Author Archives: Wonsoon Park

North Carolina Botanical Garden

August 22, 2012 – North Carolina Botanical Garden, NC
(written by Wonsoon Park, photographs by Nate Tschaenn)

It was an overcast day with a little bit of drizzle when we were greeted by Johnny Randall and Dan Stern at the entrance of the North Carolina Botanical Garden (NCBG). Dr. Randall is the director of Conservation Programs, and Stern, a former LGP Fellow (class of 2010) is currently the manager of the Sentinel Plant Network. The NCBG is operated by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the history of the Garden dates back to 1903 when William Chambers Coker, the University’s first professor of botany, began planting a teaching collection of trees and shrubs on the central campus. The Botanical Garden Foundation was founded in 1966, and now NCBG covers about 1,000 acres.

Director Johnny Randall and former fellow Dan Stern touring the group through the gardens.

Known as a “Conservation Garden,” the NCBG has very clear mission, which is to inspire understanding, appreciation, and conservation of plants in gardens and natural areas. We looked around the main visitor site of the NCBG, which is comprised of the Display Gardens and Education Center. Walking along the boardwalk through the Costal Plain Habitat Garden, Dr. Randall explained that this garden is a real piece of an ecosystem that literally has been moved from the actual coastal plain area. This habitat garden is burned once in a year, normally between January and February, to revitalize those fire-adapted plants in the same way as the original habitat.

Coastal Plain Habitat Garden

As a founding institution of the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), the NCBG has been actively involved in ex-situ conservation conducting many important projects, such as their seed bank program, as well as rare plant reintroduction program. Using a series of raised beds, the Native Water Gardens and Carnivorous Plant Collection show that the North Carolina is a hotbed of carnivorous plants, including pitcher plants, sundews, and butterworts.

A pitcher plant and Venus flytrap in the Carnivorous Garden.

The new Education Center was dedicated in 2009, and it’s the state’s first public museum and outreach center to earn LEED platinum status. This facility features photovoltaic panels, geothermal wells, rainwater cisterns, storm-water retention, clerestory windows for natural lighting, and many others. Surprisingly, all the funds for this project were donated by nearly 600 individual donors.

Metal cisterns outside the Education Center collect rainwater and the paths are lined with recycled concrete from sidewalks.

We headed up to the Coker Arboretum at the UNC campus, which is two miles away from NCBG. Margo MacIntyre, the Curator of the Arboretum guided us throughout the 5 acres of secured area. The Arboretum features Southeastern American native woody plants as well as Southeastern Asian native plants for comparison.

Group shot at the Coker Arboretum

Finally, Dan Stern gave us a short history about the Wisteria Arbor, which was completely rebuilt in 1997 with five types of native climbers to demonstrate the examples of what we should plants and what not. We learned a lot about how to put conservation efforts into botanical garden settings, and really appreciated the hospitality of the staff today.

This iconic tunnel at North Carolina University, formerly planted with invasive Japanese wisteria, was replanted with several native vines including the native wisteria, Wisteria frutescens.

Cibodas Botanical Garden and Taman Bunga Nusantara

(written by Wonsoon Park, photographs by Abby Johnson)

How nice it has been for us to finally meet the people who we have been longing to meet while preparing for this trip. Eka was the one of those people that we have wanted to meet. Eka, who is in charge of research in Cibodas Botanical Garden, greeted us with a very genuine smile and happily guided us into the gardens. The Cibodas Botanical Garden is one of seven bioregions in Indonesia designated by UNESCO as a world heritage site as well as one of four national botanical gardens in Indonesia along with the Bogor, Bali, and Purwodadi botanical gardens. It’s located in Mount Pangrango adjacent to Mt. Gede-Pangrango National Park.

Group shot with director and research staff

We met the staff of Cibodas and had a meeting that included a presentation from the director, Dr. Didik Widyatmoko who has worked in the field of horticulture for twenty-four years as an endemic plant expert and held many different positions among a diverse array of Indonesian organizations. There are twenty-two research staff members who have a wide variety of specialties including taxonomy, medicinal plants, rhododendrons, and plant breeding and almost 200 workers in the garden. The garden was established in 1852 and focuses mainly on conservation, research, environmental education, and tourism.

Eka touring us through the orchid house

The eighty-five hectare garden is uniquely positioned because a natural preserved area surrounds it, which is important for their plant conservation. The garden has almost 500,000 visitors a year. Some of the research projects at the garden include carbon stock and biomass assessment, restoration and rehabilitation, bryophyte conservation, exploration and research of Sumatran montane forests, and ecological studies and forest dynamics. They also collaborate with BGCI on environmental education programs and teacher training.

Tree fern collection

After our meeting, we went out to explore the gardens. The most impressive garden was the bryophytes garden, which has 100 species growing very well under the perfect weather conditions for them. Beside the garden the Amorphophallus titanum plants, which have magnificent flowers every 4 years or so, each showed their single individual leaf that appeared as a big tree-like stem emerging from the ground. We were able to see the nursery where Indonesian plants that are collected on the yearly plant expeditions are held and the nurseries growing indigenous orchids and Nepenthes. There was also a cherry tree garden, rhododendron garden, begonia garden, medicinal plant garden, and cactus garden. The fern collection was well organized and included various tree ferns, the stems of which are sometimes used for orchid growing material. The Chinese also collect the scales of the fronds for medicinal purpose. After we saw the oldest tree in the garden planted in 1860, it started to rain. We kept touting to see the rest of Gardens and it looked even more special under the heavy tropical rain.

Bryophyte garden

Amorphophallus titanum

Amorphophallus titanum

The next destination, Taman Bunga Nusantara was a totally different world. It had a water garden, French garden, rose garden, American garden, Balinese garden, and Japanese garden on the thirty-five hectare property managed by 150 gardeners. The garden was established in 1995 and shows relatively new and more stylish garden display. The Balinese garden and maze garden were the highlights of the trip since they were full of extraordinary plants that we have never seen before and made us feel like we were in a more exotic atmosphere.

One of the many whimsical displays at Taman Bunga Nusantara

Singapore Botanic Gardens and CUGE

January 9, 2012 – Singapore Botanic Gardens, Singapore
(written by Wonsoon Park, photographs by Martin Smit and Wonsoon Park )

Even though Singapore can be very hot and humid the weather was cool enough for us to forget about our jetlag and be immersed in the beauty of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Imagine vast breathtaking tropical gardens with enormous trees and extraordinary flowers, all without the need of any glasshouses or conservatories.

Tour of the orchid breeding program facilities of SBG

The SBG was established in 1859 as the very first garden in Singapore and was initially used in introducing various tropical crops to Southeast Asia. These days the SBG is conducting all the functions of a modern botanic garden. Amazingly, it is open to public from 5am to midnight daily and attracts more than 4 million visitors per year, making it one of the most publically used gardens of the world.

The national flower of Singapore, Vanda Miss Joaquim

The national flower of Singapore, Vanda Miss Joaquim

The Cool House for displaying orchids needing cooler conditions

After a brief meeting with the director, Dr. Nigel Taylor, and various heads of departments, we had a tour of the facilities and gardens. We ended our visit to the SBG with a Q&A session with the SBG staff.  Our last activity of the day was a quick visit to Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology (CUGE). Assistant director, Chong Whye Keet, gave a quick presentation on CUGE that provided a greater insight into this unique department.

Oncidium arches in the National Orchid Garden

A strangler fig growing in the remnant rainforest in the SBG

 

Philadelphia’s Park System, Fairmount Park

August 26, 2011 – Fairmount Park, PA
(written by Abby Johnson, photographs by Quill Teal-Sullivan)

Mr. Tee Jay Boudreau, Special Projects Manager at Fairmount Park gave students a behind the scenes tour of Fairmount Park.  Tee Jay Boudreau is a former Fellow of the Longwood Graduate Program.

History of Fairmount Park

In the late 1790’s there was a yellow fever epidemic. In an effort to ensure clean drinking water, the first municipal water department in the country was developed on the site that is now Philadelphia City Hall. Additional efforts to ensure clean drinking water included purchasing buffer land surrounding the five waterways: Dahrby Cobbs, Pennypack, Poquessing, Tookancy/Tocany-Frankford, and Wissahickon Creek.  This buffer land totals 9,200 acres, which composes 10% of the city’s infrastructure, 13% of the city’s land mass, and all of this comprises the Fairmount Park System of Philadelphia.

The City of Philadelphia merged the Department of Recreation and the Department of Parks, which, combined, is now responsible for maintaining everything from city street trees, to public gardens, to ball fields. Altogether, that’s a 150,000 – 200,000 trees!  The departmental merging is an unusual but successful model.  Philadelphia’s Mayor Nutter’s initiative is to plant 300,000 trees by 2013. Other facilities include the Please Touch Museum, Horticulture Center and conservatory.

Organic Recycling Center w/ Tee Jay Boudreau and Marc Wilken

The students got a first hand look at the recycling yard waste and compost center. Twenty years ago the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) set out a concrete pad to collect and deposit yard waste. Today, this site is used by Fairmount Park and other municipal areas for composting purposes. Collected materials are handled so as to convert raw vegetative matter to mulch and organic compost over time. The conversion process takes about four months to turn from a mixture of foliage and manure to “black gold.”  Compost turners and aerators figure prominently in the successful conversion process.  In previous years, 3400 tons per week were collected; however, due to current budget cuts only curbside pick up matter is retained, yielding about 2100 tons per week. Manure from city horse farms also contributes to the richness of the compost. Philadelphia residents can take advantage of this clean compost for free.  Compost is sold to contractors for a larger fee.

Disaster Preparedness

In 1996 Hurricane Floyd washed away one of the maintenance buildings. It was quite a coincidence that when we visited Fairmount Park, the staff was in the throes of preparations for an impending Hurricane Irene, which was scheduled to hit the next day!

Flood Plain management/ Water Flow Diversion

Fairmount Park staff have proactively developed a diversion plan to mitigate land erosion and pool water at certain points in the Park. This not only protects the land above but also the park users below. The topography map showed very steep points of terrain above the historic Valley Green Inn at Wissahickon Park below. The trails at  Wissahickon  are  used by joggers, walkers, and other park patrons daily.  The flood plain management activities do not impede animals from traveling throughout the park, rather it protects habits from washing away.

Chanticleer, a Pleasure Garden

August 19, 2011 – Chanticleer, PA
(written by Quill Teal-Sullivan, photographs by Nate Tschaenn)

The third destination for the First Year Fellows’ summer fieldtrip series was Chanticleer, a 35-acre estate garden along the Philadelphia mainline.  Once the home of the Rosengarten family of Philadelphia, the house and surrounding grounds became a non-profit organization with the death of Adolf Rosengarten, Jr. in 1990.  While the house is preserved to illustrate how the family may have lived during the early 1900’s, the grounds are not maintained according to historic records. In keeping with the founder’s wish, the grounds are intended to be pleasure gardens designed and kept to the standards of the talented garden staff.  Chanticleer’s vision is to be one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, while creating the intimacy and comfort of a private estate.  And this they do quite well. The moment we pulled through the gates it was as though we had fallen through a rabbit hole and landed in a world of horticultural wonder, where tranquility and sensual stimulation are perfectly balanced.

We were greeted by Bill Thomas, Chanticleer’s Executive Director, who was dressed in work boots as though just in from the dirt.  He led us to the open-air welcome pavilion, nestled in a tropical extravaganza of banana trees and elephant-ears, its roof dripping with a tangle of passionflower and Dutchman’s pipe. The pavilion was crowned with a statue of Chanticleer himself, a proud rooster who shares the namesake of the garden, and can be found perched here and there atop a fence or column.  Bill subsequently sent us out into the gardens to explore at our own pace, so that we could develop our own unique interpretations.

The gardens at Chanticleer are comprised of a series of vignettes, each with its own character, charm and mystery. Each could stand on its own, yet they are gracefully strung together by the common thread of horticultural whimsy. I found myself drawn to the Ruin Garden, which sits on the footprint of what was once an original estate house. The ruin itself is not authentic, but it certainly elicits the allure of crumbling farmhouse in the Irish countryside.  Traces of human habitation and order are combined with the wildness of nature overtaking an abandoned structure. Vines creep up the walls.  Echeveria adorns the mantle like an overgrown arrangement. A tree bends through the opening of a window. Ferns take the place of a fire in the hearth. This play between human function and nature’s prowess is a reoccurring theme at Chanticleer. But it is orchestrated with such intention and elegance, a testament to the gardener’s creativity and skill.

At lunchtime, we gathered at the terrace gardens beneath the pool pavilion for sandwiches and sweet tea with Bill Thomas and Ed Hincklen, the facilities manager and general contractor. Afterwards, they lead us on a behind-the-scenes tour of the new projects underway, so we could see first hand the incredible amount of work that goes into making such a garden so pleasurable. The first stop was Bell’s Woodland, Chanticleer’s newest addition to the gardens that exhibits flora of the native east coast forests.  A winding path throughout the woods is made from rubber mulch, an innovative new material of recycled tires, quite convincingly made to look like natural mulch but with a spring underfoot. A feature of Bell’s Woodland will be a bridge resembling an abstract fallen beach log, which, when finished, will be dripping with ferns an moss.

Chanticleer is very conscious of energy consumption and is working to be as gentle on the environment as possible.  This effort is seen in their recent solar panel installation atop the equipment garage, which produces 20% of Chanticleer’s energy needs. Ed showed us the “numbers rolling in” on the megawatt meter, a sight that makes an energy-wise facilities manager proud. The major capital project at the moment was the construction of a new greenhouse big enough to over winter a menagerie of tropical plants. The new greenhouse features radiant floor heating and all American made building materials, 98% of which are recycled. In another effort to reduce energy use, Chanticleer is minimizing turf by replacing areas with plantings of mondo grass, ferns and fescue mixes. It is clear that the staff of Chanticleer takes pride in their environmental initiatives both big and small. It is inspiring to see that innovations in environmental responsibility are approached with the same enthusiasm as innovations in horticultural display.

Our tour came to an end at the Entry Courtyard, which boasts containers planted with vegetables in the most inspired ornamental arrangements.  The elements of color, texture and form were each considered carefully in stunning compositions. We said goodbye to our generous hosts amidst urns ripe with kohlrabi and cascading cucumbers.  And away we went, the image of a crowing rooster disappearing in the distance. Each First Year Fellow dreaming of their next visit to the beautiful gardens of Chanticleer.

First year Fellows visit Tyler Arboretum

July 29, 2011 – Tyler Arboretum, PA
(written by Martin Smit, photographs by Abby Johnson and Nate Tschaenn)

With a documented history stretching back to 1681, when William Penn released the property to Thomas Minshall, the Tyler Arboretum has a rich legacy. Since 1944 when Laura Tyler donated the property to be developed as an arboretum, in memory of her husband, the Tyler Arboretum has slowly evolved and grown as an organization. With rich plant collections, notably due to the work of the Painter brothers and the first director Dr. John Wister, combined with large natural areas, Tyler has always been an inspirational setting. In the last few decades, Tyler has become focused on sharing these wonderful resources with the community. In its own words, the Tyler Arboretum wants to “stimulate stewardship and understanding of our wonderful natural world.”

The current Executive Director, Mr. Rick Colbert, welcomed First Year Fellows and discussed the Arboretum’s more recent history. It was interesting to learn about Tyler’s process of drawing up a master plan in 1996, a groundbreaking step in the field of public horticulture at the time. It was interesting to see how this document was put into practice and how, partly because of it, the organization has experienced significant growth during the last decade. Mr. Colbert also pointed out how continuous long term planning is an essential part of the Tyler Arboretum’s successful management and that the organization regularly updates the master plan. He also explained how various efforts were being put into growing the Arboretum’s endowment to ensure the organization’s future, a crucial step in these uncertain financial times.

Ms. Betsey Ney, Director of Public Programs, guided First Year Fellows through the Arboretum and pointed out how new developments are aimed at making it more accessible to visitors. Hopefully, future visitors will also be drawn into some wonderful, previously hidden, areas of the Arboretum. The Tyler Arboretum offers a diverse range of activities but is especially focused on engaging families and children. Tyler has made a concerted effort to align the educational programs for children with school curriculums, which has led to Tyler becoming an ever more popular destination for regional schools. Enhanced programming has also increased family visitation, as well as improved membership growth in recent years.

With exhibits such as playful tree houses, various quirky sculptures, the butterfly house, amazing landscapes and natural areas, it is easy to see why this Arboretum has become such a popular regional destination. With its strong institutional leadership it is sure to continue its important role in the region for the years to come.

First year Fellows visit Mt. Cuba Center

July 22, 2011 – Mt. Cuba Center, DE
(written by Sara Levin, photographs by Quill Teal-Sullivan and Martin Smit)

The First Year Longwood Graduate Fellows’ inaugural summer field trip was to the Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin, Delaware.  Historically, this property was the home of Mr. and Mrs. Lammot du Pont Copeland who transformed open farmland into the woodland gardens and wildlife landscape we find there today.  The Copelands bought the property in 1935 and started their plant collection soon thereafter.  Native plants became their great interest, which is still clear today in the garden’s mission to remain “…dedicated to the study, conservation, and appreciation of plants native to the Appalachian Piedmont region through garden display, education, and research.”  Currently, Mt. Cuba Center works to balance several contrasts: public/private, open/secluded, contemporary/ traditional, native/non-native.

As a non-profit organization, Mt. Cuba Center is in its infancy and is in the process of determining its priorities and direction of growth.  At the moment, the garden is open to the public by appointment only (with the exception of an annual Wildflower Day each spring).   This limits the foot traffic and helps preserve the plant collection.

The grounds are designed with elegance and intent.  As you move away from the main house, the gardens become wilder.  The foot paths wind through the grounds in such a way that you can never see too far ahead on your walk, adding a sense of mystery. The woodland garden was not only beautiful but on a record hot day, we found comfort in the shade of the giant tulip poplars and white pines.

As the mission states, there is a great emphasis on native plants, especially those native to the Piedmont region (a geological region stretching from New York to Alabama, just west of the Atlantic Coastal Plain).  This does not mean that you will only find native plants at Mt. Cuba Center.  History and legacy are also considered in the plant collection and some non-native plants remain as a reminder of the family that once lived on the grounds and thought highly enough to plant them.

The First Year Fellows were lucky to have Mt. Cuba Center Director Rick Lewandowski as our knowledgeable guide.  Mr. Lewandowski shared many of their exciting programs and important collections with our group.  Mt. Cuba Center does extensive plant research and is looking to expand in this area with a new plant trials research facility on its way. It is also the local authority on trilliums, not to be missed in the spring!

After an extensive tour of the grounds, the Fellows joined a few key staff members for lunch and were able to gain more insight into the workings of Mt. Cuba Center.  A return trip is slated for the fall to enjoy the changing colors and to revisit this woodland retreat.