Tag Archives: 2013 Summer Field Trips

The Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College

(Photographs by Sara Helm Wallace)

Our last excursion for the summer was to the Scott Arboretum on the grounds of Swarthmore College in Media, PA. Umbrellas in hand, we were warmly greeted by Claire Sawyers, the Arboretum’s Director. While admiring the spectacular tropical container plantings and garden beds, Claire gave us the run down on operations at the campus.

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This could be achieved in your home garden

Established in 1921, Arthur Scott wanted the Arboretum to set an example to local home gardeners and professionals in the horticulture industry. It was the first college campus arboretum with an outreach function in the community. The Director, John Wister, set out the plant collections in a phylogenetic placement, starting with primitive plants laid out along the railwayline, and higher plants gracing the courtyards around campus.  Today the Arboretum prides itself onbeing free and open to the public but maintains the core purpose of setting an example to outside entities.  This is achieved through the use of themed gardens all expertly designed and maintained to the highest degree.

As we left the leafy tropical foliage, Claire paused at a great, yet ailing copper beech (Fagus sylvatica Purpurea Group) tree. With a concerned expression on her face, Claire told us the story of this tree and its projected demise. She explained that Scott Arboretum keeps these giants alive for as long as possible, and that rash decisions in terms of removal are often discouraged. Careful pruning is usually administered, but if a tree has to be removed, then the wood is recycled or used as an art installation in another part of the garden.

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Grasses soften the hard lines of the building beyond in The Nason Garden

Moving on, we entered a space effectively dubbed by students as ‘’the wildlife garden’’ and you certainly do feel that wild animals could approach you at every turn. This, The Nason Garden, is attractively landscaped with grasses, conifers and meadow-like flowers, leading to a lot of contrast and continued seasonal interest. Flagstone is combined with asphalt for some cost savings and toshowcase an innovative and attractive pathway that meanders perfectly through the garden.

As we continued on, Claire highlighted the importance of blending the stark architecture of the buildings with the grace and beauty of the Arboretum and native forest. There are several examples where the forest is brought into the campus through native plantings and where large ground floor windows are used to connect outside areas with inside foyers and passages. In relation to this, excess rainwater is managed through rain gardens and roof installations that collect water in giant cisterns. This water is then used for irrigation or is released intermittently into nearby Crum Creek. This minimizes the effects of flooding and erosion, which was a problem in previous years.

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LGP Director Dr. Robert Lyons, Swarthmore Arboretum Director Claire Sawyers and some of the Longwood Fellows relax in the Pollinator Garden

After exploring a Pollinator Garden, we made our way to the front area of campus known as Parrish Beach. Here we were greeted by a whole group of naked ladies, more tastefully known as Lycoris squamigera. This bulbous species from South America flowers abruptly in late July, without warning and without leaves.

Lycoris squamigera on Parrish Beach

Naked ladies! Lycoris squamigera on Parrish Beach

After lunch we were given a tour of the new greenhouses and the green roofs.  The latter are highly functional and an important part of every environmentally conscious organization. We had some time to wander in the Arboretum, thinking how wonderful it would be if every college campus could take a piece of Swarthmore and make it their own.

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Above: One of the green roofs at Alice Hall. Right: A Sempervivum inflorescence brightens up the roof

 

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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.