Reminder: Symposium Travel Award Applications due Friday!

Send your applications in this week for the Emerging Professionals Travel Award! Awards will be given to eligible emerging professionals, including students, to engage a new generation in this important dialogue.

Click here for further information about the Travel Award, including the application. The deadline for applications is this Friday, January 8, 2016.

More information about the 2016 Longwood Graduate Program Symposium: Daring Dialogue:

Public gardens and cultural institutions are centers of community, science, and art. Today’s society is often overwhelmed with debates in all of these areas. In a world where misspoken words amplify in a matter of minutes, how can institutions tactfully open discussion on today’s difficult topics? When and where do they provide research, resources, and opportunities to interact with new or contested ideas?

The 2016 Longwood Graduate Program Symposium, Daring Dialogue, will navigate the questions and higher callings of cultural institutions. Discover how we are prepared to address challenging issues such as environmental action, civic responsibility, and the evolution of public gardens as community assets.

Registration opens Friday, January 8.

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International Experience 2016: Australia

Holiday season is usually filled with hot chocolate, winter coats, and hibernation. But this year the First Year Fellows are packing sunscreen and summer gear in anticipation of their International Experience to Australia in January 2016!

Since July, the Fellows have been researching and developing an itinerary to explore the social impact of Australian gardens in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. Longwood Gardens is finalizing a new strategic plan which prioritizes efforts to measure the effect of our education and community engagement programs on the wider world. In support of this, the Fellows will be traveling to Australia to learn how gardens down under are evaluating the short- and long-term impacts of their own programs. The Fellows will be visiting a variety of destinations in Australia, including world class zoos, gardens, and national parks.

The Red Sands Garden of Cranbourne Gardens, a branch of the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. Photo courtesy of R.Reeve.

The Red Sands Garden is one of the many beautiful features of Cranbourne Gardens Photo courtesy of R.Reeve.

Fellows will be researching specific programs at each organization that focus on community engagement and education. Through tours and meetings with local staff, the Fellows hope to learn more about Australian garden’s efforts to measure the impact of work they do and to build relationships with gardens on the other side of the world.The Fellows will be departing from the United States on January 10th to begin their exciting two-week research expedition through Australia. There will be daily updates of the journey on this blog, so check back here soon!

Start working on your Travel Award Application!

The Fellows are busy finalizing details for the 2016 Symposium, Daring Dialogue, and are excited to host another group amazing of emerging professionals! Don’t delay–the deadline for applications is Friday, January 8, 2016.

The Travel Award will be given to eligible emerging professionals, including students, to engage a new generation in this important dialogue. Click here for further information, including the application.

The Holiday Season Has Arrived!

Just before Thanksgiving, the Fellows ushered in the holiday season by helping with Longwood’s Christmas Changeover in the conservatory. The Changeover replaces the Chrysanthemum Festival with all the elements of A Longwood Christmas in just a few days’ time – a massive undertaking!

The Thousand Bloom Mum in all its glory at the beginning of the Chrysanthemum Festival.

The Thousand Bloom Mum in all its glory at the beginning of the Chrysanthemum Festival

To do their part, the Fellows take apart the show-stopping pinnacle of the festival: the Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemum. A spectacular work of living art, this year’s mum sported over 1,400 flowers and took seventeen months to grow and train. This feat is managed by Longwood’s talented mum specialist Yoko Arakawa and her team of skilled horticulturists.

Because a new Thousand Bloom Mum is grown for each year’s festival, the old one is cut down at the end of the season to save valuable resources and greenhouse space. Although this may seem wasteful, the giant mum is composted along with the other plants removed with the conservatory so that it can later be used to nourish future generations of flowers.

Longwood mum specialist Yoko Arakawa gives a demonstration on how to separate the flowers from the plant. Each flower had to be removed before the frame could be disassembled.

Longwood mum specialist Yoko Arakawa demonstrates how to separate the flowers from the plant. Each flower must be removed before the frame can be disassembled

It took nearly three hours for the ten Fellows and several other Longwood staff members to dismantle the magnificent beast. Starting by removing the flowers within arm’s reach, the group quickly progressed into using ladders, pruners, and wire cutters to untangle the plant from its frame.

Fellows and staff clip away at hundreds of flowers on the mum

Fellows and staff clip away at hundreds of flowers on the mum

First Year Fellow Tracy Qiu and Second Year Fellow Fran Jackson begin taking apart the mum from the inside out.

First Year Fellow Tracy Qiu and Second Year Fellow Fran Jackson take apart the plant from the inside out

Once the lower branches have been cleared away, the rods that give the frame its shape can be removed.

Once the lower branches have been cleared away, the rods that give the frame its shape can be removed

With the last of the mum being carted off to compost, Yoko and Second Year Fellow Keith Nevison finish taking apart the rest of the frame. The frame will be stored in pieces until the mum for next year's festival is big enough to start training.

With the last of the mum carted off to compost, Yoko and Second Year Fellow Keith Nevison finish taking apart the rest of the frame. The frame will be stored in pieces until the mum for next year’s festival is big enough to train

Water features now stand in the place of the Thousand Bloom Mum for the fountain-themed Longwood Christmas, on taking place now until January 10.

Water features now stand in the place of the Thousand Bloom Mum for the fountain-themed Longwood Christmas

Despite the initial pain of deflowering such a beautiful plant, the group took heart in the excited buzz of holiday preparations going on throughout the rest of the building.  A Longwood Christmas 2016, on display until January 10th, is a truly spectacular sight.

Happy Holidays from the Longwood Graduate Fellows!

Happy Holidays from the Longwood Graduate Fellows!

Spring in Australia

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

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

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

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

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

BGANZ Conference was hosted by Wollongong Botanic Gardens

BGANZ Conference was hosted by Wollongong Botanic Gardens

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

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

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

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

The view north of Wollongong from Mount Keira.

The view north of Wollongong from Mount Keira.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Announcing: 2016 Longwood Graduate Program Symposium & Travel Award

Daring Dialogue Final Logo

Save the date for the 2016 Longwood Graduate Program Symposium and spread the word about the Emerging Professionals Travel Award!

Public gardens and cultural institutions are centers of community, science, and art. Today’s society is often overwhelmed with debates in all of these areas. In a world where misspoken words amplify in a matter of minutes, how can institutions tactfully open discussion on today’s difficult topics? When and where do they provide research, resources, and opportunities to interact with new or contested ideas?

The 2016 Longwood Graduate Program Symposium, Daring Dialogue, will navigate the questions and higher callings of cultural institutions. Discover how we are prepared to address challenging issues such as environmental action, civic responsibility, and the evolution of public gardens as community assets.

Emerging Professionals Travel Award Application Available Now! 

We are also excited to announce our second annual Emerging Professionals Travel Award to attend our 2016 Symposium! The Travel Award will be given to eligible emerging professionals, including students, to engage a new generation in this important dialogue.

Click here for further information about the Travel Award, including the application. The deadline for applications is Friday, January 8, 2016.

Thank you in advance for spreading the word!

A Happy Oaktober at the International Oak Society Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oaks standing tall at the arboretum’s Schulenberg Prairie

Oaks standing tall at the arboretum’s Schulenberg Prairie

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

Supporting Pollinators

In mid-October, Longwood Graduate Fellow Keith Nevison attended the inaugural Protecting Pollinators in Ornamental Landscapes Conference (PPinOL) at the Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, NC. The conference was co-sponsored by North Carolina State University and Michigan State University Extension and featured presentations assessing honeybee and bumblebee health in the face of numerous environmental stressors. Speakers discussed industry and extension office efforts to promote beekeeping and pollinator protection while balancing consumer desires to safely apply pesticides to combat pest and disease outbreaks.

Interesting presentations abounded.

Interesting presentations abounded

The PPinOL conference was quite timely, as the White House recently released a National Strategy to Promote Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. To further promote pollinator conservation, the National Pollinator Garden Network (NPGN) was formed to register one million public and private gardens in support of pollinators. NPGN is an unprecedented collaboration between national gardening clubs, conservation non-profits, and garden industry partners, including the American Public Gardens Association, the National Wildlife Foundation, American Hort, the Xerces Society, and others.

Fall in full effect in the Smoky Mountains.

Fall was in full effect in the Blue Ridge Mountains

The Kanuga Conference Center was an ideal setting for the conference and provided ample opportunities for recreation and reflection, with its 1,400 wooded acres and miles of trails. Kanuga has operated since 1928 and welcomes over 25,000 guests each year to its conference facilities, retreat center, summer camps, and Mountain Trail Outdoor School.

Kanuga Lake forms the heart of the property.

Kanuga Lake forms the heart of the Kanuga Conference Center property

After the conference, attendees were offered the chance to tour the Biltmore Estate, the largest privately owned house in the United States. Our tour was provided by Director of Horticulture Parker Andes, who formerly served as Landscape Superintendent at Longwood Gardens. Parker painted a picture of the early Vanderbilt family and their efforts to turn their property into America’s first forestry education school, with opportunities to study the effects of logging and reforestation, among other practices. At its height, the Vanderbilt Estate encompassed over 125,000 acres, and in 1911 a significant parcel was sold to the United States Forest Service to become Pisgah National Forest.

Very fine greenhouse on the Biltmore Estate.

Exquisite greenhouse on the Biltmore Estate

Asheville in mid-autumn is beautiful and provided a perfect setting for this fall conference–Thanks to the team who came together to make it a success!

Volunteer Engagement in Santa Barbara, California

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

Fellow Tracy Qiu examines the beautiful tilework at Ganna Walska Lotusland

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

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

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

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

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

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

The breathtaking skyline of Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

The breathtaking skyline of Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

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

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

Beautiful Santa Barbara, California

Beautiful Santa Barbara, California

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

Vita Nova: A Farm to Table Arrangement

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

Tracy Qiu with flowers for you

Tracy Qiu with flowers for you

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

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

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

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

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

Felco pruners in action

Felco pruners in action

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

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