From Highlands to High Tides: Ecological Restoration in the Mid-Atlantic

On March 14th, Fellow Keith Nevison attended the 11th Annual Conference of the Society for Ecological Restoration’s (SER) Mid-Atlantic chapter at the Stockton Seaview Inn & Conference Center in Galloway, New Jersey. Over 130 restoration ecologists attended, representing federal and state agencies, universities, private contractors and conservation organizations with participants coming from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, and West Virginia. The theme of the Conference was Highlands to High Tides: Restoring our Watersheds, and most of the talks featured projects from coastal New Jersey, including numerous successful designs installed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which had a devastating impact on the Atlantic coast when it hit in October 2012.


Red Knots and horseshoe crabs. Source: Wikipedia Creative Commons

In New Jersey, Delaware, and other Atlantic states, significant restoration efforts are underway to improve habitat for horseshoe crabs, whose eggs are a major food source for red knot birds migrating from southern South America to Arctic Canada and back. This migration at 9,300 miles (15,000 kilometres) is one of the longest documented by any species in the world. Unfortunately, red knot populations have been steadily declining over the years and they are now classified as a threatened species.


The American Littoral Society had a few representatives who delivered presentations and submitted posters. The organization’s mission is to promote the study and conservation of marine life and habitat, protect the coast from harm, and empower others to do the same. They are headquartered in Millville, New Jersey.


The many exhibitors included Octoraro Native Plant Nursery, a wholesale grower in Kirkwood, Pennsylvania which produces trees and shrubs for restoration projects throughout the Mid-Atlantic.


This year, nearly 30 posters were submitted from individuals representing 9 universities. This poster Rewilding the Rhodopes by Rachelle McKnight (SUNY-ESF) featured her work assessing the habitat and home range of released semiferal Konik horses in southern Bulgaria.

Keith also serves as the Student Representative for the Board of the Mid-Atlantic chapter and worked to organize the Student Scholarship and poster competition for the event. The Student Scholarship, which was sponsored by energy company PEPCO, allowed 18 students from 7 universities and 1 high school to attend, most of whom presented posters on their ecological research.


This year’s winning poster Using the Past to Restore the Future… was submitted by Virginia Commonwealth University undergraduate student, Christopher Gatens, who is in his junior year of a Bachelor of Science in Biology, Environmental Studies, and Chemistry. Christopher examined tree stumps which were previously submerged by a dam project to determine the pre-perturbation vegetative composition of a wetland area to be restored. These results will better inform decision making around revegetation projects, particularly in wetland ecosystems. You can find his major findings at the VCU Scholars Compass page.


The runner-up winner of the poster competition was Julia Westermeier of Temple University, who presented her work Assessing the Cost-Effectiveness of Upland Meadow Restorations. Temple University is one of two Student Associations in SER’s Mid-Atlantic chapter, and their School of Environmental Design trains students in Horticulture and Landscape Architecture with a bend towards restoration ecology.


Thanks to all who attended the conference and to everyone who works to restore ecosystems in the Mid-Atlantic and beyond!

Supporting Pollinators

In mid-October, Longwood Graduate Fellow Keith Nevison attended the inaugural Protecting Pollinators in Ornamental Landscapes Conference (PPinOL) at the Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, NC. The conference was co-sponsored by North Carolina State University and Michigan State University Extension and featured presentations assessing honeybee and bumblebee health in the face of numerous environmental stressors. Speakers discussed industry and extension office efforts to promote beekeeping and pollinator protection while balancing consumer desires to safely apply pesticides to combat pest and disease outbreaks.

Interesting presentations abounded.

Interesting presentations abounded

The PPinOL conference was quite timely, as the White House recently released a National Strategy to Promote Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. To further promote pollinator conservation, the National Pollinator Garden Network (NPGN) was formed to register one million public and private gardens in support of pollinators. NPGN is an unprecedented collaboration between national gardening clubs, conservation non-profits, and garden industry partners, including the American Public Gardens Association, the National Wildlife Foundation, American Hort, the Xerces Society, and others.

Fall in full effect in the Smoky Mountains.

Fall was in full effect in the Blue Ridge Mountains

The Kanuga Conference Center was an ideal setting for the conference and provided ample opportunities for recreation and reflection, with its 1,400 wooded acres and miles of trails. Kanuga has operated since 1928 and welcomes over 25,000 guests each year to its conference facilities, retreat center, summer camps, and Mountain Trail Outdoor School.

Kanuga Lake forms the heart of the property.

Kanuga Lake forms the heart of the Kanuga Conference Center property

After the conference, attendees were offered the chance to tour the Biltmore Estate, the largest privately owned house in the United States. Our tour was provided by Director of Horticulture Parker Andes, who formerly served as Landscape Superintendent at Longwood Gardens. Parker painted a picture of the early Vanderbilt family and their efforts to turn their property into America’s first forestry education school, with opportunities to study the effects of logging and reforestation, among other practices. At its height, the Vanderbilt Estate encompassed over 125,000 acres, and in 1911 a significant parcel was sold to the United States Forest Service to become Pisgah National Forest.

Very fine greenhouse on the Biltmore Estate.

Exquisite greenhouse on the Biltmore Estate

Asheville in mid-autumn is beautiful and provided a perfect setting for this fall conference–Thanks to the team who came together to make it a success!

Estate Tours: Day 4

For the fourth day of their 2015 North American Experience, the Fellows toured two stunning estate properties of The Trustees of Reservations. Awaking in the beautiful Castle Hill Inn, the Fellows had a lovely breakfast before setting out on a tour of Castle Hill on the Crane Estate with Operations Manager Robert Murray. Starting at the Great House, the Fellows investigated many of the 59 rooms in this Stuart-style mansion, which features many elements from the Colonial Revival Architectural Period.

The Magnificent Grand House at Castle Hill on the Crane Estate

The Great House at Castle Hill on the Crane Estate

Opulent living area in the Great House. Note the wood floors which feature salvaged wood from England reflecting the Colonial

Opulent living area in the Great House. Note the wood floors featuring salvaged wood from England. This feature reflects the Colonial Revival Architecture style, popular among wealthy Americans of the time.

Although the original land claim for the property dates back to 1637, the mansion and gardens were developed principally by the Crane family who purchased the estate in 1910. The Cranes linked three major tracts of land for their summer estate, which now comprise Crane Beach, Crane Refuge, and Castle Hill. The Cranes amassed vast wealth from their plumbing empire, which produced sewers and industrial piping, later branching into toilets and residential bathroom fixtures.

Original advertisement for Crane interior fixtures

Advertisement for Crane products. The Cranes were one of America’s wealthiest families in the early 20th century.

Today, the Crane Estate is the most visited Reservation in the Trustees portfolio, attracting some 330,000 visitors each year. With so much to explore, Castle Hill on the Crane Estate is a must-see property!

The allée designed by renowned landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff was recently restored by The Trustees.

The allée designed by renowned landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff was recently restored by The Trustees.

View out to Choate Island. The Crane Wildlife Refuge comprises a series of coastal and island habitats supporting numerous bird and mammal species.

View out to Choate Island. The Crane Wildlife Refuge comprises a series of coastal and island habitats supporting numerous bird and mammal species.

Crane Beach is lovely.

Crane Beach at sunrise

Operations Manager Bob Murray providing the Fellows with a rich history of the Casino Complex and other landscape features on the Crane Estate.

Operations Manager Bob Murray providing the Fellows with a rich history of the Casino Complex and other landscape features at Castle Hill on the Crane Estate.

Anyone up for a game?

The Casino Complex: The sunken pool is now a recreational space for visitors to play croquet and bocce.

After a lunch of fried clams, the Fellows headed to Stevens-Coolidge Place, a neo-Georgian Colonial Revival estate featuring many impressive gardens. We received a wonderful, comprehensive tour from Kevin Block, Superintendent for the property, who described the evolution of the landscape and the creation of gardening programs in recent years, which aim to connect local residents to the Reservation. Among the stunning gardens we stopped to admire were the perennial beds, cut flower garden, and un jardin potager or French kitchen garden.

View from the front of the Stevens-Coolidge home.

View of the front of the Stevens-Coolidge home

Perennial garden with many plants in peak of bloom.

The Perennial Garden was in peak bloom

The potager garden with many culinary herbs.

The potager garden featuring culinary herbs.

With its abundance of floral diversity in a tranquil setting, the Stevens-Coolidge Place is absolutely worth a stop for the garden visitor to Northeastern Massachusetts.

The Stevens-Coolidge Place features some trees of impressive stature.

A regal white ash (Fraxinus americana) at the Stevens-Coolidge Place

Native Plant Conservation and Design in the Lone Star State

by Keith Nevison

Deep in the heart of Texas I ventured for the American Public Gardens Association’s inaugural native plant symposium, which was held at the stunning Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (LBJWC) in Austin, Texas. The Center was founded by former First Lady “Lady Bird” Johnson and her long-time friend Helen Hayes, the “First Lady of the American Theatre.” The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a must-see public garden featuring amazing stone buildings and walkways, spectacular native Texan floral displays, and innovative design features such an observation tower with a green roof and artwork featured throughout the garden.

The Luci and Ian Family Garden. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s newest garden addition opened last year.

The Luci and Ian Family Garden. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s newest garden addition opened last year.

On the first day of the conference, registrants were treated to a magnificent tour of the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve which features waterfalls, blooming Texas redbud and other drought-resistant trees, abundant songbirds, and fabulous fossil hunting across the underlying strata.

APGA Native Plant Symposium attendees receiving a comprehensive overview of the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve from local plant legend David Mahler of Environmental Survey Consulting

Local plant legend David Mahler of Environmental Survey Consulting provided a comprehensive overview of the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve

The Texas Hill Country!

The Texas Hill Country

Participants also explored a private residential landscape exclusively featuring central Texas native species from the Edwards Plateau and Texas Hill Country. These areas are biodiversity hotspots with numerous endemic plant and animal species. The garden was exquisite with impressive design features such as a grotto, a creek wetland, and restored native wildflower meadows.

The theme of the 2015 symposium was Cultivating the Future of Native Plants: Conservation and Design. This was an apt theme as the conference roster was comprised of equal parts horticulturists and ecological restoration practitioners. Very interesting conversations were had on subjects such as native plants in design, the role of botanic gardens in plant conservation, creating the native plant market, and landscape design as ecological art. LBJWC has been a leader for years in these areas with their Native Plant Information Network and Sustainable SITES® Initiative partnership with the American Society of Landscape Architects and the United States Botanic Garden. In addition, they maintain partnerships with the Center for Plant Conservation and the Bureau of Land Management’s Seeds of Success Program which aims to collect wildland seeds for research, development, germplasm conservation, and ecosystem restoration. Clearly an active place with lots going on!

Homeowner’s Inspiration Gardens near the entrance to LDJWC.

Homeowner’s Inspiration Gardens near the entrance to LBJWC

Spring was in effect down in Austin and many species were blooming, including the iconic state flower, the Texas bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis).

Texas bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis)- state flower and endemic to the Lone Star state.

Texas bluebonnet: state flower and endemic to the Lone Star state

The garden features many oak meadows with both live oaks and deciduous oaks as well as a rich understory of shrubs, forbs, and grasses.

Inviting meadows abound at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Inviting meadows abound at the LBJWC

Well-known landscape designer Darrel Morrison concluded the Symposium by speaking about his designs and inspiration, from the layout for LBJWC to his most recent design for Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Native Flora Garden. Perhaps the most enlightening thing I learned from him is that one should always camp out on the land prior to working on a project in order to get a feel for the land and to observe its features over the course of the day. Through this experience, one can determine the ideal placement for soft and hard garden elements.

The stonework and hardscape features of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center are striking and plentiful. The gardens features many xeric species such as Opuntia, Nolina, Muhlenbergia, Cercis, Agave, etc. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a must-see if you ever find yourself in Central Texas!

Stonework and hardscape features are striking and plentiful at LBJWC

Days of the Daimyō (Feudal lord gardens and Okayama Castle)

For our last full day in Japan, the Fellows ventured to Okayama Kōraku-en, one of the three great gardens of Japan. Originally developed under the direction of Lord Ikeda Tsunamasa, the feudal estate garden took 13 years to construct and was completed in 1700.


Dormant on a beautiful winter’s day

Today, the garden is very popular with the strolling public and we were lucky to meet a young couple dressed in kimono who were taking wedding photos along with their family.

Seeing this beautiful couple was a trip highlight!

Seeing this beautiful couple was a trip highlight!

The wedding couple with admiring foreigners

The wedding couple with admiring foreigners

There were many unique features at Okayama Kōraku-en that we did not come across at other gardens during our trip. For one, all of the pine trees in the garden [240 in all] are wrapped in straw jackets (komo-maki) over winter which attracts insect pests to build nests in the straw fibres. In the spring, all of the jackets are collected and burned as part of an annual garden festival.

Effective and decorative pest control technique!

Effective and decorative pest control technique!

With 240 pine trees, this is a labour-intensive process.

With 240 pine trees, this is a labour-intensive process.

Field burning is carried out each February to clear away old grass and stimulate new growth. We were informed by garden staff members Mr. Tomihiko Kurisaka, Ms. Katsume Okuyama and Mr. Iga that many visitors come specifically to witness this event.

Too bad we couldn't see it in action.

Too bad we couldn’t see it in action.

The three main trees in collection at Okayama Kōraku-en are Japanese maples (momiji), ornamental cherries (sakura) and pine (matsu). From its inception, the garden was planted with two distinct zones of Japanese maples, one featuring green leaved wild types and the other with red-leaved horticultural varieties. As such, it is recognized as one of the oldest planned garden landscapes in Japan.

Mr.  and Ms. explain the different maple cultivars to us.

Mr. Tomihiko Kurisaka and Ms. Katsume Okuyama explain the different maple cultivars to us.

Fall is a gorgeous time to visit Okayama Kōraku-en!

Fall is a gorgeous time to visit Okayama Kōraku-en!

The garden is also very popular with the public as a place to view somei-yoshino cherry blossoms, the quintessential cherry tree of Japan. Along with other planted sakura cultivars, the cherry trees at Okayama produce a continuos bloom cycle lasting for 4 months, thereby attracting the bulk of their visitation during the spring and summer seasons. In the fall, the local chrysanthemum (kiku) growers group puts on a festival showcasing certain types of flower displays including the beautiful cascade (kengai) forms.

Stunning, well pruned trees abound in this garden.

Stunning, well pruned trees abound in this garden.

In the afternoon, we continued on to Okayama Castle, the grandiose home of the Ikeda clan which was originally constructed in 1597.

A grand castle indeed! It has the nickname of Crow Castle due to its black exterior.

A grand castle indeed! It has the nickname of Crow Castle (U-jo) from its black exterior.

Learning about the history of the castle was wonderful, but the highlight was having the chance to don traditional feudal regalia and have our photos taken.

Longwood Graduate Fellows Mackenzie Fochs and Fran Jackson wear guard garb.

Longwood Graduate Fellows Mackenzie Fochs and Fran Jackson wear guard garb.

Longwood Fellows Stephanie Kuniholm and Keith Nevison wear warlord costume

Longwood Fellows Stephanie Kuniholm and Keith Nevison wear warlord costume

During WWII the castle was destroyed by bombing raids, but a replica made of reinforced concrete was constructed in 1966, which includes traditional roof tiles and gilded statues of shachihoko or fish-shaped gargoyles that are said to cause the rain to fall, thus stopping fire.

Amazing carvings!

Amazing carvings!

All in all, our last full day in Japan was wonderful and we wish to thank the staff of Okayama Koraku-en for providing us with an informative and very interesting tour. Kampai (cheers)!

The Fellows with Okoyama Kōraku-en Garden staff after an invigorating tour!

The Fellows with Okayama Kōraku-en Garden staff after an invigorating tour!


A trip to Japan should include a visit to Okayama Castle and Garden!


Tōrō and Suikinkutsu: Remembering the Kobe Earthquake

Today, the Longwood Graduate Fellows visited a private garden at the home of Mr. Ryoichi Ōhashi to observe the oldest suikinkutsu (lit. translation “water cave pot”) in Japan. A suikinkutsu consists of a ceramic pot which is buried upside down in the low point of a garden, creating an entrancing musical sound when water trickles through it. Prior to the advent of sewage systems in Japan during the Taishō and early Shōwa Periods, suikinkutsu served as a drainage system for gardens, channeling and dispersing water deep into the soil. Since arriving in Japan, we learned that less than 10 suikinkutsu remain in the country. Ōhashi-san was very excited to show off his suikinkutsu, which was constructed by his great grandfather.


Mr. Ryoichi Ōhashi explains suikinkutsu with his meticulously pruned pine behind him.


Longwood Graduate Fellow Fran Jackson testing the waters on Ōhashi-san’s newer suikinkutsu

The second half of our visit was focused on the 8 tōrō lanterns located throughout the garden. Each reflects a different style of craftsmanship from Korean-inspired long window types to a 3 layer pagoda style. Many of Ōhashi-san’s stone lanterns were procured during the Meiji Period (1868-1912) and early Taishō Era when his great grandfather began developing the garden. One of the oldest ones in the garden resembles a straw hat worn by women during the Heian Period (8th-12th Century).


Heian-style tōrō. Resembles a woman’s straw hat from that era (8th-12th Century).


Korean-style Tōrō with long window


3 Pagoda style tōrō

One tōrō was particularly noteworthy, because it was toppled during the Great Hanshin Earthquake, a devastating quake centered in Kobe, Japan which occurred 20 years ago to the day. The Kobe Earthquake took the lives of over 6,400 people and ushered in a new era of earthquake-safe building throughout Japan.


The tōrō that was knocked over by the Great Hanshin (Kobe) Earthquake. Today was the 20th anniversary of the quake.

Mr. Ōhashi was very knowledgable about Kyoto garden design and gave the Fellows insight into specific methods which had developed over time. Interestingly, he informed us that the dry landscape rock gardens (karesansui) characteristic of Ryoan-ji Temple (see yesterday’s post) were created at a time when Kyoto had little water, and after a canal was constructed to carry water from Lake Biwa (Japan’s largest freshwater lake) water gardens began to be designed and installed in earnest. Ōhashi-san talked about the famous landscape architect Ueji, the 8th generation member of the Ogawa Jihei gardening clan and a Meiji socialite who designed the Heian-Jingu Shrine Garden (see Thursday’s post). Even today, Mr. Ōhashi does the majority of garden maintenance on his own, only contracting out shrub pruning to young members of the Ogawa Jihei family (12th and 13th generations).


Mr. Ryoichi Ōhashi, owner and overseer of the garden.

Ōhashi-ke Garden receives a few hundred visitors per year who come to see the serene beauty of the garden featuring well-manicured plants, mossy rocks, stone lanterns and suikinkutsu. Prior arrangements must be made with Mr. Ryoichi Ōhashi for a visit, but all visitors receive a private tour and discussion (in Japanese) of the garden. There is a small entrance fee which helps pay for seasonal pruning maintenance and other expenses. Well worth a visit!


Ōhashi-ke Garden. Small but beautiful!


Kiku (chrysanthemum) basin suikinkutsu!


A Day at the Museum- Coming of Age Day in Japan

IMG_8375 For our second full day in Japan we ventured to the Samurai town of Sakura in Chiba Prefecture to visit the National Museum of Japanese History. What a day for a visit! The sun shone down and the sky was a perfect blue as we made the 1.5 hour journey via foot and the Keisei Electric Railway. Tokyo glistened as we sped past buildings, parks, rivers and girls in kimono for Coming of Age Day- a Japanese National holiday.


All dressed up for the Coming of Age Day.

The National Museum of Japanese History is a rich cultural institution providing a comprehensive account of civilization in the Japanese archipelago. Starting with the ancient Jōmon people and carrying through to present day, the Fellows learned a great deal about the culture of Japan while witnessing prime examples of craftsmanship and ritual in the lives of Japan’s citizens.  The Special Exhibit on Animism was a must-see, with amazing displays of nature deities and multimedia showcasing annual folkloric ceremonies.


A Lion

Moving along into the modern day exhibit on Japanese culture we stumbled into one of the most recognizable faces in 1950s cinema- Godzilla!


Mackenzie-san has a close encounter with the monster lizard

In the afternoon, we headed over to the Botanical Garden of Everyday Life, where we met with Mr. Ayumu Ota who gave us an overview of the garden and introduced us to the head horticulturalist, Mr. Natoshi Yamamura. Ayumu-san and Yamamura-san provided us with a comprehensive overview of the types of chrysanthemum (kiku) that are cultivated for display in a manner consistent with the unique style of a particular region. The 5 regions where kiku growing was refined are: Saga Prefecture, Ise, Higo Province, Edo and Ōshū Province. Very distinct cultivars were introduced in each region, leading to an incredible display of beautiful flowers in an impressive array of shades.

Not bad for a wintertime mum!

Not bad for a wintertime mum!

Like Jindai Botanical Garden (see yesterday’s post), the Botanical Garden of Everyday Life currently has an exhibit on Camellia sasanqua, a species native to Japan and China that produces aromatic blooms that fade less quickly than other Camellia species. Sasanqua camellias were first exported to the west by the Dutch physician, Philipp Franz von Siebold, who was also responsible for introducing plants such as Hosta and Japanese knotweed to the West.


A very nice Sasanqua bloom

We would like to extend our greatest thanks to the staff of the National Museum of Japanese History for being so free with their time to provide a wonderful, behind-the-scenes tour of their facilities and for explaining kiku culture in great depth to the Longwood Fellows. Thanks to the generosity and friendliness of our Japanese hosts, the Fellows are enjoying our trip immensely.


A cold, but very informative tour!


Principal Horticulturalist Mr. Natoshi Yamamura explains a bit about the kiku (chrysanthemum) breeding process.


Fire and Ice: A memorable trip to Cornell

View down to the Cornell Plantations Visitor Centre

View down to the Cornell Plantations Visitor Center

This year the Longwood Graduate Fellow trip to Cornell was quite eventful! After departing from the University of Delaware post-class and driving by night, we had hardly put our belongings down at our Ithacan hotel when the fire alarms sounded. We, along with a hundred other patrons, had to evacuate smoke-filled corridors into the parking lot just as a fresh snow began to fall. A few hours passed before we managed to book rooms at another hotel, and after a fitful night’s sleep, we began orientation and tours on the grounds of the beautiful, distinguished Cornell University.


Waiting for the Ithaca FD to extinguish the flames. No one was hurt in the fire!

We were greeted in the morning by Dr. Donald Rakow and Graduate Fellows in the Cornell Public Garden Leadership program. Dr. Rakow, previous Director of Cornell Plantations and current Associate Professor in the Department of Horticulture, was an exceptionally courteous host during our trip and we appreciated all the fun, informative activities that the Fellows had scheduled for us. We started the day with an engaging lecture entitled “Board Interactions and Leadership in the Non-Profit Sector” delivered by Joseph Grasso, Associate Dean for Finance, Administration, and Corporate Relations in the Industrial and Labor Relations School at Cornell University. Mid-morning we were shuttled to the impressive School of Integrative Plant Science to attend a seminar by Dr. William Powell of State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) where we learned about the Ten Thousand Chestnut Challenge, a campaign to grow thousands of blight-resistant, genetically-modified American chestnut trees to “jumpstart the effort to restore the tree to its native range in North America.” The lecture was stimulating and a great example of the important work being done to promote biodiversity through advanced plant breeding techniques.

On our way to lunch we stopped by Cornell’s Kenneth Post Laboratory Greenhouses to learn about “Wee Stinky”, a titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) that has bloomed twice in the last three years (a rare feat considering their typical re-bloom cycle in cultivation is 7-10 years!). James Keach, PhD Candidate in Plant Breeding along with Paul Cooper, Cornell University’s Experimental Station Greenhouse Grower, presented us with some facts on the physiology and morphology of the corpse flower along with some other riveting (and smelly!) details.

James Keach, PhD student in Plant Breeding explains the physiology of the corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum)

James Keach, PhD student in Plant Breeding, explains the physiology of the corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum)

After a wonderful lunch at the Cornell Dairy Bar, we had a tour of the Ithaca Children’s Garden (ICG) with Executive Director Erin Marteal. The Fellows were able to burn off some excess energy while playing in the Hands-on-Nature Anarchy Zone, one of the newest additions to the ICG. Erin gave us a comprehensive presentation on the benefits of playing in nature, including the ways in which students improve in confidence, empathy and cognition through taking leadership over their own play. Go ICG and Erin!

The Cornell/Longwood Graduate Program gang with Erin Marteal, Executive Director of the Ithaca Children's Garden

The Cornell/Longwood Graduate Program gang with Erin Marteal, Executive Director of the Ithaca Children’s Garden

Our next adventure was a driving tour through the F.R. Newman Arboretum at Cornell Plantations. We passed wonderful collections of crabapples, oaks, maples, and other trees on our way to a brief stop at the overlook where we snapped photos and posed for a group shot.

Just in time for sunset over the Finger Lakes region!

Just in time for sunset over the Finger Lakes region!

Our final presentation of the day was held at the Cornell University Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections (RMC), where David Corson, Curator of the History of Science Collections, gave us an overview of the unique properties of early horticulture illustrative texts housed in the library’s collections. Also assisted by Magaret Nichols, RMC’s Head of Collection Management and Rare Materials Cataloguing Coordinator, we were able to take in breathtaking plates showcasing the fine talents of botanical artists while learning about the time-intensive processes required to produce such amazing works through lithography, woodcuts, hand coloring and other laborious techniques.

Magaret Nichols, Rare Materials Cataloging Coordinator (LTS) & Head of Collection Management (RMC) at Cornell University's Library with a fine book of lily prints.

Magaret Nichols, Rare Materials Cataloging Coordinator (LTS) &
Head of Collection Management (RMC) at Cornell’s Library with a fine book of lily prints.

The Rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya by Sir Joseph Hooker circa 1851

The Rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya by Sir Joseph Hooker circa 1851

The next day, some of the Longwood Graduate Fellows stayed around for a great trip to the partially frozen waterfalls of the Cascadilla Gorge. Guided by Ben Stormes and Emily Detrick, we learned about the efforts to shore up trails and enhance habitat in the gorge after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee submerged the landscape and eroded trails back in the fall of 2011. The falls were stunning this morning and a few of us were simply enchanted by the beautiful natural areas around Cornell and the City of Ithaca.

Frosty wonderland- the Cascadilla Gorge trail recently opened after 3 years of reinforcement

Frosty wonderland- the Cascadilla Gorge trail recently opened after 3 years of reinforcement

The Longwood Graduate Fellows would like to sincerely thank the Cornell Public Garden Leadership Fellows and Dr. Rakow for their wonderful hospitality during our stay. We are looking forward to next year when they visit us at Longwood Gardens and the University of Delaware!

Thanks Cornell!

Thanks Cornell Fellows and Plantations staff!

Class of 2016’s First Field Trip- Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve

With a mission to engage visitors, inspire action and change social behaviour, the staff members of Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve (BHWP) adroitly steward 100-plus acres of rich forest and diverse meadows in the heart of historic Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Near to the site of General George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River, the preserve houses over 800 species of wildflowers and other plants, creating healthy, abundant habitat for a plethora of bird and invertebrate species. BHWP is also home to over 80 rare and endangered plant species making it an area of conservation concern for the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Meadow shot

Meadow on a stunning day!

We were treated to gorgeous weather during our visit to Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve. In a casual stroll of the gardens and meadow we encountered at least 50 plant species, many in bloom, with 8 different species of moths, butterflies and skippers. Particularly noteworthy were the swallowtails feeding on the nectar of Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot or lavender bee balm)


Swallowtail on wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Other Lepidoptera species observed included: sleeping orange, cloudless sulphur, red-banded hairstreak, juniper hairstreak and snowberry clear-winged moths.

In the morning we met with Miles Arnott, Director of the BHWP Association, whose organization administers programs targeting school groups and teachers, landscape professionals, homeowners, and members of the general public. Under Miles’s guidance, BHWPA has more than doubled its membership to 1,800 by focusing on educating people both “inside the fence and outside the fence.” This fence is actually a massive deer exclosure which encompasses nearly the entirety of the property, preventing plants from overgrazing by overly abundant ungulates. By excluding deer, the plants are able to grow and reproduce freely, resulting in a healthy multi-storied vegetation layer which approximates a balanced Eastern U.S. forest with large and small trees, shrubs, perennials, and groundcovers. This vertical stratification in turn supports quality habitat for many bird species, including harder-to-spot avians like the Louisiana water thrush, rose-breasted grosbeak and scarlet tanagers.


Senna hebecarpa– wild senna

Miles also described the work that BHWPA is doing on developing its fee-for-service Plant Stewardship Index (PSI). The PSI is a metric which gives a conservation score of 0-10 based on habitat suitability in a given landscape. The PSI factors among other things: presence of rare species, hard to propagate species and specialist species requiring particular conditions for growth and reproduction to determine a score value for justifying protecting lands. Based on these criteria, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve is clearly worthy of continued preservation and support to encourage others to experience the beauty and serenity of this magical place, a touchstone of Pennsylvania’s natural heritage.

For more information visit:

Longwood Graduate Program class of 2016 group shot with Gary Shanks class of 2015. Plus Mary Ann Borge- BHWP’s wonderful docent naturalist