Travel to Singapore and Indonesia: follow us

This January the first year fellows will be traveling to Singapore and Indonesia for what promises to be an amazing International Experience 2012. Longwood staff members, Shawn Kister and Sharon Loving, will be joining for the Singapore leg of the journey while Tom Brightman and Wendy Gentry will be traveling with the fellows to Indonesia.

Inside one of the new conservatories at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore. (Photo, courtesy of Chris Dalzell)

This travel opportunity will be the culmination of months of preparation in which all fellows were working diligently to make contact with and plan visits to various institutions. We will kick off our International Experience when we arrive in Singapore on the 8th of January. From Singapore we will be traveling on to the island of Bali and then on to Bogor, located on West-Java, before returning on the 21st of January. Some of the diverse sites that we will be visiting include the Singapore Botanic Gardens, Gardens by the Bay, Pulau Ubin, Bali Botanic Garden, Bogor Botanic Garden, Cibodas Botanic Garden, Taman Bunga Nusantara and the Gede-Pangrango National Park to name but a few.

We invite you all to follow us on our Blog and share in this unique experience.

Business Innovation Factory Conference

September 20-21, 2011
(written by James Hearsum)

An unusually titled conference for a horticulturist to attend, you might think.  But wait; we (hopefully) have a clear mission for our organisations, we live in a disruptive social and commercial environment, and we need innovative ways of doing business.  This conference provided the latest disruptive systems thinking and business models in the fields of education, health, and entrepreneurship.  It is billed as the place to get connected and collaboratively innovative through the medium of unforgettable storytelling.

It delivered.

Speakers outlined both methodology and vision for new types of schools, new purposes for education, improved care delivery in hospitals and how to medically prescribe food.  Social change was on everyone’s lips, and this wasn’t just talk, these people had already had notable success.  A hedge fund manager talked about purpose and integrity (yes- they can go together), an entrepreneur ($billion sale to Microsoft) about overcoming fear, and a Huffington post editor about the art of storytelling.

The last of these was a particular highlight.  Andrew Losowsky, books editor at the Huffington Post, spoke about framing stories within a possibility space and defining the likely elements within that space.  A good story, he said, seeks to expand beyond what is considered likely.  This introduces drama, suspense and satisfaction for the hearer.  A great storyteller will toy with our perception of the possible, but not smash it entirely – too much and the story becomes unbelievable, or disturbing.

Still confused why a gardener was there?

This type of larger purpose, cohesive thinking, and ambition to implement systems change is why I work in gardens.  The top Botanic Gardens reach over 40million annual visitors, plus over 1million school children and 1million adults on organised educational programs.  To me, that is enough of an audience to start making some serious changes.  BIF helped me continue to think about how.

In order to achieve large-scale change, we need to inspire and activate those around us.  Information must be transformed into knowledge.  This happens through contextualisation, and the most powerful way to do this is the humble story.

It is vital to draw on the best ideas from other fields, and present them as inspiring stories.  The Longwood Graduate Program will be implementing this principle in the forthcoming Symposium scheduled for the first week in March 2012.  Keep an eye on the website for more surprising details…

POP So Far

photographs by James Hearsum

This summer the Fellows busily worked on POP with two overarching goals in sight. The first was to develop programming that speaks to the mission of the Scott Arboretum while increasing involvement of the Swarthmore community and students and faculty of Swarthmore College.  The second goal was to grow membership at the Scott Arboretum.

Three research teams were established. One team investigated Swarthmore College. The curriculum was examined for opportunities for collaboration. Student interest groups were considered for partnerships. Surveys were sent to faculty, students and staff. We were pleasantly surprised to have 228 student survey respondents. From it, we learned about where students like to spend time on campus, their interest in horticulture-related topics and overall involvement in the Arboretum.

The second research team investigated the Scott Arboretum. Staff interviews provided invaluable insight into organizational capacity. The current arboretum membership program was explored and current collaborations were considered.

The third research team reached out to other campus gardens and arboreta with the goal of benchmarking best practices. The Botanic Garden at Smith College in Massachusetts was found to have many similarities with the Scott Arboretum. Both campus gardens are free and open to the public, cater to a curriculum that does not have a horticulture major and struggle to engage students in the arboretum’s activities. Madeline Zadik (LGP Class of ’85) provided valuable insight into their Curriculum Enhancement Program and other ways the Botanic Garden has dealt with such challenges.

Now it is time to shift focus. How will we apply the knowledge gained to produce recommendations for the Scott Arboretum?  Stay tuned to find out…

A Visit to the Infamous “U”

August 15, 2011 – St. Paul Campus, Minnesota University
(written by Aubree Pack, photography by James Hearsum)

Around here, the University of Minnesota is commonly, as well as affectionately, referred to as “the U.” The Longwood Graduate Program’s current Director, Robert Lyons, is a graduate of “the U,” so we had with us an excellent guide. Although the campus boasts many desirable features, our focus was the Department of Horticultural Science, of which Dr. Lyons received both his Masters and Ph.D. degrees. If you’ve been following our blog, you may remember a recent post about our trip to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The Arboretum is actually an extension of the University of Minnesota and is within the Department of Horticultural Science.

Upon arrival at the University of Minnesota St. Paul Campus, the first thing we did was discover a photo of Dr. Lyons from when he was a graduate student there. And of course, as any good student would, we teased him a little. He seemed to be fine with that though : )

We then went just outside Alderman Hall to meet with Roger Meissner and Garrett Beier. Roger has been employed by the department since 1976 and since then has worn many “hats.” Garrett is a graduate student there who was hired to manage the display garden, which is a landscape laboratory for the College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Science; involved students generally have a main focus in horticulture or environmental studies.

Garrett told us that the site is primarily used for study purposes, but also attracts casual visitors. One thing we found amusing was that there were duplicate plants from the garden elsewhere on campus, for the purpose of preventing students in ID courses from memorizing a location instead of the actual plant characteristics. He also described some of the challenges they face there at the garden, including an invasive weed he referred to as black swallow wart, a member of the milkweed family (pictured above).

Cultivar development and breeding are major endeavors for the department. Many faculty members are reknown for their plant introductions. Jim Luby, in particular, introduced a very well received variety of apple, Honey Crisp, which many of us have enjoyed. More recent apple introductions from the department are SnowSweet, Frostbite, and SweeTango, which are a trademark of the Ball Horticultural Company. Along with their large array of fruit crop introductions, new, cold hardy ornamental plant cultivars have been introduced from the following popular garden plants: chrysanthemums, azaleas, roses, gaura, dogwood, forsythia, pearlbush, viburnum,  maples, white pine,  redbud, buckeye, plums, crabapples, corktree, jack pine, and many grass varieties; both ornamental and turf. This research is done along with the Horticultural Research Center and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, who provides stock or grounds for research.

Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

(written by Felicia Yu, photographs by Aubree Pack)

Just in case we didn’t already think we were spoiled by warm receptions and generosity everywhere we’ve been so far in the Twin Cities, the staff of the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory REALLY made us feel welcome during our visit on Monday.

Old and new: the historic Marjorie McNeely Conservatory with its 64-ft. Palm Dome, and the adjoining new section with impeccable water gardens.

Horticulture Manager Tina Dombrowski met us at the main entrance along with several staff members from the conservatory, and at each part of the Margorie McNeely Conservatory, gardens, and zoo thereafter we met with more members of the staff who were happy to show us around and answer all our questions. We got a thorough behind the scenes look at the historic and new portions of the conservatory as well as the Ordway Memorial Japanese Garden, and the new Polar Bear Odyssey exhibit at the zoo, where we had a delicious lunch before getting a free hour to explore.

The Sunken Garden of the Conservatory, featuring spring, summer, fall, holiday, and winter floral displays.

The Japanese Garden, designed by Masami Matsuda in 1979 to commemorate the friendship between St. Paul and its sister city Nagasaki

Horticulture production supervisor Paul Knuth explaining the greenhouse operations.


An alpine rooftop garden on the upper level of the new visitor center.

The zoo and conservatory are located within Como Park, a 384-acre oasis within the city of St. Paul. The zoo is well over a hundred years old, while the conservatory opened in 1915. Each has undergone major renovations, with more improvements to come in the near future. The building of the new visitor center in 2005 physically joined the zoo and conservatory into one campus for the first time in their histories, along with the merger of their supporting non-profit and volunteer organizations. Some of the most intriguing features of Como Park Zoo & Conservatory involve the direct collaboration between zoo and horticultural staff in combined plant and animal exhibits, such as their Tropical Encounters exhibit and RibbitZibit frog displays in the Children’s Gallery.

Zookeeper Liz feeding fruit flies to the poison dart frogs in the Children’s Gallery RibbitZibit.

It was clear that the zoo and conservatory are beloved by the community, judging from the number of families streaming through the doors as soon as opening hour arrived—and this was on a “slow” Monday, according to the staff. After our half-day visit, I could completely understand why—if I lived in the area I’d be back every week! The zoo remains one of the few remaining free zoos in the country, with just a suggested donation of $2 per adult and $1 per child for entry to both zoo and conservatory, which most visitors seemed glad to pay. The high-quality horticultural and animal exhibits were definitely worth much more than that.

A Walk in the Park – Minneapolis Style.

August 13, 2011 – Minneapolis, Minnesota
(written by James Hearsum, photography by Ashby Leavell)

Few cities enjoy the benefit of a visionary parks department: One that takes a leadership role in economic development, is a broker of community creation and that does this whilst integrating citywide networks of facilities, recreation and environmental services.  Fewer still have the resources and political clout to deliver.  That Minneapolis is one of this select group is evident to anyone enjoying the city on a fine summer day, as we did.

The view from the Guthrie Museum to the former railroad Stone Arch Bridge over the Mississippi River

Guided by John Erwin, a Parks Commissioner, the Longwood Graduate Fellows sought the answer to this question – How is it achieved?

 

As John conducted a whirlwind tour, we visited The Peace Gardens, Rose Garden and The Annuals and Perennial Border.  All were immaculately maintained by staff and volunteers, and clearly loved by Minneapolitans.  A real pride and care by the public is evident throughout the system.  On a Saturday afternoon, the parks were well used, with all types of recreation happening around Lake Calhoun.

Flower vendors at the vibrant famers market at Mill City

It was always evident that the parks comprised a complete system, a network of places and links, tied to specific communities.  A visit to a section of the Grand Rounds, a 53 mile loop of lakes in the heart of the city, showed that they were used both as a destination; for beaches, canoeing, eating, picnicking – and as a route; for jogging, walking, commuting.

John Erwin describes a map of the Grand Rounds in Minneapolis, the only National Scenic Byway located in a major city in the US.

The concept of networks also dominated a presentation by Mary deLaittre, Project Manager for the Minneapolis Riverfront Development Initiative.  Using the advantage of semi-autonomy from the city to great advantage, this project has developed and designed a strategic physical master plan for a 5.5 mile section of the Mississippi River bank, completing the parks path and bike network in challenging industrial and multiuse spaces.  More than this, it seeks to connect existing parks and recreation assets to a wider system and create new interfaces between communities, using the Mississippi as its central corridor.  In addition to all this, it has an economic mission to spur development, as in the district now developed around the beautiful Guthrie Theater (led by a $30 million investment in the area by Parks and Recreation).  It also seeks to create integrated environmental systems, manage storm water, recreate habitats – all whilst maintaining industrial use and jobs.

Looking out on the ruins at the Mill City Museum, once the world’s largest flour mill

So what is the secret? – Yes, Minneapolis Parks have more autonomy, more money, and more public support than many parks.  But this alone doesn’t explain it.  Rather, two things stood out.  Firstly, visionary leadership at all levels in the organization.  Secondly, a truly comprehensive approach to parks – the integration and consideration of all elements as important to the system.  In practice, this means that no one factor dominates, but all are considered – economic, environmental, community, recreation and industry.  It recognizes that people have complex needs, and seeks to address them comprehensively.

Posing with John Erwin, our generous guide for the day and Chair of Minneapolis Parks Department and Professor of Hort. Science at the University of Minnesota

Wow! Our thanks to Minneapolis for a wonderful day in your parks, and please, if you are lucky enough to live here, don’t take them for granted – they are truly extraordinary.

A Day at the Zoo

(photography by Raakel Toppila)

A great day today at the Minnesota Zoo.  We spent the morning with Director Lee Ehmke, Horticulture Supervisor Kim Thomas, and Ken Kornack, Director of Capital Projects at the Zoo.  After meeting Lee at the entrance, we explored the newest exhibit, “Russia’s Grizzly Coast.”  The three grizzly bears are part of a new trend in immersive zoo display that seeks to engage the senses and create a seemingly boundless natural space surrounding the animals.  Plant materials mask the surrounding buildings, key sightlines are emphasized, and sound recordings draw visitors into a more intimate experience.  And by visitors, I mean children.  Lots of them.  Everywhere.  The bears are a huge hit.

Kim Thomas’ lean crew of horticulturalists throughout the year has the unique job of creating regional and species appropriate displays.  This is easier said than done, considering the physical demands on the plants.  For example, Kim quickly discovered that grizzly bears do not pick blue berries.  They just eat the entire bush in one bite.  Thankfully, hundreds of acres of surrounding woodlands provide an abundance of animal browsing materials.

In the new Leed Gold meeting space behind the grizzly den, the Fellows had the chance to ask Lee and his team what it’s like to manage a zoo serving over 1 million visitors each year.  The organization is one of two publicly owned zoos in the country, and covers 485 acres just south of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and equidistant from both.  The zoo is moving towards a denser model of visitor circulation, including a more intense experience over a smaller area.  The older zoo design of “five hundred acres and a monorail” essentially failed.  The wildlife was too far removed from the visitors to create a meaningful experience.

In addition to managing a wide array of species from dolphins to tapirs, the Zoo boasts a 1,500-person amphitheater for musical performances, several green roof projects, and an active outreach program visiting each of the 87 counties in Minnesota.  Over lunch, the staff covered everything from the master plan to their young friends group, and provided rare insight into their much-loved institution in the suburbs of the Twin Cities.

Second Years Travel to the State of 10,000 Lakes

(photographs by Felicia Yu)

North American Experience has begun yet again.  The second year Fellows and Dr. Lyons landed Wednesday in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota with the goal to explore what the region has to offer in the realm of public horticulture. Minneapolis is a fun city.  The neighborhood near the hotel is filled with eclectic places to eat and spend time. Even better, there are “Nice Ride” bicycles for the public to check in and out of locations all over town to help us get around town during time off.

Our first stop was the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. We were fortunate to be greeted by both Ed Schneider, current Director, and Peter Olin, former Director who served at the Arboretum for 24 years. An hour-long tram tour introduced us to the 1,137 acres of land maintained by the Arboretum, featuring themed collections, gardens, a prairie, ponds and woodlands.  We were especially excited by the Patrick Dougherty exhibition in front of the visitor center, entitled the Uff da Palace.

The Landscape Arboretum faces the challenge of gardening and maintaining collections in USDA plant hardiness zone 4 (average annual minimum temperature -20F to -30F).  However, they do so in stride, boasting impressive collections of crabapple, hosta, lilac, ornamental grasses and roses. Even in the warmth of the summer, the cold temperatures to come are never far from a Minnesotan’s mind. The Arboretum has devoted much of its research to developing cold-hardy commercial fruit varieties such as the Honey Crisp apple, the Frontenac grape and the North Star Cherry. Their ornamental woody plant breeding program resulted in the development of a series of cold hardy azaleas.

Intermingled among the collections of the Arboretum are special places for reflection…

And play….

And discovery…

We enjoyed lunch together with our host, Ed Schneider and Judy Hohmann, Marketing and Communications Manager who gave us insight into the operations of the Arboretum. Three hours of self-guided exploration under the beautiful blue open sky was hardly enough time to return to our favorite spots. Our visit the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum was a great introduction to public horticulture in the Twin Cities.

Forty five years? Check.

After over a decade apart, the LGP alums finally reunited this June 26th in the Italian Water Garden at Longwood.  Alumni from near and far came together to celebrate 45 years of the Graduate Program, reconnect with classmates, and meet new friends in the field of public horticulture.

Kate Baltzel and Raakel Toppila trying on a fresh new style in the photo booth

Even after the busy American Public Gardens Association conference in Philadelphia leading up to the event, nearly 150 people turned out on Saturday evening.  Guests celebrated in style, enjoying delicious food and cocktails, perfect weather, and live jazz in the garden.  Pierre duPont would certainly have been proud.

Fabulous turn out!

The Longwood Graduate Program Alumni Association also made its formal debut during the evening, and all were invited to contribute thoughts on its future direction.  To those who made it to Longwood, thank you for contributing to the great atmosphere and outstanding evening.  We’ll see you all at the next reunion!  Pictures from the event can be found here: https://picasaweb.google.com/lgwweb/LGPReunion?authkey=Gv1sRgCLWTqd-3udOm9gE

In a rare instance all three directors, past and present, welcomed students. Dr. James Swasey, Dr. Richard Lighty, and Dr. Robert Lyons pictured.

Shari Edelson peruses LGP memorabilia

Felicia Yu, Won Soon Park, and Mark Highland enjoying the festivities

 

Note from the Director: Reunion!

I’m into my 7th year directing the Program and really look forward to seeing all the Former Fellows who worked with me starting in 2005. However, my connection to the Program goes back much further when I was on the Horticulture faculty at Virginia Tech from 1981 – 1999.  During that period, I sent 5 of my students into the LGP and I’m very much hoping to see them all at the Reunion!

Lead Fellow for the Reunion has been second year Fellow Dongah Shin, who has done a marvelous job in insuring that everyone will have a great time.

I know that reunions are meant for reminiscing and catching up with old friends, so we are planning lots of time to do exactly that, all within the unsurpassed atmosphere of Longwood. If you are a former Fellow, please join us: this will be an event to be remembered for a long time to come!

Bob Lyons