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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100 Years as an Estate…. 20 Years as a Public Garden!

 (Photographs by Gary Shanks)

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The new first-year graduate students got a chance to visit one of the more intimate gardens in the greater Philadelphia area. Since Chanticleer has been written about in a previous LGP blog, let’s just dive right in to the details.

Our tour with Bill Thomas, Chanticleer’s Director, began in the Teacup Garden. Exotic plants are mixed creatively with natives, and because it is directly behind the main house, it feels like one’s own private courtyard.

IMG_1668On the way to the Tennis Court Garden, there is a stately hybrid oak (Quercus alba x Quercus montana) that keeps one humble due to its enormous size. Not until one is faced with a giant tree like this does one realize one’s own small stature. The Tennis Court Garden is full of flowers that fascinate, and sitting on the staff-made wooden glider under the shady arbor is a great vantage point to appreciate the vibrancy of this garden.

Down the slope is a 120-foot “hedge” of asparagus. That’s right, asparagus hedge. The frilly fronds wave in the wind, enticing the visitor to investigate what is behind it… a charming cut-flower and vegetable garden. Tended by a graduate of the Longwood Professional Gardener Program, flowers from this garden are used in the flower arrangements in the house.

Here we stopped, and Bill pointed out what appeared to be an ordinary patch of land. He explained that water from the parking lot flows underground, down the hill to this site, where there is a 10,000-gallon pipe full of holes. This allows the water to come out through the holes and diffuse throughout this patch of land instead of running off and causing flooding. Brilliant!

IMG_1678Our tour continued into the Woodland Garden where one of the staff horticulturists (who doubles as a metal- and wood-worker in the winter) created a giant, partially-enclosed bridge over Darby Creek to resemble a fallen log.

 

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The path on the bridge and into the Woodland Garden is made of recycled tires, shreddedand dyed to look like wood chips. There is a binder added to the tire pieces to prevent leaching of the rubber products into the soil. It also provides a soft and comfortable base for pedestrians, as well as being wheelchair and stroller accessible!

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From the mysterious Lady of the Pond to the frog gravity fountain; from bubbling rocks to the stepping-stones through the moss garden, it is a charming stroll through the Woodland Garden. The path leads to the Asian Woodland Garden where most of the herbaceous plants, shrubs, and small trees originate from China, Japan, and Korea.IMG_1723

Chanticleer’s charms continue on. You will have to go visit yourself to find out about the Pond Garden, Serpentine Garden, Terrace Garden, Ruin Garden, and the countless hidden treasures waiting for discovery as you wander the grounds.

Nemours: “To Love and To Know”

(Photographs by Felicia Chua)

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As our inaugural field trip for the Summer 2014 season, the first-year fellows toured the mansion and grounds of Nemours, the former home of gunpowder magnate A.I. duPont. Located in Wilmington, Delaware, the palatial estate, modeled after Versailles in a formal French style, was draped in the heat and humidity of a true Mid-Atlantic July.

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We were greeted at the Visitors Center by Public Relations Manager, Steve Maurer, who escorted us by vehicle up to the center drive of the mansion, catching glimpses of the gardens and fountains through the allee of thickly planted oak, chestnut, and cryptomeria.

Our second host, the Head of Horticulture at Nemours, Richard Larkin joined us at the front entrance of the mansion where our view was no longer obscured by the allee. Although hesitant to wander the grounds in the heat, Richard and Steve expertly guided us through the shade to view the estate’s gardens. 

2014-07-19 10.31.52The extensive boxwood designs, gravel paths, and gold leaf details were balanced by the charming wildness of a rural historic site. The trees led our gaze down one-third of a mile of intensely manicured formal gardens, highlighting architectural features that included fountains, ponds, a sunken garden, Greco-Roman temples, and statues and stonework of old gods.

 

2013-07-19 10.07.21Currently sitting on three hundred acres, the site for the house and garden was chosen by A.I. duPont to honor a memory of his father, anecdotally relayed to us by Steve Maurer, “While on a walk in the woods with his father, E.I. duPont, a young A.I. was brought to a spot surrounded by tulip poplars. His father told him that he would like to build a house there so he could spend his days reading and eating ice cream.” There were five original tulip poplars on the property of which only one remains. It is very badly in decay and currently being held upright by a concrete slab, preserved as an historic and emotional connection to the past.

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A Lord & Burnham greenhouse sat unused, derelict, and beautifully invaded by flowering butterfly bush. It stood in sharp contrast to the meticulously restored and maintained house and gardens, both a testament to the skill of the staff, as well as a reminder of the effects of time and nature unchecked.

The house itself was stunning, and the taste and style of their personal esoterica may be unmatched. It was to great disappointment that we were not allowed to take photographs inside of the mansion, but understandable. The duPonts of Nemours surrounded themselves with objects of personal appeal. Amassing a collection based purely on personal preference, the house was filled with paintings, rugs, furniture, and objets d’art unified by a strong aesthetic taste. Some personal highlights included a locked refrigerator in the lower level of the house where A.I. duPont kept his ice cream, and a basket of vegetable and fruit shaped ice cream molds (alarmingly made of lead)!

2014-07-19 10.08.46The functional design of the house was equally impressive. Being an MIT trained engineer, A.I. DuPont spared no expense or craftsmanship in Nemours’ mechanical systems. Early ammonia based refrigerators, ergonomically conscious cork flooring, and redundant generators were all installed, and remain as a testament to innovation and classic industrial design.

Nemours follows faithfully in the family motto “To Love and To Know.” Built for his second wife, and honoring the memories of his father, Nemours is a revelation in that which A.I. duPont both knew, and loved.

Mt. Cuba Center

August 17, 2012 – Mt. Cuba Center, Hockessin, DE
(written by Lindsey K. Kerr, photographs by Chunying Ling)

Bright and early, the First Year Fellows and Dr. Lyons left Townsend Hall for Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin, Delaware. Mt. Cuba Center was founded by Mrs. Lammot du Pont Copeland at the site of her home. In 1935, Mr. and Mrs. Copeland built a stately house they named “Mt. Cuba” and soon afterwards began developing the original agricultural landscape into a series of garden spaces.

The Copelands took a particular interest in plants native to the Piedmont, which was typical of their home site. From the time they moved in until Mrs. Copeland’s death in 2001, the gardens grew in both number of individual plants and diversity of appropriate species. Today, the Copeland’s house and gardens are maintained by Mt. Cuba Center staff and the organization itself has become a non-profit dedicated to native plants of the the Appalachian Piedmont Region.

Upon our arrival, we were warmly greeted in the parking lot by Longwood Graduate Program alumna Julia Lo-Ehrhardt. She escorted us to the Main House and introduced us to the senior staff. We spent the rest of the morning with Interim Executive Director Steve Martinenza and his senior team learning about Mt. Cuba’s strategic plan and management practices. The different managers introduced us to the history of Mt. Cuba, the founding family, and how Mt. Cuba continues to evolve and grow to fulfill the vision of its founder. We learned about Mt. Cuba’s research and educational programs as well as its commitment to improving the visitor experience and making stronger connections with the public. Mt. Cuba staff discussed their respect for Mrs. Copeland’s ideas and aesthetics and their challenge to embrace the future. They want to enhance native plant accessibility for the average homeowner and encourage their greater use in garden design.

Later in the afternoon we headed outside for a tour of the grounds. First stop was the new Trial Gardens, which were two years in the making and initially planted in spring 2012. Gardener George Coombs explained the goals of the trial garden as we admired the set-up and the plants. The trial gardens aren’t just focused on the latest introductions—they are also trialing tried-and-true cultivars to find out which ones are really the best for gardeners in the region.

Horticulturalist Marcy Weigelt then gave us a quick walking tour of the West Slope Path, the ponds, and the meadow garden, soon pausing in the meadow garden to admire the large number of pollinators and several exotic praying mantises. We finished up our field trip with a visit to the greenhouses where staff grow approximately 10,000 plants every year. In the future, they plan to start collecting more seeds locally for propagation as part of Mt. Cuba’s commitment to native plants of the Piedmont region.

Visiting Mt. Cuba Center was a wonderful experience and a great way for First Year Fellows to finish up their summer field trip series of DuPont legacy gardens!

Hagley Museum and Library

August 10, 2012 – Hagley Museum and Library, DE
(written by Laurie Metzger, photographs by Lindsey K. Kerr)

It was a rainy morning as we prepared to visit the Hagley Museum and Library. Being a 253 acre museum, with extensive grounds, gardens and mills, we were a bit nervous that the rain would put a damper on our visit. Nevertheless, we made our way through the Delaware countryside to Wilmington.

Upon arrival, Geoff Halfpenny, Executive Director, and Mike Wilson, Interpreter, greeted us cheerfully. Fortunately, the rain lessened and we began our journey back in time to the birthplace of the du Pont fortune and legacy.

Hagley was originally the home of E.I. du Pont. Having mastered the French techniques for manufacturing black powder before he immigrated to America, E.I. chose to settle on the banks of the Brandywine Creek, where he could take advantage of the power afforded by the Creek’s fast running currents.

The first stop on our tour was the restored 1870’s machine shop. Here we observed a demonstration by Stephen DeVeber. This was a wonderfully rare opportunity to see 100 year-old machines still accurately cutting steel. While Steve demonstrated this art, he spoke to us about the Dupont company and what powder mill life was like. We learned that a machinist was the highest paid worker at the mill and made between 10 and 20 cents per hour, working six days per week. Mill workers received two paid holidays (Independence Day and Christmas Day).

Back outside we were rejoined by Steve and introduced to Richard Larkin, the staff horticulturist. Both men toured us through the magnificent gardens as they discussed the recent renovation and restoration that have occurred over the past decade. Since reopening in 2008 the garden only welcomes about 12,000 guests a year since tours are given only three times a day and have a maximum of 48 people each. This allows guests to have a much more intimate experience while touring around the gardens, at times feeling the gardens are their own.

Avoiding puddles, we made our way to the mills along the Creek’s edge. The milling apparatus is made of cast iron, weighs 20 tons and is powered by the harnessed force of the Brandywine. Tom Stack showed us the explosive nature of the powder, warning us about the danger of a mill job. Sadly, if a worker was standing on the mill deck when an explosion occurred, the Dupont company was forced to tell the family that their relative had “gone across the creek” (and never to return).

As great proponents of education, du Pont built a school on the Hagley property for the workers and their families. The phrase “Sunday School” refers the fact that the people worked six days a week and went to school on Sunday. The schoolhouse has been restored to its original purpose. Angela Williamson, Volunteer Coordinator and a former Longwood Fellow, toured us through the vegetable garden and the school while discussing Hagley’s volunteer needs and challenges.

In the afternoon, the rain finally tapered off and the sun came out. We were introduced to the Horticulture staff and taken inside the mansion, the estate garden, and the greenhouses. We learned about Hagley’s tree collection and inventory, whereby the most exciting was the Osage Orange tree, co-champion on the National Register of Big Trees.

Hagley is a wonderfully intriguing place. We could not have been more impressed with the staff or its history. We are looking forward to going back to learn more about this important American family’s legacy.

Nemours Mansion and Garden

July 27, 2012 – Nemours Mansion and Garden, DE
(written by Joshua Darfler, photographs by Laurie Metzger)

Nemours Mansion and Garden was the second stop of this summer’s du Pont family garden tour. Originally the home of Alfred I. du Pont – cousin to Pierre du Pont – and Alfred’s third wife Jessie Dew Ball, Nemours Mansion and Garden is now a breath-taking public garden surrounding a five-story, 47,000 square feet, seventy-seven-room mansion completed in 1907.

The house, originally built to impress A.I. du Pont’s second wife, is located on the family’s land in Wilmington, Delaware nearby the original black powder factory. The house was designed by Carrere and Hastings and modeled after 18th century French architecture style. The garden is situated around the house to provide incredible vistas from therein, but also to provide quite, secluded areas to stroll and play. Both the house and the garden complement each other in beauty and in boldness.

The visitor experience is nothing less then extraordinary, and steeped in the traditions of A.I. du Pont and Jessie Dew Ball’s hospitality. The First Year Longwood Graduate Fellows, along with several Second Year Fellows, were greeted by Steve Maurer, Public Relations Manager, and ushered into the modern reception center (built 2007) to watch a brief movie about the life and times of A.I. du Pont, after which we boarded a small bus to be driven to the mansion.

As the bus drove up the road the only hint of the grandeur of the garden is a beautiful historic stonewall, which surrounds and hides the garden. As the bus turned down the main entrance, and the historic iron gates opened, all on board were able to behold the beauty of Nemours for the first time. The bus drove to the main house on a road through a maple allée, hedged by boxwoods, and surrounded by beautiful mature tree specimens as far as the eye can see. We were dropped off at the mansion where we were formally welcomed and handed a carnation. Then the fellows were given a brief tour of the first floor, which was still in the style that Jessie Dew Ball left it after her death in 1970 – full of rare paintings, valuable furniture, and exquisite rugs.

Back outside we were rejoined by Steve and introduced to Richard Larkin, the staff horticulturist. Both men toured us through the magnificent gardens as they discussed the recent renovation and restoration that have occurred over the past decade. Since reopening in 2008 the garden only welcomes about 12,000 guests a year since tours are given only three times a day and have a maximum of 48 people each. This allows guests to have a much more intimate experience while touring around the gardens, at times feeling the gardens are their own.

The garden is arranged on the major axis of the house so as you stand on the porch you look straight down to the main reflecting pool, the archways, and beyond.  As we strolled through the promenades and vistas, the saying “A picture is worth a sounds word” came to mind, and in this case it may be worth even more.

Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library

July 20, 2012 – Winterthur, DE
(written by Chunying Ling, photographs by Josh Darfler)

Breathing with the fresh air after early morning rain, the Longwood Graduate Program first-year Fellows, with their Director, headed to another garden of the duPont family—Winterthur. Winterthur is Swiss, pronounced ‘Wina-tour’ and is located in Wilmington, Delaware and was founded by Henry Francis du Pont.

We felt so warmly welcomed at the visitor center by our special tour guides Chris Strand and Linda Eirhart. Chris, the Director of gardens and estate, has worked here for six years and Linda, the curator of plants, has worked there for 25 years. Standing at the patio of the visitor center, which is also the garden pavilion, Chris pointed at the meadow and field far away and told us that no buildings were built in that area, so visitors still can enjoy the wide and open views. From their brief introduction, we learned that Winterthur is the premier museum of American decorative arts, reflecting both early America and the du Pont family’s life there.

The garden tour started with an old greenhouse that was under construction.  Classes and workshops will be held in the spacious classroom, especially for people who love flowers and flower arranging. On the opposite side was the vegetable garden, which produces many greens and other vegetables, like tomatoes and beans. They are family gardens for both parents and children to learn how to grow vegetables. Winterthur believes that children need to experience working and harvesting and sometimes failure is good teacher through the progress of growing up.

Passing by the vegetable garden, Linda stopped by the peony garden and told us these flowers were used for cut flower production in spring. A wide selection of different colors and varieties of flower shapes in more than 600 cultivars were displayed both in the upper and lower peony garden.  Tree peonies, native to China, were a candidate for China’s National Flower, competing with Chinese plum. What is the American national flower, we asked ourselves? We started a discussion of state flowers, trees and birds. Peach blossom is the state flower of Delaware and the state tree is American holly. “Rose is the U.S. national flower,” Laurie finally got the answer from her smart phone.

Enjoying the bright greens, we walked through the Azalea Woods. The flowers were gone with spring but I still have some views with great showy colorful flowers in my mind. Azalea Woods, which looks so natural, was one of my and many other visitors’ favorite parts of Winterthur.  It is hard to believe it’s a “man-made” woods and definitely a highlight of spring must-sees. ‘’You guys should come back next spring,” Linda invited, to which we replied “We will!” Can’t wait for next spring to see them and the March Bank covered with millions of bulbs, such as winter aconites, glory-of-snows, snow-drops, changing color every week.

Turning right to Enchanted Woods, we entered another world, the Children’s  Garden, which was designed with many adorable elements, such as the mushroom mist and the bird nest that the fairy folk created as a magical landscape for children of all ages! Canopied by majestic oak trees, the Enchanted Woods has been taken over by the woodland fairies who live here.  It is transformed into a place of enchantment, mystery, and discovery. From the Tulip Tree House to the Faerie Cottage, children will find a new world to explore. Here we experienced and recalled childhood stories again as “big” children.

Moving onto to the Dove tree (Davidia involucrata), which is located near the Dorrance Gallery and the Reflecting Pool garden, is another highlight of Winterthur. It is more than 108 years old, with five main branches starting at the same stem. “Probably, it was the first one blooming in North America after being introduced here from China,” Chris told us. The white bracts surrounding the flowers create a fantastic experience to stand underneath this tree and look up into its dove or handkerchief-like flowers.

Our field trip ended with the museum tour after lunch.  During the 45 minute tour, we only saw 18 out of the total 300 rooms.  Many silver and china pieces are displayed in the living room and the kitchen.  Such fantastic wallpaper illustrated the way Henry Francis du Pont and his family used to live. More stories about their family and Winterthur will be told through the great museum seasonal tours in the future.

Winterthur, we will come back!

Philadelphia’s Park System, Fairmount Park

August 26, 2011 – Fairmount Park, PA
(written by Abby Johnson, photographs by Quill Teal-Sullivan)

Mr. Tee Jay Boudreau, Special Projects Manager at Fairmount Park gave students a behind the scenes tour of Fairmount Park.  Tee Jay Boudreau is a former Fellow of the Longwood Graduate Program.

History of Fairmount Park

In the late 1790’s there was a yellow fever epidemic. In an effort to ensure clean drinking water, the first municipal water department in the country was developed on the site that is now Philadelphia City Hall. Additional efforts to ensure clean drinking water included purchasing buffer land surrounding the five waterways: Dahrby Cobbs, Pennypack, Poquessing, Tookancy/Tocany-Frankford, and Wissahickon Creek.  This buffer land totals 9,200 acres, which composes 10% of the city’s infrastructure, 13% of the city’s land mass, and all of this comprises the Fairmount Park System of Philadelphia.

The City of Philadelphia merged the Department of Recreation and the Department of Parks, which, combined, is now responsible for maintaining everything from city street trees, to public gardens, to ball fields. Altogether, that’s a 150,000 – 200,000 trees!  The departmental merging is an unusual but successful model.  Philadelphia’s Mayor Nutter’s initiative is to plant 300,000 trees by 2013. Other facilities include the Please Touch Museum, Horticulture Center and conservatory.

Organic Recycling Center w/ Tee Jay Boudreau and Marc Wilken

The students got a first hand look at the recycling yard waste and compost center. Twenty years ago the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) set out a concrete pad to collect and deposit yard waste. Today, this site is used by Fairmount Park and other municipal areas for composting purposes. Collected materials are handled so as to convert raw vegetative matter to mulch and organic compost over time. The conversion process takes about four months to turn from a mixture of foliage and manure to “black gold.”  Compost turners and aerators figure prominently in the successful conversion process.  In previous years, 3400 tons per week were collected; however, due to current budget cuts only curbside pick up matter is retained, yielding about 2100 tons per week. Manure from city horse farms also contributes to the richness of the compost. Philadelphia residents can take advantage of this clean compost for free.  Compost is sold to contractors for a larger fee.

Disaster Preparedness

In 1996 Hurricane Floyd washed away one of the maintenance buildings. It was quite a coincidence that when we visited Fairmount Park, the staff was in the throes of preparations for an impending Hurricane Irene, which was scheduled to hit the next day!

Flood Plain management/ Water Flow Diversion

Fairmount Park staff have proactively developed a diversion plan to mitigate land erosion and pool water at certain points in the Park. This not only protects the land above but also the park users below. The topography map showed very steep points of terrain above the historic Valley Green Inn at Wissahickon Park below. The trails at  Wissahickon  are  used by joggers, walkers, and other park patrons daily.  The flood plain management activities do not impede animals from traveling throughout the park, rather it protects habits from washing away.

Chanticleer, a Pleasure Garden

August 19, 2011 – Chanticleer, PA
(written by Quill Teal-Sullivan, photographs by Nate Tschaenn)

The third destination for the First Year Fellows’ summer fieldtrip series was Chanticleer, a 35-acre estate garden along the Philadelphia mainline.  Once the home of the Rosengarten family of Philadelphia, the house and surrounding grounds became a non-profit organization with the death of Adolf Rosengarten, Jr. in 1990.  While the house is preserved to illustrate how the family may have lived during the early 1900’s, the grounds are not maintained according to historic records. In keeping with the founder’s wish, the grounds are intended to be pleasure gardens designed and kept to the standards of the talented garden staff.  Chanticleer’s vision is to be one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, while creating the intimacy and comfort of a private estate.  And this they do quite well. The moment we pulled through the gates it was as though we had fallen through a rabbit hole and landed in a world of horticultural wonder, where tranquility and sensual stimulation are perfectly balanced.

We were greeted by Bill Thomas, Chanticleer’s Executive Director, who was dressed in work boots as though just in from the dirt.  He led us to the open-air welcome pavilion, nestled in a tropical extravaganza of banana trees and elephant-ears, its roof dripping with a tangle of passionflower and Dutchman’s pipe. The pavilion was crowned with a statue of Chanticleer himself, a proud rooster who shares the namesake of the garden, and can be found perched here and there atop a fence or column.  Bill subsequently sent us out into the gardens to explore at our own pace, so that we could develop our own unique interpretations.

The gardens at Chanticleer are comprised of a series of vignettes, each with its own character, charm and mystery. Each could stand on its own, yet they are gracefully strung together by the common thread of horticultural whimsy. I found myself drawn to the Ruin Garden, which sits on the footprint of what was once an original estate house. The ruin itself is not authentic, but it certainly elicits the allure of crumbling farmhouse in the Irish countryside.  Traces of human habitation and order are combined with the wildness of nature overtaking an abandoned structure. Vines creep up the walls.  Echeveria adorns the mantle like an overgrown arrangement. A tree bends through the opening of a window. Ferns take the place of a fire in the hearth. This play between human function and nature’s prowess is a reoccurring theme at Chanticleer. But it is orchestrated with such intention and elegance, a testament to the gardener’s creativity and skill.

At lunchtime, we gathered at the terrace gardens beneath the pool pavilion for sandwiches and sweet tea with Bill Thomas and Ed Hincklen, the facilities manager and general contractor. Afterwards, they lead us on a behind-the-scenes tour of the new projects underway, so we could see first hand the incredible amount of work that goes into making such a garden so pleasurable. The first stop was Bell’s Woodland, Chanticleer’s newest addition to the gardens that exhibits flora of the native east coast forests.  A winding path throughout the woods is made from rubber mulch, an innovative new material of recycled tires, quite convincingly made to look like natural mulch but with a spring underfoot. A feature of Bell’s Woodland will be a bridge resembling an abstract fallen beach log, which, when finished, will be dripping with ferns an moss.

Chanticleer is very conscious of energy consumption and is working to be as gentle on the environment as possible.  This effort is seen in their recent solar panel installation atop the equipment garage, which produces 20% of Chanticleer’s energy needs. Ed showed us the “numbers rolling in” on the megawatt meter, a sight that makes an energy-wise facilities manager proud. The major capital project at the moment was the construction of a new greenhouse big enough to over winter a menagerie of tropical plants. The new greenhouse features radiant floor heating and all American made building materials, 98% of which are recycled. In another effort to reduce energy use, Chanticleer is minimizing turf by replacing areas with plantings of mondo grass, ferns and fescue mixes. It is clear that the staff of Chanticleer takes pride in their environmental initiatives both big and small. It is inspiring to see that innovations in environmental responsibility are approached with the same enthusiasm as innovations in horticultural display.

Our tour came to an end at the Entry Courtyard, which boasts containers planted with vegetables in the most inspired ornamental arrangements.  The elements of color, texture and form were each considered carefully in stunning compositions. We said goodbye to our generous hosts amidst urns ripe with kohlrabi and cascading cucumbers.  And away we went, the image of a crowing rooster disappearing in the distance. Each First Year Fellow dreaming of their next visit to the beautiful gardens of Chanticleer.

First year Fellows visit Tyler Arboretum

July 29, 2011 – Tyler Arboretum, PA
(written by Martin Smit, photographs by Abby Johnson and Nate Tschaenn)

With a documented history stretching back to 1681, when William Penn released the property to Thomas Minshall, the Tyler Arboretum has a rich legacy. Since 1944 when Laura Tyler donated the property to be developed as an arboretum, in memory of her husband, the Tyler Arboretum has slowly evolved and grown as an organization. With rich plant collections, notably due to the work of the Painter brothers and the first director Dr. John Wister, combined with large natural areas, Tyler has always been an inspirational setting. In the last few decades, Tyler has become focused on sharing these wonderful resources with the community. In its own words, the Tyler Arboretum wants to “stimulate stewardship and understanding of our wonderful natural world.”

The current Executive Director, Mr. Rick Colbert, welcomed First Year Fellows and discussed the Arboretum’s more recent history. It was interesting to learn about Tyler’s process of drawing up a master plan in 1996, a groundbreaking step in the field of public horticulture at the time. It was interesting to see how this document was put into practice and how, partly because of it, the organization has experienced significant growth during the last decade. Mr. Colbert also pointed out how continuous long term planning is an essential part of the Tyler Arboretum’s successful management and that the organization regularly updates the master plan. He also explained how various efforts were being put into growing the Arboretum’s endowment to ensure the organization’s future, a crucial step in these uncertain financial times.

Ms. Betsey Ney, Director of Public Programs, guided First Year Fellows through the Arboretum and pointed out how new developments are aimed at making it more accessible to visitors. Hopefully, future visitors will also be drawn into some wonderful, previously hidden, areas of the Arboretum. The Tyler Arboretum offers a diverse range of activities but is especially focused on engaging families and children. Tyler has made a concerted effort to align the educational programs for children with school curriculums, which has led to Tyler becoming an ever more popular destination for regional schools. Enhanced programming has also increased family visitation, as well as improved membership growth in recent years.

With exhibits such as playful tree houses, various quirky sculptures, the butterfly house, amazing landscapes and natural areas, it is easy to see why this Arboretum has become such a popular regional destination. With its strong institutional leadership it is sure to continue its important role in the region for the years to come.