Vita Nova: A Farm to Table Arrangement

“Vita Nova” in Latin means “new life,” and that is exactly what Longwood Graduate Fellows bring to the Vita Nova restaurant each Monday morning. As a way to connect with the greater University of Delaware community, Fellows bring fresh flowers and cuttings from the University of Delaware Botanic Garden to this fine dining restaurant located on north campus.

Tracy Qiu with flowers for you

Tracy Qiu with flowers for you

Vita Nova is run by students in the University’s Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management program and provides hands-on experience they will use in their careers. The flowers are arranged by the students and used to decorate the tables for the week.

Winter arrangements Winter arrangements utilize greens, dried flowers, and seasonal berries

Winter arrangements Winter arrangements utilize greens, dried flowers, and seasonal berries

The University of Delaware Botanic Gardens is a research center, laboratory, and living classroom for the students and visitors that enjoy its beautiful 15 acres. The gardens have more than 3,000 species and cultivars of perennials, shrubs, and trees. Picking flowers or other greens in the garden is strictly not allowed, but the Fellows have special permission to harvest plant material for Vita Nova.

The University of Delaware Botanic Gardens is a research center, laboratory, and living classroom for the students and visitors that enjoy its beautiful 15 acres. The gardens have more than 3,000 species and cultivars of perennials, shrubs, and trees. Picking flowers or other greens in the garden is strictly not allowed, but the Fellows have special permission to harvest plant material for Vita Nova.

Felco pruners in action

Felco pruners in action

For some Fellows, long trained not to pick the flowers in a botanical garden, it can feel a little naughty to be let loose with a pair of pruners in the garden!

Fellows enjoy the chance to get outside and see what is in bloom, as well as to support Vita Nova and their delicious and educational mission. You can connect with Vita Nova on Facebook, and check out their dramatic and excellently produced new video on their blog.

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 Beautiful Ending in Western Massachusetts

Landscape architect Fletcher Steele’s designs at the Mission House and Naumkeag were the focus of the final morning of the Fellows’ North American Experience in Massachusetts. Fellows met Mark Wilson, Curator of Collections & West Region Cultural Resources Specialist, and Eric Ruquist, Horticulturist, at the Mission House in Stockbridge. This historic house dates to 1742 and was originally the home of the first missionary to the Mohican Indians.

The Mission House with summer blooming perennials

The Mission House with summer blooming perennials

Mabel Choate, the daughter of Joseph Choate, a leading 19th century attorney, was a preservationist in the 1920s and acquired the Mission House in order to preserve it and its historical significance. The Colonial Revival gardens surrounding the house were among the first projects she and Steele collaborated on and provided a way for Steele to demonstrate his prowess at landscape design.

After this brief introduction to Choate and Steele, the Fellows went up the hill to Naumkeag, the former country estate of Mabel Choate and her family.

The setting could not have been more idyllic: morning at a Gilded Age estate surrounded by the rolling Berkshires and imaginatively designed gardens. Choate and Steele redesigned the gardens at Naumkeag over the course of 30 years and they are in the final stages of being restored to their original glory.

Looking up at Naumkeag from the Tree Peony Terrace

Looking up at Naumkeag from the Tree Peony Terrace

The Blue Steps flanked by birch trees

The Blue Steps flanked by birch trees

Wilson began our tour at the famous Blue Steps, which were in the first of the five restoration phases. The original brilliant blue paint color of the alcoves was discovered on a piece of concrete tucked away in the recesses of one of Mabel’s desks and has now been restored. Walking up the Blue Steps, we arrived at the reason the Choates purchased the property in 1884: a regal swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor) gracing the hillside and providing a perfect picnicking location.

Fellows all in a row under the amazing swamp white oak

Fellows all in a row under the amazing swamp white oak

The favorite picnicking spot of the Choates

The favorite picnicking spot of the Choates

From the Afternoon Garden and its gondola poles to the intricacies of the house itself, the views and artistry involved were spectacular and made it difficult for the Fellows to pull themselves away for their final stop.

Floodplain forest restoration: silver maple saplings stand above grasses

Floodplain forest restoration: silver maple saplings stand above grasses

Bartholomew’s Cobble, a National Natural Landmark in Sheffield, was the perfect ending for the trip. Julie Richburg, West Region Ecologist, met the Fellows and guided them on a relaxing hike through the cobbles and to the floodplain forest. Ten acres were recently restored from fields to floodplain forest, utilizing saplings from similar areas on site to retain genetic diversity. Julie discussed the challenges of managing non-native invasive plant species and erosion, and pointed out several significant species, including a large American elm (Ulmus americana), a massive cottonwood tree (Populus deltoides), and Gray’s sedge (Carex grayi), a threatened plant species.

Exploring Bartholomew's Cobble, bedrock outcroppings formed as a result of the Taconic and Berkshire mountains

Exploring Bartholomew’s Cobble; bedrock outcroppings formed as a result of the Taconic and Berkshire mountains forming

How many Fellows can fit around a cottonwood tree?

How many Fellows can fit around a cottonwood tree?

The Fellows would like to thank all of our wonderful hosts at the various Reservations, The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, and Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cindy Brockway, Program Director, Cultural Resources, for helping coordinate the trip, and our chaperones, Longwood Graduate Program Interim Director Dr. Brian Trader and Longwood Gardens Archivist, Judy Stevenson.

Estate Tours: Day 4

For the fourth day of their 2015 North American Experience, the Fellows toured two stunning estate properties of The Trustees of Reservations. Awaking in the beautiful Castle Hill Inn, the Fellows had a lovely breakfast before setting out on a tour of Castle Hill on the Crane Estate with Operations Manager Robert Murray. Starting at the Great House, the Fellows investigated many of the 59 rooms in this Stuart-style mansion, which features many elements from the Colonial Revival Architectural Period.

The Magnificent Grand House at Castle Hill on the Crane Estate

The Great House at Castle Hill on the Crane Estate

Opulent living area in the Great House. Note the wood floors which feature salvaged wood from England reflecting the Colonial

Opulent living area in the Great House. Note the wood floors featuring salvaged wood from England. This feature reflects the Colonial Revival Architecture style, popular among wealthy Americans of the time.

Although the original land claim for the property dates back to 1637, the mansion and gardens were developed principally by the Crane family who purchased the estate in 1910. The Cranes linked three major tracts of land for their summer estate, which now comprise Crane Beach, Crane Refuge, and Castle Hill. The Cranes amassed vast wealth from their plumbing empire, which produced sewers and industrial piping, later branching into toilets and residential bathroom fixtures.

Original advertisement for Crane interior fixtures

Advertisement for Crane products. The Cranes were one of America’s wealthiest families in the early 20th century.

Today, the Crane Estate is the most visited Reservation in the Trustees portfolio, attracting some 330,000 visitors each year. With so much to explore, Castle Hill on the Crane Estate is a must-see property!

The allée designed by renowned landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff was recently restored by The Trustees.

The allée designed by renowned landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff was recently restored by The Trustees.

View out to Choate Island. The Crane Wildlife Refuge comprises a series of coastal and island habitats supporting numerous bird and mammal species.

View out to Choate Island. The Crane Wildlife Refuge comprises a series of coastal and island habitats supporting numerous bird and mammal species.

Crane Beach is lovely.

Crane Beach at sunrise

Operations Manager Bob Murray providing the Fellows with a rich history of the Casino Complex and other landscape features on the Crane Estate.

Operations Manager Bob Murray providing the Fellows with a rich history of the Casino Complex and other landscape features at Castle Hill on the Crane Estate.

Anyone up for a game?

The Casino Complex: The sunken pool is now a recreational space for visitors to play croquet and bocce.

After a lunch of fried clams, the Fellows headed to Stevens-Coolidge Place, a neo-Georgian Colonial Revival estate featuring many impressive gardens. We received a wonderful, comprehensive tour from Kevin Block, Superintendent for the property, who described the evolution of the landscape and the creation of gardening programs in recent years, which aim to connect local residents to the Reservation. Among the stunning gardens we stopped to admire were the perennial beds, cut flower garden, and un jardin potager or French kitchen garden.

View from the front of the Stevens-Coolidge home.

View of the front of the Stevens-Coolidge home

Perennial garden with many plants in peak of bloom.

The Perennial Garden was in peak bloom

The potager garden with many culinary herbs.

The potager garden featuring culinary herbs.

With its abundance of floral diversity in a tranquil setting, the Stevens-Coolidge Place is absolutely worth a stop for the garden visitor to Northeastern Massachusetts.

The Stevens-Coolidge Place features some trees of impressive stature.

A regal white ash (Fraxinus americana) at the Stevens-Coolidge Place

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

Co-Creation at UC Davis Arboretum

We arrived at University of California in Davis on a hot and windy day, typical of the summers east of the San Francisco Bay area. UC Davis Arboretum is located in the heart of Davis, which is just west of the city of Sacramento.

A hot, dry day doesn't stop sunflowers!

A hot, dry day doesn’t stop sunflowers!

We were picked up at our hotel by Andrew Fulks, one of the assistant directors, who took us to the garden offices to meet Executive Director Kathleen Socolofsky. Kathleen has steered the Arboretum on a journey from being a private garden to a public institution. She wanted to exceed expectations during this time so her changes took place gradually to insure effective implementation. Kathleen expressed her vision for the garden and the process of co-creation, which encompasses numerous unrelated university staff in the process of garden development. Briefly, this process involves surveys and interviews directed at different sections of the University to determine their views on what the gardens should be, and the niche they should fill on campus.

Co-creation at its most beautiful!

This tile wall showcases co-creation at its best

The Arboretum itself is located in a narrow band of property along the south edge of the campus, and consists of 19 collections and gardens. During a limited time for exploration, this writer managed to see a good part of the Mediterranean Garden, as well as the Carolee Shields White Flower Garden and Gazebo.

Poppies bloom in the Shields White Garden

Poppies bloom in the Shields White Flower Garden

The canal is a prominent feature of the garden.

The canal is a prominent feature of the garden

The Mediterranean Garden borders a large canal, which is a prominent feature of this part of the Arboretum, and contains plants from several Mediterranean regions.

Another interesting project mentioned during our visit is the GATEways project, which serves as a resource for sustainable horticulture. This project involves collaboration among a garden team headed by Kathleen, the assistant Vice Chancellor, and the Campus Planner; all of whom support the larger vision of UC Davis as a visitor-centered destination. Gardens adjacent to specific departments contain elements of that department within the garden, itself.

The outdoor nursery area.

The outdoor nursery area

The Director of GATEways Horticulture and Teaching Gardens, Emily Griswold, then took us to the newly-planted California Native Plant Gateway Garden, which features plants originating from the lower Putah Creek watershed. This site also features a “Shovel Gateway’’ sculpture which was created using 400 old shovels, which make for a remarkable entry way to the University campus. Interpretive signage will educate visitors about the regional flora and fauna of the Putah Creek Watershed and how to create sustainable landscapes with native plants.

The shovel sculpture.

The shovel sculpture

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to UC Davis, especially the great sense of connectivity between the staff. The Arboretum has a very exciting future ahead and we look forward to visiting again soon.

Blog by Gary Shanks and photography by Sara Helm Wallace

North American Experience Trip – Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens and Muir Woods

The first year Longwood Graduate Fellows commenced our garden adventures at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, Fort Bragg, California. Mary Anne Payne, Executive Director and Jim Bailey, Head Gardener of the garden, greeted us at the entrance of the garden on a cool morning.

Mendocino Coastal Botanical Gardens entrance sign

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens entrance sign

Ernest and Betty Sohoefer, who had deep passions in gardening and a special interest in Rhododendron species, started Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens (MCBG) in the 1960s. MCBG has a garden area of 47 acres, framed by the grand coastal ocean and currently has over 1,200 cultivars and species of Rhododendrons. The diversity of plant varieties in the garden attracts and supports the highest concentration of birds to its premises. MCBG held a strong community support, attracting about 350 volunteers, on top of its 11 full time and 11 part time staff. Due to the natural high water table present in the land, MCBG joined partnership with the Water Coastal Conservancy to preserve and better utilize the existing available water.

Mendocino Coastal Botanic Gardens heath and heather collection

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens heath and heather collection

MCBG attracts about 17,000 visitors annually, and generates its revenues through general admission, gift shop, retail nursery, café and fund-raising events such as ‘Art in the Gardens’. MCBG manages its own vegetable garden and orchard within its premises and 80% of its produces are given to the local food bank while the remaining 20% are given to its in-house ‘Rhody’s Garden Café’. The management utilized the vegetable garden and orchard to educate the public through educational tours and interpretative signage.

Mendocino Coastal Botanical Gardens coastline panorama

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens coastline panorama

Art and bench sculptures are displayed throughout the gardens. Mary Payne explained that each art and bench sculptures were for sale and that the profits will be spilt between the artist and MCBG. Jim led us towards their composting backyard and told us an interesting story about how they used the spare hops and grains by the brewery restaurant in their compost. He explained that the hops are able to heat up to about 140oF, sanitizing and killing all bacteria and insects within the compost.

Muir Woods entrance After lunch, we made our way down south towards Muir Woods National Monument, where it houses the world’s largest giant coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). Local businessman William Kent and his wife Elizabeth Thacher Kent established Muir Woods in 1905 to protect the one of the last standing redwoods. We took a hike through the Muir Woods trails and one felt like we were in the ‘Twilight’ movie. The golden rays of the sun beamed and streamed through the majestic redwood forest like a flowing waterfall, reflecting and surrounding its warmth around us. Along the trail, we spotted a few of the legendary ‘banana slug’ – a greenish and slimy slug that survived in the undergrowth of the forest. Myth has it that one may make a wish after kissing the slug and a few brave female ‘warriors’ decided to make myth come true by bestowing their precious lips upon the innocent slugs.

Muir Woods

Muir Woods

Banana slug wishes

Banana slug wishes

The trips to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens and Muir Woods have opened our eyes to further appreciate nature and extend our networking in California. We look forward with great anticipation and excitement towards the rest of the trip!

Blog by Felicia Chua and photos by Kevin Williams

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 13 – Christchurch Botanic Garden with Jeremy Hawker


We set out with the sun casting its warmth through the midst of the chilly morning breeze as we made our way towards the Christchurch Botanic Garden. We were greeted by the pleasantly warm and friendly Jeremy Hawker, who is the team leader for the Garden and Heritage Parks in Christchurch. Jeremy has an impressive fourteen years of horticulture and management experience for the Botanic Gardens such as Christchurch Botanic Garden; City Heritage Parks such as Hagley Park; and other Central Business District Parks that have been placed under his care. Some of these gardens and parks are currently undergoing major re-development due to the earthquake damage during 2010 and 2011.

IMG_2208Christchurch Botanic Garden has over 1.1 million annual visitors to its 17 hectares garden. It was established in 1963 and is in its 150th year anniversary this year. It is mostly funded by the City Council and held events such as musical concerts, a wine festival, changing plant displays for the Flower Festival, and public education for the schools and community. At any one time, these events attract about 100,000 visitors to the Garden. Christchurch Botanic Garden has suffered its pain through the horrendous earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 and is painstakingly in the midst of recovery. During the tremors of the earthquakes, Jeremy had to relocate the staff who were left homeless and provide additional support and counseling for them. The visitor center had to be relocated to the entrance of the Botanic Garden, while the bus depot was relocated to another end of the Garden. A police recovery center was set up to provide assistance to anyone who seeks it.   

IMG_2197Jeremy recalled that all the electricity was cut off and he suggested that a hard-copy of important telephone numbers and documents should be kept since all the computers were down due to the electrical failure. Water supply was no longer available to the plants, which struggled through the strenuous period of the aftermath of the earthquakes. Capital funding was utilized to re-build damaged recreation facilities and infrastructure such as the tennis courts at Hagley Park. Underground sewage spilled into the river system that flowed through the Botanic Garden and remained a priority for repairs as the staff scrambled to remove the spills from the river. Jeremy described with awe that during the earthquake, the water in the shallow rivers was seen bubbling furiously as if in a volcano eruption and then suddenly disappeared into the grounds below. 


Spontaneous pallet pavilion with bucket seats built immediately after the earthquakes of 2010 & 2011.

IMG_2254We left Christchurch Botanic Garden and walked around the city as Jeremy explained that the government is still in the midst of deciding whether to re-build the same damaged building or to replace the building with a brand new look. The damage around the city is being repaired and Jeremy estimated that the recovery for the entire Christchurch city would be within 25 – 30 years. Though the city looks devastating, the people of Christchurch lifted the dull and empty atmosphere with cheerful and creative art instruments, such as hand-made musical instruments made out of boards, brushes and pipes; enormous green and velvety furniture were erected and stand-up cafes were made out of shipping containers. The Christchurch city may be greatly damaged, but unity and love can definitely be seen and felt within each person’s heart. 

Blog by Felicia Chua, photos by Sara Helm Wallace