Tag Archives: longwood graduate program

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.

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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!

Watering Our Roots to Grow Our Communities

Minneapolis Scuplture Garden on a lovely June day

Minneapolis Scuplture Garden on a lovely June day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah Leach Smith presents about her thesis research

Sarah Leach Smith presents about her thesis research

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

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

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

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

Dr. Raven discusses conservation and biodiversity at public gardens

Dr. Raven discusses conservation and biodiversity at public gardens

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

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

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

Explorations of Boston

The second day of the Fellows’ time in Massachusetts began in Boston with a fascinating visit to The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. The group was greeted by Andrew Gapinski, Manager of Horticulture and Longwood Graduate Program alumnus (Class of 2010), and Michael Dosmann, Curator of Living Collections. These skilled plantsmen provided an excellent overview of the Arboretum, its inner-workings, and of course, its plants! The Arnold Arboretum was founded in 1872 and designed through a collaboration between the organization’s first director, Charles S. Sargent, and famed landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted.

The tranquil Linden Path of the Arnold Arboretum.

The tranquil Linden Path of the Arnold Arboretum.

The living collections, in conjunction with research involving those collections, are at the heart of everything the Arboretum does. This is evidenced by the well-cared for and meticulously curated plants, as well as the extensive greenhouses, nursery, laboratories, library, and other growing and research facilities.

The Fellows were given a wonderful look at the vast horticultural library of the Arnold Arboretum.

The Fellows were given a wonderful look at the vast horticultural library of the Arnold Arboretum.

The Fellows were excited to encounter a number of unique and famous plant specimens during their tour of the grounds, including the oldest specimen of paperbark maple (Acer griseum) in North America. This tree is one of three individuals collected in central China in 1907 by notable plant collector, Ernest H. Wilson. While all paperbark maples of this species in the United States were derived from one of these three specimens, very recent efforts have begun to bring in additional trees to diversify the genetics of the species cultivated in North America.

The oldest Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) in North America growing in the Arnold Arboretum.

The oldest paperbark maple (Acer griseum) in North America growing in the Arnold Arboretum.

The horticultural exploration of Boston continued at Mount Auburn Cemetery. The Cemetery’s President, Dave Barnett, and Vice President of Cemetery and Visitor Programs, Bree Harvey, met the Fellows and guided them throughout Mount Auburn’s vast and beautiful landscape.

  One of the integral components of the Mount Auburn Cemetery are the numerous large, mature shade trees that grace its landscape.

One of the integral components of the Mount Auburn Cemetery are the numerous large, mature shade trees that grace its landscape.

The Cemetery was founded by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, which purchased 77 acres of land in 1831 with the purpose of creating a “rural cemetery” and experimental garden.  Since then, Mount Auburn Cemetery has grown to 175 acres situated in a very urban area and has nearly 100 staff.

The lovely Rhododendrons of the cemetery were in full-bloom and provided striking “pops” of color throughout the grounds.

The lovely Rhododendrons of the Cemetery were in full-bloom and provided striking pops of color throughout the grounds.

The nearly completed Boston Public Market provided an inspiring finish to a jam-packed day in this lively city. The Market’s goal is to make local food from Massachusetts and New England readily available in Boston through diverse vendors housed in one location. Jeremy Dick, Superintendent of the Trustees of Reservations Boston Management Unit, explained that the Boston Public Market arose from a collaboration between local organizations, including the Trustees. They will be responsible for engaging the public through educational programming such as workshops, demonstrations, tours, and events. Jeremy helped the Fellows better understand the context of the Boston Public Market by leading them through the nearby Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, which provides a refreshing oasis for the people of Boston.

A long, vine-clad pergola along the greenway near the site of the soon-to-be-opened Boston Public Market.

A long, vine-clad pergola along the Kennedy Greenway, near the site of the soon-to-be-opened Boston Public Market.

Professional Outreach Project 2014: Wyck Historic House, Garden and Farm

The Fellows are hard at work and well on the way to completing a successful Professional Outreach Project (POP) for 2014! Our 2014 POP project is at Wyck Historic House, Garden and Farm located in Germantown in Philadelphia PA. Wyck has a rich Quaker history and was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1971. For 250 years Wyck was a working farm and this still continues today, with seasonal produce being sold at a weekly farmers market and at the many festivals that Wyck holds during the summer.

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One of the highlights at Wyck is the historic rose garden, which dates back to the 1820s and contains more than 50 varieties of antique roses. Many of these cultivars were thought to be lost to horticulture until they were rediscovered growing happily at Wyck. Three sides of the property, eac with their own perimeter beds, border the rose garden.  It is the task of the Longwood Graduate Fellows to redesign these beds so that they represent the look and feel of the mid 1820s, and serve as a backdrop, accentuating the rose garden.

Our first task was to visit the American Philosophical Society (APS) in Philadelphia as it holds many of the historical records from Wyck. We discovered plant lists from the 1800s, including many articles detailing flowering bulbs, various fruit trees, and herbs. All of our research helped to inform the new plant palette and design for the perimeter beds, which will be installed at the end of September.

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We will also be providing two benches, which will fit the Quaker style of the garden and house. These will be installed directly in the beds, and will serve as a great resting spot on a hot summers day.

We have recently completed writing a grant to the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust that included a request for funds for the repair of several of the historic wooden structures at Wyck. The wooden structures are currently being used to house tools and equipment. The grant would also be used for the purchase of new tools and equipment for Wyck. The grant was submitted in mid-August, with an expected decision being made by early December. Until then, we are all keeping our fingers crossed!

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Another component of the project is the development of display labels for the historic rose collection, as well as interpretive signage for the historic rose garden and the perimeter beds. We are working closely with Wyck staff and designers at Longwood Gardens to develop copy and layout for the signs.

Stay tuned to see how our final month progresses, and if you’re in the area, why not pay a visit to Wyck, and come smell the roses.

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.

Class of 2016’s First Field Trip- Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve

With a mission to engage visitors, inspire action and change social behaviour, the staff members of Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve (BHWP) adroitly steward 100-plus acres of rich forest and diverse meadows in the heart of historic Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Near to the site of General George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River, the preserve houses over 800 species of wildflowers and other plants, creating healthy, abundant habitat for a plethora of bird and invertebrate species. BHWP is also home to over 80 rare and endangered plant species making it an area of conservation concern for the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Meadow shot

Meadow on a stunning day!

We were treated to gorgeous weather during our visit to Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve. In a casual stroll of the gardens and meadow we encountered at least 50 plant species, many in bloom, with 8 different species of moths, butterflies and skippers. Particularly noteworthy were the swallowtails feeding on the nectar of Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot or lavender bee balm)

Swallowtail

Swallowtail on wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Other Lepidoptera species observed included: sleeping orange, cloudless sulphur, red-banded hairstreak, juniper hairstreak and snowberry clear-winged moths.

In the morning we met with Miles Arnott, Director of the BHWP Association, whose organization administers programs targeting school groups and teachers, landscape professionals, homeowners, and members of the general public. Under Miles’s guidance, BHWPA has more than doubled its membership to 1,800 by focusing on educating people both “inside the fence and outside the fence.” This fence is actually a massive deer exclosure which encompasses nearly the entirety of the property, preventing plants from overgrazing by overly abundant ungulates. By excluding deer, the plants are able to grow and reproduce freely, resulting in a healthy multi-storied vegetation layer which approximates a balanced Eastern U.S. forest with large and small trees, shrubs, perennials, and groundcovers. This vertical stratification in turn supports quality habitat for many bird species, including harder-to-spot avians like the Louisiana water thrush, rose-breasted grosbeak and scarlet tanagers.

Senna

Senna hebecarpa– wild senna

Miles also described the work that BHWPA is doing on developing its fee-for-service Plant Stewardship Index (PSI). The PSI is a metric which gives a conservation score of 0-10 based on habitat suitability in a given landscape. The PSI factors among other things: presence of rare species, hard to propagate species and specialist species requiring particular conditions for growth and reproduction to determine a score value for justifying protecting lands. Based on these criteria, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve is clearly worthy of continued preservation and support to encourage others to experience the beauty and serenity of this magical place, a touchstone of Pennsylvania’s natural heritage.

For more information visit: www.bhwp.org

Longwood Graduate Program class of 2016 group shot with Gary Shanks class of 2015. Plus Mary Ann Borge- BHWP’s wonderful docent naturalist

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.

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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.

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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.

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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