Category Archives: Summer Field Trips

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.

First year Fellows visit Mt. Cuba Center

July 22, 2011 – Mt. Cuba Center, DE
(written by Sara Levin, photographs by Quill Teal-Sullivan and Martin Smit)

The First Year Longwood Graduate Fellows’ inaugural summer field trip was to the Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin, Delaware.  Historically, this property was the home of Mr. and Mrs. Lammot du Pont Copeland who transformed open farmland into the woodland gardens and wildlife landscape we find there today.  The Copelands bought the property in 1935 and started their plant collection soon thereafter.  Native plants became their great interest, which is still clear today in the garden’s mission to remain “…dedicated to the study, conservation, and appreciation of plants native to the Appalachian Piedmont region through garden display, education, and research.”  Currently, Mt. Cuba Center works to balance several contrasts: public/private, open/secluded, contemporary/ traditional, native/non-native.

As a non-profit organization, Mt. Cuba Center is in its infancy and is in the process of determining its priorities and direction of growth.  At the moment, the garden is open to the public by appointment only (with the exception of an annual Wildflower Day each spring).   This limits the foot traffic and helps preserve the plant collection.

The grounds are designed with elegance and intent.  As you move away from the main house, the gardens become wilder.  The foot paths wind through the grounds in such a way that you can never see too far ahead on your walk, adding a sense of mystery. The woodland garden was not only beautiful but on a record hot day, we found comfort in the shade of the giant tulip poplars and white pines.

As the mission states, there is a great emphasis on native plants, especially those native to the Piedmont region (a geological region stretching from New York to Alabama, just west of the Atlantic Coastal Plain).  This does not mean that you will only find native plants at Mt. Cuba Center.  History and legacy are also considered in the plant collection and some non-native plants remain as a reminder of the family that once lived on the grounds and thought highly enough to plant them.

The First Year Fellows were lucky to have Mt. Cuba Center Director Rick Lewandowski as our knowledgeable guide.  Mr. Lewandowski shared many of their exciting programs and important collections with our group.  Mt. Cuba Center does extensive plant research and is looking to expand in this area with a new plant trials research facility on its way. It is also the local authority on trilliums, not to be missed in the spring!

After an extensive tour of the grounds, the Fellows joined a few key staff members for lunch and were able to gain more insight into the workings of Mt. Cuba Center.  A return trip is slated for the fall to enjoy the changing colors and to revisit this woodland retreat.

 

A Pleasure Garden

(Photos by Ashby Leavell)

On August 20th, the First-year Fellows arrived at Chanticleer in Wayne, PA, by 9:45am.  By 11:45am, it was one of my favorite gardens.  Ever.

What was it about this place that put it a cut above many beautiful gardens in my mind?  It might have been the highly detailed vignettes blended into wide-open views of lawn and woods, the intimacy and yet the expansiveness of it.  It might have been the tasteful combination of well-crafted furniture and artwork with solid horticultural knowledge.  It might have been the philosophy of the place: “To make each visitor feel like a personal guest of the Rosengartens’,” in the words of Executive Director Bill Thomas.

Open to the public since 1993, the Chanticleer estate was left in trust by Adolph Rosengarten Jr.  Without many restrictions on the development of the gardens, Chanticleer’s identity as a pleasure garden could be expressed in continually evolving ways: in exuberant tropical plantings around the house, creative container arrangements, unexpected paving designs, and idyllic seating areas with brightly painted Adirondack chairs.  No signs and few plants labels detract from the private garden feel; trashcans are nowhere to be found.

The garden itself unfolds gradually.  We were given ample time at the beginning and end of our visit simply to wander and discover.  At first look, you see a basically pretty landscape, colorful and thriving even toward the end of a tough summer.  Trees cast deep shadows over sloping lawns, and perennials and shrubs fill out planting beds.

Look longer, and stroll further in, and you begin to see why Chanticleer is so especially beloved of garden lovers.  Feathery sweeps of meadow grasses direct you up to a vine-covered “ruin,” inhabited by succulents planted in wall pockets, a reflecting “pool” table, and slate “books.”  The naturalistic Asian Woods are nonetheless dotted with the signs of human creativity: a rough stone holding a floating flower arrangement, hand-crafted bridge railings, an iron trellis guiding a vine up a tree trunk.  Leaning over a bridge to stare into the stream flowing beneath, you’re likely to see something like a leaf-shaped boulder in the water.

Chanticleer’s unique beauty is a tribute to the skill and creativity of its multi-talented staff members.  The seventeen full-time, year-round employees include seven horticulturists who spend the off-season (November to March) practicing various wood-, stone-, and metal-working crafts, the results of which are put to good use throughout the garden.  In addition, the horticulturists have a fair amount of autonomy to design their respective garden areas, drawing on inspiration gathered from traveling abroad, and sometimes helped along by serendipity.

Not for nothing is Chanticleer included in many “Best of” garden lists, including Tim Richardson’s Great Gardens of America.  On beautiful days, we were told, getting the last guests out after closing time is a challenge.  We were certainly reluctant to leave it behind ourselves, even knowing that we’d all be returning for another visit, and soon.

Beautiful Brookside

(photos by Felicia Yu)

Our visit to Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland was a memorable one. Although we left the University of Delaware at the bright and cheery hour of 7 a.m., it was well worth it! Upon our arrival, we were greeted enthusiastically by the Director, Stephanie Oberle. Stephanie has spent many years at Brookside including time as a young girl growing up nearby, as a volunteer in high school, an undergraduate intern, AND as a graduate student in the Longwood Graduate Program! She oversees Brookside, an institution that functions within an organizational structure that is quite unlike its peers, which includes being part of a larger municipal government hierarchy.

This year and continuing over the next three years, Brookside’s theme will focus on edible plants. One of their challenges is finding appropriate plant material for displays. In general, vegetables and other edible plants are bred for high yield with little thought to aesthetics. Crop plants also incur more labor than ornamental plants, and some crops need to be harvested up to 3 times a week! Jim Deramus, a horticulturist at Brookside, has enthusiastically taken on these challenges. Besides handling all the maintenance and harvesting of the edible plants, he sends many crops to the local food bank to feed the homeless. Some of the plantings included okra, swiss chard, rice, and sorghum. The Fellows especially enjoyed the display of purple tomatillos, although one would argue this was because we were able to sample them; so tasty! However, Brookside also provided experiences beyond our palate.

We discovered that the butterfly house and show was more than a destination for kids or families, but for big kids too! (a.k.a. Longwood Graduate Fellows). This show is one of Brookside’s main revenue streams, attracting an average of 50,000 paid visitors a year.  It is remarkable that the butterfly exhibit utilizes half of the entire volunteer workforce in the Parks Department for the whole county. It’s extremely popular! With specimens from North American, African, and Asian continents, there truly are butterflies for everyone.

Visiting Brookside on August 12 was a unique experience in light of some recent extreme weather. Just days before our arrival, a ‘microblast’ rain storm hit Brookside, dumping so much rain that water ran 10’ above the sides of the large creek bed that runs along the gardens! The most visible damage was seen from the boardwalk that runs alongside the creek and, in total, they lost 12 large shade trees. Even though the damage may seem discouraging, Stephanie and the team are seeking out learning opportunities for guests, such as leaving an uprooted tree where it landed to illustrate root systems.

Ironically, after all the adverse weather, it should be noted that Brookside DOES have a rain garden! Stephanie mentioned that one of their main goals was to show the public you can have an aesthetically pleasing rain garden; it doesn’t have to look like ‘a weed patch’ to be fully functional. Although it is a demonstration garden, it also serves as a barrier between their conservatory and an area that tends to have flash runoff.

But at the end of the day, it was obvious amongst our group that the most valuable time at Brookside was in discussions with the team. It’s fitting that such a dynamic garden would have such a fantastic group of staff!

The First Years Visit the Delaware Center for Horticulture

Delaware Center for Horticulture (DCH) is not all about plants.  Not really.  This was the message we took away from our day spent learning about its current projects with Executive Director of 16 years, Pamela Sapko. This message was no accident; it is ingrained in the Center’s new Brand Strategy, based around the tagline, “People and Plants.  Growing Together.”

Why is this? It is because DCH is interested in outcomes, real, people-centric, community-building, crime-reducing, youth-developing outcomes.  Plants are just the medium for this great act of social intervention.

Don’t misunderstand me.  The plants are important.  They bring beauty to otherwise desolate concrete deserts, punctuating the urban freeways with spires of colour and rafts of texture, dancing in the wake of thundering juggernauts.  However, it is what the plantings can do that counts, and this is what DCH is really cultivating.

We are shown an Urban Farm that brings 18 families together to grow food for their own tables.  Eighteen families of children will know what it is to eat home grown vegetables in a neighborhood with 40 convenience or liquor stores but not a single supermarket; and it doesn’t stop here.

We see a whole block lifted by the efforts of one woman.  A small community garden surmounted by a vast mural in every conceivable color squats where once three derelict townhouses stood.  This interloping effort has gathered its own family around it: a row of window boxes extends 12-15 houses down the street; a double row of trees is passing through its ungainly teenage years, shortly to mature into an elegant avenue.  This is a street with a proud community, the drug dealers have been moved on, it is safe again.  It took one woman in her eighties with a passion for where she lived, who knew to look to the DCH for assistance.

Others needing help include people transitioning from prison back into their home communities.  One of the biggest predictors of reoffending is the availability of suitable transition to employment. Just as it would a struggling tree in an inhospitable urban landscape, DCH provides a period of stability and training for these vulnerable adults. It nurtures and supports, enables roots to be put down, trains, guides and prunes off the rougher edges where needed.  It helps them contribute again, in their own community.

Horticulture is a powerful medium to help people, linking us to nature and resonating with long forgotten memories within each of us.  DCH is keen to promote its message that people are the heart of what it does and horticulture is how it does it.  In our tour today, we saw that it really is about People and Plants. Growing Together.


Photography by Aubree Pack

Cylburn Arboretum – August 14, 2009

On August 14, the first year fellows traveled south for a visit to the City of Baltimore’s Cylburn Arboretum.  Bill Vondrasek, LGP alumnus and Chief Horticulturalist of the Bureau of Parks Horticultural Division, offered a behind-the-scenes tour of the gardens as well as current construction projects, including a new “green” Visitor and Education Center and a renovated horticulture building.  Natalie Lopes, the Executive Director of the Cylburn Arboretum Association, joined us for lunch and shared her vision for enhancing community engagement through a new horticulture-training program for young adults.  Our day concluded with a spontaneous visit to the nearby Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens of Baltimore—another lovely public garden managed by the City of Baltimore.

Bill hefting a building block in front of the new Visitor and Education Center

Bill hefting a building block in front of the new Visitor and Education Center

Enticing entryway of the newly renovated horticulture building

Enticing entryway of the newly renovated horticulture building

Guardian of the formal garden

Guardian of the formal garden

The Mansion, centerpiece of several historic tree and shrub collections

The Mansion, centerpiece of several historic tree and shrub collections

Natalie offering some info and insight

Natalie offering some info and insight

Side trip to the lovely Rawlings Conservatory

Side trip to the lovely Rawlings Conservatory

Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve- July 31, 2009

Fridays in July were quite nice for the first year fellows because of the field trip.  We took a trip to Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve north of Philadelphia on July 31st with Keelin Purcell, Dan Stern, and Dr. Lyons.  Amy Hoffmann, the Education Coordinator and a former fellow of the Program, guided us through the Preserve.  Many native flowers were blooming in the meadow at Bowman’s Hill and looked lovely. 

 

Clearwing moth with Monarda didyma, common name Bee balm

Clearwing moth with Monarda didyma, common name Bee balm

 

Posing by the creek

Posing by the creek

 

The forested area

The forested area

 

Lobelia cardinalis, common name Cardinal Flower

Lobelia cardinalis, common name Cardinal Flower

 

Vernonia noverboracensis, common name Iron weed

Vernonia noverboracensis, common name Iron weed

 

Asclepias tuberosa, common name Butterflyweed

Asclepias tuberosa, common name Butterflyweed

Notably Nemours – July 17, 2009

Our second summer field trip took us to the 300-acre Nemours Mansion and Gardens of Alfred I. DuPont.  We were delighted to be led on a tour of his family’s French chateau styled mansion.  The chance to get a glimpse into the inventive ideas of an early 1900s industrialist was amazing – DuPont implemented these ideas into aspects of his home like cork floors to help cushion the cook’s workspace in the kitchen!  We were impressed and hadn’t yet set foot on the grounds.  The grand gardens were prettier and more expansive than any picture can do justice.  The site showcased exquisite fountains, whimsical gnomes, stately hound statues and one very charming tour guide who proudly escorted us through DuPont’s car collection.  We couldn’t have asked for lovelier weather to peruse such a beautiful space.

fountain friends

Parterre

Stairway showcase

Grassy mosaic

The mansion

Paul and the ladies