Tag Archives: class of 2012

A Visit to the Infamous “U”

August 15, 2011 – St. Paul Campus, Minnesota University
(written by Aubree Pack, photography by James Hearsum)

Around here, the University of Minnesota is commonly, as well as affectionately, referred to as “the U.” The Longwood Graduate Program’s current Director, Robert Lyons, is a graduate of “the U,” so we had with us an excellent guide. Although the campus boasts many desirable features, our focus was the Department of Horticultural Science, of which Dr. Lyons received both his Masters and Ph.D. degrees. If you’ve been following our blog, you may remember a recent post about our trip to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The Arboretum is actually an extension of the University of Minnesota and is within the Department of Horticultural Science.

Upon arrival at the University of Minnesota St. Paul Campus, the first thing we did was discover a photo of Dr. Lyons from when he was a graduate student there. And of course, as any good student would, we teased him a little. He seemed to be fine with that though : )

We then went just outside Alderman Hall to meet with Roger Meissner and Garrett Beier. Roger has been employed by the department since 1976 and since then has worn many “hats.” Garrett is a graduate student there who was hired to manage the display garden, which is a landscape laboratory for the College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Science; involved students generally have a main focus in horticulture or environmental studies.

Garrett told us that the site is primarily used for study purposes, but also attracts casual visitors. One thing we found amusing was that there were duplicate plants from the garden elsewhere on campus, for the purpose of preventing students in ID courses from memorizing a location instead of the actual plant characteristics. He also described some of the challenges they face there at the garden, including an invasive weed he referred to as black swallow wart, a member of the milkweed family (pictured above).

Cultivar development and breeding are major endeavors for the department. Many faculty members are reknown for their plant introductions. Jim Luby, in particular, introduced a very well received variety of apple, Honey Crisp, which many of us have enjoyed. More recent apple introductions from the department are SnowSweet, Frostbite, and SweeTango, which are a trademark of the Ball Horticultural Company. Along with their large array of fruit crop introductions, new, cold hardy ornamental plant cultivars have been introduced from the following popular garden plants: chrysanthemums, azaleas, roses, gaura, dogwood, forsythia, pearlbush, viburnum,  maples, white pine,  redbud, buckeye, plums, crabapples, corktree, jack pine, and many grass varieties; both ornamental and turf. This research is done along with the Horticultural Research Center and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, who provides stock or grounds for research.

A Walk in the Park – Minneapolis Style.

August 13, 2011 – Minneapolis, Minnesota
(written by James Hearsum, photography by Ashby Leavell)

Few cities enjoy the benefit of a visionary parks department: One that takes a leadership role in economic development, is a broker of community creation and that does this whilst integrating citywide networks of facilities, recreation and environmental services.  Fewer still have the resources and political clout to deliver.  That Minneapolis is one of this select group is evident to anyone enjoying the city on a fine summer day, as we did.

The view from the Guthrie Museum to the former railroad Stone Arch Bridge over the Mississippi River

Guided by John Erwin, a Parks Commissioner, the Longwood Graduate Fellows sought the answer to this question – How is it achieved?

 

As John conducted a whirlwind tour, we visited The Peace Gardens, Rose Garden and The Annuals and Perennial Border.  All were immaculately maintained by staff and volunteers, and clearly loved by Minneapolitans.  A real pride and care by the public is evident throughout the system.  On a Saturday afternoon, the parks were well used, with all types of recreation happening around Lake Calhoun.

Flower vendors at the vibrant famers market at Mill City

It was always evident that the parks comprised a complete system, a network of places and links, tied to specific communities.  A visit to a section of the Grand Rounds, a 53 mile loop of lakes in the heart of the city, showed that they were used both as a destination; for beaches, canoeing, eating, picnicking – and as a route; for jogging, walking, commuting.

John Erwin describes a map of the Grand Rounds in Minneapolis, the only National Scenic Byway located in a major city in the US.

The concept of networks also dominated a presentation by Mary deLaittre, Project Manager for the Minneapolis Riverfront Development Initiative.  Using the advantage of semi-autonomy from the city to great advantage, this project has developed and designed a strategic physical master plan for a 5.5 mile section of the Mississippi River bank, completing the parks path and bike network in challenging industrial and multiuse spaces.  More than this, it seeks to connect existing parks and recreation assets to a wider system and create new interfaces between communities, using the Mississippi as its central corridor.  In addition to all this, it has an economic mission to spur development, as in the district now developed around the beautiful Guthrie Theater (led by a $30 million investment in the area by Parks and Recreation).  It also seeks to create integrated environmental systems, manage storm water, recreate habitats – all whilst maintaining industrial use and jobs.

Looking out on the ruins at the Mill City Museum, once the world’s largest flour mill

So what is the secret? – Yes, Minneapolis Parks have more autonomy, more money, and more public support than many parks.  But this alone doesn’t explain it.  Rather, two things stood out.  Firstly, visionary leadership at all levels in the organization.  Secondly, a truly comprehensive approach to parks – the integration and consideration of all elements as important to the system.  In practice, this means that no one factor dominates, but all are considered – economic, environmental, community, recreation and industry.  It recognizes that people have complex needs, and seeks to address them comprehensively.

Posing with John Erwin, our generous guide for the day and Chair of Minneapolis Parks Department and Professor of Hort. Science at the University of Minnesota

Wow! Our thanks to Minneapolis for a wonderful day in your parks, and please, if you are lucky enough to live here, don’t take them for granted – they are truly extraordinary.

Longwood Fellows “POP” into the Scott Arboretum!

(written by Sara Levin, photographs by Raakel Toppila)

The Professional Outreach Project (POP) is an annual collaboration between the Longwood Graduate Fellows and various horticulture organizations.  Recent projects have included developing a garden design concept for the Delaware Health and Social Services and creating a meadow management plan for Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia.

The 2011 Professional Outreach Project is now underway! This year the Longwood Graduate Fellows are teaming up with the Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College.   The Scott Arboretum encompasses the entire Swarthmore College campus and it is free and open to the public every day.  The beautiful grounds helped Swarthmore gain the title as one of the most beautiful campuses in the country.  In their work with the Scott Arboretum, the Fellows will look at two major issues: membership growth and strategies to increase student and community interaction with the Arboretum.

The Fellows begin this year’s project with extensive research.  They hope to get a better understanding of the Scott Arboretum, its staff, vision, programs and connection to Swarthmore College.  They will look at the curriculum and event calendar at Swarthmore to find ways to link the College to the Arboretum.  They will also benchmark other university arboreta and gardens to determine best practices for connecting students to the collections.  Finally, the Fellows will research cultural events in the Philadelphia area that may have a relevant link to programs at the Scott Arboretum.

Once they identify areas of potential growth the Fellows will give the Scott Arboretum recommendations for programs and their implementation.  The Swarthmore College events calendar will be used to add events appropriately and the Scott Arboretum’s resources will be considered to ensure the longevity of these new programs.

In the final phase of POP 2011, the Fellows will use their research to help grow the membership base by including programs and events that will attract visitors from the surrounding community.  The Fellows look forward to the product of their research in the coming weeks.  Keep up with the POP progress on the LGP blog!

Spring in Colonial Williamsburg

Last weekend Raakel Toppila, first year Longwood Graduate Fellow and John Moore, second year Professional Gardener Student attended Colonial Williamsburg’s 65th Annual Garden Symposium in Williamsburg, Virginia. John and Raakel were the recipients of the Williamsburg Garden Symposium Student Scholarships generously supported by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and a number of conference attendees.

(Duke of Gloucester Street in the historic area of Colonial Williamsburg)

Laura Viancour, Manager of Garden Programs at Colonial Williamsburg, made John and Raakel feel welcome by introducing them to some of the speakers and ensuring that they gained the most from the symposium.


(Lambs – less than a week old!)

The charm and the weather of Williamsburg did not disappoint. The flowering cherries, red bud, dogwood, paw paw, and oaks seemed especially lovely in the 80-degree weather.


(Asimina triloba (paw paw) in bloom)

John and Raakel spent a delightful two-days learning from the “who’s-who” in horticulture including host of Growing a Greener World, Joe Lamp’l, the “perennial diva” Stephanie Cohen, garden author Suzy Bales and director of the Morris Aboretum, Paul Meyer, to name a few. Following morning sessions with the featured speakers, the students were able to spend afternoons with staff of Colonial Williamsburg learning about the plants of 18th century town and how they were used. Highlights from the conference included hearing from the University of Delaware’s Doug Tallamy about Bringing Nature Home through the use of native plants in the home garden to attract insects, birds and other animals. A behind the scenes look at the nursery offered a whirlwind introduction to saving vegetable seeds, the use of plants for dying textiles, the importance of honeybees for pollination, and a rare breeds program for livestock which seeks to preserve genetic diversity in animals.

The symposium offered an outstanding opportunity for John and Raakel to visit the colonial town while learning about the topic they love most.

(Dusk in the Colonial Garden)

 



The Viceregal Lodge and Botanic Gardens of Shimla

January 19 – Shimla
(written by Ashby Leavell, photos by Aubree Pack)

(One of the breathtaking views of Shimla, a town in the foothills of the Himalayas)

Today we quickly prepared for our last garden visit of the trip, to see the Viceregal Lodge and Botanic Gardens located in Shimla, a charming mountain village in the Himalayas.  It seemed fitting to finish our trip in the snow after beginning our India tour in the humid tropics.  We arrived late the night before from Chandigargh, after a flat tire on the road and a long drive from the Nek Chand rock gardens.

(The Viceregal Lodge, located within the Botanic Garden, is now the home of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study)

The Director and lead horticulturalist at the Viceregal Lodge was excited to show us around the stately former summer residence for the British viceroys.  The estate today houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, which awards fifty post-doctoral fellowships in the humanities each year to scholars from around the world.  The Institute is currently seeking advice on how to develop the historic English gardens surrounding the lodge to grow visitation.

(The Himalayas in the distance)

We had the opportunity to consult with the staff at the Institute on how to establish a self-sustaining public garden.  The research fellows and staff were keen to collaborate with our travel group to come up with original ideas for the space.  They have already begun work on an “Eco Walk” around the grounds and are instituting new training regimens for the gardeners.  We were also treated to a tour around historic Shimla and an elaborate luncheon before we had to leave early to catch our train through the Himalayan Mountains back to Chandigargh.

(The train ride out of Shimla has been high on all of our lists. Raakel demonstrates some of our excitement!)

(Our train careening down the side of the mountains, taking us back to Chandigarh)

We were excited to have our own carriage on the train, and enjoyed spectacular views of the mountains the entire way back.   It was truly a lovely end to a once in a lifetime trip.  We have taken in quite a bit of ground in both the U.A.E, Oman, and India, and experienced a dramatic range of gardens and research stations along the way.  Thank you Longwood…

Nek Chand’s Rock Garden

January 18 – Chandigarh
(written by Aubree Pack, photos by Ashby Leavell)

My apologies for blog posts coming through in ‘clunks’. We’ve had extremely limited internet access here in India. And where there is access, it’s been surprisingly expensive. But we’re certainly doing our best to keep you all in the loop!

(The Rock Garden has more than a kilometer of long meandering pathways, full of natural and hand-made wonders)

Arriving in Chandigarh was a crowning achievement! Seriously, we survived TWO back to back overnight trains! We’re rather proud of ourselves. Although the cabin we were in last night was much more comfortable than the night before (watch our video about the night before here), we still had a few problems. Such as squatters in our bunks. But not to worry, our favorite male chaperone, Matt, took care of it! We also arrived at the train station in Chandigarh a bit late. But we were picked up by our good friend Jarnail Singh, whom we all got to know when he was spending time at Longwood Gardens as an international intern.

Jarnail and his friend first took us to a lovely local Indian restaurant. It was excellent! Although some of the group is ready for some good ol’ American cuisine, there are a few of us left that are already sad to not have such amazing Indian dishes at our finger tips when we arrive back in the states.

(A small example of the many sculptures in the Nek Chand Garden)

Then we went to the Rock Garden of Nek Chand. What an amazing place! Nek Chand has an amazing story (see this website to read more about the man himself), but we spent the majority of our time lost in the magic of the Rock Garden he so skillfully created.

In the garden, you’ll find many (MANY) sculptures, all of which are original works of Nek Chand. The majority of the garden is created by waste materials. When we looked closely at the broken pieces used in walls and sculpture, we discovered old plates, toilets, and other recycled ceramic wares. There were also many natural looking forms that he created using concrete and different textures (such as burlap bags). Broken bangles and old broken metal were also elements of his work.

(You see before you one happy gal! I mean, it’s a CAMEL!)

In the garden, there is also an area that is most popular with children (and… Longwood Graduate Fellows). Many of us were able to swing on a huge swing set made completely of recycled materials and concrete. One of us was even lucky enough to score a camel ride ;)

(We were sad to leave Jarnail, but so happy we were able to spend time with him in his home country!!!)

We had only a short time to spend at the gardens of Nek Chand and with Jarnail, but we so enjoyed it! The next time we visit India we will certainly spend more time in this region, as it’s beautifully unique. Then it was off to visit the city of Shimla, in the Himalayan foothills.

(And so begins our ascent into the Himalaya’s!)

The National Botanic Research Institute

January 17 – Lucknow
(written by James Hearsum, photos by Aubree Pack)

(The group in front of the institute with the Director and two department heads)

Video Link: All Aboard!!!! … the Crazy Train. (Before we talk about how awesome the day at The National Botanic Research Institute was, we have to SHOW YOU how awesome it was getting there…)

The National Botanical Research Institute today provided a full schedule of meetings, tours and presentations explaining their research, outreach and facilities.  The day began with a meeting with the Director and Heads of each research department including Biotechnology, Ethnopharmacology, Floriculture, Conservation, Microbiology and much more.  These senior scientists direct a research staff of 100 scientists plus a support staff bringing the total to 500.

(The Cacti House)

The Director expressed a great desire to collaborate internationally by sharing both germplasm and expertise.  The garden has both a history and a current pipeline of new plants, scientific techniques and pure research that it is keen to see enter new markets.  It has had success especially in developing GM cotton, which is now grown on 8.2m of India’s 9.2m Hectares of cotton fields.

(Greeting cards made by staff at NBRI – completely out of natural materials!)

The institute is particularly keen to develop ornamental floriculture products that are appropriate to small-scale farmers with varying levels of education and capital.  It is developing research in tandem with an outreach program to provide a network of agriculturists with basic training, able to train others in turn.

(Irrigation techniques involved planting beds to be lower than the actual surface. The beds are flooded once a day in the summer months and every other day in the winter months.)

(Another view of irrigation, although this shows their Canna germplasm collection.)

The day continued with tours of the garden, including rose gardens, cycad house,  and germplasm collections of Bougainvillea, Cannas and Chrysanthemums.  A new cacti house has been recently landscaped and holds collections for both research and display.  Of great interest to many of us was a fantastic moss collection.  This was housed in its own, ultra-high humidity zone.  None of us envied the horticulturist’s need to weed with tweezers between species of moss, lichen and liverwort!

A presentation of India’s floral diversity highlighted the range and vulnerability of much of India’s flora.  Whilst there are great science institutes working to research both the conservation and application of many of these rare plant species, the task must at times seem overwhelming.

(Some of the Lichen specimens housed in the herbarium)

Following a great lunch provided by the garden (Thanks!) we visited the herbarium and IT departments.  The NBRI houses a national collection developed since the 1950’s extending to 97 000 accessions, including 290 Type collections.  Of particular interest was the Institutes unique database system.  This has been developed in-house over a number of years to provide for the level of comprehensiveness and accessibility not found in other systems used elsewhere.  In use for just over 6 months, this has revolutionised access to important plant data and is available for all via the Institutes website.

The day was exquisitely organised and presented and provided an unparalleled opportunity to see science and conservation in action through a Botanic Garden.

(The Director presents each of us with an array of exciting take away gifts!)

The Taj Mahal and Ram Bagh

January 16 – Agra
(written by Felicia Yu, photos by James Hearsum)

(We make the Taj Mahal look good…)

No trip to India would be complete with a visit to the Taj Mahal. And what would a visit to the Taj Mahal be without the experience of waking up before the crack of dawn for a chance of seeing the sun rise over those famous white minarets?

Video LinkThe Taj!!!

Luckily we were all able to get ourselves up at 5am in order to get there in time. Unluckily, none of us thought to check what time the sun actually rose, so we ended up being more than an hour earlier than necessary. And then there was the small matter of the fog and clouds not lifting until the afternoon…

(The Gardens)

Regardless, we can all now assure anyone that the Taj Mahal is not overrated, sunny weather or no. It deserves its reputation as one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, if not the most beautiful.

As you approach, the surrounding red sandstone buildings keep the Taj out of sight until the last possible moment, and then bam! There it is. The Taj Mahal. Majestic even on a misty morning, even with a healthy population of tourists wandering around, backed by nothing except the sky because of its high placement above the banks of the Yamuna River.

(James found an Indian ‘friend’ who took a few photos of him. Here’s one of the ‘gems’!)

Before approaching the mausoleum itself, all visitors must remove their shoes or else wear the bright red shoe covers provided by the tourism office, to protect the white marble plaza and floors of the mausoleum where Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan are entombed.  Up close, the white marble is actually swirling with naturally occurring blues, oranges, pinks, and grays. The borders of every doorway and wall panel are either carved ornately or inlaid with semiprecious stones in varying floral patterns. Symmetry rules in every direction, down to the surrounding buildings.

(Ram Bagh Garden: a view from the top terrace)

Our second visit of the day was to the Ram Bagh, India’s oldest Mughal garden, built by the Emperor Babur in 1528. The garden is among the oldest formally designed landscapes in the world. We spent some time wandering up and down the straight pathways, regretting that the channels which would normally carry a cascade of water down from the top terrace to the lower level of the garden were dry, while the water pump system was being repaired. A couple of the garden’s caretakers were able to show us around and explain some of the history and background of the place. The garden is currently being restored, with new plantings already in place throughout the symmetrically placed lawns.

New Delhi ‘Rest’ Day

January 14 – New Delhi
(written by Ashby Leavell, video by Raakel Toppila, photos by Aubree Pack)

(A common view from our travel van…)

(We’re still on the fence as to whether they are crazy-efficient here, or just plain crazy…)

Our crew was ready for the break day in New Delhi to relax, explore, and… go shopping.  A group left midmorning to look through the government emporium shops nearby, featuring shops from each region of India.  Vendors hawked colorful silk scarves and metal trinkets galore.  We tried our hand at bargaining, wandered in and out of most of the shops, and left happy.

(Matt discovers that he is ‘wanted’ in India…)

Our food expert, Longwood gardener Pandora Young, guided us to Old Delhi for lunch.  Bustling does not begin to describe the street we navigated on the way there.  Keep in mind that roughly 20 million people are estimated to live in Delhi.  The blare of car horns and shopkeepers shouting filled the air and mingled with the aromas of street food along the way.

Video Link: A street walking experience in Delhi

(Part of the group waits for a gap in the traffic so they can cross the road)

(He is making jalebis, a treat that some of the group have been able to try while eating at local restaurants)

After lunch we visited the massive Red Fort, a Mughal construction from the 17th century.  Its red sandstone walls are surrounded by a deep moat and extend for 2km in the old section of the city.  We stopped at the iconic India Gate for photographs before heading back for the evening.

(The Red Fort – a stunningly large complex!)

(India Gate – it’s a lot bigger than it looks! A picture simply can’t capture its grandeur…)

(at least SOMEONE was resting today… :D)

Lalbagh Botanical Garden

January 13 – Bangalore
(written by Felicia Yu, photos by Aubree Pack, video by Raakel Toppila)

(As the Conservatory is to Longwood, so the Glass House is to Lalbagh. Over 120 years old, modeled after the Crystal Palace in London, the Glass House hosts twice-yearly flower shows that can pull over 50,000 visitors in a day.)

Founded in 1760 by the ruler of Mysore, Hyder Ali, Lalbagh was modeled after a Mughal garden at Sira, and each of its successive owners and overseers have added to it. Now at 240 acres in the heart of Bangalore, surrounded by congested city streets and city noise, Lalbagh is a welcome place to rest the eyes and ears (and nose).

(Posing with Dr. Krishnappa and one of the garden’s plant specialists who showed us around.)

The garden is managed by the horticulture department of the state of Karnataka. We met with the Deputy Director of Horticulture, Dr. Krishnappa, and then had a walking tour of key sights within Lalbagh accompanied by staff horticulturists.

(Giant and ancient: Ceiba pentandra, or White silk cotton tree, at over 200 years old.)

We had a thorough tour of the garden’s Horticulture Training Centre, where students and staff showed off the many vegetable, medicinal, and ornamental crops the students were growing themselves as part of their training. The ten-month training program prepares youths for professional gardening jobs, and the government provides their room and board along with a stipend while they complete the program.

(Snake gourds being trained to grow straight by the students of the Horticulture Training Centre.)

We were happy to learn that environmentally friendly practices were in place as much as possible throughout the garden, from the use of organic pest controls such as neem oil to the composting of fallen leaves. All their flower crops are grown on site or locally in Bangalore. They also make use of abundant local labor to maintain the garden—we watched workers pulling water hyacinths from the garden’s signature lake by hand, and planting whole lawns with plugs by hand.

Video Link: Lahbagh Lake – water hyacinth removal in action

(Lalbagh Lake, nearly clear of weedy water hyacinths after ten days of hand-pulling.)

The mild climate of Bangalore has made Lalbagh an ideal place to trial and introduce new species from around the world, especially for its former British superintendents wanting to try familiar European crops and exotic species which would fail in more arid or more tropical regions of India. The garden’s current collection of over 1,800 species from around the world includes giant, and in some cases ancient, specimens of Ceiba pentandra, Ficus benjamina (of all things), Araucaria cookii, and Mangifera indica (mangoes! Out of season, unfortunately).

(King of the Rock. Matt is standing on the “Lalbagh Rock,” a large outcrop of peninsular gneiss at the edge of the garden, topped by a 450-year-old structure called the Kempegowda tower, not pictured.)