Growing Together: Symposium Registration Open!

Registration is now open for the Longwood Graduate Symposium – Growing Together: Gardens Cultivating Change in the Economic Landscape! Registration is $119, and $59 for full-time students with ID. If you can’t make it in person, consider signing up for the webinar ($35), where a Fellow will be moderating and taking questions for the speakers.

The Fellows are excited to present this year’s line-up of speakers. They represent some great minds in economics and public horticulture alike, and are all looking forward to the discussion that the Symposium will bring.

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NAX Day 3: A Man Named Pearl

On a drizzly Wednesday morning, the Fellows pulled up to a small house nestled in Bishopville, South Carolina. Pearl Fryar, legendary topiary artist and community leader, was seated in a John Deere gator, flipping through the pages of the Lee County Observer.

Pearl Fryar graciously spent the better part of the morning touring with the Longwood Fellows

Today’s paper included a story on the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden, and Pearl proudly showed us the article, which highlighted a generous donation from the local Waffle House in order to support the garden’s scholarship fund. A self-proclaimed “average student” with no training in horticulture, Pearl was passionate about supporting at-risk youth and “C-level” students in their creative and career goals.

Pearl and the Fellows

Pearl and the Fellows

“My point to students is: don’t allow someone to tell you what you can and can’t do by some test score, […] because you may be average academically and very talented in some other area.” The Friends of Pearl Fryar’s Topiary Garden scholarship was most recently awarded to two local high school students who would be attending technical college in the fall.

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Pearl’s organic sculptures often start as rescue’s from the discard pile

The same love and nurture was evident as we toured the garden. Starting in the 1980’s, Pearl defied stereotypes and prejudices towards black/African-American homeowners by winning Yard of the Month. He then continued to astound neighbors and plantsmen with his abstract topiary sculptures. Of all the specimens in his three-acre garden, over 70% came from discarded nursery plants meant for the compost pile. The message is united throughout the garden: with love, encouragement, and a steady hand, something that might have slipped through the cracks can become something incredible. One person can achieve incredible things against seemingly impossible odds.

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One of the more infamous pieces of work, this topiary has a distinct African art influence

The Fellows were deeply moved and inspired by Pearl’s creativity and positive spirit. We look forward to seeing how the garden will progress as part of the Garden Conservancy, and hope to see it remain as a beacon of Love, Peace, and Goodwill (the garden’s motto) in Bishopville and all of South Carolina.

Love, peace, and goodwill: Pearl's motto for the garden. This still was taken from the Youtube video Planting Hope

Love, peace, and goodwill: Pearl’s motto for the garden. This still was taken from the Youtube video Planting Hope

To learn more about the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden, please check out their website and documentary, “A Man Named Pearl“. Donations for both the garden and its scholarship fund can be made at www.pearlfryar.com or through the Garden Conservancy Donation page.

 

 

Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

Examples of the floating islands from the Working Wetlands Project (Photo: Grace Parker)

Examples of the floating islands from the Working Wetlands Project (Photo: Grace Parker)

The Fellows wrapped up their time in Melbourne by paying a visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens – 38 hectares of mixed plant collections below the Yarra River.

The sun was no match for the swift and shaded buggy tour, courtesy of Chris Cole, Director of Melbourne Gardens. The time with Chris was well-spent, and the Fellows were fascinated by the Working Wetlands Project – a plant-based water filtration island built out of recycled plastics, as well as the Arid Garden – one of many projects designed by on-site landscape architect, Andrew Laidlaw.

The stunning colors of the Arid Garden from above. (Photo: Grace Parker)

The stunning colors of the Arid Garden from above. (Photo: Grace Parker)

Professor Mark McDonnell, Director of the Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology (ARCUE) then provided the Fellows with an overview of urban ecology – the field, the research, and ARCUE’s work within Australia as well as on an international level.

In the afternoon, the Fellows met with Kylie Regester, Manager of Public Programs. The highlight of the discussion was her tour of the Ian Potter Children’s Garden; visitors small and large were encouraged to explore and discover nature through play. Finally, the Fellows were treated to an in-depth dialogue with Professor Tim Entwisle, Director and Chief Executive of the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria.

The Ian Potter Children's Garden relies on natural paths, forms, and structures instead of man-made playgrounds (Photo: Grace Parker)

The Ian Potter Children’s Garden relies on natural paths, forms, and structures instead of man-made playgrounds (Photo: Grace Parker)

The Fellows are grateful to the staff and administration of Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Melbourne for such a welcoming visit, and hope to return one day to take advantage of their outdoor movie night, which occurs daily during the summer months!

Booderee Botanic Gardens

The Longwood Fellows were up bright and early this morning for their day at Booderee Botanic Gardens and National Park.

The Fellows’ goal for this International Experience is to explore how Australian public gardens are evaluating the impact of educational and outreach programs, and Booderee Botanic Gardens is a unique example.

Originally an annex of the Australian National Botanic Gardens, the land containing Booderee Botanical Gardens and National Park was successfully acquired by Wreck Bay Aboriginal community in 1995, and is the only Aboriginal owned botanical garden in Australia (and possibly the world).

The Fellows began the day with Stig Pedersen, Booderee’s Acting Botanic Gardens Curator, who provided valuable context in the form of the history and structure of the botanical gardens. Booderee Botanic Gardens carries out its mission of cultural education through Indigenous led interpretive tours, as well as educational programs and training for the local Wreck Bay community.


The Fellows were able to experience one of these tours, led by Indigenous interpreter Kain Ardler, who has an extensive knowledge of Aboriginal plants that has been handed down through the generations. A favorite of the day was learning about the uses of the Paperbark Tree, which can be wrapped around fish before cooking.

The Fellows would like to thank Stig Pedersen, Kain Ardler, and the rest of the staff at the Booderee Botanic Gardens and National Park, for a warm welcome to the land.

Volunteer Engagement in Santa Barbara, California

Volunteers are the heart and hands behind many public gardens and play an integral part in garden operations and engagement. First Year Fellow Tracy Qiu represented the Longwood Graduate Program at the 2015 American Public Gardens Association Volunteer Engagement Symposium, held in sunny Santa Barbara.

Fellow Tracy Qiu examines the beautiful tilework at Ganna Walska Lotusland

Fellow Tracy Qiu examines the beautiful tilework at Ganna Walska Lotusland (photo credit: Allie Skaer, Cheyenne Botanic Gardens)

The Symposium kicked off with an opening reception at Ganna Walska Lotusland, and docent-led tours provided attendees with fascinating insight on the life and loves of Madame Ganna Walska, a Polish opera singer and garden enthusiast. Her sense of style was visible all over the themed gardens in the form of lush tropical plantings, soda glass-lined gravel paths, oversized seashells surrounding a decadent pool, and many other details. “I’m an enemy of the average,” Ganna Walska is often quoted, and her vision of Lotusland certainly supports her words with its dramatic and whimsical designs.

The enchanting soda glass of Lotusland is also available in the giftshop as a souvenir!

The enchanting soda glass of Lotusland is also available in the giftshop as a souvenir!

Presentations began with a keynote address from noted environmentalist Sigrid Wright, followed by a risk management session – always an important topic when working with volunteer groups. The afternoon brought about an excellent exploration into diversity within volunteer workforces. Nayra Pacheco of Just Communities used a combination of guided exercises and free discussion to dialogue with the audience about the complex issues of race and privilege and how it relates to our volunteer workforces.

In the evening, shuttle buses whisked attendees to Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, where native plants, sustainable practices, and conservation highlight over 1,000 species of indigenous plants. A highlight of the event was an installation of yarn and fiber arts, surprising guests with bursts of color throughout the California landscape.

The breathtaking skyline of Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

The breathtaking skyline of Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Leadership was the central theme of the final day, with sessions that discussed leadership roles within the volunteer workforce and the multiple roles that volunteer program leaders must fill on a daily basis. The Symposium closed with a tour and reception at the spectacular Casa Del Herrero, a fine example of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture.

Tracy’s favorite memories of the Symposium include Lotusland’s charismatic cacti and succulent garden, the “mirrors and windows” exercise for diversity and representation, “extreme examples” in liability and risk management, and dinner at Mesa Verde with a fabulous group of garden and volunteer professionals.

Beautiful Santa Barbara, California

Beautiful Santa Barbara, California

Many thanks to the American Public Garden Association and planning committee for organizing the symposium, and to the staff and volunteers of Ganna Walska Lotusland and Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens for such a welcoming and invigorating experience! Fellows always look forward to opportunities to develop professional skills and to network, and the 2015 Volunteer Engagement Symposium surpassed expectations.

Winterthur: Experiencing the “Peace and Calm of a Country Place”

Winterthur simply cannot be explored in one day. A 60-acre naturalistic garden, surrounded by 1000 acres of soft meadows, the grounds provides visitors with the “peace and great calm of a country place,” in the words of Henry Francis du Pont. One could easily spend a year there, discovering new delights, especially within the 175-room museum of American decorative arts, which boasts an impressive collection of over 90,000 objects.

Upon our arrival, we were warmly welcomed into the Brown Horticulture Learning Center. Here, we began our day with an engaging round table talk lead by Estate and Garden Director Chris Strand, Director of Horticulture Linda Eirhart, and Gardens Associate-Curator Carol Long. We were given an in-depth history of H.F. du Pont’s legacy, complete with marvelous tidbits of information, such as the fact that Winterthur once housed a prize winning herd of Holstein-Friesian cows!

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Beautiful scenery from our garden tour

Our discussion moved onto current topics in public horticulture such as family programming, narrative interpretation, public engagement, agricultural visibility, and the potential shifts a garden may need to make for a changing visitor demographic. The Director and staff were gracious enough to answer all our questions, providing yet another perspective to add to our public garden experiences.

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Following the discussion, the Fellows were led through the gardens and grounds. Notable features included the Renaissance-inspired Reflecting Pool and the KIDS GROW Children’s Vegetable Garden, which is open to young families for an engaging 8-week course in vegetable cultivation. We quickly fell under the spell of the Enchanted Woods, which tickled our fancies and fueled our imaginations. My personal favourite: the Tulip Tree House, carved beautifully out of a fallen Liriodendron.

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Tracy enjoying the Enchanted Woods

The Fellows would like to thank Director Chris Strand, Linda Eirhart, and Carol Long, as well as the rest of the Winterthur staff. We appreciated your hospitality and can’t wait to come back to continue exploring!