NAX Day 4: Moore Farms Botanical Garden

Moore Farms Botanical Garden

The Fire Tower Center and Garden greet visitors with warmth and hospitality.

Like a horticultural beacon among a sea of sorghum fields, Moore Farms Botanical Garden draws over 8,000 visitors each year through its whimsical designs, educational programming, and southern hospitality. This “very public private garden” has been a powerhouse of change both within the garden gates and beyond, growing new community initiatives every day. A fairly young garden, the passion and vibrancy of the Moore Farms staff shined through every project, conversation, and tour, providing the Fellows with an unforgettable experience.

Planting Design

Dense, colorful plantings delight visitors and guide them throughout the garden.

Once a landscape of tobacco fields as far as the eye could see, garden founder Darla Moore envisioned Moore Farms Botanical Garden as a place of respite and welcome to all who visited. Indeed, in the spirit of true southern hospitality, staff treated the Fellows to a home-cooked meal Wednesday evening before we even explored the gardens Thursday morning, which were a treat in their own right!

Beginning at the Fire Tower Center, which functions as the hub for garden visitors and education, the Fellows toured through long leaf pine corridors, fire-restoration projects in the Pine Bay garden, a formal garden with seasonal displays, a mature green roof (and wall!), trial gardens, and state-of-the-art green house facilities.

Green Roof

Completed in the winter of 2012, the green roof and living wall is irrigated using recycled water distributed through an overhead system.

At the culmination of their visit, the Fellows climbed the site’s 110’ tall fire tower to get a bird’s eye view of the gardens and see how they function together to provide a multitude of offerings to visitors.

View from Fire Tower

View of Fire Tower Center Garden from atop the garden’s 100′ tall tower.

 

Beyond the garden gates, Moore Farms’ reach extends throughout nearby Lake City, Ms. Moore’s hometown. Her influence and generosity can be seen throughout the community in any number of public landscapes including the Village Green, over 50 containers, and many other pro bono consultation projects completed for local businesses. As a private garden, Moore Farms is able to give back to the community because it directs all monetary returns from events and programs back into other local groups and organizations.

Public Landscapes in Lake City

Horticulture Supervisor Erik Healy discusses the impact of Moore Farms’ public landscapes projects within Lake City.

The Fellows would like to thank the amazing staff at Moore Farms Botanical Garden, especially Education and Events Manager Rebecca Turk, for not only sharing such a special and unique place, but also going above and beyond to provide an incredible guest experience!

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.

 

 

NAX Day 2: South Carolina Botanical Garden

Today we spent a scorching afternoon with Dr. Patrick McMillan at the South Carolina Botanical Garden on the Clemson University campus. Our tour focused on the Natural Heritage Trail, a quarter mile experience that takes the visitor through all of the major ecosystems of South Carolina.

Several signs like this one are installed over the length of the Natural Heritage Trail to orient visitors.

Several signs like this one are installed over the length of the Natural Heritage Trail to orient visitors.

A holistic, ecosystem-focused approach is evident in this garden as the team strives for healthy authenticity. We saw thriving pollinator communities, many federally threatened plant species, and visually stunning displays.

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Many plant species along the trail were swarming with healthy pollinator communities

The Natural Heritage Trail is a fascinating work in progress and the Fellows look forward to following the future of this innovative garden. Thank you to Dr. McMillan and to the staff and students of the South Carolina Botanic Garden for generously sharing your time and knowledge!

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The Natural Heritage Trail winds through South Carolina forest ecosystems, providing welcome shade.

 

 

NAX Day 1: Biltmore House and Gardens

Hello, friends and followers of the Longwood Graduate Program! This week, the Fellows are exploring the Carolinas on their North American Experience (NAX). NAX is part of the core LGP curriculum and allows the Fellows to explore public gardens in another region of North America while forging connections with professionals from across the country.

The Fellows’ adventure began today at Biltmore House and Gardens in Asheville, North Carolina. Biltmore is one of the few for-profit public gardens in the U.S. and was created from the original Vanderbilt estate. As one of the original founders of Biltmore said, “We don’t preserve Biltmore to make a profit, we make a profit to preserve Biltmore.”

An incredible vista of Biltmore house that the Fellows captured on their tour of the 8,000-acre property.

An incredible vista of Biltmore house that the Fellows captured on their tour of the 8,000-acre property.

To generate that profit, Biltmore leverages every part of its 8,000 acre-estate to create an incredible and unique visitor experience. Biltmore encompasses multiple businesses beyond the house and gardens, including a vineyard, winery, equestrian facilities, agricultural production, and outdoor recreation. The organization even offers multiple on-site accommodation options for guests to immerse themselves in the Biltmore atmosphere.

The Fellows stop to take in the vineyard views while on their tour with Biltmore Director of Horticulture Parker Andes.

The Fellows stop to take in the vineyard views while on their tour with Biltmore Director of Horticulture Parker Andes.

The Fellows would like to thank all of the fantastic directors and staff at Biltmore for their time, wisdom, and hospitality. It truly made for an unforgettable experience!

Professional Outreach Project 2016

It’s August, and the Fellows are three months into this year’s Professional Outreach Project with the Delaware Center for Horticulture. The project will result in a Garden Site Vision Plan for TheDCH’s Demonstration Garden. Created in 1987 and dedicated in 1992, the original grounds of TheDCH “aimed to showcase urban gardening ideas”. Now almost thirty years later, the garden site is under renovation as TheDCH undergoes a new strategic planning phase. The Fellows will gather feedback from TheDCH’s stakeholders and community members to create a vision for what the garden site could be in the future.  

The 2017 LGP Fellows with Vikram Krishnamurthy, TheDCH Executive Director, and Ann Mattingly (TheDCH Director of Programs) on their first site visit!

The 2017 LGP Fellows on their first site visit with TheDCH Executive Director Vikram Krishnamurthy and Director of Programs Ann Mattingly.

To date, the Fellows have conducted site visits, staff interviews, external benchmarking, and community workshop planning. The Fellows will be holding a community workshop at TheDCH on September 7th from 6 – 8pm to invite feedback and discussion from local neighbors and supporters of the organization. Their final report will be presented on October 26th at TheDCH’s Annual Meeting.

American Public Gardens Association 2016 Annual Conference

The American Public Gardens Association Annual Conference in Miami was an amazing and educational experience for the Longwood Graduate Fellows and a fitting send-off for the Class of 2016. The conference theme, Changing Perspectives: Planting for the Future, was well supported with panels, presentations and workshops.

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Erin Kinley and Tracy Qiu before setting off on a wet hike in Big Cypress National Preserve

Highlights included incredible tours of local gardens, two thought-provoking keynote presentations, and a round of Plant Jeopardy hosted by Association President, Casey Sclar.

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Casey Sclar (aka Alex Tree-bec) hosts a stimulating game of Plant Jeopardy

The Emerging Professionals Student Presentations illustrated the thoughts of the next generation of public horticulturists. Documenting, verifying and protecting our living collections was one theme featured by Emily Detrick (“Documenting Living Collections”, Cornell University), Ben Stormes (“Verification of Identify in the Living Collections”, Cornell University), and Fran Jackson (“Managing the Risk of Water Shortage”, Longwood Graduate Program). Another theme was the connection of gardens with the community, exemplified by Mackenzie Fochs (“Culinary Connections at Public Gardens”, Longwood Graduate Program), Michelle Gluck (“How Green are the Greenest Blocks?”, Pratt Institute), and Stephanie Kuniholm (“A comparison of Public Garden Membership Programs”, Longwood Graduate Program).

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Fellows from the Class of 2015 (Sarah Leach-Smith), 2016 (Stephanie Kuniholm), and 2017 (Elizabeth Barton) came together at Vizcaya

Thank you to the American Public Gardens Association, the host gardens, and to all the conference attendees for making this a week to remember!

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A Fond Farewell from the Class of 2016

The Longwood Graduate Program Class of 2016 extends a fond farewell, with their sincerest appreciation to Longwood Gardens and the University of Delaware, as they prepare to graduate on Friday, May 27th. The Fellows’ time over the last two years has been shaped by the many amazing opportunities they took part in during the program.  They learned and gained hands-on leadership experience through many classes at the University of Delaware and projects through Longwood Gardens. Projects included supporting local organizations through two Professional Outreach Projects and leading the conversation on current public horticulture topics by organizing two symposia.  The Fellows were also able to expand their world perspective through domestic and international travel, such as their International Experience trip to Japan, North American Experience trip to Massachusetts, and numerous field trips to local public gardens and arboreta in the greater Philadelphia region.

The Class of 2016 at the Kyoto Imperial Palace during their International Experience study abroad trip to Japan. (Left to right: Keith Nevison, Mackenzie Fochs, Stephanie Kuniholm, Fran Jackson, and Andrea Brennan)

The Class of 2016 at the Kyoto Imperial Palace during their International Experience study abroad trip to Japan. (Left to right: Keith Nevison, Mackenzie Fochs, Stephanie Kuniholm, Fran Jackson, and Andrea Brennan)

The Fellows will graduate from the University of Delaware on May 27th and will be sharing the results of their thesis research during public presentations taking place at Longwood Gardens on the same day from 9:00-11:00 am in the Visitor Center Auditorium. No RSVP is necessary; all are welcome to this free event.

The seminar will be live-streamed and recorded through the Longwood Gardens Continuing Education Program. Interested individuals can register to watch for free via this link. Participants will be able to ask questions of the Fellows via a live chat and should sign in beginning at 8:45 am.

Here is a quick preview of each of the graduating Fellows’ seminar presentations:

Andrea Brennan – Conserving Oaks Through Tissue Culture

Oak acorns are recalcitrant, meaning they cannot be seed banked.  This eliminates an important method of conserving threatened oak species, and increases the importance of other techniques, such as tissue culture. This process involves growing plant tissues, like shoot tips, on nutrient media in a sterile, enclosed, and controlled environment.

Mackenzie Fochs – Exploring Culinary Arts Programming at Public Horticulture Institutions

Public gardens are a natural fit for learning about and enjoying all the culinary world has to offer. Through interviews and participant surveys, this research provides insight on the types of culinary programs currently being offered at public gardens, the audience attending them, and recommendations for creating successful and sustainable programs.

The 2016 Fellows and Judy Stevenson of Longwood Gardens, Kristin McCullin, Superintendent of Allen C. Haskell Public Gardens, and Dr. Brian Trader, Interim Director, Longwood Graduate Program.

The 2016 Fellows and Judy Stevenson of Longwood Gardens, Kristin McCullin, Superintendent of Allen C. Haskell Public Gardens, and Dr. Brian Trader, Interim Director, Longwood Graduate Program.

Fran Jackson – Managing Plant Collections Under Threat From Water Shortages

Are public gardens ready to deal with water shortage? This research documents the level of planning undertaken by gardens in Australia and the United States to manage water shortage, and explores the variety of ways they are dealing with this threat.

Stephanie Kuniholm – A Comparison of Membership Programs at Public Gardens in the United States

Public gardens seek revenue from diverse sources, including individual contributions in the form of membership dues. Despite widespread popularity at cultural institutions, the role and importance of membership programs is not well documented. This study explored differences in the administration and success of nearly 300 membership programs at public gardens.

Keith Nevison – Evaluating the Role of Phlox Cultivars in Ecological Landscaping

In 2015, Keith conducted this experiment at Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin, DE, to compare insect attraction and nectar quality between cultivars and straight species of Phlox. This research was designed to address the growing popularity of native plant cultivars in the nursery marketplace and whether their use in ecological landscaping provides similar habitat benefits as straight species for native wildlife.

The Class of 2016 and several other members of the International Experience Japan trip in 2015, join a young couple in their wedding pictures at Okayama Kōraku-en. Okayama Castle is in the background.

The Class of 2016 and several other members of the International Experience Japan trip in 2015, join a young couple in their wedding pictures at Okayama Kōraku-en. Okayama Castle is in the background.

We’re (almost) Halfway There: LGP First-Year Fellows in the Midst of Thesis Work

While the second-year Fellows are preparing to defend and defending their theses, the first-year Fellows are hard at work tackling their research projects. The Class of 2017’s theses cover a wide range of topics, from human resources-related issues to food systems education and Millennial engagement in public gardens. Keep reading to learn more about their individual research!

LGP Class of 2017. Back row: (left to right) Grace Parker, Erin Kinley, Alice Edgerton. Front row: Elizabeth Barton and Tracy Qiu

LGP Class of 2017. Back row: (left to right) Grace Parker, Erin Kinley, and Alice Edgerton. Front row: Elizabeth Barton and Tracy Qiu

Tracy Qiu is researching racial diversity in public horticulture leadership. She will be performing interviews with leaders in the public horticulture field who represent racial diversity in the workforce. Through her research, she hopes to identify pipelines to leadership for minorities and people of color, perceptions of diversity in the field, barriers and challenges, and areas for future success.

Grace Parker is investigating succession planning in public horticulture. Her goal is to build a body of research that identifies the status of succession planning in public horticulture and to determine best practices for our unique field. Grace is currently concluding preliminary interviews with 30 gardens within the American Public Garden Association membership, and plans to follow up with focus groups and case studies.

Booderee Botanic Gardens, Australia. Both at home and abroad, the first-year Fellows engage with leaders from around the world to discuss hot topics in public horticulture.

Erin Kinley is evaluating food systems education and interpretation in U.S. public gardens. By partnering with the American Public Garden Association and Benveniste Consulting, Erin just received survey data back from over 100 gardens in the U.S. and Canada to determine the scope and content of food systems programming at public gardens. Next, she will be conducting phone interviews and on-site observations of select programs to identify best practices for food systems education at public gardens.

Alice Edgerton is exploring racial diversity in public garden internship programs. She believes this topic is an intersection of two of public horticulture’s most pressing challenges: the lack of young people entering the profession of horticulture and the need to diversify public garden staff. Alice will soon be interviewing current and former interns of color as well as internship administrators—feel free to contact her if you are interested in being interviewed (alice.edgerton@gmail.com)!

Elizabeth Barton’s thesis work investigates Millennial engagement with cultural institutions, specifically public gardens. She is interested in helping gardens cultivate and communicate with a Millennial audience. Elizabeth plans to explore this timely topic through a series of surveys, phone interviews, and case studies.

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Blue Mountains Botanic Garden-Mount Tomah, Australia. From succession planning to Millennial engagement, the LGP Class of 2017 is engaged in a variety of research topics critical to the future of public horticulture.

For more information about the LGP Class of 2017, check out their bios on the Longwood Graduate Program website, or visit their personal websites (hyperlinked with their names in the descriptions above).

A Botanic Garden for Delmarva

Exciting things are happening in the small town of Dagsboro, Delaware! Fellows and students in the University of Delaware’s Plant and Soil Science Department enjoyed the beautiful spring weather earlier this month while visiting the site of Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek, a new garden on the cusp of opening to the public. Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek will be situated on a unique 37 acres in Southern Delaware. The site is unique due to its dramatic range of topography, uncommon in Sussex County, Delaware, which includes former farmland to early-succession hardwood forest to wetland marsh, complete with 1,000 feet of waterfront along tidal Pepper Creek.

Fellows and students in the Plant and Soil Science Department are eager to check out the site of Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek!

Fellows and students in the Plant and Soil Science Department are eager to check out the site of Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek!

Fellows learned about the vision for the garden, currently in the beginning phases of development, from Board President Susan Ryan, Executive Director Sheryl Swed, and Board Vice President Raymond Sander. Rodney Robinson, FASLA and principal at Robinson Anderson Summers, a landscape design firm in Wilmington, Delaware, has been instrumental in working with Garden leadership to shape the future garden experience.

Rodney Robinson illustrates the garden design in the sandy loam soil.

Rodney Robinson illustrates the garden design in the sandy loam soil.

Robinson described the importance of creating a garden that responds to its location as an Atlantic coastal plain and leveraging the natural landscape. The focus of current planning is choreographing the entrance experience and the Garden is working with Lake|Flato Architects to design a visitor center that complements the landscape around it. That landscape will feature a meadow designed by noted Dutch garden designer, Piet Oudolf. Known for his designs featuring swaths and drifts of perennials and grasses, such as those seen at The High Line in New York City and Lurie Garden in Chicago, he has been given carte blanche with regard to the meadow at Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek.

Future site of the meadow, which will be designed by Piet Oudolf.

Future site of the meadow, which will be designed by Piet Oudolf.

Director of Horticulture Greg Tepper, gardener Sam Cashdollar, and volunteers have been hard at work creating paths throughout the hardwood forest. Thoughtfully planned and executed, these paths offer the visitor a way to wander and explore until they reach the banks of Pepper Creek. The Fellows’ favorite garden accent were the large nests made from brush cleared out of the understory!

The biggest nest at Delware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek!

The biggest nest at Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek! Photo courtesy of Dana Kester-McCabe

Winding paths lead visitors to the banks of Pepper Creek

Winding paths lead visitors to the banks of Pepper Creek

Many thanks to Jules Bruck, Associate Professor at the University of Delaware, for coordinating this trip, the board members and staff at Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek, and Rodney Robinson for taking time to share this fantastic new garden space with us! We can’t wait to visit again!

It turned into a bright, sunny day in southern Delaware!

It turned into a bright, sunny day in southern Delaware!

Dessert and Dialogue Results!

At the Longwood Graduate Program symposium this year, a session called Dessert and Dialogue fostered discussion around tough topics relevant to public horticulture institutions. Symposium attendees participated in small group discussions led by skilled facilitators from our local public gardens, Cornell University, and BGCI. Topics discussed at the tables were submitted by local public gardens as some of the most pressing issues facing their gardens today.

Over 120 of public horticulture’s finest participated in this session, and some key themes came up again and again. Below are two of the questions tackled at the tables and some of the top takeaways that came from the session.

Question 1: How should gardens and other cultural institutions reach out to the next generation?

Question 2: To what degree should gardens seek to engage and educate visitors on environmental impact?

The session provided a chance for attendees to share their experiences and ideas, and hear from other gardens about what challenges and opportunities they currently face. Thanks to all our facilitators and participants – let’s continue the conversation!