A Beautiful Ending in Western Massachusetts

Landscape architect Fletcher Steele’s designs at the Mission House and Naumkeag were the focus of the final morning of the Fellows’ North American Experience in Massachusetts. Fellows met Mark Wilson, Curator of Collections & West Region Cultural Resources Specialist, and Eric Ruquist, Horticulturist, at the Mission House in Stockbridge. This historic house dates to 1742 and was originally the home of the first missionary to the Mohican Indians.

The Mission House with summer blooming perennials

The Mission House with summer blooming perennials

Mabel Choate, the daughter of Joseph Choate, a leading 19th century attorney, was a preservationist in the 1920s and acquired the Mission House in order to preserve it and its historical significance. The Colonial Revival gardens surrounding the house were among the first projects she and Steele collaborated on and provided a way for Steele to demonstrate his prowess at landscape design.

After this brief introduction to Choate and Steele, the Fellows went up the hill to Naumkeag, the former country estate of Mabel Choate and her family.

The setting could not have been more idyllic: morning at a Gilded Age estate surrounded by the rolling Berkshires and imaginatively designed gardens. Choate and Steele redesigned the gardens at Naumkeag over the course of 30 years and they are in the final stages of being restored to their original glory.

Looking up at Naumkeag from the Tree Peony Terrace

Looking up at Naumkeag from the Tree Peony Terrace

The Blue Steps flanked by birch trees

The Blue Steps flanked by birch trees

Wilson began our tour at the famous Blue Steps, which were in the first of the five restoration phases. The original brilliant blue paint color of the alcoves was discovered on a piece of concrete tucked away in the recesses of one of Mabel’s desks and has now been restored. Walking up the Blue Steps, we arrived at the reason the Choates purchased the property in 1884: a regal swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor) gracing the hillside and providing a perfect picnicking location.

Fellows all in a row under the amazing swamp white oak

Fellows all in a row under the amazing swamp white oak

The favorite picnicking spot of the Choates

The favorite picnicking spot of the Choates

From the Afternoon Garden and its gondola poles to the intricacies of the house itself, the views and artistry involved were spectacular and made it difficult for the Fellows to pull themselves away for their final stop.

Floodplain forest restoration: silver maple saplings stand above grasses

Floodplain forest restoration: silver maple saplings stand above grasses

Bartholomew’s Cobble, a National Natural Landmark in Sheffield, was the perfect ending for the trip. Julie Richburg, West Region Ecologist, met the Fellows and guided them on a relaxing hike through the cobbles and to the floodplain forest. Ten acres were recently restored from fields to floodplain forest, utilizing saplings from similar areas on site to retain genetic diversity. Julie discussed the challenges of managing non-native invasive plant species and erosion, and pointed out several significant species, including a large American elm (Ulmus americana), a massive cottonwood tree (Populus deltoides), and Gray’s sedge (Carex grayi), a threatened plant species.

Exploring Bartholomew's Cobble, bedrock outcroppings formed as a result of the Taconic and Berkshire mountains

Exploring Bartholomew’s Cobble; bedrock outcroppings formed as a result of the Taconic and Berkshire mountains forming

How many Fellows can fit around a cottonwood tree?

How many Fellows can fit around a cottonwood tree?

The Fellows would like to thank all of our wonderful hosts at the various Reservations, The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, and Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cindy Brockway, Program Director, Cultural Resources, for helping coordinate the trip, and our chaperones, Longwood Graduate Program Interim Director Dr. Brian Trader and Longwood Gardens Archivist, Judy Stevenson.

Estate Tours: Day 4

For the fourth day of their 2015 North American Experience, the Fellows toured two stunning estate properties of The Trustees of Reservations. Awaking in the beautiful Castle Hill Inn, the Fellows had a lovely breakfast before setting out on a tour of Castle Hill on the Crane Estate with Operations Manager Robert Murray. Starting at the Great House, the Fellows investigated many of the 59 rooms in this Stuart-style mansion, which features many elements from the Colonial Revival Architectural Period.

The Magnificent Grand House at Castle Hill on the Crane Estate

The Great House at Castle Hill on the Crane Estate

Opulent living area in the Great House. Note the wood floors which feature salvaged wood from England reflecting the Colonial

Opulent living area in the Great House. Note the wood floors featuring salvaged wood from England. This feature reflects the Colonial Revival Architecture style, popular among wealthy Americans of the time.

Although the original land claim for the property dates back to 1637, the mansion and gardens were developed principally by the Crane family who purchased the estate in 1910. The Cranes linked three major tracts of land for their summer estate, which now comprise Crane Beach, Crane Refuge, and Castle Hill. The Cranes amassed vast wealth from their plumbing empire, which produced sewers and industrial piping, later branching into toilets and residential bathroom fixtures.

Original advertisement for Crane interior fixtures

Advertisement for Crane products. The Cranes were one of America’s wealthiest families in the early 20th century.

Today, the Crane Estate is the most visited Reservation in the Trustees portfolio, attracting some 330,000 visitors each year. With so much to explore, Castle Hill on the Crane Estate is a must-see property!

The allée designed by renowned landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff was recently restored by The Trustees.

The allée designed by renowned landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff was recently restored by The Trustees.

View out to Choate Island. The Crane Wildlife Refuge comprises a series of coastal and island habitats supporting numerous bird and mammal species.

View out to Choate Island. The Crane Wildlife Refuge comprises a series of coastal and island habitats supporting numerous bird and mammal species.

Crane Beach is lovely.

Crane Beach at sunrise

Operations Manager Bob Murray providing the Fellows with a rich history of the Casino Complex and other landscape features on the Crane Estate.

Operations Manager Bob Murray providing the Fellows with a rich history of the Casino Complex and other landscape features at Castle Hill on the Crane Estate.

Anyone up for a game?

The Casino Complex: The sunken pool is now a recreational space for visitors to play croquet and bocce.

After a lunch of fried clams, the Fellows headed to Stevens-Coolidge Place, a neo-Georgian Colonial Revival estate featuring many impressive gardens. We received a wonderful, comprehensive tour from Kevin Block, Superintendent for the property, who described the evolution of the landscape and the creation of gardening programs in recent years, which aim to connect local residents to the Reservation. Among the stunning gardens we stopped to admire were the perennial beds, cut flower garden, and un jardin potager or French kitchen garden.

View from the front of the Stevens-Coolidge home.

View of the front of the Stevens-Coolidge home

Perennial garden with many plants in peak of bloom.

The Perennial Garden was in peak bloom

The potager garden with many culinary herbs.

The potager garden featuring culinary herbs.

With its abundance of floral diversity in a tranquil setting, the Stevens-Coolidge Place is absolutely worth a stop for the garden visitor to Northeastern Massachusetts.

The Stevens-Coolidge Place features some trees of impressive stature.

A regal white ash (Fraxinus americana) at the Stevens-Coolidge Place

Northeast Region: Day 3

On Wednesday, the Fellows filled their day with visits to incredibly diverse and beautiful Trustees properties. At the first stop, Appleton Farms, Beth Zschau, ‪Education and Engagement Manager, vibrantly described an approach to telling the story of place through the lens of agriculture. Appleton Farms is considered to be the oldest operating farm in the United States, having celebrated its 375th anniversary just last year. With a rich connection between farmers and the land at Appleton, Beth and her team are offering new and creative ways to continue exploring those relationships between people and place. With a 650 member CSA, farm to table events, culinary classes, cheese production, and children’s programming, Appleton Farms offers the community engaging ways to connect to the food they eat and the history of the land on which it grew.

The Fellows enjoy picking strawberries at Appleton Farms

The Fellows enjoy picking strawberries at Appleton Farms



After touring the agricultural operations of Appleton, the Fellows visited the Appleton Farm Grass Rides. This unique landscape has an unclear history of use, but is currently being managed through fire to protect the New England Blazing Star (Liatris scariosa var. novae-angliae). Through dedication to observation and documentation, Trustees staff and volunteers have been able to see this population of Liatris stabilize over the past few years, and hope to watch it grow in the coming seasons.

Hiking up to the Grass

Hiking up to the Appleton Farms Grass Rides

The Fellows spent the remainder of the breezy June afternoon with Dan Bouchard, Superintendent at Long Hill and Sedgewick Gardens, an absolute treasure trove for plant geeks. Every corner and turn revealed a different garden “room” filled with unusual, rare, and stunning plants. Dan’s deep horticultural skill and natural curiosity have helped this historic family garden continue to evolve as a spectacular collection of horticultural treasures.


Gorgeous Peonies at every turn.


The lovely Long Hill House, tucked in the gardens.


A little frog enjoying the beauty of the gardens.


Styrax japonicus, dripping in blooms.

Explorations of Boston

The second day of the Fellows’ time in Massachusetts began in Boston with a fascinating visit to The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. The group was greeted by Andrew Gapinski, Manager of Horticulture and Longwood Graduate Program alumnus (Class of 2010), and Michael Dosmann, Curator of Living Collections. These skilled plantsmen provided an excellent overview of the Arboretum, its inner-workings, and of course, its plants! The Arnold Arboretum was founded in 1872 and designed through a collaboration between the organization’s first director, Charles S. Sargent, and famed landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted.

The tranquil Linden Path of the Arnold Arboretum.

The tranquil Linden Path of the Arnold Arboretum.

The living collections, in conjunction with research involving those collections, are at the heart of everything the Arboretum does. This is evidenced by the well-cared for and meticulously curated plants, as well as the extensive greenhouses, nursery, laboratories, library, and other growing and research facilities.

The Fellows were given a wonderful look at the vast horticultural library of the Arnold Arboretum.

The Fellows were given a wonderful look at the vast horticultural library of the Arnold Arboretum.

The Fellows were excited to encounter a number of unique and famous plant specimens during their tour of the grounds, including the oldest specimen of paperbark maple (Acer griseum) in North America. This tree is one of three individuals collected in central China in 1907 by notable plant collector, Ernest H. Wilson. While all paperbark maples of this species in the United States were derived from one of these three specimens, very recent efforts have begun to bring in additional trees to diversify the genetics of the species cultivated in North America.

The oldest Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) in North America growing in the Arnold Arboretum.

The oldest paperbark maple (Acer griseum) in North America growing in the Arnold Arboretum.

The horticultural exploration of Boston continued at Mount Auburn Cemetery. The Cemetery’s President, Dave Barnett, and Vice President of Cemetery and Visitor Programs, Bree Harvey, met the Fellows and guided them throughout Mount Auburn’s vast and beautiful landscape.

  One of the integral components of the Mount Auburn Cemetery are the numerous large, mature shade trees that grace its landscape.

One of the integral components of the Mount Auburn Cemetery are the numerous large, mature shade trees that grace its landscape.

The Cemetery was founded by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, which purchased 77 acres of land in 1831 with the purpose of creating a “rural cemetery” and experimental garden.  Since then, Mount Auburn Cemetery has grown to 175 acres situated in a very urban area and has nearly 100 staff.

The lovely Rhododendrons of the cemetery were in full-bloom and provided striking “pops” of color throughout the grounds.

The lovely Rhododendrons of the Cemetery were in full-bloom and provided striking pops of color throughout the grounds.

The nearly completed Boston Public Market provided an inspiring finish to a jam-packed day in this lively city. The Market’s goal is to make local food from Massachusetts and New England readily available in Boston through diverse vendors housed in one location. Jeremy Dick, Superintendent of the Trustees of Reservations Boston Management Unit, explained that the Boston Public Market arose from a collaboration between local organizations, including the Trustees. They will be responsible for engaging the public through educational programming such as workshops, demonstrations, tours, and events. Jeremy helped the Fellows better understand the context of the Boston Public Market by leading them through the nearby Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, which provides a refreshing oasis for the people of Boston.

A long, vine-clad pergola along the greenway near the site of the soon-to-be-opened Boston Public Market.

A long, vine-clad pergola along the Kennedy Greenway, near the site of the soon-to-be-opened Boston Public Market.

Tour of Massachusetts: Day 1

The newly minted 2nd year Fellows traveled to Massachusetts for this year’s Longwood Graduate Program North American Experience. Our first night was spent in the picturesque seaside city of New Bedford, former whaling port, and home to the largest Portuguese-American population in the US. The next morning we set off for Westport Town Farm, one of the ten Trustees of Reservations properties we are visiting on this tour.


Tranquil Westport River views from the meadow.

The beautiful esturine landscape of Westport Town Farm belies its poignant history, the place having been a ‘poor farm’, an asylum for the poor and destitute, for nearly 100 years. The extensive stone walls that cross the estate’s meadow lands are testament to the backbreaking work of generations of farmers who cleared the rocky land for cropping and grazing. These days, a farmer’s market is held every Saturday during the warmer months, helping to forge new connections with the local farming community and residents of the Westport Town area.

The network of stone walls are a visual reminder of the hard work involved in farming the rocky ground in the Westport area.

Just up the road from Westport Town Farm is the most recent addition to the Trustees of Reservations portfolio, the Allen C. Haskell Public Gardens. The Gardens are the former nursery and garden of well-known horticulturist and designer Allen C. Haskell, offering six acres of precious green space in the city of New Bedford. The Garden is obviously a plantsman’s garden, with a striking range of Hosta, Acer and Magnolia, as well as eye-catching variegated plants contrasting with an array of purple beeches and other assorted woody perennials and trees.

The studio is now the Garden's visitors information and welcoming point.

The studio is now the Garden’s visitor information and welcoming point.

The Master Plan for the Gardens includes plans for a Growing Program, aiming to engage the surrounding community in local food production. It is hoped that its 30,000 square feet of greenhouse space can be utilized to some extent in this endeavor.  Meanwhile, the massive task of cataloging the living collection, the artifacts, and the building structures continues.

The 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 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 last stop for the day was the Archives and Research Center, The Trustees of Reservations’ new facility, which supports research across the organization’s 114 places and specialist storage for archives, objects, and artifacts. A wealth of information about the history of the Trustees of Reservations and its properties is held in the documents, letters, photographs, maps, plans, books, scrapbooks, and ephemera contained within the Archives.

The Fellows with Alison Bassett, ARC Manager.

The Fellows with Alison Bassett, ARC Manager.

The property now housing the Archives was once a farm, becoming the Sharon Sanatorium for Pulmonary Diseases in 1891. Patients with tuberculosis were exposed to the ‘good clean country air’ that was thought to be so essential in the healing process, until antibiotics were discovered and TB could be cured with a course of penicillin. In the early 1950’s the property became a whaling museum, and  in 2007 was gifted to the Trustees.

Day one of our North American Experience was completed with an overnight stay in Boston, and a growing appreciation of the work of the Trustees of Reservations in the State of Massachusetts.

Whilst object storage is not the main function of the Archives and Research Center, nonetheless we did stumble across a room entirely devoted to the storage of chairs!

Whilst object storage is not the main function of the Archives and Research Center, nonetheless we did stumble across a room entirely devoted to the storage of chairs!


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.


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.


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.


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

The Garden on a Hill: UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley

Photos by Bryan Thompsonowak.


Dr. Bob Lyons and Dr. Paul Licht at University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley.

The climate in California is a fascinating subject, as we have experienced firsthand on this trip. Temperatures can fluctuate drastically as you travel from the valley back toward the bay area and, luckily for us, our nearly 100-degree morning in Davis turned into a 60-degree afternoon at the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley. Varying between 600 and 800 feet above sea level, the UC Botanical Garden has a unique environment for plant growth the includes wind and fog that supports the largest collection of documented wild-collected plants in North America!

We met several of UC Botanical Gardens staff on our visit. Director Dr. Paul Licht greeted us and introduced us to staff members Director of Horticulture Chris CarmichaIMG_3395el and Curator Holly Forbes. This great team led us on a tour of the gardens, which was organized geographically in a naturalistic design. There was even an Eastern North American garden that included plants such as the Liquidambar (sweet gum), Kalmia
(mountain laurel), and Hamamelis (witch hazel)!


Cactus and succulent collection

Arguably the most impressive aspect of this garden is their commitment to collections. UC Botanical Garden has the world’s largest collection of native California flora, and they have four nationally recognized plant collections through the North American Plant Conservation Consortium (NAPCC) – cycads, ferns, magnolias, and oaks. Additionally, they have a vast cactus and succulent collection, which is largely inaccessible to the public. Unfortunately, the garden has experienced several recent incidents of theft due to the rarity of the specimens in the collection, and that is why much of the collection is kept behind a barrier. There are still many amazing specimens that are not behind a barrier, however, and one that was in full bloom was Echinopsis tamaensis. The creamy, white flower was a bright spot of our visit during a cloudy and overcast afternoon.Despite the fact that there is no horticulture program at UC-Berkeley, the garden still plays a vital role for students on campus. Many courses, including biology, art, literature, geography, and medical ethnobotany, use the gardens as an invaluable outdoor laboratory. For us, the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley was a great example of a true botanical garden. Their focus on conservation, collections, and taxonomy was a notable and interesting contrast to some of the other organizations that we’ve visited since starting the program.


Puya raimondii was in bloom just in time for our visit!

Our evening ended with a delicious Greek dinner and a pleasant stay in the heart of San Francisco. Up next: San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum and the Conservatory of Flowers!

Co-Creation at UC Davis Arboretum

We arrived at University of California in Davis on a hot and windy day, typical of the summers east of the San Francisco Bay area. UC Davis Arboretum is located in the heart of Davis, which is just west of the city of Sacramento.

A hot, dry day doesn't stop sunflowers!

A hot, dry day doesn’t stop sunflowers!

We were picked up at our hotel by Andrew Fulks, one of the assistant directors, who took us to the garden offices to meet Executive Director Kathleen Socolofsky. Kathleen has steered the Arboretum on a journey from being a private garden to a public institution. She wanted to exceed expectations during this time so her changes took place gradually to insure effective implementation. Kathleen expressed her vision for the garden and the process of co-creation, which encompasses numerous unrelated university staff in the process of garden development. Briefly, this process involves surveys and interviews directed at different sections of the University to determine their views on what the gardens should be, and the niche they should fill on campus.

Co-creation at its most beautiful!

This tile wall showcases co-creation at its best

The Arboretum itself is located in a narrow band of property along the south edge of the campus, and consists of 19 collections and gardens. During a limited time for exploration, this writer managed to see a good part of the Mediterranean Garden, as well as the Carolee Shields White Flower Garden and Gazebo.

Poppies bloom in the Shields White Garden

Poppies bloom in the Shields White Flower Garden

The canal is a prominent feature of the garden.

The canal is a prominent feature of the garden

The Mediterranean Garden borders a large canal, which is a prominent feature of this part of the Arboretum, and contains plants from several Mediterranean regions.

Another interesting project mentioned during our visit is the GATEways project, which serves as a resource for sustainable horticulture. This project involves collaboration among a garden team headed by Kathleen, the assistant Vice Chancellor, and the Campus Planner; all of whom support the larger vision of UC Davis as a visitor-centered destination. Gardens adjacent to specific departments contain elements of that department within the garden, itself.

The outdoor nursery area.

The outdoor nursery area

The Director of GATEways Horticulture and Teaching Gardens, Emily Griswold, then took us to the newly-planted California Native Plant Gateway Garden, which features plants originating from the lower Putah Creek watershed. This site also features a “Shovel Gateway’’ sculpture which was created using 400 old shovels, which make for a remarkable entry way to the University campus. Interpretive signage will educate visitors about the regional flora and fauna of the Putah Creek Watershed and how to create sustainable landscapes with native plants.

The shovel sculpture.

The shovel sculpture

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to UC Davis, especially the great sense of connectivity between the staff. The Arboretum has a very exciting future ahead and we look forward to visiting again soon.

Blog by Gary Shanks and photography by Sara Helm Wallace

North American Experience Trip – Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens and Muir Woods

The first year Longwood Graduate Fellows commenced our garden adventures at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, Fort Bragg, California. Mary Anne Payne, Executive Director and Jim Bailey, Head Gardener of the garden, greeted us at the entrance of the garden on a cool morning.

Mendocino Coastal Botanical Gardens entrance sign

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens entrance sign

Ernest and Betty Sohoefer, who had deep passions in gardening and a special interest in Rhododendron species, started Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens (MCBG) in the 1960s. MCBG has a garden area of 47 acres, framed by the grand coastal ocean and currently has over 1,200 cultivars and species of Rhododendrons. The diversity of plant varieties in the garden attracts and supports the highest concentration of birds to its premises. MCBG held a strong community support, attracting about 350 volunteers, on top of its 11 full time and 11 part time staff. Due to the natural high water table present in the land, MCBG joined partnership with the Water Coastal Conservancy to preserve and better utilize the existing available water.

Mendocino Coastal Botanic Gardens heath and heather collection

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens heath and heather collection

MCBG attracts about 17,000 visitors annually, and generates its revenues through general admission, gift shop, retail nursery, café and fund-raising events such as ‘Art in the Gardens’. MCBG manages its own vegetable garden and orchard within its premises and 80% of its produces are given to the local food bank while the remaining 20% are given to its in-house ‘Rhody’s Garden Café’. The management utilized the vegetable garden and orchard to educate the public through educational tours and interpretative signage.

Mendocino Coastal Botanical Gardens coastline panorama

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens coastline panorama

Art and bench sculptures are displayed throughout the gardens. Mary Payne explained that each art and bench sculptures were for sale and that the profits will be spilt between the artist and MCBG. Jim led us towards their composting backyard and told us an interesting story about how they used the spare hops and grains by the brewery restaurant in their compost. He explained that the hops are able to heat up to about 140oF, sanitizing and killing all bacteria and insects within the compost.

Muir Woods entrance After lunch, we made our way down south towards Muir Woods National Monument, where it houses the world’s largest giant coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). Local businessman William Kent and his wife Elizabeth Thacher Kent established Muir Woods in 1905 to protect the one of the last standing redwoods. We took a hike through the Muir Woods trails and one felt like we were in the ‘Twilight’ movie. The golden rays of the sun beamed and streamed through the majestic redwood forest like a flowing waterfall, reflecting and surrounding its warmth around us. Along the trail, we spotted a few of the legendary ‘banana slug’ – a greenish and slimy slug that survived in the undergrowth of the forest. Myth has it that one may make a wish after kissing the slug and a few brave female ‘warriors’ decided to make myth come true by bestowing their precious lips upon the innocent slugs.

Muir Woods

Muir Woods

Banana slug wishes

Banana slug wishes

The trips to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens and Muir Woods have opened our eyes to further appreciate nature and extend our networking in California. We look forward with great anticipation and excitement towards the rest of the trip!

Blog by Felicia Chua and photos by Kevin Williams

A Coastal Experience

Author: Robert Lyons, Director of the LGP
Photography: Lindsey Kerr and Laurie Metzger

The last leg of our North American Experience journey took us 3.5 hours north of Boston to the charming town of Boothbay Harbor, Maine.  To get there, our primary route out of Boston’s twisted and contorted system of complex intersections and rotaries was a familiar I-95.  Upon our arrival, we checked into the Tugboat Inn, a slightly enigmatic hotel that echoed into the evening with the voices of seasoned, anonymous lounge singers.

After a welcomed night sleep, we boarded the van on a glorious morning saturated by bright sun, clear blue skies, and crisp temperatures that beckoned a sweatshirt or long sleeves.  Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens (CMBG) was our destination and none of us had ever visited, making this destination greatly anticipated.  Upon our arrival, we met up with Executive Director Bill Cullina, who escorted us through their “net zero” LEEDDSC_0299 certified administration and education building.  Fascinating! We ended up in the conference room where Bill and his entourage of key staff introduced us to CMBG’s history, mission, current operations, and future plans. Their property is beautiful, and ironically became available for purchase when a developer abandoned plans for a subdivision and sold the 128 acres to the founders of what was to become CMBG. Today there are 298 total acres, 8000 members, 100,000 visitors/year, 31 permanent employees, 800 volunteers, and an annual operating budget of  $3.2 million.  While open year round, there is an entry fee from April 15 – October, with the remaining months free.

DSC_0327    IMG_0528

We couldn’t wait to get outside and Bill readily obliged.  A quick pass through a recently renovated and bustling visitor center led us to the Burpee Kitchen Garden, which was DSC_0302cleverly integrated into the restaurant’s al fresco dining area.  What a concept…many of the same plants that were harvested for the menu grew within arm’s reach.  We were joined by Rodney Eason, former Longwood employee and now Director of Horticulture for CMBG. He and Bill guided us in tag team style through the green spaces and internal pathways, all bordered by artfully designed beds rampant with color or brushed with the diverse green shades of Maine’s natural vegetation. Our tour soon exited the cultivated spaces, including what we all determined was an ingenious approach to a children’s garden, and we found ourselves within a completely forested region dominated by conifers.  We were indeed close to the IMG_0524water and Bill was excited to show us the coastline.  We lingered there to catch our breath and take a group photograph before heading back to conclude our visit.Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens lived up to all the pre-visit hype and landed on our own wish list of places to see again as soon as we can!