Watering Our Roots to Grow Our Communities

Minneapolis Scuplture Garden on a lovely June day

Minneapolis Scuplture Garden on a lovely June day

Beautiful Minneapolis-St. Paul was the location of this year’s American Public Gardens Association Annual Conference. The Fellows enjoyed every aspect of the week, especially the hospitality of the co-hosting institutions, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and Como Park Zoo and Conservatory.

Minnesota Lanscape Arboretum is currently hosting Nature Connects: Art with LEGO Bricks as a temporary exhibition; the colors of this dragonfly perfectly accent the astilbe

Minnesota Lanscape Arboretum is currently hosting Nature Connects: Art with LEGO Bricks as a temporary exhibition; the colors of this dragonfly perfectly accent the astilbe

Public garden leaders presented on wide variety of topics during sessions throughout the week, such as leading organizational change, interpreting science for the public, mapping plant collections, and tackling challenges of growing membership at “gateless” gardens.

Not only did the Fellows attend sessions, but several Fellows had the opportunity to share their research and experience with conference attendees as well:

Andrea Brennan (Class of 2016)- Exploring Horticulture and Chrysanthemum Culture in Japan: A presentation on the Class of 2016’s International Experience in January 2015 in Japan.

Frances Jackson (Class of 2016)- The Maddening Crowd? Collections Protection Strategies to Welcome More Visitors to Your Garden (presented with Rebecca McMackin, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Melanie Sifton, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and Thomas Smarr, Friends of the High Line)

Sarah Leach Smith (Class of 2015)- Evaluation of Trial Garden Practices at Public Gardens and Arboreta

Bryan Thompsonowak (Class of 2015)- Pressures, Priorities and Strategies for Managing Tree Collections Across Budget Restraints

Sarah Leach Smith presents about her thesis research

Sarah Leach Smith presents about her thesis research

In addition to presenting and learning from the engaging sessions, Fellows explored the Twin City metro area on tours and took in the beauty of both the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in the evening.

The stunning Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory is celebrating 100 years in 2015. She's looking pretty good!

The stunning Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory is celebrating 100 years in 2015. She’s looking pretty good!

Ford W. Bell, former president of the American Alliance of Museums, energized attendees with his opening speech about the importance of advocacy work. Later in the week, Andrew Zimmern, TV personality, chef, and food writer, showed his appreciation for the work of gardens and arboreta in educating the public on key environmental issues. The acclaimed Dr. Peter H. Raven, president emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden and George Engelmann Professor of Botany Emeritus at Washington University in St. Louis, concluded the conference with an inspiring conservation message, leaving each of the conference participants energized to return to their home institutions.

Dr. Raven discusses conservation and biodiversity at public gardens

Dr. Raven discusses conservation and biodiversity at public gardens

Thank you to our hosts and to the planning committee for putting together another fantastic conference!

The Classes of 2015 and 2016 were together for a final time before welcoming the Class of 2017!

The Classes of 2015 and 2016 were together for a final time before welcoming the Class of 2017!

2015 Symposium Emerging Professionals Travel Award

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The Longwood Graduate Program is excited to announce a new Emerging Professionals Travel Award to attend the 2015 Longwood Graduate Symposium. This day-long event features speakers, panel discussions, and conversations on a topic geared towards public garden and museum professionals.

This year’s Symposium, “To Preserve or Change: Redefining Heritage to Guide the Future,” will explore how institutions evolve while honoring their past. Emerging museum or garden professionals in the Philadelphia region and beyond, including students and interns, are encouraged to apply and join in this important dialogue.

Please follow the link to Download the Travel Award Application.
Visit the Symposium online for more information.
Thank you in advance for spreading the word!

Filoli = “FIght for a just cause; LOve your fellow man; LIve a good life.”

As we drove onto the former property of successful gold miners Mr. and Mrs. William Bourn, we knew it was a special place. The silvery foliage of the mature Olea europaea (olive) trees that line the parking lot were our first impressive clue to the experience that would unfold as the day continued. These trees were planted around 1918, and are part of the original plantings on Filoli property.
IMG_3300IMG_3323Mr. and Mrs. Bourn died in 1936, and the land and house were bought by Mr. and Mrs. William Roth. In 1975, Mrs. Roth donated her home and some of the land to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the rest of the 650 acres was donated to the entirely volunteer-run Filoli Center. The house and garden now have paid staff, but the volunteers are intensively trained and still play an important and critical role in the stewardship of the property.

We first met with our gracious hosts for the day: Alex Fernandez, Manager of Horticultural Operations, and Jim Salyards, Manager of Horticultural Collections and Education. Alex and Jim soon led us to a room where each half-hour a new staff member came in to talk to us aspiring garden administrators about their roles at Filoli. It was a very interesting morning, and their enthusiasm for the house and garden was so evident that after lunch, we were eager to explore.


The greenhouses, 17 acres of formal gardens, and 8 orchards are meticulously managed by 14 full-time garden staff. We ran into former Longwood Gardens Intern Doug Sederholm, now a gardener in Filoli’s cut flower garden. His area is bursting with continuous color during growing seasons so that the 24 flower arrangements throughout the house can be refreshed weekly.


Filoli also has a strong education component; with approximately 6,000 student visitors per year and 2,500 adult learners attending their 200 programs. They concentrate on horticulture, art, history, and preservation, with certificates in a very prestigious botanical art program (learn more about the Filoli’s Florilegium), floral design, and horticulture.

And the house! Designed by architect Willis Polk and built between 1915-1917, the house is an eclectic mix of architectural styles, and currently serves as a museum for 17th and 18th century English antiques. Detailed scenes of Muckross, an Irish estate, are painted directly onto the giant walls of he ballroom. Much of the furniture is carved with curves, or intricately inlaid with several types of wood. Fireplaces, floors, and the elegant stairway were carved out of marble.


As the garden closed for the day, we were grateful for the time the staff spent with us and for the chance to see a quality garden in action. Our drive down the coast continued as we anticipated the next day’s adventure: Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Blog by Sara Helm Wallaceand photos by Gary Shanks

The Garden on a Hill: UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley

Photos by Bryan Thompsonowak.


Dr. Bob Lyons and Dr. Paul Licht at University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley.

The climate in California is a fascinating subject, as we have experienced firsthand on this trip. Temperatures can fluctuate drastically as you travel from the valley back toward the bay area and, luckily for us, our nearly 100-degree morning in Davis turned into a 60-degree afternoon at the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley. Varying between 600 and 800 feet above sea level, the UC Botanical Garden has a unique environment for plant growth the includes wind and fog that supports the largest collection of documented wild-collected plants in North America!

We met several of UC Botanical Gardens staff on our visit. Director Dr. Paul Licht greeted us and introduced us to staff members Director of Horticulture Chris CarmichaIMG_3395el and Curator Holly Forbes. This great team led us on a tour of the gardens, which was organized geographically in a naturalistic design. There was even an Eastern North American garden that included plants such as the Liquidambar (sweet gum), Kalmia
(mountain laurel), and Hamamelis (witch hazel)!


Cactus and succulent collection

Arguably the most impressive aspect of this garden is their commitment to collections. UC Botanical Garden has the world’s largest collection of native California flora, and they have four nationally recognized plant collections through the North American Plant Conservation Consortium (NAPCC) – cycads, ferns, magnolias, and oaks. Additionally, they have a vast cactus and succulent collection, which is largely inaccessible to the public. Unfortunately, the garden has experienced several recent incidents of theft due to the rarity of the specimens in the collection, and that is why much of the collection is kept behind a barrier. There are still many amazing specimens that are not behind a barrier, however, and one that was in full bloom was Echinopsis tamaensis. The creamy, white flower was a bright spot of our visit during a cloudy and overcast afternoon.Despite the fact that there is no horticulture program at UC-Berkeley, the garden still plays a vital role for students on campus. Many courses, including biology, art, literature, geography, and medical ethnobotany, use the gardens as an invaluable outdoor laboratory. For us, the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley was a great example of a true botanical garden. Their focus on conservation, collections, and taxonomy was a notable and interesting contrast to some of the other organizations that we’ve visited since starting the program.


Puya raimondii was in bloom just in time for our visit!

Our evening ended with a delicious Greek dinner and a pleasant stay in the heart of San Francisco. Up next: San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum and the Conservatory of Flowers!

Electronics Recycling Day Spring 2014

As part of our Environmental Impact initiatives, The Longwood Graduate Program Fellows hold a biannual Electronics Recycling Day to assist our peers in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Delaware in the proper disposal of their e-waste. photo 2-1

Thoughts of spring-cleaning must have been running through the collective campus-mind because over 200 unique items were brought in for recycling during the course of the three-hour event. Older model printers and obsolete computer towers continued to be the most donated items, while we saw a sharp decline in the number of CRT television sets.

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As an added incentive, The University of Delaware Botanic Gardens donated heirloom tomato seedlings to be distributed to all Electronics Recycling Day participants.

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All electronic equipment was brought to the UD recycling center, with the exception of cellular phones, which were donated to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s Donate A Phone program.

International Experience New Zealand Day 10: Dunedin Chinese Garden and Dunedin Botanic Garden

We woke up to a brief glimpse of sunlight before the fog decided to obscure our view of the harbor. Preparing for a rainy day, we drove down the castle hill, and to our delight, the town below was dry and cool.

After strolling through the ornate Chinese gate, Malcolm Wong, Chair of the Garden Trust, greeted us and showed us around the Dunedin Chinese Garden. Because of the architectural and landscape elements found in a traditional Chinese garden, we learned a lot about Chinese history and culture as well as their auspicious gardening style, which was new to most of us.



The garden is modeled after the understated elegance of a scholar’s garden from the 1600s, between the Ming and Ching dynasties. Every piece of every element- brick, wood, stone, water, and plants- was installed with purpose. The concept of opposites pervades, such as mountain vs. water, and movement vs. stillness. It is a small garden, but feels large due to the winding paths and contemplative landscapes.

We then went on to the Dunedin Botanic Garden (DBG), the entrance of which is at the center of the steep, sloping lower garden.


The colorful Mediterranean, xeric, and succulent plants are welcoming bursts of color among the terraced rocks. After lunch in the cafe, we met with the knowledgeable Barbara Wheeler, a former international intern at Longwood Gardens, who now oversees operations at DBG. She was joined by Alan Matchett, Director of DBG, and Tom Myers, Botanical Services Officer.
We then walked up the hill to the upper garden, through the geographical collections which included plants from South Africa, Mexico, and North America. Also in the upper garden was an aviary, which houses many birds, one of which is the colorful golden pheasant.
Throughout our entire trip, probably the most valuable item has been conversation with the directors, curators, and other administrators in the gardens. Their willingness to share and openness into the inner workings of New Zealand gardens has been tremendous in our education.

Blog by Sara Helm Wallace, photos by Felicia Chua

International Experience New Zealand Day 9: “Is it haunted?”

Before the arrival of the people who would become known as the Maori in the Thirteenth Century, there were no mammals endemic to the fauna of New Zealand. Birds filled most of the ecological niches of the islands. Although the natural history of the island has undergone dramatic changes over the last seven hundred years, there are still many birds. Unfortunately, this proved fatal this morning as several flew into the engines of the turboprop plane that we were meant to take from Wellington to Dunedin. Luckily, we were not on the plane and no passengers were hurt. Still, our flight was delayed seven hours and we spent a lovely day in the Wellington Airport.


New Zealand is never without its magic. Our lunch quest led us away from the airport and through a pedestrian tunnel that opened onto a sleepy seaside cul-de-sac complete with grass-filled parking lots, a dog beach, and a Kiwi bodega.



Arriving in Dunedin, and traversing the cliffs to the picturesque Larnach Castle, we were greeted by Head Gardener, Fiona Eadie, who was kind enough to keep our much-delayed appointment and tour us around the grounds of the castle. Fiona has been working with Margaret Barker, the owner of Larnach Castle, over the last twelve years to transform the gardens of the Castle into lush havens for native New Zealand plants with a focus on an impeccable visitor experience. Larnach features a South Pacific themed garden, an alpine garden, English style borders, tropical forests, and many other extensive plantings with a light Alice in Wonderland theme permeating various installations.



Up to this point we were unaware that a significant 6.2-magnitude earthquake had struck Wellington just hours after we had taken off. Over the past week we have come to love New Zealand and its people; our hearts go out to the North Island and those affected by the quake.

Dinner at Larnach is accompanied by a story of the rise, fall, and rebirth of the Castle. Its relatively short history includes episodes of extravagance, adultery, tragedies, insanity, and death. We were left indulged and intrigued, whispering the question… “Is it haunted?”

Photographs by Gary Shanks

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)


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.


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.


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.


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!


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!


100 Years as an Estate…. 20 Years as a Public Garden!

 (Photographs by Gary Shanks)


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.



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!


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.