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!

From Highlands to High Tides: Ecological Restoration in the Mid-Atlantic

On March 14th, Fellow Keith Nevison attended the 11th Annual Conference of the Society for Ecological Restoration’s (SER) Mid-Atlantic chapter at the Stockton Seaview Inn & Conference Center in Galloway, New Jersey. Over 130 restoration ecologists attended, representing federal and state agencies, universities, private contractors and conservation organizations with participants coming from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, and West Virginia. The theme of the Conference was Highlands to High Tides: Restoring our Watersheds, and most of the talks featured projects from coastal New Jersey, including numerous successful designs installed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which had a devastating impact on the Atlantic coast when it hit in October 2012.

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Red Knots and horseshoe crabs. Source: Wikipedia Creative Commons

In New Jersey, Delaware, and other Atlantic states, significant restoration efforts are underway to improve habitat for horseshoe crabs, whose eggs are a major food source for red knot birds migrating from southern South America to Arctic Canada and back. This migration at 9,300 miles (15,000 kilometres) is one of the longest documented by any species in the world. Unfortunately, red knot populations have been steadily declining over the years and they are now classified as a threatened species.

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The American Littoral Society had a few representatives who delivered presentations and submitted posters. The organization’s mission is to promote the study and conservation of marine life and habitat, protect the coast from harm, and empower others to do the same. They are headquartered in Millville, New Jersey.

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The many exhibitors included Octoraro Native Plant Nursery, a wholesale grower in Kirkwood, Pennsylvania which produces trees and shrubs for restoration projects throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

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This year, nearly 30 posters were submitted from individuals representing 9 universities. This poster Rewilding the Rhodopes by Rachelle McKnight (SUNY-ESF) featured her work assessing the habitat and home range of released semiferal Konik horses in southern Bulgaria.

Keith also serves as the Student Representative for the Board of the Mid-Atlantic chapter and worked to organize the Student Scholarship and poster competition for the event. The Student Scholarship, which was sponsored by energy company PEPCO, allowed 18 students from 7 universities and 1 high school to attend, most of whom presented posters on their ecological research.

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This year’s winning poster Using the Past to Restore the Future… was submitted by Virginia Commonwealth University undergraduate student, Christopher Gatens, who is in his junior year of a Bachelor of Science in Biology, Environmental Studies, and Chemistry. Christopher examined tree stumps which were previously submerged by a dam project to determine the pre-perturbation vegetative composition of a wetland area to be restored. These results will better inform decision making around revegetation projects, particularly in wetland ecosystems. You can find his major findings at the VCU Scholars Compass page.

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The runner-up winner of the poster competition was Julia Westermeier of Temple University, who presented her work Assessing the Cost-Effectiveness of Upland Meadow Restorations. Temple University is one of two Student Associations in SER’s Mid-Atlantic chapter, and their School of Environmental Design trains students in Horticulture and Landscape Architecture with a bend towards restoration ecology.

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Thanks to all who attended the conference and to everyone who works to restore ecosystems in the Mid-Atlantic and beyond!

A Daring Symposium

This year’s Longwood Graduate Program’s annual Symposium, “Daring Dialogue, Public Gardens Engaging in Today’s Tough Topics,” wove the themes of relevance, diversity, conservation and horticulture together to create a powerful narrative.

The day’s ten speakers addressed the theme of Daring Dialogue from a variety of perspectives. Keynote speaker Dr. Paul Smith, Secretary General of Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), began the day by describing how the world’s 2,500 botanic gardens can be part of the solution to many of Earth’s social and environmental problems. Dr. Smith pointed out that botanic gardens are well placed to deliver plant-based solutions to many of the major environmental challenges facing us, including food security and climate change.

Dr Paul Smith from BGCI delivering the morning keynote

Dr. Paul Smith from BGCI delivering the morning keynote

An inspiring session of case studies followed the keynote. Joseph McGill addressed interpretation of slave-dwellings in public gardens, Sarah Pharaon discussed world-wide international sites of conscience, and Guina Hammond described the remarkable healing powers of community gardens. All three speakers received heartfelt rounds of applause.

Next, Nayra Pacheco of Just Communities spoke about the need for role models in public horticulture to foster diversity in our organizations. Using the concept of “mirrors and windows,” Nayra emphasized to the audience, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” It was a powerful reminder that there is much for public gardens yet to do to create more diverse and inclusive institutions.

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Nayra Pacheco speaking on why diversity in public gardens matters

Lunchtime was abuzz with conversation after the morning sessions! Lunch provided this year’s emerging professional travel award winners with the chance to meet local and international public gardens professionals, and also gave a break for the online audience, who participated from locations as far afield as Australia.

TIm Heslop, qualified professional gardener and current international triad Fellow, travel award winners Bryce Patz from Purdue University and TJ Graveline from University of Tennessee Knoxville, and Jack Shilley, RHS Cert 3 and Director of Young Hort.

Horticulturist and Triad Fellow Tim Heslop of Longwood Gardens, travel award winners Bryce Patz of Purdue University and TJ Graveline of University of Tennessee Knoxville, and Jack Shilley, Director of Young Hort

Jeff Jubelirer continued after lunch with a talk on crisis communication, followed by a conversation about creative engagement with Linda Norris and Rainey Tisdale. Next, at the Dessert and Dialogue breakout session, guests were challenged to deliberate on several of the biggest questions facing public gardens. The Dessert and Dialogue session was lead by skilled facilitators from our local public gardens, Cornell University, and BGCI.

Dr. Don Rakow (second from the right), from Cornell University facilitates a Dessert and Dialogue discussion. Dr. Casey Sclar, President of the American Public Gardens Association listens on.

Dr. Don Rakow (second from the right, facing), from Cornell University facilitates a Dessert and Dialogue discussion. Dr. Casey Sclar, President of the American Public Gardens Association listens on at left

Jack Shilley inspired the audience with his talk about his U.K. based YoungHort initiative. As Director of YoungHort, Jack works to encourage more young people towards the profession of horticulture. Paul B. Redman, Executive Director of Longwood Gardens, concluded the day with a rousing talk on why public gardens matter. The timeliness of Paul and Jack’s talks was highlighted by the launch, one day earlier, of the Seed Your Future campaign. Seed Your Future is an initiative of more than 150 partner organizations, including Longwood Gardens and the American Society for Horticultural Science, to promote horticulture as a vital and viable career choice.

Mr. Paul Parvis and Mrs. Martha Parvis with the travel award winners and the Longwood Graduate Fellows

Mr Paul Parvis and Mrs Martha Parvis with the travel award winners and the Longwood Graduate Fellows

By the end of the day, we were tired but happy Fellows. Our goal of sparking conversation around some of today’s challenging issues was made possible through the support of our sponsors, speakers and attendees.

We acknowledge and thank the contribution of all our speakers:  Dr. Paul Smith (BGCI), Mr. Joseph McGill (the Slave Dwelling Project), Ms. Sarah Pharaon (International Sites of Conscience), Ms. Guina Hammond (Pennsylvania Horticultural Society), Ms. Nayra Pacheco (Just Communities/Comunidades Justas Santa Barbara), Mr. Jeff Jubelirer (Bellevue Communications Group), Ms. Linda Norris (The Uncatalogued Museum), Ms. Rainey Tisdale (Independent Curator), Mr. Jack Shilley (Founder and Director YoungHort), and Mr. Paul B. Redman, Executive Director, Longwood Gardens.

First year Fellows Grace Parker, Tracy Qui and Erin Kinley, and Winterthur's Chris Strand.

Winterthur’s Chris Strand and first year Fellows Grace Parker, Tracy Qui, and Erin Kinley

We are grateful to our sponsors for their support. The event sponsors: Longwood Gardens, the Parvis Family Endowment, the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, and the University of Delaware Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. The Emerging Professional Travel Award major sponsors: the American Public Gardens Association, the Chanticleer Foundation and Mount Cuba Center. We would also like to thank additional sponsors of the travel award, Adkins Arboretum and the Longwood Graduate Program alumni.

Our special thanks to the local public gardens dialogue sponsors, who contributed questions and facilitators for Dessert and Dialogue: Adkins Arboretum, Bartram’s Garden, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, Chanticleer, Delaware Nature Society, Hagley Museum and Library, Jenkins Arboretum and Garden, Longwood Gardens, Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania, Mt Cuba Center, The Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College, Tyler Arboretum, and Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library.

Horticultural discussions with Fran Jackson, Symposium Lead Fellow and Meenal Harankhedkar, Historic London Town and Gardens' Director of Horticulture.

Horticultural discussions with Fran Jackson, Symposium Lead Fellow and Meenal Harankhedkar, Historic London Town and Gardens’ Director of Horticulture

Final Day in Oz

The Longwood Graduate Fellows spent a second day exploring the various sites of the South Australia Botanic Garden. We had a productive meeting in the morning with the coordinators of programming and adult education. We got a chance to learn more about City Crop, an exciting agricultural interpretive initiative.

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First-Year Fellows meeting with Adelaide Botanic Garden staff (Photo by Elizabeth Barton).

A section of Adelaide Botanic Garden, the most urban of the three gardens in the South Australia Botanic Garden, is devoted to an agricultural crop. This crop creates an opportunity for fun and educational events. The plant choice changes from year to year; past crops have included barley, wheat, and corn. This year the crop is lucerne, a grazing crop for cows. The space devoted to the crop would make enough milk for a family for 4 months.

This year's city crop, lucerne, under netting (Photo by Erin Kinley).

This year’s city crop, lucerne, under netting (Photo by Erin Kinley).

We were excited to see agricultural education framed in such a fun and tangible way. Adelaide Botanic Garden brought in dairy cows last week and is planning an ice cream making event for children and families later in the season. This program was particularly exciting to First Year Fellow Erin Kinley, whose research focuses on food systems education programs in public gardens.

Wide open spaces and large trees define the well-loved Wittunga Botanic Garden

Wide open spaces and large trees define the well-loved Wittunga Botanic Garden (Photo by Grace Parker).

The Fellows rounded out the day with a trip to Cleland Park to visit with Australian animals, the Mount Lofty overlook, and Wittunga Botanic Garden. This has been an amazing trip. We are eager to process the information we collected and to keep working on this project.

Botanic Gardens of South Australia, Part 1

To finish out their International Experience, the Fellows are spending two days with the Botanic Gardens of South Australia, a division of South Australia’s Department of Environment, Water, and Natural Resources. The Botanic Gardens include three garden sites–Adelaide, Mount Lofty, and Wittunga–and is the only institution outside of North America to be an accredited member of the American Alliance of Museums.

The oldest of the South Australia Botanic Garden sites, Adelaide Botanic Garden was first opened to the public in 1857.

The oldest of the South Australia Botanic Garden sites, Adelaide Botanic Garden was first opened to the public in 1857.

The Fellows spent the morning at Adelaide Botanic Garden, where they met with Deputy Director Tony Kanellos and Collections and Horticulture Manager Andrew Carrick to discuss the Gardens’ latest strategic plan. The plan is centered on their new collections policy. The policy helps the garden determine how to preserve and build upon the plants, objects, buildings, and even vistas that are important to the organization.

The Fellows explore Adelaide Botanic Gardens' new wetland area with their guide, Andrew Carrick. The wetland cleans and stores rainwater runoff so that it can eventually be used to irrigate the garden.

The Fellows explore Adelaide Botanic Gardens’ new First Creek Wetland with their guide, Andrew Carrick. The wetland cleans and stores rainwater runoff, which will eventually be used to irrigate the garden.

As the Fellows learned on their morning tours, Adelaide Botanic Garden is perfectly poised to educate visitors about the timeless importance of plants. The garden is home to both the Santos Museum of Economic Botany, which showcases the historic food and fiber plants of Australia, and the South Australian Seed Conservation Centre, which protects future plant diversity by preserving millions of native plant seeds.

Originally built in 1881, the Santos Museum of Economic Botany displays models of hundreds of food and fiber plants that were critical to colonizing both Australia and the British Empire.

Originally built in 1881, the Santos Museum of Economic Botany displays models of hundreds of food and fiber plants that were critical to colonizing both Australia and the British Empire.

The day ended with an afternoon tour of Mount Lofty Botanic Garden. Mount Lofty features numerous hiking trails, collections of plants from around the world, and incredible views of the Piccadilly Valley.

Hiking trails at Mount Lofty Botanic Garden offer sweeping views of the South Australian landscape.

Hiking trails at Mount Lofty Botanic Garden offer sweeping views of the South Australian landscape.

Not up for a mountainside trek? Visitors can also enjoy peaceful walks around the garden's small lake.

Not up for a mountainside trek? Visitors can also enjoy peaceful walks around the garden’s small lake.

Check back in with us tomorrow to read about the final day of our Australian adventure!

The Fellows took full advantage of the interactive art pieces at the Mount Lofty Botanic Garden.

The Fellows, taking full advantage of the interactive art at the Mount Lofty Botanic Garden

 

Off to Adelaide!

Clear skies on the flight from Melbourne to Adelaide this morning.

Clear skies on the flight from Melbourne to Adelaide this morning.

As the Fellows embark on the final phase of their International Experience in Australia, they bid adieu to the great city of Melbourne and hailed west, greeting their final destination, Adelaide, with open arms.

Though time in Melbourne was brief, it was filled to the brim with educational experiences, new perspectives, and insightful lessons. The Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, comprised of the gardens Melbourne and Cranbourne, are complementary in nature and committed to providing avenues of community engagements at every turn. While Cranbourne gardens focuses on the in-depth interpretation of native plantings and national histories, the gardens in downtown Melbourne showcase a spectrum of collections from around the globe and have both domestic as well as international visitorship. The fascinating conversations that came from both sites proved to be both inspiring and enlightening.

Pedestrian friendly shopping centers offer a sense of vitality in the Central Business District.

A pedestrian-friendly promenade offers a sense of vitality in the Central Business District.

The city of Adelaide is home to approximately 1.3 million people as well as the Botanic Gardens of South Australia, including Adelaide Botanic Garden, Mount Lofty Botanic Garden, and Wittunga Botanic Garden. The Fellows are excited to explore this new city and the vast horticultural knowledge it has to offer.

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!

Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne

Red Sand Garden

The Australian Garden greets visitors with red sands and circular plantings, a nod to the drier regions of the country.

Almost 2 KM* off the main road, past the “Stop for bandicoots” sign and on the site of a former sand mine is the award winning, world class Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne. RBG Cranbourne is located about 45 minutes outside of the city of Melbourne. This spectacular garden has 15 hectares of cultivated garden and 350 hectares of bushland.

*(Fellows are now following the metric system)

RBG Cranbourne is a fairly new garden, open to the public in 1970. The stunning Australian Garden represents the native flora and fauna of all 86 of the continent’s bio-zones. Fellows were shown around the Australian Garden by Jo Fyfe, Visitor Programs Coordinator.

Jo Fyfe, Visitor Programs Coordinator

Jo Fyfe, Visitor Programs Coordinator, enhances guest experience through story-telling which she hopes will spark a love of horticulture for all who visit.

The garden design reflects the dry nature of much of the continent and tells the story of how water moves through the environment. Many gardens center on a lake, an open, peaceful area against which the different colors and textures of the garden stand out. A focal point of RBG Cranbourne is the Red Sand Garden, a representation of the dry and largely uninhabited center of Australia. The sand garden is surrounded by over two dozen differently themed gardens, such as the Weird and Wonderful Garden, the Seaside Garden, and the Greening Cities Garden.

Plantings and ephemeral wetlands sculptures in the Red Sand Garden

Plantings and ephemeral wetlands sculptures in the Red Sand Garden

The Home Garden shows visitors how they can use native Australian plants in any kind of garden

The Home Garden shows visitors how to use native Australian plants in any kind of landscape

A section of this beautiful stream is open to the public as a wading pool

A section of the beautiful River Walk is open to the public as a wading pool

DSCN6152There are layers upon layers of interpretive meanings built into the garden design. Signage, guided tours, and the website illuminate parts of the story, but guests can visit countless times and learn something new with each visit.

Fellows then enjoyed a tour of the bushland and picnic areas surrounding it by Ollie and Dave from Cranbourne’s Natural Lands Management team.

A walk in the bush

A walk in the bush

Ollie and Dave show us sand pads used for invasive animal control and tracking

Ollie and Dave show us sand pads used for invasive animal control and tracking

The Fellows met with Jo Fyfe and Sharon Willoughby, Manager of Public Programs, in the afternoon to discuss the goals and challenges Cranbourne is facing as it grows and matures as an organization. A warm thank you to Jo, Ollie, Sharon and Dave for sharing their time and expertise on an equally warm day!

A Mid-Trip Reflection

The First-Year Fellows have been having amazing experiences in Australia. At each organization we visit, we learn more strategies for community engagement and for program evaluation. We are excited about the relationships we are developing with Australian organizations.

The Fellows and Dr. Brian Trader pose for a picture at The Blue Mountain Botanic Gardens, Mount Tomah.

The Fellows and Dr. Brian Trader pose for a picture at The Blue Mountain Botanic Gardens, Mount Tomah.

In addition to our meetings, the Fellows have  been fortunate to tour each of the gardens and have been blown away by our visits. We have seen gorgeous views, creative garden designs, and fascinating biodiversity.

Australian gardens certainly have some different pest management issues.

Australian gardens certainly have some different pest management issues.

We have been impressed by the openness and generosity of all the host organizations! We are grateful for all the time and insights we have gotten so far and look forward to learning more.