Booderee Botanic Gardens

The Longwood Fellows were up bright and early this morning for their day at Booderee Botanic Gardens and National Park.

The Fellows’ goal for this International Experience is to explore how Australian public gardens are evaluating the impact of educational and outreach programs, and Booderee Botanic Gardens is a unique example.

Originally an annex of the Australian National Botanic Gardens, the land containing Booderee Botanical Gardens and National Park was successfully acquired by Wreck Bay Aboriginal community in 1995, and is the only Aboriginal owned botanical garden in Australia (and possibly the world).

The Fellows began the day with Stig Pedersen, Booderee’s Acting Botanic Gardens Curator, who provided valuable context in the form of the history and structure of the botanical gardens. Booderee Botanic Gardens carries out its mission of cultural education through Indigenous led interpretive tours, as well as educational programs and training for the local Wreck Bay community.

The Fellows were able to experience one of these tours, led by Indigenous interpreter Kain Ardler, who has an extensive knowledge of Aboriginal plants that has been handed down through the generations. A favorite of the day was learning about the uses of the Paperbark Tree, which can be wrapped around fish before cooking.

The Fellows would like to thank Stig Pedersen, Kain Ardler, and the rest of the staff at the Booderee Botanic Gardens and National Park, for a warm welcome to the land.

Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney

Another busy day down under! Today the First Year Fellows visited the spectacular Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, followed by a tour of the Sydney Opera House.

At one of Royal Botanic Garden Sydney's 15 entrances!

At one of Royal Botanic Garden Sydney’s 15 entrances

RBG Sydney is the largest public garden in the southern hemisphere, with over 4 million visitors annually, and with good reason. These gorgeous grounds are located in the middle of the city center, right on Sydney Harbor.

The Fellows spent the morning meeting with representatives from RBG Sydney, as well as staff from Australian Botanic Garden Mt Annan. It was a great opportunity to hear more about the overall vision of the organizations and get more information about their strategic planning efforts, governance structures and programming. After a delicious lunch at RBG’s café, we strolled around the grounds for a more in depth look at the garden with Paul Nicholson, RBG Site Coordinator of Community Education. Paul has a vast knowledge of plants and the Garden that he generously shared with us.

Paul talks palms

Paul talks palms

Fellows especially enjoyed the tour of Cadi Jam Ora: First Encounters, a display that interprets the Aboriginal cultural heritage of RBG Sydney. The garden is celebrating it’s 200 anniversary, but Aboriginal people have a 40,000 year history with the site, including roughly 28,000 years of managing the land through techniques including burning.

Garden Interpreter Etta with Aboriginal cultural artifacts

Garden Interpreter Etta with Aboriginal cultural artifacts

The Fellows would like to thank Kim Ellis, Executive Director of Botanic Gardens and Centennial Parklands, Jimmy Turner, Director of Horticultural Management at RGB Sydney, Paul Nicholson of RBG Sydney, John Siemon, Curator Manager of Australian Botanic Garden Mt. Annan, and Rebecca Anderson, Visitor Experience Manager at ABG for their time and a great discussion.

G’day Mates!

First Year Fellows here, checking in from Sydney, Australia.

We made it! No speed bumps so far (except for one lost piece of luggage). We hit the ground running today with an amazing afternoon at Taronga Zoo. The ferry across Sydney Harbour provides a picturesque approach to the zoo site. We were able to see gorgeous views of the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the zoo itself.


On our way to Taronga Zoo with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background.

The Fellows spent the afternoon in conversation with Taronga’s Institute and Project Manager, Education Manager, Aboriginal and Community Programs Manager, and the Community Conservation Manager. Thank you to the generous Taronga Zoo staff for their time and wisdom; we are excited to continue these conversations! After our meeting we spent some time bonding with the Australian wildlife. Some of my personal favorites were the echidnas and the quolls. Unfortunately, the platypus didn’t make an appearance for us today; he was relaxing in his nest-box after a long day of happy visitors.


When you’re at Taronga, don’t forget to look up! This ropes course provides a fun activity for a wide range of ages.

Our time at Taronga Zoo really set the stage for a fantastic trip. Stay tuned! We’ll keep you up to date throughout our journey.

Follow along with us on social media using twitter (@ElizabethTau) and our trip hashtag: #LGPDownUnder



International Experience 2016: Australia

Holiday season is usually filled with hot chocolate, winter coats, and hibernation. But this year the First Year Fellows are packing sunscreen and summer gear in anticipation of their International Experience to Australia in January 2016!

Since July, the Fellows have been researching and developing an itinerary to explore the social impact of Australian gardens in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. Longwood Gardens is finalizing a new strategic plan which prioritizes efforts to measure the effect of our education and community engagement programs on the wider world. In support of this, the Fellows will be traveling to Australia to learn how gardens down under are evaluating the short- and long-term impacts of their own programs. The Fellows will be visiting a variety of destinations in Australia, including world class zoos, gardens, and national parks.

The Red Sands Garden of Cranbourne Gardens, a branch of the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. Photo courtesy of R.Reeve.

The Red Sands Garden is one of the many beautiful features of Cranbourne Gardens Photo courtesy of R.Reeve.

Fellows will be researching specific programs at each organization that focus on community engagement and education. Through tours and meetings with local staff, the Fellows hope to learn more about Australian garden’s efforts to measure the impact of work they do and to build relationships with gardens on the other side of the world.The Fellows will be departing from the United States on January 10th to begin their exciting two-week research expedition through Australia. There will be daily updates of the journey on this blog, so check back here soon!

2015 Outreach Project Update: Bright Spot Farms

Over the past few months, the Fellows have been busy working on their annual Professional Outreach Project. This experiential project is designed to offer the Fellows an opportunity to engage with regional professionals, gain project management experience, and work collaboratively within a specific area interest in public horticulture. This year the Fellows have partnered with Bright Spot Farms, a social enterprise program of West End Neighborhood House in Wilmington that offers hands-on horticultural job training to young adults aging out of Delaware’s foster care system. Together with the staff from Bright Spot, the Fellows are working to create an updated business and program plan to serve as a guide to increase the efficiency and sustainability of this unique and important initiative.

Bright Spot Farms Team at the Cool Spring Farmers' Market (photo courtesy of Bright Spot Farms)

Bright Spot Farms Team at the Cool Spring Farmers’ Market (photo courtesy of Bright Spot Farms)

So what exactly have they been busy doing all summer with this project? The Fellows have conducted interviews and surveys, engaged in benchmarking with similar programs all over the region and nation, become regulars at the Cool Spring Farmers’ Market (which is run by Bright Spot), followed the Mobile Market all over Wilmington, and have eaten some seriously delicious local produce grown at Bright Spot.

Read more about the great work of Bright Spot Farms or see (and taste) for yourself at the Cool Spring Farmers’ Market!

Shaping the Future of Horticulture at Ladew Topiary Garden

The first year Fellows visited Ladew Topiary Gardens on a gorgeous sunny day in August. The naked ladies (Lycoris squamigera) were in full bloom and the topiaries were looking sharp!


Naked ladies and a view of the hunt topiaries

As a Maryland Historic Site, Ladew Topiary Gardens faces unique heritage challenges. Harvey S. Ladew purchased the property in 1929 and created the gardens with intentional imperfections and an eye for whimsy. This brings up questions for current staff such as: should the original bright colors be maintained? What about the off-centered focal point of the sculpture garden? Some bright colors have been kept and some now live only in historical photographs. The sculpture garden focal point is maintained as it was in Mr. Ladew’s original design.


Mr. Ladew created this fountain by combining different sculptural elements he found during his travels

Although projects such as upgrading aging hardscaping, replacing invasive species, and addressing the occasional fallen tree are present throughout the field of horticulture, considering them in light of Mr. Ladew’s original intent adds a layer of intrigue.

Thanks to a talented horticultural team and inspired garden leadership, the Ladew Topiary Gardens are thriving. The staff strikes an admirable balance both maintaining historical integrity and modernizing to fit the times.

Erin cropped

First Year Fellow Erin Kinley enjoys a visit from a monarch during her time in the Butterfly House

One of the modern choices made in recent years is the Butterfly House. Opened in 2014, this beautiful structure houses native butterflies found in the surrounding meadow and provides ideal space for community education. The caterpillars are collected from the area and adult butterflies are released back into the ecosystem. The Fellows are looking forward to the growth of the Butterfly House in addition to everything else Ladew has in store for the future!

Winterthur: Experiencing the “Peace and Calm of a Country Place”

Winterthur simply cannot be explored in one day. A 60-acre naturalistic garden, surrounded by 1000 acres of soft meadows, the grounds provides visitors with the “peace and great calm of a country place,” in the words of Henry Francis du Pont. One could easily spend a year there, discovering new delights, especially within the 175-room museum of American decorative arts, which boasts an impressive collection of over 90,000 objects.

Upon our arrival, we were warmly welcomed into the Brown Horticulture Learning Center. Here, we began our day with an engaging round table talk lead by Estate and Garden Director Chris Strand, Director of Horticulture Linda Eirhart, and Gardens Associate-Curator Carol Long. We were given an in-depth history of H.F. du Pont’s legacy, complete with marvelous tidbits of information, such as the fact that Winterthur once housed a prize winning herd of Holstein-Friesian cows!

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Beautiful scenery from our garden tour

Our discussion moved onto current topics in public horticulture such as family programming, narrative interpretation, public engagement, agricultural visibility, and the potential shifts a garden may need to make for a changing visitor demographic. The Director and staff were gracious enough to answer all our questions, providing yet another perspective to add to our public garden experiences.



Following the discussion, the Fellows were led through the gardens and grounds. Notable features included the Renaissance-inspired Reflecting Pool and the KIDS GROW Children’s Vegetable Garden, which is open to young families for an engaging 8-week course in vegetable cultivation. We quickly fell under the spell of the Enchanted Woods, which tickled our fancies and fueled our imaginations. My personal favourite: the Tulip Tree House, carved beautifully out of a fallen Liriodendron.

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Tracy enjoying the Enchanted Woods

The Fellows would like to thank Director Chris Strand, Linda Eirhart, and Carol Long, as well as the rest of the Winterthur staff. We appreciated your hospitality and can’t wait to come back to continue exploring!

A Walk in the Shade at Jenkins Arboretum

Sweeps of ferns blanket the ground beneath the mature tree canopy.

Sweeps of ferns blanket the ground beneath the mature tree canopy

Despite its proximity to Valley Forge National Historic Park, the massive King of Prussia Mall, and countless residential developments, Jenkins Arboretum has been a source of respite and cultural value to the surrounding community since 1976.

As soon as the Fellows entered the Arboretum gates, we were swept away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world through an immersive tour with Director of Horticulture and Curator of Plant Collections, Steve Wright.

Steve Wright guided the fellows throughout the Arboretum and gardens.

Steve Wright guided the Fellows throughout the Arboretum and gardens

As we explored the winding paths of the azalea-lined hillside, we were fascinated to learn that the property, left by H. Lawrence Jenkins as a living memorial to his wife, Elisabeth Phillippe Jenkins, began as natural woodland with no formal design. Today, a stunning display of rare and unusual rhododendrons, including Rhododendron macrosepalum ‘Koromo Shikibu’ and Rhododendron periclymenoides, greets visitors daily. The garden is free of charge from sunrise to sunset.

Executive Director Dr. Harold Sweetman guided us through the newest addition to the arboretum, the John J. Willaman Education Center. The Center is a remarkable testament to Jenkins’s commitment to environmental sustainability as well as fiscal responsibility. An advocate of passive education, Dr. Sweetman highlighted the subtle signage of the building, an intentional tool that extends throughout the gardens in support of a less traditional educational experience. Dr. Sweetman explained, “…people come here everyday for all kinds of reasons: to walk with their children, to fall in love, to be in nature. Every time they visit the gardens they have learned something new.”

Not limited to humans, the arboretum is a source of respite for a wealth of insects and pollinators.

Not limited to humans, the Arboretum is a source of respite for a wealth of insects and pollinators.

The Fellows would like to thank Dr. Harold Sweetman, Steve Wright, and the entire Jenkins Arboretum staff for their time and hospitality.

First Year Fellows at Mt. Cuba

Despite the rainy weather, Mt. Cuba Center shone brightly during our visit. The native woodland gardens were especially charming on a rainy day and the downpour was kind enough to hold off until we made it back to the house. Our docent guide, Judy Stallkamp, gave us a great tour filled with personal touches about her favorite plants and Copeland family anecdotes.

The beauty of the site can be summarized by Mrs. Copeland’s desire for visitors to “look up as well as look down.” The tall, straight trunks of the tulip poplars draw one’s gaze up and allow the visitor to appreciate the overall woodland beauty in addition to the smaller floral accents.


Tulip poplars draw one’s eyes upward

A floral accent by the large pond

A floral accent by the large pond

I particularly enjoyed the chance to see the trial gardens. Even on a cloudy day the native plants were abuzz with pollinators and the whole garden was full of color.

Trial gardens at Mt. Cuba

Trial gardens at Mt. Cuba

The Fellows were charmed by the story of Mrs. Copeland’s mailboxes, which are scattered throughout the garden. She had these mailboxes placed in the garden so she could leave notes for herself or the gardeners. She also left books to read so they would be easily accessible.

Thank you, Mt. Cuba, for such a great visit!

A Sunny Day in Haverford

Haverford College Arboretum Director Bill Astifan

Haverford College Arboretum Director Bill Astifan

Hello! This is the first official blog post from the Class of 2017. You can check out our bios and see our shining visages here. We look forward to connecting with lots of new people and institutions in the world of public horticulture over the next two years.

As a part of our summer orientation, we will be visiting a variety of public gardens and sharing our experiences with you. Our first trip was to Haverford College Arboretum. It was a glorious sunny day to walk around the 182 year-old university arboretum–the country’s oldest. Our tour guide was Director Bill Astifan.

Bill’s encyclopedic knowledge of the grounds and trees was impressive, to say the least. As we walked through the beautiful 200-acre arboretum, Bill shared the history of the landscape and buildings, and seemed to know the history of each and every one of the 3,000 labeled trees on campus. This gorgeous campus is maintained with three full-time horticulturists who have one full-time student worker in the summer and 8 to 10 students part-time during the school year.

At the heart of the Arboretum’s mission is educating and connecting with Haverford’s student body. In addition to the student workers, the Arboretum works with the Environmental Sciences Department and other departments on campus and offers student memberships.

Student farm and arboretum volunteer Megan Wingate

Student farm and Arboretum volunteer Megan Wingate

The level of the arboretum’s involvement with the needs of the student body struck home when Bill pointed out some planters that had been newly installed to help guide a visually impaired student around campus.

wayfinding orange planters

Wayfinding orange planters

We met Martha Van Artsdalen, the Arboretum’s Plant Curator, who discussed some of the many rare and important tree specimens in the Arboretum. They have an impressive collection of conifers in their 18-acre Pinetum. We visited several of the 15 state champion trees, the largest of their kind in the state.

The Fellows standing under the largest Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea) in the state of Pennsylvania

The Fellows standing under the largest Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea) in the state of Pennsylvania

Another star of the collection was a descendant of the Penn Treaty elm (Ulmus americana). William Penn and the Lenni Lenape Chief Tamanend met in 1682 and pledged a treaty of friendship on the banks of the Delaware River under the shade of a giant elm tree. The Arboretum is dedicated to preserving this living piece of American history and has donated seedlings to local Quaker meetinghouses and other organizations that have requested them.

The Haverford College Arboretum was a beautiful place to spend a morning and an excellent start to the Class of 2017’s summer field trips. Many thanks to Bill and his staff for their hospitality!