Quick Trip to Ithaca

Blog by Joshua Darfler, photography by Sara Helm Wallace and Lindsey Kerr

Several months ago I was talking to my mom on the phone and mentioned the documentary “A Man Named Pearl“.

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Pearl Fryar- a great man.

For those who are not familiar with it, you should go watch it right now! It is a fantastic documentary produced in 2005 about Pearl Fryar – founder, creator, and artist behind the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden. This independent film explores the history and motivation of Pearl, the dire (but optimistic) economic conditions of Bishopville, SC – where the garden is located – and the truly moving message behind the garden. It is an award-winning film that can be enjoyed by all, even those who are not obsessed with Public Horticulture as we are here.

I tried to explain all of this to my mom, and eventually got her to hesitantly agree to watch it. After a few more prods, I got a text saying she had rented the DVD and her and my dad would watch it that night. I got another text and a phone call later that evening from both of them saying how the good the movie was, how motivational Pearl was, and how they now really wanted to show it at the local library as part of their movie series.

Lindsey Kerr and Pearl

Pearl and Lindsey at the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden

There then ensued many more emails, texts, and phone calls, and a program started to come together surrounding the showing of this movie at the Lansing Community Library in Lansing, NY (my hometown). The highlight of the program though, was to be a special speaker – the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden’s Communications Director, Lindsey Kerr. Yes that Lindsey Kerr, the Lindsey Kerr who is currently a second year fellow in the Longwood Graduate Program. Not only is she busy writing a thesis to help preserve historic cultivars of plants, serving on the University of Delaware’s Graduate Student Senate, Leader of the Speakers Team for the 2014 LGP Symposium, and volunteering at various gardens around the area, but she has also been continuing her job at the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden.

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Lindsey Kerr speaks about the Pearl Fryar garden in Bishopville, SC

So on Friday, February 21, Lindsey and her cheering squad (five other members of the LGP, including myself) all piled into a car and took a fun trip up to Lansing, NY (a few miles north of Ithaca, NY)! We arrived Friday evening and were able to meet up with some Fellows from the Cornell University Professional Garden Leadership Program, as well as other former Longwood interns who are now up at Cornell University continuing their studies, for dinner in downtown Ithaca.

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We were so happy to see Dr. Don Rakow, former Director of Cornell Plantations after Lindsey’s talk. Dr. Rakow is now a full-time Associate Professor at Cornell and oversees the Cornell’s Public Garden Leadership program.

The next morning we went to the Lansing Town Hall (the audience was too big to fit in the library) to help set up for the event. The afternoon started at 11:00 with a showing of the documentary, and was then followed by Lindsey’s presentation and a Q&A session. Lindsey did an incredible job providing more insight into what it is like to work with Pearl Fryar as well as in Bishopville, SC. Since it’s been almost eight years since the filming of the documentary, Lindsey also talked about how the garden has changed over the years, and what is being done to help ensure the continued existence of Pearl’s topiary art in the future.

A sizable turnout at the Lansing Town Hall

A sizable turnout at the Lansing Town Hall

Once the audience left, the chairs were stacked, and all the A/V equipment put away, we had the rest of the afternoon to explore Ithaca. We headed down to the commons, a pedestrian mall located in the heart of Ithaca, where we enjoyed both the outdoors, with its almost spring-like weather, and the numerous indoor shops the commons has to offer. The day ended with a fantastic dinner at Moosewood Restaurant, a famous vegetarian restaurant.

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Ithacopoly on a wall in Ithaca’s Commons

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The Salix were in full bud by Cayuga Lake, one of New York’s famous Finger Lakes

The next morning we packed up our gear, got back in the van and headed back down to Newark, DE. It was a great weekend, and wonderful weather…which seems to have quickly disappeared this week….

 

About Joshua Darfler

Joshua grew up in rural New York spending much of his time outside in gardens, parks, and natural environments. While at Binghamton University he received his major in Cellular Molecular Biology and a minor in Environmental Studies. Even though his classes required a lot of time inside a lab, he took every opportunity to be outside working with plants. Every summer he would return to his hometown to work at a native plant nursery or help on small-scale organic farms in the region. During his senior year he helped start a community support agriculture program focused on students at his university and also started a student volunteer program to help clean up and improve local parks and green spaces. After graduating in 2011, Joshua accepted the propagation internship position at the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania. Here Josh truly cultivated his love for plants, greenhouses, and public gardens, thus driving him to pursue and accept a position in the Longwood Graduate Program.
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