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The Delaware Center for Horticulture: Urban Greening and So Much More

Friday, August 8 was a gorgeous, sunny day in northern Delaware and perfect for the First Year Fellows to visit The Delaware Center for Horticulture’s (DCH) headquarters and greening projects throughout Wilmington.

DCH Garden'

Stone railings from a former Wilmington bridge accent the DCH headquarters garden

The DCH is a multifaceted organization involved in projects that include park improvements, life skills and job training, local prisons initiatives,  youth development and gardening experience, and of course, environmental and economic improvements in public landscapes. The Fellows met with Ms. Pamela Sapko, Executive Director, and Mr. Lenny Wilson, Associate Director of Development. Despite the construction of a $3.5 million green renovation and expansion to the buildings, the offices were relatively quiet. Ms. Sapko and Mr. Wilson said this is not uncommon—not because The DCH staff isn’t busy, but because their work is often out in the “field.” The field being the entire state of Delaware, with an emphasis in and around Wilmington.

Mr. Wilson took the Fellows on a driving tour of spaces where The DCH has worked on projects, including the a variety of right-of-way areas, an ACME parking lot, and several community gardens.

Burton-Phelan Garden

l to r: Lenny Wilson, Hazel Brown, Stephanie Kuniholm, Fran Jackson, Andrea Brennan, Keith Nevison

A reprieve from blocks of row houses exists on the corner of 10th and Pine Streets.  What is now the Burton-Phelan Garden was once a space used for illegal dumping and drug trafficking. The Fellows were lucky enough to meet Hazel Brown, 87, the garden coordinator. She was working at the garden with a group from Habitat for Humanity, who had just installed an attractive cedar fence on the backside of the garden. An inspiring person, Hazel recently began working with The DCH to tame the garden as it had become unruly over several years.

12th and Brandywine Urban Farm

One of our last stops was at 12th and Brandywine Urban Farm, which won the 2010 Garden Club of America Founders Fund award, which is accompanied by $25,000, and a Community Greening Award from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society in 2012. The Urban Farm exists to provide access to healthy food in an area of Wilmington where access is limited. A farmer’s market is hosted at this site every week and community members can rent a raised bed to grow and harvest their own produce.

The Delaware Center for Horticulture is a extraordinary community organization and a valuable asset to the city of Wilmington and state of Delaware. The Fellows are looking forward to volunteering for The DCH over the next two years!

Mount Cuba’s Native Garden Wonderland

The Class of 2016 visited Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin, Delaware on August 4th. Entering through the house, we were briefed in the beautifully proportioned Colonial Revival style former residence by the senior staff, and were quickly made aware of the scope of Mt. Cuba’s work.

Yet another photo opportunity!

Yet another photo opportunity!

However, the briefing did not prepare us for the horticultural impact of the gardens once we stepped outside. Our garden tour with Eileen Boyle, Mt. Cuba Center’s Director of Education, probably took twice as long as projected, with the Fellows stopping every few yards to photograph the abundant butterflies, flowers, and insects, and exclaiming over each new plant discovery!

Mt. Cuba Center was formerly the home of Mr. and Mrs. Lammot du Pont Copeland. The du Pont Copelands were at the vanguard of encouraging the use of native Eastern North American plants to create ecologically vibrant and beautiful horticultural displays. Mrs. du Pont Copeland was a forward-thinking conservationist, advocating the use of native American plants in gardens. The extraordinary garden was designed in stages by three landscape architects, beginning with the gardens and terraces closest to the house in the mid-1930s. The woodland gardens were completed in the 1960s by landscape designer Seth Kelsey. Dr Richard Lighty, the first Director of The Longwood Graduate Program, was appointed Director of Horticulture at Mt. Cuba in 1983.

The garden is quite formal near the house, playful sculptures  and carefully selected native perennial borders inviting the visitor to explore further.

The garden is quite formal near the house. Playful sculptures and carefully selected native perennial borders invite the visitor to explore further.

The 583 acre estate features 50 acres of display gardens and managed landscapes, the remainder of the estate being primarily natural lands featuring a variety of the landforms and habitats of the Appalachian Piedmont.

Mt Cuba is an important habitat for bees and other insects

Mt. Cuba is an important habitat for bees and other insects.

The gardens contain a diverse range of native Eastern North American plants arranged in displays reflecting various habitats ranging from perennial borders to meadows, woodlands, and ponds. The result is a harmonious series of gardens that are exquisite works of beauty as well as functioning ecosystems alive with butterflies, beneficial insects, and birds. Achieving this natural look is deceptively complex and requires an eye for shape, form, and color.

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The chain of ponds featuring moisture-loving plants of eastern USA

Mt. Cuba is slowly unfurling its public garden identity, taking careful and considered steps towards increasing the audience for its remarkable landscapes and living collections.  ‘Gardening on a Higher Level’ is the recently adopted tagline for Mt Cuba. The line is reflected in its educational offerings, including Mt. Cuba Center’s Ecological Gardening Certificate course, with units including “Sustainable Landscape Techniques” and “Inviting Wildlife Into the Garden”. Other offerings include gardening, art, and photography. Seven summer internships are also offered each year. An internship typically involves four days per week working in the garden with the other day spent on projects, field trips and classroom activities.

Mt. Cuba Center undertakes plant trials of native American plant species. Evaluations thus far include Coreopsis, Echinacea, and North American Asters. Currently 53 cultivars and selections from 14 different species of Baptisia – false indigo – are undergoing evaluation to assess their horticultural potential. Over fifteen cultivars and selections have been introduced to American gardens by Mt. Cuba including the Golden Fleece goldenrod (Solidago sphacelata ‘Golden Fleece’), and Trillium grandiflorum ‘Quicksilver’.

Owen Cass explaining insect monitoring techniques. He's using a fine screen over a garden vacuum to collect insects in the trial area

Owen Cass explaining insect monitoring techniques. He’s using a fine screen over a garden vacuum to collect insects in the trial area. Eileen Boyle, Director of Education, is in the right foreground.

A research collaboration between Mt. Cuba Center and the University of Delaware is comparing the ecological value of native plants with their corresponding cultivars and improved varieties. Owen Cass, Mt. Cuba Fellow and University of Delaware Masters candidate explained that the research is aimed at determining whether plant cultivars, which may differ from their ‘wild’ cousins in terms of flower size, color, or shape, offer the same or similar ecological services as their wild counterparts.

This remarkable garden is open to the public. For details on visiting take a look at the Mt. Cuba Center website.

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.

Day 1 of NAX at The Arnold Arboretum

 

(Photography by: Chunying Ling)

Our introduction to the Arnold with Michael Dosmann

Our introduction to the Arnold with Michael Dosmann

We had perfect weather for our first day of NAX at the Arnold Arboretum.  We were greeted upon arrival by Former Fellow and Supervisor of Horticulture, Andrew Gapinski.  A few minutes later we met Michael Dosmann, Curator of Living Collections. Before long, Kyle Port, of Plant Records and Joyce Chery, the Curatorial Fellow joined us. Holding six NAPCC collections (Acer, Carya, Fagus, Stewartia, Tsuga and Syringa) and boasting 15,000 individual accessions, it was clear from the moment we arrived that the Arnold Arboretum is an abundant, dynamic resource..

Tree of Heaven on the path designed for seeing the trees of the world

Tree of Heaven on the path designed for seeing the floras of the world

As the enchanting fragrance of the Katsura tree filled our senses, we listened to the story of America’s first arboretum, established in 1872, at the generous bequest of James Arnold.  A deal was struck between the City of Boston and Harvard University to preserve the Arboretum’s land in perpetuity. Many familiar names are a part of the Arnold’s sensational history, including Liberty Hyde Bailey, J.P. Morgan, Beatrix Farrand and Frederick Law Olmstead. The very path we were walking along was originally designed to allow visitors to “appreciate the floras of the world without even getting out of their carriages…”

Largest Franklinia in the world

Largest Franklinia in the world

 

Although the original mission of the Arnold’s 281 acres was, “…to plant every tree, shrub, vine and herbaceous plant that could grow in Boston…,” the staff has had to make strategic decisions about the collections. To do so, they created a plant Inventory Operations Manual in addition to a Landscape Management plan. (Both are available in their entirety on their website (http://arboretum.harvard.edu/plants/collections-management/.) They have completely digitalized their archive including maps, photographs and correspondence.

 

American Beech predating the Arboretum

American Beech predating the Arboretum

Nestled in the hills are forsythia and roses mixed with incredible tree giants that pre-date the Arboretum. The first Acer griseum ever planted in American soil lives at the Arnold. More recently, the Vine and Shrub garden was redesigned with diagonal beds and galvanized steel arbors. This garden is impressively maintained and manicured by two very bright horticulturists.

 

We spent our lunch with some of the knowledgeable and passionate ladies of the education staff, Daphne Minner, Nancy Sableski and Julie Warsowe. In varying capacities, these ladies design and implement educational programs that serve everyone from the casual visitor to the students in the Boston public schools.

 

The Arnold's secret Bonsai collection

The Arnold’s secret Bonsai collection

Our visit with the Librarian, Lisa Pearson, revealed even more treasures, including a rare book of hand painted botanical drawings.

 

In the afternoon, we met Oren McBee, Manager of the Dana Greenhouses and Nursery. Here plants are methodically propagated and grown from seed. Once mature, they are planted out in the Arboretum.  Oren also gave us a sneak peak at the Arnold’s historic bonsai collection.

 

Our last stop was the new research building at Weld Hill. Bathed in natural light and recycled wood, the building is stunning. Our tour was expedited by Faye Rosin, Director of Research Facilitation.  This peek into the possibilities of plant science research was a fine way to punctuate our whirlwind day at the Arnold Arboretum.  Stay tuned for Day 2 of NAX.

The Arnold's emblem The Dawn Redwood

The Arnold’s emblem The Dawn Redwood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Symposium 2013: One Month Away!

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The Fern Floor at the Longwood Gardens Conservatory

Photography: Laurie Metzger

The Longwood Graduate Program’s Annual Symposium, Shifting Landscapes: Cultivating Connections with a Broader Community, is a little less than a month away!  If you are on the fence about attending, let me paint you a picture…

When you arrive at Longwood Gardens Visitor’s Center, you are greeted by the Graduate Students and Longwood’s friendly staff.  Beyond the glass doors, the garden steals your gaze, beckoning you into the crisp early spring morning. This is a special time in the garden.  The fresh air invigorates you.  Just as you begin admiring the spring bulbs, you catch a glimpse of the magnificent conservatory on the hill.

The scent of orchids intermingled with the aroma of fresh brewed coffee lead you to Longwood’s historic ballroom where your day of cultivating connections begins.  You’re surrounded by stunning beauty and thought provoking conversation.

This year’s Symposium boasts fresh perspectives and a delicious menu.  A Bistro style lunch will feature a variety of offerings from soups and salads to risotto cakes and vegetable dumplings.  Fine meats and savory vegetarian options will leave no guest unsatisfied.  Lunch will be held on the elegant Patio of Oranges with lots of opportunity for conversation.

This year’s Symposium will make use of advanced technology forums such as Twitter in addition to recognizable tools like chalk boards to help us creatively answer questions posed by our speakers. The multi-leveled discussion will spark imaginations and generate opportunities for growth in our public gardens.  Interacting with on-line viewers in addition to those in attendance, will allow for collaboration between States and Nations!

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The Flower Walk at Longwood Gardens

The day will finish with optional behind-the-scenes tours of various aspects of Longwood Gardens in addition to an optional, limited seating session with speaker, Louise Chawla.  Finish your day at the Symposium by prolonging your exploration and experience Longwood Gardens: Beyond the Garden Gates.

Please join us on March 15th 2013 for The Longwood Graduate Program’s Annual Symposium.  Shifting Landscapes: Cultivating Connections with a Broader Community. To register, click here. See you there!

 

Beautiful Brookside

(photos by Felicia Yu)

Our visit to Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland was a memorable one. Although we left the University of Delaware at the bright and cheery hour of 7 a.m., it was well worth it! Upon our arrival, we were greeted enthusiastically by the Director, Stephanie Oberle. Stephanie has spent many years at Brookside including time as a young girl growing up nearby, as a volunteer in high school, an undergraduate intern, AND as a graduate student in the Longwood Graduate Program! She oversees Brookside, an institution that functions within an organizational structure that is quite unlike its peers, which includes being part of a larger municipal government hierarchy.

This year and continuing over the next three years, Brookside’s theme will focus on edible plants. One of their challenges is finding appropriate plant material for displays. In general, vegetables and other edible plants are bred for high yield with little thought to aesthetics. Crop plants also incur more labor than ornamental plants, and some crops need to be harvested up to 3 times a week! Jim Deramus, a horticulturist at Brookside, has enthusiastically taken on these challenges. Besides handling all the maintenance and harvesting of the edible plants, he sends many crops to the local food bank to feed the homeless. Some of the plantings included okra, swiss chard, rice, and sorghum. The Fellows especially enjoyed the display of purple tomatillos, although one would argue this was because we were able to sample them; so tasty! However, Brookside also provided experiences beyond our palate.

We discovered that the butterfly house and show was more than a destination for kids or families, but for big kids too! (a.k.a. Longwood Graduate Fellows). This show is one of Brookside’s main revenue streams, attracting an average of 50,000 paid visitors a year.  It is remarkable that the butterfly exhibit utilizes half of the entire volunteer workforce in the Parks Department for the whole county. It’s extremely popular! With specimens from North American, African, and Asian continents, there truly are butterflies for everyone.

Visiting Brookside on August 12 was a unique experience in light of some recent extreme weather. Just days before our arrival, a ‘microblast’ rain storm hit Brookside, dumping so much rain that water ran 10’ above the sides of the large creek bed that runs along the gardens! The most visible damage was seen from the boardwalk that runs alongside the creek and, in total, they lost 12 large shade trees. Even though the damage may seem discouraging, Stephanie and the team are seeking out learning opportunities for guests, such as leaving an uprooted tree where it landed to illustrate root systems.

Ironically, after all the adverse weather, it should be noted that Brookside DOES have a rain garden! Stephanie mentioned that one of their main goals was to show the public you can have an aesthetically pleasing rain garden; it doesn’t have to look like ‘a weed patch’ to be fully functional. Although it is a demonstration garden, it also serves as a barrier between their conservatory and an area that tends to have flash runoff.

But at the end of the day, it was obvious amongst our group that the most valuable time at Brookside was in discussions with the team. It’s fitting that such a dynamic garden would have such a fantastic group of staff!