Author Archives: Kevin Williams

Electronics Recycling Day Spring 2014

As part of our Environmental Impact initiatives, The Longwood Graduate Program Fellows hold a biannual Electronics Recycling Day to assist our peers in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Delaware in the proper disposal of their e-waste. photo 2-1

Thoughts of spring-cleaning must have been running through the collective campus-mind because over 200 unique items were brought in for recycling during the course of the three-hour event. Older model printers and obsolete computer towers continued to be the most donated items, while we saw a sharp decline in the number of CRT television sets.

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As an added incentive, The University of Delaware Botanic Gardens donated heirloom tomato seedlings to be distributed to all Electronics Recycling Day participants.

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All electronic equipment was brought to the UD recycling center, with the exception of cellular phones, which were donated to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s Donate A Phone program.

International Experience New Zealand Day 9: “Is it haunted?”

Before the arrival of the people who would become known as the Maori in the Thirteenth Century, there were no mammals endemic to the fauna of New Zealand. Birds filled most of the ecological niches of the islands. Although the natural history of the island has undergone dramatic changes over the last seven hundred years, there are still many birds. Unfortunately, this proved fatal this morning as several flew into the engines of the turboprop plane that we were meant to take from Wellington to Dunedin. Luckily, we were not on the plane and no passengers were hurt. Still, our flight was delayed seven hours and we spent a lovely day in the Wellington Airport.

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New Zealand is never without its magic. Our lunch quest led us away from the airport and through a pedestrian tunnel that opened onto a sleepy seaside cul-de-sac complete with grass-filled parking lots, a dog beach, and a Kiwi bodega.

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Arriving in Dunedin, and traversing the cliffs to the picturesque Larnach Castle, we were greeted by Head Gardener, Fiona Eadie, who was kind enough to keep our much-delayed appointment and tour us around the grounds of the castle. Fiona has been working with Margaret Barker, the owner of Larnach Castle, over the last twelve years to transform the gardens of the Castle into lush havens for native New Zealand plants with a focus on an impeccable visitor experience. Larnach features a South Pacific themed garden, an alpine garden, English style borders, tropical forests, and many other extensive plantings with a light Alice in Wonderland theme permeating various installations.

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Up to this point we were unaware that a significant 6.2-magnitude earthquake had struck Wellington just hours after we had taken off. Over the past week we have come to love New Zealand and its people; our hearts go out to the North Island and those affected by the quake.

Dinner at Larnach is accompanied by a story of the rise, fall, and rebirth of the Castle. Its relatively short history includes episodes of extravagance, adultery, tragedies, insanity, and death. We were left indulged and intrigued, whispering the question… “Is it haunted?”

Photographs by Gary Shanks

International Experience New Zealand Day 4: Ayrlies and Auckland Botanic Garden

20140115_110041Ayrlies is known as the quintessential country garden. It has received the highest ranking possible from New Zealand and was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal.

To say this garden is beautiful is only part of the story;

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it draws you in and teases you with vistas and then quietly envelops you in an intimate grove of sequoias.

20140115_100548As we wove our way through the garden with Head Gardener Ben Conway, he shared the story of Ayrlies. In 1964, Bev McConnell began the transformation of her home and dairy farm into a garden.

Ten years later, Bev added a gardener to her staff who was instrumental in creating this truly breathtaking garden.Bev is still very much involved in creating seemingly impossible combinations of plants that highlight the ideal growing conditions available to gardens in this region.

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Before we left Ayrlies, we had the chance to sit down with Bev McConnell’s son, John, and Jack Hobbs, Director of Auckland Botanic Gardens, to discuss the Longwood Graduate Program.
20140115_114412The group had a great conversation about the future of public horticulture professionals and one that we were able to continue with Jack as we visited Auckland Botanic Garden (ABG) next.

 

 

20140115_165023We began our visit to ABG inside the library with a short overview of the Garden. Jack explained that this relatively young (32 year old), 156 acre garden is free to the public and boasts an attendance that has more than doubled in the last 8 years to over 900,000 visitors annually.

20140115_152853Jack has an excitement to share horticulture with garden visitors that is contagious.We followed Jack into the grounds where he pointed to a number of techniques used to interact with visitors. 

 

20140115_162848Impossible to miss are eclectic sculptures in the garden, water features and native plant collections important to the Maori people. 

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Jack explained that there are more naturalized non-native plants than natives in New Zealand and the garden showcases native plants that can be used in the home garden to encourage greater use.

 

 

 

As we finished our walk we explored the children’s garden and stopped to enjoy one final sculpture before thanking Jack for being a great host and sharing his garden with us.20140115_161954

 

 

Blog by Bryan and Photos by Felicia

International Experience New Zealand Days 1–3: “This group is keen to hear about bureaucracy.”

My everlasting, heartfelt compassion and understanding goes out to all of our colleagues who made the trip to New Zealand for the 2013 BGCI conference. No matter where in the world you depart from, the flight is a beast, but I knew from the moment I saw the sunrise over Hauraki Gulf that every second spent in the air was worth it.

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We were greeted at the airport by Adele Marsden of New Zealand Educational Tours, and our driver Colin Berquist with whom we explored the Mt. Eden volcanic crater. A park run in conjunction with the Auckland City Council and a community board, Mt. Eden attracts tourists with its intense vistas, and locals with its hilly walking trails. The crater itself is swathed with low-growing grasses that sway and ripple in the ever-changing winds of Auckland. Several panoramic group photos followed, and we made our way to Auckland Domain where we enjoyed breakfast with Adele and Colin at the Wintergarden Pavilion and Café in Auckland Domain park. Adele introduced us to “jandals,” the Kiwi word for flip-flops, and a Cadbury candy favored by New Zealanders called “Chocolate Fish.”

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After breakfast, Adele passed us off to David Millward, the Manager of Metroparks for the city of Auckland with the caveat “This group is keen to hear about bureaucracy.” David gave us a thorough explanation of the history, and financial and operational structure of the Auckland Domain and city parks system. Auckland Domain was founded in 1880 as a 200 acre public preserve created on the cones of an extinct volcano. The Wintergarden Glasshouses were built in 1920 to feature temperate and tropical plants in a constant rotation of bloom. David toured us through the Wintergarden Glasshouses and a native Fernery, where we all agreed that the traveller’s palm in the Glasshouses was the largest that we’ve ever seen.

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Text by Kevin Williams, photos by Sara Helm Wallace

Nemours: “To Love and To Know”

(Photographs by Felicia Chua)

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As our inaugural field trip for the Summer 2014 season, the first-year fellows toured the mansion and grounds of Nemours, the former home of gunpowder magnate A.I. duPont. Located in Wilmington, Delaware, the palatial estate, modeled after Versailles in a formal French style, was draped in the heat and humidity of a true Mid-Atlantic July.

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We were greeted at the Visitors Center by Public Relations Manager, Steve Maurer, who escorted us by vehicle up to the center drive of the mansion, catching glimpses of the gardens and fountains through the allee of thickly planted oak, chestnut, and cryptomeria.

Our second host, the Head of Horticulture at Nemours, Richard Larkin joined us at the front entrance of the mansion where our view was no longer obscured by the allee. Although hesitant to wander the grounds in the heat, Richard and Steve expertly guided us through the shade to view the estate’s gardens. 

2014-07-19 10.31.52The extensive boxwood designs, gravel paths, and gold leaf details were balanced by the charming wildness of a rural historic site. The trees led our gaze down one-third of a mile of intensely manicured formal gardens, highlighting architectural features that included fountains, ponds, a sunken garden, Greco-Roman temples, and statues and stonework of old gods.

 

2013-07-19 10.07.21Currently sitting on three hundred acres, the site for the house and garden was chosen by A.I. duPont to honor a memory of his father, anecdotally relayed to us by Steve Maurer, “While on a walk in the woods with his father, E.I. duPont, a young A.I. was brought to a spot surrounded by tulip poplars. His father told him that he would like to build a house there so he could spend his days reading and eating ice cream.” There were five original tulip poplars on the property of which only one remains. It is very badly in decay and currently being held upright by a concrete slab, preserved as an historic and emotional connection to the past.

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A Lord & Burnham greenhouse sat unused, derelict, and beautifully invaded by flowering butterfly bush. It stood in sharp contrast to the meticulously restored and maintained house and gardens, both a testament to the skill of the staff, as well as a reminder of the effects of time and nature unchecked.

The house itself was stunning, and the taste and style of their personal esoterica may be unmatched. It was to great disappointment that we were not allowed to take photographs inside of the mansion, but understandable. The duPonts of Nemours surrounded themselves with objects of personal appeal. Amassing a collection based purely on personal preference, the house was filled with paintings, rugs, furniture, and objets d’art unified by a strong aesthetic taste. Some personal highlights included a locked refrigerator in the lower level of the house where A.I. duPont kept his ice cream, and a basket of vegetable and fruit shaped ice cream molds (alarmingly made of lead)!

2014-07-19 10.08.46The functional design of the house was equally impressive. Being an MIT trained engineer, A.I. DuPont spared no expense or craftsmanship in Nemours’ mechanical systems. Early ammonia based refrigerators, ergonomically conscious cork flooring, and redundant generators were all installed, and remain as a testament to innovation and classic industrial design.

Nemours follows faithfully in the family motto “To Love and To Know.” Built for his second wife, and honoring the memories of his father, Nemours is a revelation in that which A.I. duPont both knew, and loved.