Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

Written by Nate Tschaenn

The second year Fellows have embarked on the North American Experience portion of the Longwood Graduate Program. This year’s destination is just a few states south of Delaware in North Carolina. We arrived in Charlotte last night, our westernmost destination, and will be making our way north to Wilmington stopping at some of North Carolina’s great public horticulture destinations along the way. First stop along out trip is Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden (DSBG) located about thirty minutes outside Charlotte in the city of Belmont.

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is a relatively new public garden having had its official grand opening in October of 1999.  In 1991, the founder of the Garden, Daniel J. Stowe, donated the four hundred acres of prime property to be developed into a botanical garden. He was a retired textile executive who envisioned the evolution of this garden over a period of forty years as an internationally renowned garden.


Entrance to the orchid conservatory.

There are currently twelve display areas at DSBG including a white garden, formal display gardens, and perennial gardens. There is also an 8,000 square foot orchid conservatory, which opened in 2008 and showcases tropical plants and a large collection of orchids in unique and artistic fashion.  There are also many whimsical fountain displays throughout the gardens, and a beautiful, multi-million dollar visitor pavilion serves as the grand façade.

A rainbow of colors in the canal garden.

A rainbow of colors in the canal garden.

It was a treat for us to get some perspective on a public garden that is still growing and trying to determine its full potential. There is a fifty-year master plan approved in 1994 that has been serving as a general guide for the expansion of the gardens since it first opened. DSBG has been constantly growing and still has a large amount of space to expand. The annual attendance has also been rapidly growing and is now around 100,000 visitors per year. The gardens and visitor center have been cleverly designed to support a growing attendance and are capable of supporting up to 600,000 visitors per year. A three-acre children’s garden is the next major expansion project slated to begin in spring of 2013, and is estimated to cost about six million dollars.

Tilandsia archways in orchid conservatory.

Tilandsia archways in orchid conservatory.


Daniel Stowe Botanic Gardens was an outstanding first stop on our journey and definitely worth a stop for anyone traveling to the greater Charlotte, North Carolina area.

We came, we learned things, and a great time was had by all.

(photos by Nate Tschaenn & Raakel Toppila)

That’s a wrap for our 2012 Symposium! Months of hard work came to fruition at last on March 2, where we had a beautiful day to enjoy the Longwood displays and hospitality, as well as fantastic presentations by our speakers.

With well over a hundred attendees and twenty-one webcast audience members signing in from across the country (and even the UK), the Symposium went smoothly thanks to the diligent leadership of Symposium Lead Fellow Ashby Leavell, along with Assistant Lead Quill Teal-Sullivan. Even with all the parts that each Fellow had to play throughout the day to keep the event running, it’s safe to say that we were still able to enjoy the Symposium itself, as we hope our attendees did!

Our registration table all set up for the day.

Ashby Leavell opening up the Symposium.

Keynote speaker Jerry Borin, former Executive Director of the Columbus Zoo.

John Gwynne, former Chief Creative Officer and Vice President for Design at the Bronx Zoo.

Dr. Alistair Griffiths, Horticultural Science Curator, presents the history and current happenings of the Eden Project in the UK.

Kathy Wagner, Consultant and former Vice President for Conservation and Education at the Philadelphia Zoo.

The first half of the dynamic “storytelling session,” featuring storyteller Sally O’Byrne of the Delmarva Ornithological Society.

The second half of the storytelling session, by Huffington Post books editor Andrew Losowsky. *CLAP* (You had to be there.)

Our final speaker, Catherine Hubbard, Botanical Garden Manager at the Albuquerque BioPark.

Many thanks once again to our wonderful speakers, our sponsors, the Longwood guest services team, and too many others to mention in one place who helped out behind the scenes in different ways. And finally, thanks to all the Symposium attendees, who came out to learn and engage with us and with one another on the issue of conservation messaging at our institutions. We hope the experience was worthwhile for all, and that you will be back for another exciting Symposium next year!

Pulau Ubin

(written by Nate Tschaenn, photographs by Abby Johnson)

On our last full day in Singapore, we took a trip away from the many tall buildings of mainland Singapore to a smaller, largely uninhabited island on the northeast side of Singapore called Pulau Ubin.

Boat ride from mainland Singapore to Pulau Ubin

Boat ride from mainland Singapore to Pulau Ubin

In the morning we met with Dr. Robert Teo, assistant director of the park at Palau Ubin, who described some of the work National Parks has been doing on the island. The name Palua Ubin roughly translates “granite island” and several granite quarries once operated on the island. The quarry industry, along with the farming of various crops like rubber and coconuts, left the island badly damaged. In 1977 National Parks started to manage the island to protect and restore the biodiversity of this area. Since this time 254 new species of plants have been recorded in Singapore and 69 species once thought extinct in Singapore were rediscovered.

Tour of sensory garden trail

Tour of sensory garden trail

After our meeting, we were shown the butterfly garden, which attracts 80 different species of butterflies. We were also given a tour of the sensory trail where we had the opportunity to see, touch, smell, and taste many interesting plants. While on the tour we were very lucky to see a hornbill, a beautiful bird that had once been driven off the island due to the destruction of its natural habitat  by the quarry and agricultural operations.

Oriental Pied Hornbill

Oriental Pied Hornbill


One of the large trees found on the island

After lunch we visited Chek Jawa, a wetland park on the far eastern side of Pulau Ubin. Here we had a fantastic tour through the wetlands and were able to see a variety of ecosystems in this one area, including mangroves, sandy beach, rocky beach, seagrass lagoon, coral rubble, sand bar, and coastal forest. The whole area was teeming with life, and we were able to spot beautiful birds, crabs, and lots of funny looking mudskippers.  In December of 2001, Check Jawa was saved from a planned reclamation project that would have destroyed this natural area. Volunteers conducted a biodiversity survey and convinced the government to suspend the project, at least temporarily. We were certainly lucky to have been able to experience this beautiful park and hope that Singapore will continue to preserve these unique habitats.

Tour through the mangrove wetlands

Tour through the mangrove wetlands of Chek Jawa


This funny looking mudskipper is a species of amphibious fish