, and even some mammals, along with their natural habitat. The park receives animals rescued from the black market pet trade, as well as injured and abandoned wildlife. The park is placed inside of a native forest with large enclosures for the birds to have plenty of space for flight and nesting. Guests are even allowed to walk through some of the larger enclosures to get a more personal experience.

 

DSCN8170It wasn’t all animals though. The park is a nature preserve where visitors can learn about the native flora of the Parana Forest. Interpretive panels explained the importance of various plants as food and medicinal sources for wildlife and humans a like. The park isn’t very large, but it was easy to spend several hours there strolling through the pleasant surroundings and enjoying the company of rare and beautiful birds.

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Alas, we were forced to leave as we had a flight to catch out of the Foz do Iguaçu airport.

Over 24 hours later we all arrived home – safe, exhausted, hungry, and weary, but we were home. As with all travel there were unexpected delays, missed connections, and bad airport food, but luckily all of our luggage arrived when we did!

Hope you enjoyed our posts, because I know we all enjoyed writing them!

Sao Paulo Botanical Garden

Photography by: Longwood Graduate Fellows

We met our tour guide at 9am today and set out for Sao Paulo Botanical Garden to walk around for a couple hours. Lindsey had tried, tried, and tried once again to make contact with the garden, but had heard very little in response, and so we arrived thinking we were there only to see some pretty sights. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Unbeknownst to us, Lindsey’s emails had beeen heard and we were met by a team of employees who were there to escort us through the garden. Our entourage included Nelson, an administrator in the education department, Rafael, an intern at the garden, and Adib, a seasonal worker who volunteered to be our translator.

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The garden is partnered with the Botanical Institute of Sao Paulo, and therefore has a large research component as well as acres of beautifully maintained grounds. Sao Paulo BG was and the Institute were originally created by the state to help preserve the State Park and watershed in the area. The focus of the garden is around conservation and preservation of the natural flora of Sao Paulo and has a very active plant-rescue program to help save plants from construction projects around the state. Most recently they rescued a large group of Cyathea (tree ferns) from a highway construction project, which they replanted near the main entrance for a stunning affect. It is remarkable to see what we call “indoor plants” growing in large quantities outside.

DSC_0585As we continued through the gardens and conservatories, we found ourselves in an ever-growing number of school groups. Nelson explained that there is a kindergarten on the grounds which frequently brings the kids onto the grounds, but also Sao Paulo Botanical Garden hosts over 35,000 children a year for local public schools. Students come to explore and to learn about the different ecosystems in Brazil and how each one is important. At the garden, visitors have the opportunity to explore a çerrado (savanna) ecosystem inside one of the greenhouse, walk on an elevated pathway through a preserved Mata Atlantica (Atlantic Rainforest) and to learn about native orchids, bromeliads, and trees found throughout the entire country. By the end of the morning I think we all had a much better understanding of Brazilian ecology, thanks to Sao Paulo Botanical Garden.

We then said farewell to Nelson and Rafael, and went with Adib to have lunch at the café located on the grounds. After lunch we got permission from the Director of the Garden to go into the research facilities located on the grounds. Though it was summer DSC_0533and many employees were on vacation, we were able to meet with some researchers from the mycology department, the seeds physiology department, and the orchid department. We even got to go into their orchid house, which holds one of the largest collections of orchids in Brazil.

We had originally planned to stay at the garden for only about three hours, but by the time we left it had been 6 hours, and we could have stayed longer for there was more to see.

Our driver picked us up and then we headed off to Parque Ibirapuera, which translates to Rotting Tree Park. This park was built on a swamp and for many years the city could not get trees to grow, they would just rot – hence the name. It was not until they started planted eucalyptus trees to absorb the moisture that the park was fully implemented. Ibirapuera park is now a beautiful public park full of residents running, walking, biking, relaxing, and enjoying the outdoors. Our new friend Adib, who agreed to come along with us from the botanical garden, showed us around and made sure that we all got back to our hotel afterwards since our tour guide had to leave before we were ready to go.

It was a wonderful day of walking and enjoying nature. Luckily we weren’t flying out that night since I think we all needed a good night sleep.

The Regal Victoria

Photography: Longwood Graduate Fellows

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The familiar knocking wake-up call came at 5:45am this morning and once again we put on clothes, life-jackets, sunglasses, shoes and promptly hopped in the canoes. This morning we were only going a short distance over to the shore, where we disembarked and got onto an elevated walk way to journey through the rainforest canopy. It was wonderful to be able to get a new perspective of the rainforest, without having to get into a tree-climbing harness. It was the destination, however, that we were most excited about; we were on our way to see Victoria amazonica growing in the wild. As we emerged out of the forest, the walkway continued into the water where we were able to see many plants below us, including blooming Amazon Water-platters. It was truly amazing to see these majestic plants growing in the wild. The experience was only improved by a surprise visit by a group of capuchin monkeys!

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After all the excitement of our early morning adventure we returned to the boat for breakfast and then with reluctant hearts we began to collect our belongings, and repack our bags. Our last stop on the boat was at the meeting of the rivers. This is where the Rio Negro, the river we have been traveling on, and the Amazon River merge. The water continues on for thousands of meteres more to the Atlantic Ocean. The dark waters of the Rio Negro and the silty rivers of the Amazon river meet just East of Manaus, yet the water takes another 6km, creating a very unique natural phenomenon.

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From here the boat continued to the Manaus bay, where we disembarked and returned to the hotel to await transportation to the airport. It was sad to leave the amazon and our wonderful boat, but we were very excited to see what Belo Horizonte had in store for us.

 

If you want to learn more about Victoria amazonica and its importance at Longwood Gardens, check out Laurie’s blog post here.

POP 2012 Comes to an End

Summer is at an end, and so, sadly, is this year’s Professional Outreach Project (POP). On October 8th the Fellows had their third and final POP Advisory Committee (POPAC) meeting. Since the last POPAC meeting, we have been working to finish the internal way finding and interpretation material, compiling the final report, and printing our first real signs. The Fellows are now taking the final steps to finish the project and summary report.

To complete the internal signage portion of the project, Fellows first talked with staff members, studied maps, and analyzed the landscape. We wanted to find where material would be most effective in reaching guests with their message, as well as helping them navigate inside the garden. In total, six different garden landscapes were chosen for new interpretation signs. The goals in designing these signs was visual consistency throughout the whole garden, quick and easy to locate and read, and most importantly, informative. The design template and wording for all the interpretation signs were presented to POPAC and all agreed that they were very well done.

The Fellows also started work on the final report, the culmination of the past three-month’s work. Everyone chipped in to help write, revise, and compile the report, which has now been submitted. General Manager and POPAC member, Chris van de Velde and Awbury Arboretum’s board will now have the opportunity to review the work completed by the Fellows.

One of the most exciting events leading up to the final POPAC meeting was printing the first sign. With the help of Barry & Homer in Philadelphia, the Fellows were able to print a mock-up of one of the smaller entryway signs. After months of looking at computer images, it was exhilarating to hold the actual sign in our hands. Better yet was being able to present it to the committee. We have decided to try to print all the exterior signs and have them installed first, before going forward with printing and installing the internal signs.

Although the project is almost complete, and POPAC had great comments and feedback on our progress thus far, still, there are a few final tasks to be completed. The plant list for the entranceway areas will be completed in the coming weeks, but the beds won’t be planted until after the signs are installed. We are also in the process of updating the location of walking paths on Google maps.

This project has been a great learning experience for all of us. We would like to extend special thanks to Awbury Arboretum and to our Advisory Committee, which includes Chris van de Velde, General Manager of Awbury Arboretum, Dottie Miles, Interpretation and Exhibits Manager at Longwood Gardens, Beth Miner, Director of Outreach at Awbury Arboretum, and Dr. Robert Lyons, Chair, and Director of the Longwood Graduate Program.

Nemours Mansion and Garden

July 27, 2012 – Nemours Mansion and Garden, DE
(written by Joshua Darfler, photographs by Laurie Metzger)

Nemours Mansion and Garden was the second stop of this summer’s du Pont family garden tour. Originally the home of Alfred I. du Pont – cousin to Pierre du Pont – and Alfred’s third wife Jessie Dew Ball, Nemours Mansion and Garden is now a breath-taking public garden surrounding a five-story, 47,000 square feet, seventy-seven-room mansion completed in 1907.

The house, originally built to impress A.I. du Pont’s second wife, is located on the family’s land in Wilmington, Delaware nearby the original black powder factory. The house was designed by Carrere and Hastings and modeled after 18th century French architecture style. The garden is situated around the house to provide incredible vistas from therein, but also to provide quite, secluded areas to stroll and play. Both the house and the garden complement each other in beauty and in boldness.

The visitor experience is nothing less then extraordinary, and steeped in the traditions of A.I. du Pont and Jessie Dew Ball’s hospitality. The First Year Longwood Graduate Fellows, along with several Second Year Fellows, were greeted by Steve Maurer, Public Relations Manager, and ushered into the modern reception center (built 2007) to watch a brief movie about the life and times of A.I. du Pont, after which we boarded a small bus to be driven to the mansion.

As the bus drove up the road the only hint of the grandeur of the garden is a beautiful historic stonewall, which surrounds and hides the garden. As the bus turned down the main entrance, and the historic iron gates opened, all on board were able to behold the beauty of Nemours for the first time. The bus drove to the main house on a road through a maple allée, hedged by boxwoods, and surrounded by beautiful mature tree specimens as far as the eye can see. We were dropped off at the mansion where we were formally welcomed and handed a carnation. Then the fellows were given a brief tour of the first floor, which was still in the style that Jessie Dew Ball left it after her death in 1970 – full of rare paintings, valuable furniture, and exquisite rugs.

Back outside we were rejoined by Steve and introduced to Richard Larkin, the staff horticulturist. Both men toured us through the magnificent gardens as they discussed the recent renovation and restoration that have occurred over the past decade. Since reopening in 2008 the garden only welcomes about 12,000 guests a year since tours are given only three times a day and have a maximum of 48 people each. This allows guests to have a much more intimate experience while touring around the gardens, at times feeling the gardens are their own.

The garden is arranged on the major axis of the house so as you stand on the porch you look straight down to the main reflecting pool, the archways, and beyond.  As we strolled through the promenades and vistas, the saying “A picture is worth a sounds word” came to mind, and in this case it may be worth even more.