Spring in Australia

If there’s one thing better than fall in the USA, it would have to be spring in Australia! October saw this second year Fellow travel home to Australia to attend the Botanic Gardens Australia New Zealand Conference (BGANZ), do some research for my thesis, and recharge my Aussie accent.

I am researching how Australian and United States Botanic Gardens are planning to manage their living plant collections in the face of water shortage. The Curators of the Australian gardens I interviewed for this research were very generous with their time, offering plenty of insights into how they are planning for the challenges associated with climate change and competition for water. I was really impressed with the level of planning that some gardens have already undertaken, and in particular the holistic approach they are taking to this immense botanical challenge.

Albury Botanic Gardens is distinguished by its collection of Australian subtropical trees, including the dome-shaped Araucaria bidwillii, the Bunya Bunya Pine from Queensland.

Albury Botanic Gardens is distinguished by its collection of Australian subtropical trees, including the dome-shaped Araucaria bidwillii, the Bunya Bunya Pine, from Queensland. I traveled to this delightful regional garden as part of my thesis research.

The BGANZ Conference presentations ranged from an entertaining and informative session on social media communication, to the unveiling of a new ex-situ plant conservation partnership among southern New South Wales botanic gardens.

BGANZ Conference was hosted by Wollongong Botanic Gardens

BGANZ Conference was hosted by Wollongong Botanic Gardens

BGANZ had considerately elected to hold most of their conference across the road from the ridiculously scenic North Wollongong Beach. But just in case we got sick of seeing too many Norfolk Island Pines and ocean views, the conference moved to the Illawarra Escarpment for a day in the rainforest, a move the plant geeks (i.e. just about everyone) definitely approved.

Australia has its fair share of of Southern conifers, particularly the Araucarias and Podocarps. Many New South Wales are fringed with Norfolk Island Pines, Araucaria heterophylla

Australia is a home to many southern hemisphere conifers such as the Araucarias and Podocarps. Many New South Wales beaches, like North Wollongong, are fringed with Norfolk Island Pines, Araucaria heterophylla.

‘Plant Geek Day’ started with a visit to the Wollongong Botanic Garden, then on to Mt. Keira for Conference workshops at the Scout Camp.

The view north of Wollongong from Mount Keira.

The view north of Wollongong from Mount Keira.

Some of the Escarpment’s remarkable subtropical rainforest can be seen on the slopes of Mt. Keira, where we were lucky to see the native Illawarra Flame Trees (Brachychiton acerifolius) in full flower.

The brilliant scarlet flowers of the Illawarra Flame Tree light up the rainforests of the Escarpment.

The brilliant scarlet flowers of the Illawarra Flame Tree, Brachychiton acerifolius, light up the rainforests of the Escarpment.

And because too much plant geek action is barely enough, the day ended with a visit to the Illawarra Grevillea Park, with its fabulous collection of Grevilleas and other unique Australian plants.

Conference delegates were like the proverbial kids in a candy store when they were let loose at the Illawarra Grevillea Park

Conference delegates were like the proverbial kids in a candy store when they were let loose at the Illawarra Grevillea Park

I also presented a conference session on different approaches to community engagement and caught up with plenty of colleagues from ‘down under’ botanic gardens. My visit back home was over way too soon, and before I knew it, it was time for that 10,000 mile trip back to the USA. Farewell Australia, I’ll see you again soon!

A Happy Oaktober at the International Oak Society Conference

Second year Longwood Fellow, Andrea Brennan, was excited to be able to take part in the recent International Oak Society (IOS) Conference in Lisle, IL.  The conference was hosted by the Morton Arboretum in late October – prime time of year to catch the trees resplendent in their fall color!  The oak is the state tree of Illinois. In honor of this, and of the value contributed by Morton Arboretum to the state, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner recently declared October to be State Oak Awareness Month, better known as “Oaktober”.

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Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) leaves frame the view of a pond at the Morton Arboretum

In reference to the genus name of oaks, Quercus, oak fans proudly call themselves “quercophiles”. The IOS conference was quite inclusive and welcomed anyone with a love of oaks, from the hard-core scientist to the homeowner with the majestic trees planted in their yard. The wide diversity of attendees made for a fascinating variety of presentations, workshops, and tours in areas such as conservation, propagation, breeding, phylogeny (evolutionary history), collections management, and ethnobotany (study of the relationship between plants and people).

A line of trees, including a White Oak (Quercus alba), silhouetted against the setting sun at the arboretum

A line of trees, including a White Oak (Quercus alba), silhouetted against the setting sun at the arboretum

Andrea presented a poster on her thesis research of oak conservation through tissue culture. Tissue culture involves taking a piece of a plant, called a tissue, and placing it into a small container such as a test tube.  At the bottom of the container is a gel-like material that contains all the nutrients the tissue needs to survive and grow into a new plant.  Oaks tend to be difficult to grow via tissue culture, and so more research is needed to determine the best conditions for reproduction.

Oaks play a vital role in ecosystems across the globe, but the survival of many species is under threat. Tissue culture could be a valuable tool in saving these important trees.

Andrea’s remaining “oak army” growing in tissue culture

Some of Andrea’s “oak army” growing in tissue culture

Andrea had a number of oak tissues, called explants, still growing in tissue culture left from her recently concluded experiment, so she took the conference as an opportunity to give them to one of her committee members, Dr. Valerie Pence.  Dr. Pence is Director of Plant Research of the Center of Conservation Research of Endangered Wildlife at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, and will continue to study and grow the young oaks in her lab there.

Oaks standing tall at the arboretum’s Schulenberg Prairie

Oaks standing tall at the arboretum’s Schulenberg Prairie

The International Oak Society Conference was a wonderful experience with immense and enjoyable learning, engagement, and networking opportunities. This gathering of quercophiles gave attendees the chance to … branch out.

Volunteer Engagement in Santa Barbara, California

Volunteers are the heart and hands behind many public gardens and play an integral part in garden operations and engagement. First Year Fellow Tracy Qiu represented the Longwood Graduate Program at the 2015 American Public Gardens Association Volunteer Engagement Symposium, held in sunny Santa Barbara.

Fellow Tracy Qiu examines the beautiful tilework at Ganna Walska Lotusland

Fellow Tracy Qiu examines the beautiful tilework at Ganna Walska Lotusland (photo credit: Allie Skaer, Cheyenne Botanic Gardens)

The Symposium kicked off with an opening reception at Ganna Walska Lotusland, and docent-led tours provided attendees with fascinating insight on the life and loves of Madame Ganna Walska, a Polish opera singer and garden enthusiast. Her sense of style was visible all over the themed gardens in the form of lush tropical plantings, soda glass-lined gravel paths, oversized seashells surrounding a decadent pool, and many other details. “I’m an enemy of the average,” Ganna Walska is often quoted, and her vision of Lotusland certainly supports her words with its dramatic and whimsical designs.

The enchanting soda glass of Lotusland is also available in the giftshop as a souvenir!

The enchanting soda glass of Lotusland is also available in the giftshop as a souvenir!

Presentations began with a keynote address from noted environmentalist Sigrid Wright, followed by a risk management session – always an important topic when working with volunteer groups. The afternoon brought about an excellent exploration into diversity within volunteer workforces. Nayra Pacheco of Just Communities used a combination of guided exercises and free discussion to dialogue with the audience about the complex issues of race and privilege and how it relates to our volunteer workforces.

In the evening, shuttle buses whisked attendees to Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, where native plants, sustainable practices, and conservation highlight over 1,000 species of indigenous plants. A highlight of the event was an installation of yarn and fiber arts, surprising guests with bursts of color throughout the California landscape.

The breathtaking skyline of Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

The breathtaking skyline of Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Leadership was the central theme of the final day, with sessions that discussed leadership roles within the volunteer workforce and the multiple roles that volunteer program leaders must fill on a daily basis. The Symposium closed with a tour and reception at the spectacular Casa Del Herrero, a fine example of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture.

Tracy’s favorite memories of the Symposium include Lotusland’s charismatic cacti and succulent garden, the “mirrors and windows” exercise for diversity and representation, “extreme examples” in liability and risk management, and dinner at Mesa Verde with a fabulous group of garden and volunteer professionals.

Beautiful Santa Barbara, California

Beautiful Santa Barbara, California

Many thanks to the American Public Garden Association and planning committee for organizing the symposium, and to the staff and volunteers of Ganna Walska Lotusland and Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens for such a welcoming and invigorating experience! Fellows always look forward to opportunities to develop professional skills and to network, and the 2015 Volunteer Engagement Symposium surpassed expectations.

Vita Nova: A Farm to Table Arrangement

“Vita Nova” in Latin means “new life,” and that is exactly what Longwood Graduate Fellows bring to the Vita Nova restaurant each Monday morning. As a way to connect with the greater University of Delaware community, Fellows bring fresh flowers and cuttings from the University of Delaware Botanic Garden to this fine dining restaurant located on north campus.

Tracy Qiu with flowers for you

Tracy Qiu with flowers for you

Vita Nova is run by students in the University’s Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management program and provides hands-on experience they will use in their careers. The flowers are arranged by the students and used to decorate the tables for the week.

Winter arrangements Winter arrangements utilize greens, dried flowers, and seasonal berries

Winter arrangements Winter arrangements utilize greens, dried flowers, and seasonal berries

The University of Delaware Botanic Gardens is a research center, laboratory, and living classroom for the students and visitors that enjoy its beautiful 15 acres. The gardens have more than 3,000 species and cultivars of perennials, shrubs, and trees. Picking flowers or other greens in the garden is strictly not allowed, but the Fellows have special permission to harvest plant material for Vita Nova.

The University of Delaware Botanic Gardens is a research center, laboratory, and living classroom for the students and visitors that enjoy its beautiful 15 acres. The gardens have more than 3,000 species and cultivars of perennials, shrubs, and trees. Picking flowers or other greens in the garden is strictly not allowed, but the Fellows have special permission to harvest plant material for Vita Nova.

Felco pruners in action

Felco pruners in action

For some Fellows, long trained not to pick the flowers in a botanical garden, it can feel a little naughty to be let loose with a pair of pruners in the garden!

Fellows enjoy the chance to get outside and see what is in bloom, as well as to support Vita Nova and their delicious and educational mission. You can connect with Vita Nova on Facebook, and check out their dramatic and excellently produced new video on their blog.

Adkins Arboretum, a Welcoming Landscape

 

Native Joe Pye Weed attracts pollinators

Native Joe Pye Weed attracts pollinators

The first year Fellows piled into the mini-van and headed south to Adkins Arboretum for the last of our summer field trips. This 400-acre arboretum on Maryland’s Eastern Shore is a model for land stewardship and interpretation.

The gracious Ginna Tiernan, Acting Executive Director, Joanne Healey, Nursery Manager, and Will Cook, Board President, ushered us into the light-filled visitor center. From the Arboretum’s open gate policy for dogs to the locally roasted coffee available to visitors, the Arboretum has many small touches that make the guest feel considered and taken care of. The excellent graphics and signage are key to the visitor experience.

Bug spray on offer before heading out to the garden

Bug spray offered before heading out to the garden

Goat signage

Goat signage

Knowledgeable and engaging docent volunteer Margan Glover led a tour of some of the main paths. The Fellows learned about Adkins’ history, native species, and research efforts. Along the way, blue bricks marked the installations of the art exhibit, “Unnatural Nature.” The pieces are created with materials found on site by environmental artists Howard and Mary McCoy. These subtle works create a new and interesting way for visitors to engage with the space.

The presence of multi stemmed trees like this one indicate that a landscape was once clear cut

The presence of multi-stemmed trees like this one indicate that a landscape was once clear cut

Adkins has an excellent array of educational programming, including volunteer-led docent tours, environmental education for schools, and adult education classes. The Arboretum, which is located just off of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, also offers a well crafted and unique audiotour that explores the connections between nature and the Underground Railroad.

The map and audio guide to “A Journey Begins”

The map and audio guide to “A Journey Begins”

The Fellows toured the Arboretum’s nursery facilities, the children’s garden and, of course, paid a visit to the Adkins goats. The goats first came as employees, hired from the company Eco-Goats to clear brush and invasives from the property. One of the visiting goats was pregnant with triplets and was unable to care for the third kid. A gardener adopted the baby and over the years other goats have been added.

A Fellow meets a Goat. A Goat meets a Fellow.

A Fellow (Stephanie Kuniholm) meets a Goat. A Goat meets a Fellow.

Many thanks to the staff and volunteers at Adkins for a wonderful tour of a unique and inspiring place!

Shaping the Future of Horticulture at Ladew Topiary Garden

The first year Fellows visited Ladew Topiary Gardens on a gorgeous sunny day in August. The naked ladies (Lycoris squamigera) were in full bloom and the topiaries were looking sharp!

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Naked ladies and a view of the hunt topiaries

As a Maryland Historic Site, Ladew Topiary Gardens faces unique heritage challenges. Harvey S. Ladew purchased the property in 1929 and created the gardens with intentional imperfections and an eye for whimsy. This brings up questions for current staff such as: should the original bright colors be maintained? What about the off-centered focal point of the sculpture garden? Some bright colors have been kept and some now live only in historical photographs. The sculpture garden focal point is maintained as it was in Mr. Ladew’s original design.

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Mr. Ladew created this fountain by combining different sculptural elements he found during his travels

Although projects such as upgrading aging hardscaping, replacing invasive species, and addressing the occasional fallen tree are present throughout the field of horticulture, considering them in light of Mr. Ladew’s original intent adds a layer of intrigue.

Thanks to a talented horticultural team and inspired garden leadership, the Ladew Topiary Gardens are thriving. The staff strikes an admirable balance both maintaining historical integrity and modernizing to fit the times.

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First Year Fellow Erin Kinley enjoys a visit from a monarch during her time in the Butterfly House

One of the modern choices made in recent years is the Butterfly House. Opened in 2014, this beautiful structure houses native butterflies found in the surrounding meadow and provides ideal space for community education. The caterpillars are collected from the area and adult butterflies are released back into the ecosystem. The Fellows are looking forward to the growth of the Butterfly House in addition to everything else Ladew has in store for the future!

Winterthur: Experiencing the “Peace and Calm of a Country Place”

Winterthur simply cannot be explored in one day. A 60-acre naturalistic garden, surrounded by 1000 acres of soft meadows, the grounds provides visitors with the “peace and great calm of a country place,” in the words of Henry Francis du Pont. One could easily spend a year there, discovering new delights, especially within the 175-room museum of American decorative arts, which boasts an impressive collection of over 90,000 objects.

Upon our arrival, we were warmly welcomed into the Brown Horticulture Learning Center. Here, we began our day with an engaging round table talk lead by Estate and Garden Director Chris Strand, Director of Horticulture Linda Eirhart, and Gardens Associate-Curator Carol Long. We were given an in-depth history of H.F. du Pont’s legacy, complete with marvelous tidbits of information, such as the fact that Winterthur once housed a prize winning herd of Holstein-Friesian cows!

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Beautiful scenery from our garden tour

Our discussion moved onto current topics in public horticulture such as family programming, narrative interpretation, public engagement, agricultural visibility, and the potential shifts a garden may need to make for a changing visitor demographic. The Director and staff were gracious enough to answer all our questions, providing yet another perspective to add to our public garden experiences.

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Following the discussion, the Fellows were led through the gardens and grounds. Notable features included the Renaissance-inspired Reflecting Pool and the KIDS GROW Children’s Vegetable Garden, which is open to young families for an engaging 8-week course in vegetable cultivation. We quickly fell under the spell of the Enchanted Woods, which tickled our fancies and fueled our imaginations. My personal favourite: the Tulip Tree House, carved beautifully out of a fallen Liriodendron.

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Tracy enjoying the Enchanted Woods

The Fellows would like to thank Director Chris Strand, Linda Eirhart, and Carol Long, as well as the rest of the Winterthur staff. We appreciated your hospitality and can’t wait to come back to continue exploring!

A Walk in the Shade at Jenkins Arboretum

Sweeps of ferns blanket the ground beneath the mature tree canopy.

Sweeps of ferns blanket the ground beneath the mature tree canopy

Despite its proximity to Valley Forge National Historic Park, the massive King of Prussia Mall, and countless residential developments, Jenkins Arboretum has been a source of respite and cultural value to the surrounding community since 1976.

As soon as the Fellows entered the Arboretum gates, we were swept away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world through an immersive tour with Director of Horticulture and Curator of Plant Collections, Steve Wright.

Steve Wright guided the fellows throughout the Arboretum and gardens.

Steve Wright guided the Fellows throughout the Arboretum and gardens

As we explored the winding paths of the azalea-lined hillside, we were fascinated to learn that the property, left by H. Lawrence Jenkins as a living memorial to his wife, Elisabeth Phillippe Jenkins, began as natural woodland with no formal design. Today, a stunning display of rare and unusual rhododendrons, including Rhododendron macrosepalum ‘Koromo Shikibu’ and Rhododendron periclymenoides, greets visitors daily. The garden is free of charge from sunrise to sunset.

Executive Director Dr. Harold Sweetman guided us through the newest addition to the arboretum, the John J. Willaman Education Center. The Center is a remarkable testament to Jenkins’s commitment to environmental sustainability as well as fiscal responsibility. An advocate of passive education, Dr. Sweetman highlighted the subtle signage of the building, an intentional tool that extends throughout the gardens in support of a less traditional educational experience. Dr. Sweetman explained, “…people come here everyday for all kinds of reasons: to walk with their children, to fall in love, to be in nature. Every time they visit the gardens they have learned something new.”

Not limited to humans, the arboretum is a source of respite for a wealth of insects and pollinators.

Not limited to humans, the Arboretum is a source of respite for a wealth of insects and pollinators.

The Fellows would like to thank Dr. Harold Sweetman, Steve Wright, and the entire Jenkins Arboretum staff for their time and hospitality.

A Wonderful Conference at Scott Arboretum

On Friday, July 17, several of the Longwood Graduate Program Fellows and Longwood Gardens  Interns attended the Woody Plant Conference at The Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College. While Swarthmore College was founded in 1864, the arboretum was officially dedicated in 1929. The Fellows spent the day listening to several inspiring speakers and engaging with other professionals from the region, as well as enjoying the lovely sights of the arboretum.

Fellows and Interns alike loved the landscapes at Scott Arboretum

Fellows and Interns alike loved the landscapes at Scott Arboretum

After a welcome from Scott Arboretum Director Claire Sawyers, Rebecca McMackin of Brooklyn Bridge Park took the podium to share her experiences with helping create a biodiversity-focused public garden on reclaimed shipping piers in New York City. She was followed by Dr. David Creech of Stephen F. Austin Gardens in Texas, who spoke about the best woody plant selections available for our shifting climate. Longwood Gardens’ own Pandora Young then gave a wonderful presentation on trees and shrubs that not only look great in landscapes but can also provide us with delicious new foods.

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The Scott Arboretum planned an incredible conference, even down to the floral finishes

After lunch in the arboretum’s stunning outdoor amphitheater, conference attendees returned inside to hear Jeff Jabco of Scott Arboretum, Joe Henderson of Chanticleer, and Jessica Whitehead of Longwood discuss the regional clematis trial being done as a joint effort between the three organizations. Next, Jim Chatfield from the Ohio State University Extension program gave valuable insight on analyzing signs, symptoms, and plant health for diagnosing plant problems. Patrick Cullina ended the conference with a riveting presentation on plant use and selection in public spaces, including projects such as the High Line in New York City.

First year Fellows enjoying the beautiful weather after the conference

First year Fellows enjoying the beautiful weather after the conference

The Fellows would like to thank all of the conference staff and volunteers who put together such a wonderful program. We hope to see you again next year!

First Year Fellows at Mt. Cuba

Despite the rainy weather, Mt. Cuba Center shone brightly during our visit. The native woodland gardens were especially charming on a rainy day and the downpour was kind enough to hold off until we made it back to the house. Our docent guide, Judy Stallkamp, gave us a great tour filled with personal touches about her favorite plants and Copeland family anecdotes.

The beauty of the site can be summarized by Mrs. Copeland’s desire for visitors to “look up as well as look down.” The tall, straight trunks of the tulip poplars draw one’s gaze up and allow the visitor to appreciate the overall woodland beauty in addition to the smaller floral accents.

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Tulip poplars draw one’s eyes upward

A floral accent by the large pond

A floral accent by the large pond

I particularly enjoyed the chance to see the trial gardens. Even on a cloudy day the native plants were abuzz with pollinators and the whole garden was full of color.

Trial gardens at Mt. Cuba

Trial gardens at Mt. Cuba

The Fellows were charmed by the story of Mrs. Copeland’s mailboxes, which are scattered throughout the garden. She had these mailboxes placed in the garden so she could leave notes for herself or the gardeners. She also left books to read so they would be easily accessible.

Thank you, Mt. Cuba, for such a great visit!