NAX Day 5: Magnolia Plantation

For their final day of NAX, the Fellows visited Magnolia Plantation just outside of Charleston, South Carolina. Magnolia Plantation has been owned by the Drayton family for over 300 years and was a rice plantation until shortly before the Civil War when Reverend John Drayton began converting the property’s focus to gardens. Originally planted as traditional formal gardens, the Reverend decided to transform the space into the new romantic style. Over 150 years later, the gardens are a beautiful blend of the two styles and feature magnificent live oaks and a collection of over 27,000 camellias.

Magnolia Plantation is home to magnificent live oaks and cypress trees, as well as expansive collections of camellias and azaleas that bloom in the spring and early summer.

Magnolia Plantation is home to magnificent live oaks and cypress trees, as well as expansive collections of camellias and azaleas that bloom in the spring and early summer.

Today, Magnolia strives to be a place where visitors can get away from the world while also staying relevant to the surrounding community. For example, the garden is considered to be one of America’s most dog-friendly destinations, and the organization even offers free annual memberships to families who adopt dogs from local shelters. In addition, all profits generated from the garden go towards the Magnolia Plantation Foundation, which gives scholarships and grants to local students and organizations.

Assistant Horticulturist Kate White shares the garden's history and details about its current upkeep.

Assistant Horticulturist Kate White shares the garden’s history and details about its current maintenance.

Magnolia’s commitment to relevance was evident throughout the Fellow’s day in the garden. Starting with a tour of the gardens, Assistant Horticulturist Kate White and Special Events/Festival Coordinator Karen Lucht shared both the history of the gardens and their current operations strategies. Afterwards, the Fellows were treated to a special “Lunch and Listen” with Isaac Leach, a life-long garden employee whose family has worked at Magnolia for several generations. Isaac grew up on the property, where his family lived in a former slave cabin until the early 1990’s. The Fellows were fascinated to hear about his experiences growing up and working at the garden, which he lovingly described as the place he was meant to be.

An icon of the garden, this black and white bridge is one of Magnolia's most popular wedding spots.

An icon of the garden, this black and white bridge is one of Magnolia’s most popular wedding spots.

The Fellows finished the day with Magnolia Plantation’s unique Slavery to Freedom tour led by Joseph McGill, founder of The Slave Dwelling Project. The tour leads visitors through several of the plantation’s former slave cabins, restored to different time periods between the pre-Civil War era and the Civil Rights Movement. The tour brings the story of Magnolia Plantation full-circle and helps represent the reality of the garden’s history as a rice plantation.

Joseph McGill describes daily life for the slaves that once inhabited this cabin.

Joseph McGill describes daily life for the slaves that once inhabited this cabin.

The Fellows would like to thank all of the Magnolia staff who went above and beyond to make this such a special experience!

NAX Day 4: Moore Farms Botanical Garden

Moore Farms Botanical Garden

The Fire Tower Center and Garden greet visitors with warmth and hospitality.

Like a horticultural beacon among a sea of sorghum fields, Moore Farms Botanical Garden draws over 8,000 visitors each year through its whimsical designs, educational programming, and southern hospitality. This “very public private garden” has been a powerhouse of change both within the garden gates and beyond, growing new community initiatives every day. A fairly young garden, the passion and vibrancy of the Moore Farms staff shined through every project, conversation, and tour, providing the Fellows with an unforgettable experience.

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Dense, colorful plantings delight visitors and guide them throughout the garden.

Once a landscape of tobacco fields as far as the eye could see, garden founder Darla Moore envisioned Moore Farms Botanical Garden as a place of respite and welcome to all who visited. Indeed, in the spirit of true southern hospitality, staff treated the Fellows to a home-cooked meal Wednesday evening before we even explored the gardens Thursday morning, which were a treat in their own right!

Beginning at the Fire Tower Center, which functions as the hub for garden visitors and education, the Fellows toured through long leaf pine corridors, fire-restoration projects in the Pine Bay garden, a formal garden with seasonal displays, a mature green roof (and wall!), trial gardens, and state-of-the-art green house facilities.

Green Roof

Completed in the winter of 2012, the green roof and living wall is irrigated using recycled water distributed through an overhead system.

At the culmination of their visit, the Fellows climbed the site’s 110’ tall fire tower to get a bird’s eye view of the gardens and see how they function together to provide a multitude of offerings to visitors.

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View of Fire Tower Center Garden from atop the garden’s 100′ tall tower.

 

Beyond the garden gates, Moore Farms’ reach extends throughout nearby Lake City, Ms. Moore’s hometown. Her influence and generosity can be seen throughout the community in any number of public landscapes including the Village Green, over 50 containers, and many other pro bono consultation projects completed for local businesses. As a private garden, Moore Farms is able to give back to the community because it directs all monetary returns from events and programs back into other local groups and organizations.

Public Landscapes in Lake City

Horticulture Supervisor Erik Healy discusses the impact of Moore Farms’ public landscapes projects within Lake City.

The Fellows would like to thank the amazing staff at Moore Farms Botanical Garden, especially Education and Events Manager Rebecca Turk, for not only sharing such a special and unique place, but also going above and beyond to provide an incredible guest experience!

NAX Day 3: A Man Named Pearl

On a drizzly Wednesday morning, the Fellows pulled up to a small house nestled in Bishopville, South Carolina. Pearl Fryar, legendary topiary artist and community leader, was seated in a John Deere gator, flipping through the pages of the Lee County Observer.

Pearl Fryar graciously spent the better part of the morning touring with the Longwood Fellows

Today’s paper included a story on the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden, and Pearl proudly showed us the article, which highlighted a generous donation from the local Waffle House in order to support the garden’s scholarship fund. A self-proclaimed “average student” with no training in horticulture, Pearl was passionate about supporting at-risk youth and “C-level” students in their creative and career goals.

Pearl and the Fellows

Pearl and the Fellows

“My point to students is: don’t allow someone to tell you what you can and can’t do by some test score, […] because you may be average academically and very talented in some other area.” The Friends of Pearl Fryar’s Topiary Garden scholarship was most recently awarded to two local high school students who would be attending technical college in the fall.

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Pearl’s organic sculptures often start as rescue’s from the discard pile

The same love and nurture was evident as we toured the garden. Starting in the 1980’s, Pearl defied stereotypes and prejudices towards black/African-American homeowners by winning Yard of the Month. He then continued to astound neighbors and plantsmen with his abstract topiary sculptures. Of all the specimens in his three-acre garden, over 70% came from discarded nursery plants meant for the compost pile. The message is united throughout the garden: with love, encouragement, and a steady hand, something that might have slipped through the cracks can become something incredible. One person can achieve incredible things against seemingly impossible odds.

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One of the more infamous pieces of work, this topiary has a distinct African art influence

The Fellows were deeply moved and inspired by Pearl’s creativity and positive spirit. We look forward to seeing how the garden will progress as part of the Garden Conservancy, and hope to see it remain as a beacon of Love, Peace, and Goodwill (the garden’s motto) in Bishopville and all of South Carolina.

Love, peace, and goodwill: Pearl's motto for the garden. This still was taken from the Youtube video Planting Hope

Love, peace, and goodwill: Pearl’s motto for the garden. This still was taken from the Youtube video Planting Hope

To learn more about the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden, please check out their website and documentary, “A Man Named Pearl“. Donations for both the garden and its scholarship fund can be made at www.pearlfryar.com or through the Garden Conservancy Donation page.

 

 

NAX Day 2: South Carolina Botanical Garden

Today we spent a scorching afternoon with Dr. Patrick McMillan at the South Carolina Botanical Garden on the Clemson University campus. Our tour focused on the Natural Heritage Trail, a quarter mile experience that takes the visitor through all of the major ecosystems of South Carolina.

Several signs like this one are installed over the length of the Natural Heritage Trail to orient visitors.

Several signs like this one are installed over the length of the Natural Heritage Trail to orient visitors.

A holistic, ecosystem-focused approach is evident in this garden as the team strives for healthy authenticity. We saw thriving pollinator communities, many federally threatened plant species, and visually stunning displays.

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Many plant species along the trail were swarming with healthy pollinator communities

The Natural Heritage Trail is a fascinating work in progress and the Fellows look forward to following the future of this innovative garden. Thank you to Dr. McMillan and to the staff and students of the South Carolina Botanic Garden for generously sharing your time and knowledge!

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The Natural Heritage Trail winds through South Carolina forest ecosystems, providing welcome shade.

 

 

NAX Day 1: Biltmore House and Gardens

Hello, friends and followers of the Longwood Graduate Program! This week, the Fellows are exploring the Carolinas on their North American Experience (NAX). NAX is part of the core LGP curriculum and allows the Fellows to explore public gardens in another region of North America while forging connections with professionals from across the country.

The Fellows’ adventure began today at Biltmore House and Gardens in Asheville, North Carolina. Biltmore is one of the few for-profit public gardens in the U.S. and was created from the original Vanderbilt estate. As one of the original founders of Biltmore said, “We don’t preserve Biltmore to make a profit, we make a profit to preserve Biltmore.”

An incredible vista of Biltmore house that the Fellows captured on their tour of the 8,000-acre property.

An incredible vista of Biltmore house that the Fellows captured on their tour of the 8,000-acre property.

To generate that profit, Biltmore leverages every part of its 8,000 acre-estate to create an incredible and unique visitor experience. Biltmore encompasses multiple businesses beyond the house and gardens, including a vineyard, winery, equestrian facilities, agricultural production, and outdoor recreation. The organization even offers multiple on-site accommodation options for guests to immerse themselves in the Biltmore atmosphere.

The Fellows stop to take in the vineyard views while on their tour with Biltmore Director of Horticulture Parker Andes.

The Fellows stop to take in the vineyard views while on their tour with Biltmore Director of Horticulture Parker Andes.

The Fellows would like to thank all of the fantastic directors and staff at Biltmore for their time, wisdom, and hospitality. It truly made for an unforgettable experience!

Professional Outreach Project 2016

It’s August, and the Fellows are three months into this year’s Professional Outreach Project with the Delaware Center for Horticulture. The project will result in a Garden Site Vision Plan for TheDCH’s Demonstration Garden. Created in 1987 and dedicated in 1992, the original grounds of TheDCH “aimed to showcase urban gardening ideas”. Now almost thirty years later, the garden site is under renovation as TheDCH undergoes a new strategic planning phase. The Fellows will gather feedback from TheDCH’s stakeholders and community members to create a vision for what the garden site could be in the future.  

The 2017 LGP Fellows with Vikram Krishnamurthy, TheDCH Executive Director, and Ann Mattingly (TheDCH Director of Programs) on their first site visit!

The 2017 LGP Fellows on their first site visit with TheDCH Executive Director Vikram Krishnamurthy and Director of Programs Ann Mattingly.

To date, the Fellows have conducted site visits, staff interviews, external benchmarking, and community workshop planning. The Fellows will be holding a community workshop at TheDCH on September 7th from 6 – 8pm to invite feedback and discussion from local neighbors and supporters of the organization. Their final report will be presented on October 26th at TheDCH’s Annual Meeting.

We’re (almost) Halfway There: LGP First-Year Fellows in the Midst of Thesis Work

While the second-year Fellows are preparing to defend and defending their theses, the first-year Fellows are hard at work tackling their research projects. The Class of 2017’s theses cover a wide range of topics, from human resources-related issues to food systems education and Millennial engagement in public gardens. Keep reading to learn more about their individual research!

LGP Class of 2017. Back row: (left to right) Grace Parker, Erin Kinley, Alice Edgerton. Front row: Elizabeth Barton and Tracy Qiu

LGP Class of 2017. Back row: (left to right) Grace Parker, Erin Kinley, and Alice Edgerton. Front row: Elizabeth Barton and Tracy Qiu

Tracy Qiu is researching racial diversity in public horticulture leadership. She will be performing interviews with leaders in the public horticulture field who represent racial diversity in the workforce. Through her research, she hopes to identify pipelines to leadership for minorities and people of color, perceptions of diversity in the field, barriers and challenges, and areas for future success.

Grace Parker is investigating succession planning in public horticulture. Her goal is to build a body of research that identifies the status of succession planning in public horticulture and to determine best practices for our unique field. Grace is currently concluding preliminary interviews with 30 gardens within the American Public Garden Association membership, and plans to follow up with focus groups and case studies.

Booderee Botanic Gardens, Australia. Both at home and abroad, the first-year Fellows engage with leaders from around the world to discuss hot topics in public horticulture.

Erin Kinley is evaluating food systems education and interpretation in U.S. public gardens. By partnering with the American Public Garden Association and Benveniste Consulting, Erin just received survey data back from over 100 gardens in the U.S. and Canada to determine the scope and content of food systems programming at public gardens. Next, she will be conducting phone interviews and on-site observations of select programs to identify best practices for food systems education at public gardens.

Alice Edgerton is exploring racial diversity in public garden internship programs. She believes this topic is an intersection of two of public horticulture’s most pressing challenges: the lack of young people entering the profession of horticulture and the need to diversify public garden staff. Alice will soon be interviewing current and former interns of color as well as internship administrators—feel free to contact her if you are interested in being interviewed (alice.edgerton@gmail.com)!

Elizabeth Barton’s thesis work investigates Millennial engagement with cultural institutions, specifically public gardens. She is interested in helping gardens cultivate and communicate with a Millennial audience. Elizabeth plans to explore this timely topic through a series of surveys, phone interviews, and case studies.

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Blue Mountains Botanic Garden-Mount Tomah, Australia. From succession planning to Millennial engagement, the LGP Class of 2017 is engaged in a variety of research topics critical to the future of public horticulture.

For more information about the LGP Class of 2017, check out their bios on the Longwood Graduate Program website, or visit their personal websites (hyperlinked with their names in the descriptions above).

Botanic Gardens of South Australia, Part 1

To finish out their International Experience, the Fellows are spending two days with the Botanic Gardens of South Australia, a division of South Australia’s Department of Environment, Water, and Natural Resources. The Botanic Gardens include three garden sites–Adelaide, Mount Lofty, and Wittunga–and is the only institution outside of North America to be an accredited member of the American Alliance of Museums.

The oldest of the South Australia Botanic Garden sites, Adelaide Botanic Garden was first opened to the public in 1857.

The oldest of the South Australia Botanic Garden sites, Adelaide Botanic Garden was first opened to the public in 1857.

The Fellows spent the morning at Adelaide Botanic Garden, where they met with Deputy Director Tony Kanellos and Collections and Horticulture Manager Andrew Carrick to discuss the Gardens’ latest strategic plan. The plan is centered on their new collections policy. The policy helps the garden determine how to preserve and build upon the plants, objects, buildings, and even vistas that are important to the organization.

The Fellows explore Adelaide Botanic Gardens' new wetland area with their guide, Andrew Carrick. The wetland cleans and stores rainwater runoff so that it can eventually be used to irrigate the garden.

The Fellows explore Adelaide Botanic Gardens’ new First Creek Wetland with their guide, Andrew Carrick. The wetland cleans and stores rainwater runoff, which will eventually be used to irrigate the garden.

As the Fellows learned on their morning tours, Adelaide Botanic Garden is perfectly poised to educate visitors about the timeless importance of plants. The garden is home to both the Santos Museum of Economic Botany, which showcases the historic food and fiber plants of Australia, and the South Australian Seed Conservation Centre, which protects future plant diversity by preserving millions of native plant seeds.

Originally built in 1881, the Santos Museum of Economic Botany displays models of hundreds of food and fiber plants that were critical to colonizing both Australia and the British Empire.

Originally built in 1881, the Santos Museum of Economic Botany displays models of hundreds of food and fiber plants that were critical to colonizing both Australia and the British Empire.

The day ended with an afternoon tour of Mount Lofty Botanic Garden. Mount Lofty features numerous hiking trails, collections of plants from around the world, and incredible views of the Piccadilly Valley.

Hiking trails at Mount Lofty Botanic Garden offer sweeping views of the South Australian landscape.

Hiking trails at Mount Lofty Botanic Garden offer sweeping views of the South Australian landscape.

Not up for a mountainside trek? Visitors can also enjoy peaceful walks around the garden's small lake.

Not up for a mountainside trek? Visitors can also enjoy peaceful walks around the garden’s small lake.

Check back in with us tomorrow to read about the final day of our Australian adventure!

The Fellows took full advantage of the interactive art pieces at the Mount Lofty Botanic Garden.

The Fellows, taking full advantage of the interactive art at the Mount Lofty Botanic Garden

 

Off to Adelaide!

Clear skies on the flight from Melbourne to Adelaide this morning.

Clear skies on the flight from Melbourne to Adelaide this morning.

As the Fellows embark on the final phase of their International Experience in Australia, they bid adieu to the great city of Melbourne and hailed west, greeting their final destination, Adelaide, with open arms.

Though time in Melbourne was brief, it was filled to the brim with educational experiences, new perspectives, and insightful lessons. The Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, comprised of the gardens Melbourne and Cranbourne, are complementary in nature and committed to providing avenues of community engagements at every turn. While Cranbourne gardens focuses on the in-depth interpretation of native plantings and national histories, the gardens in downtown Melbourne showcase a spectrum of collections from around the globe and have both domestic as well as international visitorship. The fascinating conversations that came from both sites proved to be both inspiring and enlightening.

Pedestrian friendly shopping centers offer a sense of vitality in the Central Business District.

A pedestrian-friendly promenade offers a sense of vitality in the Central Business District.

The city of Adelaide is home to approximately 1.3 million people as well as the Botanic Gardens of South Australia, including Adelaide Botanic Garden, Mount Lofty Botanic Garden, and Wittunga Botanic Garden. The Fellows are excited to explore this new city and the vast horticultural knowledge it has to offer.

Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah

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The Fellows with the backdrop of the stunning Blue Mountains

Nestled among the Blue Mountains UNESCO World Heritage site, the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah masterfully weaves plant textures of the Southern Hemisphere together, capturing the imaginations and hearts of thousands visiting each year. Originally the home of the Brunet family, who produced cut flowers sold in Sydney, the gardens were donated in 1972. Though first opened to the public in 1987, the presence of the basalt capped mountains encouraged plant life to flourish, growing rapidly and offering the appearance of a far more mature and established garden.

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Arranged by geographic origin, dense plantings complement and contrast one another through various texture, scale, and color

The Fellows were fortunate to meet with the garden’s Curator Manager, Greg Bourke, to learn about the garden proper as well as its premiere interpretative display, the Botanists Way Discovery Centre. Completed in recent years, the Discovery Centre provides active and passive educational experiences to an international audience of all ages and walks of life. Synchronized with the garden’s mission statement to connect people with plants through imaginative horticulture, beautiful landscapes, and transformative learning experiences, the shared stories focus on a historic mission to find rare plants in the local uncharted territory. The garden projects a future vision for the continued advancement of this interpretive tool, which may include interactive displays to encourage local community visitors to return again and again.

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The bog garden’s kaleidoscope of color draws the attention of visitors and is home to a few carnivorous plants