Author Archives: Sara Helm Wallace

Filoli = “FIght for a just cause; LOve your fellow man; LIve a good life.”

As we drove onto the former property of successful gold miners Mr. and Mrs. William Bourn, we knew it was a special place. The silvery foliage of the mature Olea europaea (olive) trees that line the parking lot were our first impressive clue to the experience that would unfold as the day continued. These trees were planted around 1918, and are part of the original plantings on Filoli property.
IMG_3300IMG_3323Mr. and Mrs. Bourn died in 1936, and the land and house were bought by Mr. and Mrs. William Roth. In 1975, Mrs. Roth donated her home and some of the land to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the rest of the 650 acres was donated to the entirely volunteer-run Filoli Center. The house and garden now have paid staff, but the volunteers are intensively trained and still play an important and critical role in the stewardship of the property.

We first met with our gracious hosts for the day: Alex Fernandez, Manager of Horticultural Operations, and Jim Salyards, Manager of Horticultural Collections and Education. Alex and Jim soon led us to a room where each half-hour a new staff member came in to talk to us aspiring garden administrators about their roles at Filoli. It was a very interesting morning, and their enthusiasm for the house and garden was so evident that after lunch, we were eager to explore.

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The greenhouses, 17 acres of formal gardens, and 8 orchards are meticulously managed by 14 full-time garden staff. We ran into former Longwood Gardens Intern Doug Sederholm, now a gardener in Filoli’s cut flower garden. His area is bursting with continuous color during growing seasons so that the 24 flower arrangements throughout the house can be refreshed weekly.

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Filoli also has a strong education component; with approximately 6,000 student visitors per year and 2,500 adult learners attending their 200 programs. They concentrate on horticulture, art, history, and preservation, with certificates in a very prestigious botanical art program (learn more about the Filoli’s Florilegium), floral design, and horticulture.

And the house! Designed by architect Willis Polk and built between 1915-1917, the house is an eclectic mix of architectural styles, and currently serves as a museum for 17th and 18th century English antiques. Detailed scenes of Muckross, an Irish estate, are painted directly onto the giant walls of he ballroom. Much of the furniture is carved with curves, or intricately inlaid with several types of wood. Fireplaces, floors, and the elegant stairway were carved out of marble.

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As the garden closed for the day, we were grateful for the time the staff spent with us and for the chance to see a quality garden in action. Our drive down the coast continued as we anticipated the next day’s adventure: Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Blog by Sara Helm Wallaceand photos by Gary Shanks

Three Weeks Away! Counting Down for (Y)our Symposium!

Because of you and your institution, they can lead.

Because of you and your institution, they can lead.

The classes of 2014 and 2015 are proud to bring you a one-day symposium that focuses on leadership in public gardens. From topic selection, original graphic design, and clever marketing, to working with individuals, organizations, and businesses to raise funds to help defray the costs of the symposium. It will be a day for you- for networking with others in your field, for reinforcing what you know, for gaining stronger knowledge about a topic, and for giving you new ideas to teach to others when you return to your workforce. In addition, the graduate students have researched and selected an inspiring group of speakers. Each one is very different, speaking from his or her own expert view on the topic of leadership and how it pertains to you at your garden or arboretum.

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A leader can be carved from any stone.

To learn more about the exciting line-up of speakers, stay tuned to this blog in the coming weeks, where we will be posting the speaker bios and their talk descriptions. You can also check out our Facebook page, and register here for the event.

(Y)our Symposium is only three weeks away (Friday, March 7th), and is being held in Longwood Gardens’ beautiful ballroom, with a scrumptious lunch included and served on the Patio of Oranges during Longwood’s Orchid Extravaganza. If you’re coming from far away, you have until February 21 to get the discounted rate on a hotel room from Hilton Garden Inn, just down the road. We look forward to seeing you!

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Different leaders grow from different soils.

Posted by Sara Helm Wallace, 2014 LGP Symposium Guest Relations Committee Chair

International Experience New Zealand Day 14: Akaroa: Taunton and Fisherman’s Bay

After driving through dry scenery with spectacular hills and the ever-present sheep farms, we arrived at the understated entrance of Taunton Gardens. We weren’t sure what to expect when we exited the van; all we could see was a well worn plant nursery area.

As soon as we passed under an archway of vines, however, we knew we had entered a special place. Barry Sligh came out of his 1852, rebuilt stone house to meet us and lead us through forest openings, around curves, and over bridges to show us his plant treasures.

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He moved onto the property in the 1970’s, and within his first two years, he planted over 1000 trees. With no background in horticulture, he quickly learned how to care for many plants in a naturalistic setting, and in the nursery.

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Some of the more interesting plants were: an Auraucaria witch’s broom, a hosta that he developed for Prince Charles (after which Barry was invited to the Prince’s garden) and a variegated maple tree with red/pink on the undersides of the leaves. This unusual coloration created a stunning display in the sun’s rays.

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Our final garden of our New Zealand trip was a lush oasis on a dry, windy cliff. Fisherman’s Bay Garden was created by Jill Simpson at her home nine years ago, but because New Zealand has no winter, the plants have grown in quickly. Jill is very conscious of her plantings since a nature preserve shares borders with her 100 hectares; she tries very hard to stick to natives and non-invasive plantings. Standing out among the many interesting hillside gardens, she has a myriad of hebes that vary in size, shape, and color. She attributes their vigor to the nearly frost-free climate and the salt carried by the wind.

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Whether driving, helicoptering, or boating in, it is a lovely experience to enjoy a cup of tea while overlooking the turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean.

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Text by Sara Helm Wallace, photos by Bryan Thompsonowak

International Experience New Zealand Day 10: Dunedin Chinese Garden and Dunedin Botanic Garden

We woke up to a brief glimpse of sunlight before the fog decided to obscure our view of the harbor. Preparing for a rainy day, we drove down the castle hill, and to our delight, the town below was dry and cool.
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After strolling through the ornate Chinese gate, Malcolm Wong, Chair of the Garden Trust, greeted us and showed us around the Dunedin Chinese Garden. Because of the architectural and landscape elements found in a traditional Chinese garden, we learned a lot about Chinese history and culture as well as their auspicious gardening style, which was new to most of us.

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The garden is modeled after the understated elegance of a scholar’s garden from the 1600s, between the Ming and Ching dynasties. Every piece of every element- brick, wood, stone, water, and plants- was installed with purpose. The concept of opposites pervades, such as mountain vs. water, and movement vs. stillness. It is a small garden, but feels large due to the winding paths and contemplative landscapes.

We then went on to the Dunedin Botanic Garden (DBG), the entrance of which is at the center of the steep, sloping lower garden.

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The colorful Mediterranean, xeric, and succulent plants are welcoming bursts of color among the terraced rocks. After lunch in the cafe, we met with the knowledgeable Barbara Wheeler, a former international intern at Longwood Gardens, who now oversees operations at DBG. She was joined by Alan Matchett, Director of DBG, and Tom Myers, Botanical Services Officer.
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We then walked up the hill to the upper garden, through the geographical collections which included plants from South Africa, Mexico, and North America. Also in the upper garden was an aviary, which houses many birds, one of which is the colorful golden pheasant.
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Throughout our entire trip, probably the most valuable item has been conversation with the directors, curators, and other administrators in the gardens. Their willingness to share and openness into the inner workings of New Zealand gardens has been tremendous in our education.

Blog by Sara Helm Wallace, photos by Felicia Chua

International Experience New Zealand Day 7: The Taranaki Triptych

Today, still in the greater New Plymouth area, we visited with Greg Rine, Regional Gardens Manager for the Taranaki Regional Council, and his wife Sue. Greg has the privilege and skill to manage three amazing gardens, all very different from one another.

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First stop: Tupare
Tupare was started by a wealthy businessman who enjoyed landscaping the 10 acres of valley and hillsides around his 1941, Tudor-style home. Greg first took us to an overlook where we caught a breathtaking view of the valley before descending the switchback pathways to the house. The paths were lined with hundreds of tall, bright blue and white hydrangeas and the pervasive purple and white agapanthus, all in full bloom. The garden designs and structures were created in the Arts-and-Crafts style, and are maintained as such when it’s practical.

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Next stop: Pukeiti
The mountain forest here is steeped in Maori spiritual history, and the garden is renowned worldwide for its rhododendron collection, including vireyas. Since the 790-acre rainforest/garden recently became public in 2010, Greg has plans in motion for a modern visitor center, dramatic garden landscaping, and sustainable biodiversity in the rainforest.
Our trip through the 65-acre rhododendron collection was a series of pathways with “hotspots” of interesting plantings that always kept us wondering what we would find around the next corner.

IMG_2282Last stop: Hollard
Bernie Hollard was a true plantsman, collecting “one of everything” and planting them around his home near Mount Taranaki, a dormant volcano. As he collected, he worked his way further and further from the house, and soon had a unique paradise. In amongst the original eclectic plantings, Greg’s team has implemented a home kitchen garden, a swamp garden, a barbecue and playground, and an edible forest garden.

IMG_2238Greg’s philosophy of management really gets to the heart of why we are all enthusiastic students of public horticulture. The gardens are there for public purpose and public value. The community and the people are the ones who truly own and benefit from their conservation and beauty. Spending the day with Greg and his wife was a truly great experience before piling into the van for a 4-hour countryside drive to Wellington.

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Written by Sara Helm Wallace, photos by Sarah Leach Smith

100 Years as an Estate…. 20 Years as a Public Garden!

 (Photographs by Gary Shanks)

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The new first-year graduate students got a chance to visit one of the more intimate gardens in the greater Philadelphia area. Since Chanticleer has been written about in a previous LGP blog, let’s just dive right in to the details.

Our tour with Bill Thomas, Chanticleer’s Director, began in the Teacup Garden. Exotic plants are mixed creatively with natives, and because it is directly behind the main house, it feels like one’s own private courtyard.

IMG_1668On the way to the Tennis Court Garden, there is a stately hybrid oak (Quercus alba x Quercus montana) that keeps one humble due to its enormous size. Not until one is faced with a giant tree like this does one realize one’s own small stature. The Tennis Court Garden is full of flowers that fascinate, and sitting on the staff-made wooden glider under the shady arbor is a great vantage point to appreciate the vibrancy of this garden.

Down the slope is a 120-foot “hedge” of asparagus. That’s right, asparagus hedge. The frilly fronds wave in the wind, enticing the visitor to investigate what is behind it… a charming cut-flower and vegetable garden. Tended by a graduate of the Longwood Professional Gardener Program, flowers from this garden are used in the flower arrangements in the house.

Here we stopped, and Bill pointed out what appeared to be an ordinary patch of land. He explained that water from the parking lot flows underground, down the hill to this site, where there is a 10,000-gallon pipe full of holes. This allows the water to come out through the holes and diffuse throughout this patch of land instead of running off and causing flooding. Brilliant!

IMG_1678Our tour continued into the Woodland Garden where one of the staff horticulturists (who doubles as a metal- and wood-worker in the winter) created a giant, partially-enclosed bridge over Darby Creek to resemble a fallen log.

 

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The path on the bridge and into the Woodland Garden is made of recycled tires, shreddedand dyed to look like wood chips. There is a binder added to the tire pieces to prevent leaching of the rubber products into the soil. It also provides a soft and comfortable base for pedestrians, as well as being wheelchair and stroller accessible!

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From the mysterious Lady of the Pond to the frog gravity fountain; from bubbling rocks to the stepping-stones through the moss garden, it is a charming stroll through the Woodland Garden. The path leads to the Asian Woodland Garden where most of the herbaceous plants, shrubs, and small trees originate from China, Japan, and Korea.IMG_1723

Chanticleer’s charms continue on. You will have to go visit yourself to find out about the Pond Garden, Serpentine Garden, Terrace Garden, Ruin Garden, and the countless hidden treasures waiting for discovery as you wander the grounds.