Category Archives: North American Experience

Juniper Level Botanical Garden at Plant Delights Nursery

August 23, 2012 – Plants Delights Nursery, NC
(written by Dottie Miles, photographs by Quill Teal-Sullivan)

Hidden within a hedge of ‘Nellie Stevens’ holly and other “spiny” plant material, Plant Delights Nursery at Juniper Level Botanic Gardens is an eclectic collection of diverse plants gathered from near and far.  Passionate founder, Tony Avent, describes it as a research and botanical garden funded by a plant nursery operation with a mission, “to discover, study, select, preserve, and make available new hardy perennial plants for both shade gardens and sun gardens around the world.”

Our host, Tony Avent

Looking for non-invasive plants that can be hardy in the North Carolina climate, Avent is the mythbuster of horticulture, noting, “where you find it in the wild is not necessarily where it grows best.”  The garden is a testament to his pursuit to learn more about his collection, as he designs planting beds for both pleasure and research.

Martin examining a South African species

Within his garden, Avent has built an organic series of trails inviting one to wander, immerse and delight in the unique collection.  Containing whimsical garden elements and a smart irrigation and filtration system, the collection and juxtaposition ofplantings is astounding. Avent explains, “you don’t learn something new by duplicating what you already know,” and then goes on to highlight an experience of plant discovery that challenges known research and historical data.

Rain Lillies

To date, his collection has massed to 19,836 accessions that have been assembled through plant exploration in the U.S. and abroad. Avent and his associates have been on more than 70 collection trips during which they gathered over 1000 different ferns, the largest Aspidistra collection worldwide, an Amorphophallus collection that is the third largest in the country, rain lilies, agave, trillium, and the list goes on.

Beautiful agaves

To further plant propagation and research efforts, Avent has recently acquired neighboring land to expand operations; he anticipates opening to the public 7 days a week in the next few years.  Until then, Juniper Level Botanic Gardens is open eight weekends a year.

Cactus bloom

All in all, Avent may just be the most unique part of his eclectic garden.  To those who know him and his passion for plants, it should come to no surprise that he seems to find extreme enjoyment in sharing his garden with others.  The knowledge and insight he shared about his collection was a special treat and we all walked away wanting more than one of his plants.

Group shot with Tony Avent

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.

The JC Raulston Arboretum

August 23, 2012 – The JC Raulston Arboretum, NC
(written by Martin Smit, photographs by Sara Levin Stevenson)

The JC Raulston Arboretum, one of our own director’s former stomping grounds, was our first stop in Raleigh.  The history of the Arboretum dates back to 1976 when Dr. J.C. Raulston initiated the first steps to develop the site as an arboretum for the Department of Horticultural Science at NC State University.  The Arboretum is managed under the Department of Horticultural Science and focuses particularly on supporting research, extension and teaching. Beside these crucial functions within the University, the Arboretum also has become a popular public green space and an important educational facility, especially for the local community.

Lath House

Lath House

Upon arrival we were warmly received by Dr. John Dole who took some time out of his busy schedule as Department Head to talk to us about the importance of the Arboretum. He emphasized not only the role within the Department of Horticultural Science but also within the local community.

Pot on the A.E. Finley foundation Rooftop Terrace

Pot on the A.E. Finley Foundation Rooftop Terrace

Mark Weathington, the current Assistant Director and Curator of Collections, discussed the master plan that was drawn up in 2007 by skilled landscape design professionals who volunteered their time and services to Arboretum.  He also pointed out several new projects that formed part of the master plan as he was touring Fellows through the Arboretum. Mark also explained how the Arboretum has slowly transformed from an entity being fully funded but the Department of Horticulture Science to receiving only about thirty percent of its funding from the Department. Various weird and wonderful plants were also pointed out to the Fellows and Mark explained how trialing new plants is still one of the key functions of the Arboretum.  On average, more than a thousand accessions are added to the collections every year, which is a staggering number for such a relatively small arboretum.

Dr. Robert Lyons

Dr. Robert Lyons

Our very own Dr. Robert Lyons, also gave his insight into the fundraising and completion of the Ruby C. McSwain Education Center, which he oversaw during his tenure as Director at the Arboretum from 1999 through 2004.

Fellows, Nate Tschaenn and Abby Johnson

Fellows, Nate Tschaenn and Abby Johnson

Our visit concluded with lunch and as usual it was put to good use as chance to interact with staff and volunteers in the manicured garden of one of the board members, Sylvia Redwine. During our visit we were pleased to experience the passion that both volunteers and staff had for the Arboretum, which bodes well for the future.

Fellows with staff and volunteers in the garden of board member Sylvia Redwine

Fellows with staff and volunteers in the garden of board member Sylvia Redwine

High Point University Arboretum and Gardens

August 21, 2012 – High Point University, NC
(written by Robert E. Lyons, photographs by Dottie Miles)

High Point University (HPU) is a small liberal arts college not too far from Raleigh and Greensboro, North Carolina.  Although I had never visited the HPU campus, I sure had no idea about its plant collections.  So, when Jon Roethling, a friend and fellow plantsman, told me of the University’s plans to develop their campus into a first class arboretum and garden complex, my interest was more than piqued!

Our group met Jon just inside the gated entry to HPU where he was ready to showcase all the newest developments on this rapidly growing campus. At first, it was challenging to see through the obvious avalanche of new construction, such as brand new buildings, larger than life water features, and impressive landscape structures.  Yet, Jon skillfully blended them all with expert discourse related to the new and existing plant materials, all intertwined with kudos to the HPU President, Nido Qubein, and his wife for their vision.

Within Jon’s 2-year tenure as a direct report to the Director of Facilities, he has overseen over 320 acres of campus property and its plants. He reviews new plant choice specifications with other HPU personnel with an eye towards diversity, uniqueness and even fragrance.  No common plant palette under Jon’s watch.  Students, staff, and faculty will be fortunate to enjoy the likes of Edgeworthia, hardy palms, and gardenias on their way to work and class.

High Point University does not have an undergraduate program in horticulture.  However, Jon wants to engage students as much as possible in the understanding of the campus plantings, as well as instill an interest and appreciation for plants, regardless of their major. I’m positive that the campus’ first LEED certified building (School of Education) and designation as a Tree Campus USA will only strengthen his attempt to make an impact on all HPU students.  Of course, one of Jon’s biggest challenges is directly related to the audience he serves…specifically, how to actually schedule the needed planting, landscape repairs, and plant maintenance without interfering with the busy activities found anywhere, anytime, throughout HPU.  Jon uses GIS to map the plant collections, he has labeled them for identification, and has integrated this information within the public information kiosks found within the student center.

At the end of the day, we contemplated all that Jon has done and agreed that High Point University would soon be a public horticulture force to be reckoned with thanks to his efforts.  Well done!

Sarah P. Duke Gardens

August 22, 2012 – Sarah P. Duke Gardens, NC
(written by Sara Levin Stevenson, photographs by Abby Johnson)

The Fellows spent Wednesday morning visiting the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, located on 55 acres in the center of the Duke University campus.

Entrance of the Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Upon our arrival, the Director of the Gardens and LGP alumnus, Bill LeFevre, met us.  Bill and part of the Sarah P. Duke Gardens team took time to help us get to know the gardens and its various programs and events.  Our meeting took place in the Doris Duke Center, a focal point in the grand entryway experience.  We then toured the grounds with some of the knowledgeable staff.

White Garden

A few of the tour highlights included the Terrace Garden, H.L. Blomquist Garden, and the Discovery Garden.  The Terrace Garden is located in the heart of the historic area.  It is a vibrant collection of perennials that sit in large rock walls made of a rich blue Duke stone, from a local quarry.  The historic area is a popular spot for weddings and events, especially among Duke University alumni.

Terrace Garden

The H. L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants focuses on conservation and is the most heavily interpreted area of the gardens.  Its design and messaging encourage visitors to embrace native plantings and learn conservation techniques.  Stephan Bloodworth, the curator of this garden, describes it as an education tool for applied plant conservation and he aims to create an interpretive experience that leaves a lasting impression on visitors.

Sign in the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants

The newest garden is the Discovery Garden, a farm education area.  This garden is packed with interesting details, including a vegetable garden, tobacco barn-turned education center, beehives, chickens, fruit orchard, bio-swale, rain garden, herb garden, composting station, and storytelling area.  It was designed for with the public, children, and families in mind with an emphasis on presenting ideas that would be easy for a visitor to replicate at home. The Discovery Garden is a prototype site for the Sustainable Sites Initiative so various techniques were incorporated in the building process that promoted sustainability, such as using salvaged materials.

Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden

The Sarah P. Duke Gardens has over 300,000 visitors every year and is a well-loved and often visited institution on the Duke University campus.  It attracts student groups and classes and the local community through programs such as an annual film and concert series.

Japanese Garden

We enjoyed our visit to this vibrant garden and are grateful to our hosts for their hospitality!

Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden

August 21, 2012 – Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden
(written by Abby Johnson, photographs by Martin Smit)

A burgeoning jewel on historic Main Street, in Kernersville, North Carolina, engages the eyes of passersby with a bright, bold and outstanding curb appeal. That very engaging entrance entices passersby to become visitors. Walking distance from downtown Kernersville grows the embodiment of the mission of Paul J Ciener, “a place of unique beauty, seeking to inspire, enlighten and connect people of all ages to world of plants, gardening and horticulture. ”

Fellow meet staff and founders

The legacy of Mr. Ciener, businessman and plant aficionado, is being fulfilled by his sons David and Greg Ciener. Armed with a master plan, along with the leadership of a strategic board and passionate staff, the Paul J. Ciener Botanic Garden has become reality. In April of 2011, this Garden officially opened its doors to the public with a small but mighty staff. This public garden is making great strides to become the next travel destination in the region. Advance planning for both the site and its interpretation, has guided the staff in the development of the seven acre property. This is key for both informed decision-making and effective communication strategies. Everyone in our visiting group believed that Paul J. Ciener Botanic Garden is headed in the right direction.

Curb your enthusiasm

This garden has some intriguing modern touches as well as traditional features, all with a nod to their Moravian architectural town heritage. The newly constructed main building, or carriage house, reflects the days of old. Equipped with state of the art technology and attractive accommodations for any speaker, this site for hosting events has been a hit within the community. What an added bonus to the town of Kernersville and the greater Triad to gain a botanic garden, a venue for weddings and other corporate events. Additionally, the carriage house has classrooms, administrative offices and a gift shop.

Kitchen garden

The garden collections are in tune with the desires of the garden’s namesake Paul J. Ciener. The kitchen garden, along the perimeter of the carriage house, is bursting with flavor and fragrance. As a point of access as well as education, patrons can have the awesome experience of planting and harvesting the vegetables and herbs grown onsite. The Pattern Garden reflects traditional gardens in the southern U.S. region with a range of plant life, complete with Chapel Hill grit for footpaths. On display during our visit are the wild wonders of summer.

Exploring the garden

Notable features of the entire garden site are the Pattern Garden and Parking Lot Garden. Yes! The parking lot was constructed with permeable pavement and the living curbs are phenomenal since they host a myriad of hens and chicks, also called Sempervivum species.

Exploring wooded area yet to be developed with curator Adrienne Roethling

Of the many guest lecturers and artist who visit the garden, Paul J. Ciener Botanic Garden has had the great fortune of working with the likes of industry greats, such as Chip Callaway and Mark Peters. Our own Dr. Robert Lyons is an upcoming guest lecturer. It was clear following our visit, that it wouldn’t be difficult to encourage anyone to visit this burgeoning jewel of Kernersville.

Chip Callaway talking to fellows

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

Written by Nate Tschaenn

The second year Fellows have embarked on the North American Experience portion of the Longwood Graduate Program. This year’s destination is just a few states south of Delaware in North Carolina. We arrived in Charlotte last night, our westernmost destination, and will be making our way north to Wilmington stopping at some of North Carolina’s great public horticulture destinations along the way. First stop along out trip is Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden (DSBG) located about thirty minutes outside Charlotte in the city of Belmont.

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is a relatively new public garden having had its official grand opening in October of 1999.  In 1991, the founder of the Garden, Daniel J. Stowe, donated the four hundred acres of prime property to be developed into a botanical garden. He was a retired textile executive who envisioned the evolution of this garden over a period of forty years as an internationally renowned garden.

 

Entrance to the orchid conservatory.

There are currently twelve display areas at DSBG including a white garden, formal display gardens, and perennial gardens. There is also an 8,000 square foot orchid conservatory, which opened in 2008 and showcases tropical plants and a large collection of orchids in unique and artistic fashion.  There are also many whimsical fountain displays throughout the gardens, and a beautiful, multi-million dollar visitor pavilion serves as the grand façade.

A rainbow of colors in the canal garden.

A rainbow of colors in the canal garden.

It was a treat for us to get some perspective on a public garden that is still growing and trying to determine its full potential. There is a fifty-year master plan approved in 1994 that has been serving as a general guide for the expansion of the gardens since it first opened. DSBG has been constantly growing and still has a large amount of space to expand. The annual attendance has also been rapidly growing and is now around 100,000 visitors per year. The gardens and visitor center have been cleverly designed to support a growing attendance and are capable of supporting up to 600,000 visitors per year. A three-acre children’s garden is the next major expansion project slated to begin in spring of 2013, and is estimated to cost about six million dollars.

Tilandsia archways in orchid conservatory.

Tilandsia archways in orchid conservatory.

 

Daniel Stowe Botanic Gardens was an outstanding first stop on our journey and definitely worth a stop for anyone traveling to the greater Charlotte, North Carolina area.

A Visit to the Infamous “U”

August 15, 2011 – St. Paul Campus, Minnesota University
(written by Aubree Pack, photography by James Hearsum)

Around here, the University of Minnesota is commonly, as well as affectionately, referred to as “the U.” The Longwood Graduate Program’s current Director, Robert Lyons, is a graduate of “the U,” so we had with us an excellent guide. Although the campus boasts many desirable features, our focus was the Department of Horticultural Science, of which Dr. Lyons received both his Masters and Ph.D. degrees. If you’ve been following our blog, you may remember a recent post about our trip to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The Arboretum is actually an extension of the University of Minnesota and is within the Department of Horticultural Science.

Upon arrival at the University of Minnesota St. Paul Campus, the first thing we did was discover a photo of Dr. Lyons from when he was a graduate student there. And of course, as any good student would, we teased him a little. He seemed to be fine with that though : )

We then went just outside Alderman Hall to meet with Roger Meissner and Garrett Beier. Roger has been employed by the department since 1976 and since then has worn many “hats.” Garrett is a graduate student there who was hired to manage the display garden, which is a landscape laboratory for the College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Science; involved students generally have a main focus in horticulture or environmental studies.

Garrett told us that the site is primarily used for study purposes, but also attracts casual visitors. One thing we found amusing was that there were duplicate plants from the garden elsewhere on campus, for the purpose of preventing students in ID courses from memorizing a location instead of the actual plant characteristics. He also described some of the challenges they face there at the garden, including an invasive weed he referred to as black swallow wart, a member of the milkweed family (pictured above).

Cultivar development and breeding are major endeavors for the department. Many faculty members are reknown for their plant introductions. Jim Luby, in particular, introduced a very well received variety of apple, Honey Crisp, which many of us have enjoyed. More recent apple introductions from the department are SnowSweet, Frostbite, and SweeTango, which are a trademark of the Ball Horticultural Company. Along with their large array of fruit crop introductions, new, cold hardy ornamental plant cultivars have been introduced from the following popular garden plants: chrysanthemums, azaleas, roses, gaura, dogwood, forsythia, pearlbush, viburnum,  maples, white pine,  redbud, buckeye, plums, crabapples, corktree, jack pine, and many grass varieties; both ornamental and turf. This research is done along with the Horticultural Research Center and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, who provides stock or grounds for research.

Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

(written by Felicia Yu, photographs by Aubree Pack)

Just in case we didn’t already think we were spoiled by warm receptions and generosity everywhere we’ve been so far in the Twin Cities, the staff of the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory REALLY made us feel welcome during our visit on Monday.

Old and new: the historic Marjorie McNeely Conservatory with its 64-ft. Palm Dome, and the adjoining new section with impeccable water gardens.

Horticulture Manager Tina Dombrowski met us at the main entrance along with several staff members from the conservatory, and at each part of the Margorie McNeely Conservatory, gardens, and zoo thereafter we met with more members of the staff who were happy to show us around and answer all our questions. We got a thorough behind the scenes look at the historic and new portions of the conservatory as well as the Ordway Memorial Japanese Garden, and the new Polar Bear Odyssey exhibit at the zoo, where we had a delicious lunch before getting a free hour to explore.

The Sunken Garden of the Conservatory, featuring spring, summer, fall, holiday, and winter floral displays.

The Japanese Garden, designed by Masami Matsuda in 1979 to commemorate the friendship between St. Paul and its sister city Nagasaki

Horticulture production supervisor Paul Knuth explaining the greenhouse operations.


An alpine rooftop garden on the upper level of the new visitor center.

The zoo and conservatory are located within Como Park, a 384-acre oasis within the city of St. Paul. The zoo is well over a hundred years old, while the conservatory opened in 1915. Each has undergone major renovations, with more improvements to come in the near future. The building of the new visitor center in 2005 physically joined the zoo and conservatory into one campus for the first time in their histories, along with the merger of their supporting non-profit and volunteer organizations. Some of the most intriguing features of Como Park Zoo & Conservatory involve the direct collaboration between zoo and horticultural staff in combined plant and animal exhibits, such as their Tropical Encounters exhibit and RibbitZibit frog displays in the Children’s Gallery.

Zookeeper Liz feeding fruit flies to the poison dart frogs in the Children’s Gallery RibbitZibit.

It was clear that the zoo and conservatory are beloved by the community, judging from the number of families streaming through the doors as soon as opening hour arrived—and this was on a “slow” Monday, according to the staff. After our half-day visit, I could completely understand why—if I lived in the area I’d be back every week! The zoo remains one of the few remaining free zoos in the country, with just a suggested donation of $2 per adult and $1 per child for entry to both zoo and conservatory, which most visitors seemed glad to pay. The high-quality horticultural and animal exhibits were definitely worth much more than that.

A Walk in the Park – Minneapolis Style.

August 13, 2011 – Minneapolis, Minnesota
(written by James Hearsum, photography by Ashby Leavell)

Few cities enjoy the benefit of a visionary parks department: One that takes a leadership role in economic development, is a broker of community creation and that does this whilst integrating citywide networks of facilities, recreation and environmental services.  Fewer still have the resources and political clout to deliver.  That Minneapolis is one of this select group is evident to anyone enjoying the city on a fine summer day, as we did.

The view from the Guthrie Museum to the former railroad Stone Arch Bridge over the Mississippi River

Guided by John Erwin, a Parks Commissioner, the Longwood Graduate Fellows sought the answer to this question – How is it achieved?

 

As John conducted a whirlwind tour, we visited The Peace Gardens, Rose Garden and The Annuals and Perennial Border.  All were immaculately maintained by staff and volunteers, and clearly loved by Minneapolitans.  A real pride and care by the public is evident throughout the system.  On a Saturday afternoon, the parks were well used, with all types of recreation happening around Lake Calhoun.

Flower vendors at the vibrant famers market at Mill City

It was always evident that the parks comprised a complete system, a network of places and links, tied to specific communities.  A visit to a section of the Grand Rounds, a 53 mile loop of lakes in the heart of the city, showed that they were used both as a destination; for beaches, canoeing, eating, picnicking – and as a route; for jogging, walking, commuting.

John Erwin describes a map of the Grand Rounds in Minneapolis, the only National Scenic Byway located in a major city in the US.

The concept of networks also dominated a presentation by Mary deLaittre, Project Manager for the Minneapolis Riverfront Development Initiative.  Using the advantage of semi-autonomy from the city to great advantage, this project has developed and designed a strategic physical master plan for a 5.5 mile section of the Mississippi River bank, completing the parks path and bike network in challenging industrial and multiuse spaces.  More than this, it seeks to connect existing parks and recreation assets to a wider system and create new interfaces between communities, using the Mississippi as its central corridor.  In addition to all this, it has an economic mission to spur development, as in the district now developed around the beautiful Guthrie Theater (led by a $30 million investment in the area by Parks and Recreation).  It also seeks to create integrated environmental systems, manage storm water, recreate habitats – all whilst maintaining industrial use and jobs.

Looking out on the ruins at the Mill City Museum, once the world’s largest flour mill

So what is the secret? – Yes, Minneapolis Parks have more autonomy, more money, and more public support than many parks.  But this alone doesn’t explain it.  Rather, two things stood out.  Firstly, visionary leadership at all levels in the organization.  Secondly, a truly comprehensive approach to parks – the integration and consideration of all elements as important to the system.  In practice, this means that no one factor dominates, but all are considered – economic, environmental, community, recreation and industry.  It recognizes that people have complex needs, and seeks to address them comprehensively.

Posing with John Erwin, our generous guide for the day and Chair of Minneapolis Parks Department and Professor of Hort. Science at the University of Minnesota

Wow! Our thanks to Minneapolis for a wonderful day in your parks, and please, if you are lucky enough to live here, don’t take them for granted – they are truly extraordinary.