Category Archives: Summer Field Trips

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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!

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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!

A Sunny Day in Haverford

Haverford College Arboretum Director Bill Astifan

Haverford College Arboretum Director Bill Astifan

Hello! This is the first official blog post from the Class of 2017. You can check out our bios and see our shining visages here. We look forward to connecting with lots of new people and institutions in the world of public horticulture over the next two years.

As a part of our summer orientation, we will be visiting a variety of public gardens and sharing our experiences with you. Our first trip was to Haverford College Arboretum. It was a glorious sunny day to walk around the 182 year-old university arboretum–the country’s oldest. Our tour guide was Director Bill Astifan.

Bill’s encyclopedic knowledge of the grounds and trees was impressive, to say the least. As we walked through the beautiful 200-acre arboretum, Bill shared the history of the landscape and buildings, and seemed to know the history of each and every one of the 3,000 labeled trees on campus. This gorgeous campus is maintained with three full-time horticulturists who have one full-time student worker in the summer and 8 to 10 students part-time during the school year.

At the heart of the Arboretum’s mission is educating and connecting with Haverford’s student body. In addition to the student workers, the Arboretum works with the Environmental Sciences Department and other departments on campus and offers student memberships.

Student farm and arboretum volunteer Megan Wingate

Student farm and Arboretum volunteer Megan Wingate

The level of the arboretum’s involvement with the needs of the student body struck home when Bill pointed out some planters that had been newly installed to help guide a visually impaired student around campus.

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Wayfinding orange planters

We met Martha Van Artsdalen, the Arboretum’s Plant Curator, who discussed some of the many rare and important tree specimens in the Arboretum. They have an impressive collection of conifers in their 18-acre Pinetum. We visited several of the 15 state champion trees, the largest of their kind in the state.

The Fellows standing under the largest Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea) in the state of Pennsylvania

The Fellows standing under the largest Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea) in the state of Pennsylvania

Another star of the collection was a descendant of the Penn Treaty elm (Ulmus americana). William Penn and the Lenni Lenape Chief Tamanend met in 1682 and pledged a treaty of friendship on the banks of the Delaware River under the shade of a giant elm tree. The Arboretum is dedicated to preserving this living piece of American history and has donated seedlings to local Quaker meetinghouses and other organizations that have requested them.

The Haverford College Arboretum was a beautiful place to spend a morning and an excellent start to the Class of 2017’s summer field trips. Many thanks to Bill and his staff for their hospitality!

Mount Cuba’s Native Garden Wonderland

The Class of 2016 visited Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin, Delaware on August 4th. Entering through the house, we were briefed in the beautifully proportioned Colonial Revival style former residence by the senior staff, and were quickly made aware of the scope of Mt. Cuba’s work.

Yet another photo opportunity!

Yet another photo opportunity!

However, the briefing did not prepare us for the horticultural impact of the gardens once we stepped outside. Our garden tour with Eileen Boyle, Mt. Cuba Center’s Director of Education, probably took twice as long as projected, with the Fellows stopping every few yards to photograph the abundant butterflies, flowers, and insects, and exclaiming over each new plant discovery!

Mt. Cuba Center was formerly the home of Mr. and Mrs. Lammot du Pont Copeland. The du Pont Copelands were at the vanguard of encouraging the use of native Eastern North American plants to create ecologically vibrant and beautiful horticultural displays. Mrs. du Pont Copeland was a forward-thinking conservationist, advocating the use of native American plants in gardens. The extraordinary garden was designed in stages by three landscape architects, beginning with the gardens and terraces closest to the house in the mid-1930s. The woodland gardens were completed in the 1960s by landscape designer Seth Kelsey. Dr Richard Lighty, the first Director of The Longwood Graduate Program, was appointed Director of Horticulture at Mt. Cuba in 1983.

The garden is quite formal near the house, playful sculptures  and carefully selected native perennial borders inviting the visitor to explore further.

The garden is quite formal near the house. Playful sculptures and carefully selected native perennial borders invite the visitor to explore further.

The 583 acre estate features 50 acres of display gardens and managed landscapes, the remainder of the estate being primarily natural lands featuring a variety of the landforms and habitats of the Appalachian Piedmont.

Mt Cuba is an important habitat for bees and other insects

Mt. Cuba is an important habitat for bees and other insects.

The gardens contain a diverse range of native Eastern North American plants arranged in displays reflecting various habitats ranging from perennial borders to meadows, woodlands, and ponds. The result is a harmonious series of gardens that are exquisite works of beauty as well as functioning ecosystems alive with butterflies, beneficial insects, and birds. Achieving this natural look is deceptively complex and requires an eye for shape, form, and color.

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The chain of ponds featuring moisture-loving plants of eastern USA

Mt. Cuba is slowly unfurling its public garden identity, taking careful and considered steps towards increasing the audience for its remarkable landscapes and living collections.  ‘Gardening on a Higher Level’ is the recently adopted tagline for Mt Cuba. The line is reflected in its educational offerings, including Mt. Cuba Center’s Ecological Gardening Certificate course, with units including “Sustainable Landscape Techniques” and “Inviting Wildlife Into the Garden”. Other offerings include gardening, art, and photography. Seven summer internships are also offered each year. An internship typically involves four days per week working in the garden with the other day spent on projects, field trips and classroom activities.

Mt. Cuba Center undertakes plant trials of native American plant species. Evaluations thus far include Coreopsis, Echinacea, and North American Asters. Currently 53 cultivars and selections from 14 different species of Baptisia – false indigo – are undergoing evaluation to assess their horticultural potential. Over fifteen cultivars and selections have been introduced to American gardens by Mt. Cuba including the Golden Fleece goldenrod (Solidago sphacelata ‘Golden Fleece’), and Trillium grandiflorum ‘Quicksilver’.

Owen Cass explaining insect monitoring techniques. He's using a fine screen over a garden vacuum to collect insects in the trial area

Owen Cass explaining insect monitoring techniques. He’s using a fine screen over a garden vacuum to collect insects in the trial area. Eileen Boyle, Director of Education, is in the right foreground.

A research collaboration between Mt. Cuba Center and the University of Delaware is comparing the ecological value of native plants with their corresponding cultivars and improved varieties. Owen Cass, Mt. Cuba Fellow and University of Delaware Masters candidate explained that the research is aimed at determining whether plant cultivars, which may differ from their ‘wild’ cousins in terms of flower size, color, or shape, offer the same or similar ecological services as their wild counterparts.

This remarkable garden is open to the public. For details on visiting take a look at the Mt. Cuba Center website.

Class of 2016’s First Field Trip- Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve

With a mission to engage visitors, inspire action and change social behaviour, the staff members of Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve (BHWP) adroitly steward 100-plus acres of rich forest and diverse meadows in the heart of historic Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Near to the site of General George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River, the preserve houses over 800 species of wildflowers and other plants, creating healthy, abundant habitat for a plethora of bird and invertebrate species. BHWP is also home to over 80 rare and endangered plant species making it an area of conservation concern for the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

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Meadow on a stunning day!

We were treated to gorgeous weather during our visit to Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve. In a casual stroll of the gardens and meadow we encountered at least 50 plant species, many in bloom, with 8 different species of moths, butterflies and skippers. Particularly noteworthy were the swallowtails feeding on the nectar of Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot or lavender bee balm)

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Swallowtail on wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Other Lepidoptera species observed included: sleeping orange, cloudless sulphur, red-banded hairstreak, juniper hairstreak and snowberry clear-winged moths.

In the morning we met with Miles Arnott, Director of the BHWP Association, whose organization administers programs targeting school groups and teachers, landscape professionals, homeowners, and members of the general public. Under Miles’s guidance, BHWPA has more than doubled its membership to 1,800 by focusing on educating people both “inside the fence and outside the fence.” This fence is actually a massive deer exclosure which encompasses nearly the entirety of the property, preventing plants from overgrazing by overly abundant ungulates. By excluding deer, the plants are able to grow and reproduce freely, resulting in a healthy multi-storied vegetation layer which approximates a balanced Eastern U.S. forest with large and small trees, shrubs, perennials, and groundcovers. This vertical stratification in turn supports quality habitat for many bird species, including harder-to-spot avians like the Louisiana water thrush, rose-breasted grosbeak and scarlet tanagers.

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Senna hebecarpa– wild senna

Miles also described the work that BHWPA is doing on developing its fee-for-service Plant Stewardship Index (PSI). The PSI is a metric which gives a conservation score of 0-10 based on habitat suitability in a given landscape. The PSI factors among other things: presence of rare species, hard to propagate species and specialist species requiring particular conditions for growth and reproduction to determine a score value for justifying protecting lands. Based on these criteria, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve is clearly worthy of continued preservation and support to encourage others to experience the beauty and serenity of this magical place, a touchstone of Pennsylvania’s natural heritage.

For more information visit: www.bhwp.org

Longwood Graduate Program class of 2016 group shot with Gary Shanks class of 2015. Plus Mary Ann Borge- BHWP’s wonderful docent naturalist

The Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College

(Photographs by Sara Helm Wallace)

Our last excursion for the summer was to the Scott Arboretum on the grounds of Swarthmore College in Media, PA. Umbrellas in hand, we were warmly greeted by Claire Sawyers, the Arboretum’s Director. While admiring the spectacular tropical container plantings and garden beds, Claire gave us the run down on operations at the campus.

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This could be achieved in your home garden

Established in 1921, Arthur Scott wanted the Arboretum to set an example to local home gardeners and professionals in the horticulture industry. It was the first college campus arboretum with an outreach function in the community. The Director, John Wister, set out the plant collections in a phylogenetic placement, starting with primitive plants laid out along the railwayline, and higher plants gracing the courtyards around campus.  Today the Arboretum prides itself onbeing free and open to the public but maintains the core purpose of setting an example to outside entities.  This is achieved through the use of themed gardens all expertly designed and maintained to the highest degree.

As we left the leafy tropical foliage, Claire paused at a great, yet ailing copper beech (Fagus sylvatica Purpurea Group) tree. With a concerned expression on her face, Claire told us the story of this tree and its projected demise. She explained that Scott Arboretum keeps these giants alive for as long as possible, and that rash decisions in terms of removal are often discouraged. Careful pruning is usually administered, but if a tree has to be removed, then the wood is recycled or used as an art installation in another part of the garden.

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Grasses soften the hard lines of the building beyond in The Nason Garden

Moving on, we entered a space effectively dubbed by students as ‘’the wildlife garden’’ and you certainly do feel that wild animals could approach you at every turn. This, The Nason Garden, is attractively landscaped with grasses, conifers and meadow-like flowers, leading to a lot of contrast and continued seasonal interest. Flagstone is combined with asphalt for some cost savings and toshowcase an innovative and attractive pathway that meanders perfectly through the garden.

As we continued on, Claire highlighted the importance of blending the stark architecture of the buildings with the grace and beauty of the Arboretum and native forest. There are several examples where the forest is brought into the campus through native plantings and where large ground floor windows are used to connect outside areas with inside foyers and passages. In relation to this, excess rainwater is managed through rain gardens and roof installations that collect water in giant cisterns. This water is then used for irrigation or is released intermittently into nearby Crum Creek. This minimizes the effects of flooding and erosion, which was a problem in previous years.

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LGP Director Dr. Robert Lyons, Swarthmore Arboretum Director Claire Sawyers and some of the Longwood Fellows relax in the Pollinator Garden

After exploring a Pollinator Garden, we made our way to the front area of campus known as Parrish Beach. Here we were greeted by a whole group of naked ladies, more tastefully known as Lycoris squamigera. This bulbous species from South America flowers abruptly in late July, without warning and without leaves.

Lycoris squamigera on Parrish Beach

Naked ladies! Lycoris squamigera on Parrish Beach

After lunch we were given a tour of the new greenhouses and the green roofs.  The latter are highly functional and an important part of every environmentally conscious organization. We had some time to wander in the Arboretum, thinking how wonderful it would be if every college campus could take a piece of Swarthmore and make it their own.

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Above: One of the green roofs at Alice Hall. Right: A Sempervivum inflorescence brightens up the roof

 

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From Summer Home to Central Park

(Photos by Bryan Thompson-Nowak)

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Believe it or not, the tranquil, wooded grounds of Morris Arboretum are within the city limits of booming Philadelphia. In fact, it is just 12 miles from the University of Pennsylvania campus and 9 miles from King of Prussia. This gem, paired with gorgeous autumn-like weather, made for a memorable field trip for the first-year Fellows.

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Upon arrival, Morris Arboretum’s Director, Paul Meyer, greeted us and shared a bit of Morris’s history. The Arboretum recently celebrated its 125th anniversary: a brother and sister pair, John and Lydia Morris, founded it in 1887 as their summer home. The Arboretum officially opened to the public in 1933, but it wasn’t until 1977 when former director Bill Klein spearheaded a master planning process that made Morris Arboretum into the destination that it is today. Affectionately known these days as the “Central Park of southeastern Pennsylvania,” Morris is looking ahead to the future and working on plans to renovate the front area of the George D. Widener Education and Visitor Center as well as several other improvement projects.

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Paul led us on an intimate tour of the grounds, sharing both facts and stories that most guests will never have the opportunity to hear! As we passed a modest Chinese hemlock (Tsuga chinensis) specimen, Paul paused and pointed out the lack of hemlock woolly adelgid damage. Canadian hemlocks have recently succumbed to this pest on quite a large scale, but its Chinese cousins were observed to be resistant. Paul told us that Morris Arboretum led expeditions to China to collect more specimens of the hemlock and introduce it more widely in the United States.

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The Chinese hemlock is only one example of the impact that Morris has had in collecting and distributing significant new plant species in the US. Another interesting discovery from a Chinese expedition trip came from a surprising species: seeds of the oft-used Liriope muscari, collected from a specimen in China. It provided for some interesting genetic diversity when Morris grew the seeds out. With uniquely wide foliage, as well as a tall, spindly inflorescence, this variation will definitely make visitors to the Arboretum do a double take!

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Our trip to Morris would not be complete without a group photo with the wildly popular “Big Bugs,” which will be on display until the end of August. These giant bug sculptures, created by David Rogers, have been an amazing asset for Morris this year. With their arrival on April 1, the “bugs” helped Morris have their biggest attendance month ever in its history! The local media loved the exhibit, and Morris experienced incredible exposure in the greater Philadelphia area. It has been a win-win all around!

We had a fantastic visit with Paul and his staff, enjoyed amazing weather in a beautiful setting, and learned exciting “insider info” about some of Morris’s plant collections. For more information about planning a visit for yourself, just check out the Arboretum’s web site!

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