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.

2015 Outreach Project Update: Bright Spot Farms

Over the past few months, the Fellows have been busy working on their annual Professional Outreach Project. This experiential project is designed to offer the Fellows an opportunity to engage with regional professionals, gain project management experience, and work collaboratively within a specific area interest in public horticulture. This year the Fellows have partnered with Bright Spot Farms, a social enterprise program of West End Neighborhood House in Wilmington that offers hands-on horticultural job training to young adults aging out of Delaware’s foster care system. Together with the staff from Bright Spot, the Fellows are working to create an updated business and program plan to serve as a guide to increase the efficiency and sustainability of this unique and important initiative.

Bright Spot Farms Team at the Cool Spring Farmers' Market (photo courtesy of Bright Spot Farms)

Bright Spot Farms Team at the Cool Spring Farmers’ Market (photo courtesy of Bright Spot Farms)

So what exactly have they been busy doing all summer with this project? The Fellows have conducted interviews and surveys, engaged in benchmarking with similar programs all over the region and nation, become regulars at the Cool Spring Farmers’ Market (which is run by Bright Spot), followed the Mobile Market all over Wilmington, and have eaten some seriously delicious local produce grown at Bright Spot.

Read more about the great work of Bright Spot Farms or see (and taste) for yourself at the Cool Spring Farmers’ Market!

Summer Summary: Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now

Beginning the 2015-2016 school year this week has us reflecting on our accomplishments this past summer and looking toward what is ahead:

The Class of 2016 traveled throughout Massachusetts to visit The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Mount Auburn Cemetery, and other locations owned by the Trustees of Reservations at the beginning of June. Fellows also presented their research and experiences at the American Public Gardens Association Annual Conference in Minneapolis in late June.

July brought the Class of 2017, who dove into learning about all the departments that comprise Longwood Gardens, meeting public horticulture professionals in July and August, and formulating their thesis research topics.

Several Fellows attended the American Society for Horticultural Science annual conference in New Orleans, LA at the beginning of August. They received the following awards and presented their research:

2015-07-14 00.02.57 (1)Elizabeth Barton, Class of 2017
Award: Industry Division Student Travel Grant

Research: Moderated an oral session and presented her research, “A Comparison of Organic Matter Amendments for Use in Extensive Green Roof Substrates”


Andrea ASHS Poster

Andrea worked hard this spring to complete experiments central to her thesis research on oak trees

Andrea Brennan, Class of 2016
Awards: 3rd Place in Scholars Ignite Competition for her speech Tissue Culture for Oak Conservation: Graduate students share their research discoveries and creations to a non-specialist audience in under 3 minutes; ASHS Travel Grant

Research: Presented posters on her research, “The Effect of 6-Benzylaminopurine (BAP) on Bud-forcing of Twelve Quercus L. Species” during two sessions: Propagation I and the Graduate Student Poster Competition

2015-07-14 00.06.12Erin Kinley, Class of 2017
Award: American Society for Horticultural Science Scholar Award





Most recently, the Class of 2016 have been guiding the Class of 2017 throughout this year’s Professional Outreach Project, which is focused on Bright Spot Farms and creating an updated program and business plan. Lead Fellow Stephanie Kuniholm will share our experience at the beginning of October.

Fellows are also gearing up for the 2016 Symposium, the annual International Experience (for the Class of 2017), attending conferences and looking forward to classes this semester. Check back for updates every two weeks this fall!

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!


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.


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.

Erin cropped

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!

Photo Jul 31, 12 02 56 PM

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.



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.

Photo Jul 31, 11 42 29 AM

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.


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.


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.

wayfinding orange planters

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!