Volunteer Engagement in Santa Barbara, California

Volunteers are the heart and hands behind many public gardens and play an integral part in garden operations and engagement. First Year Fellow Tracy Qiu represented the Longwood Graduate Program at the 2015 American Public Gardens Association Volunteer Engagement Symposium, held in sunny Santa Barbara.

Fellow Tracy Qiu examines the beautiful tilework at Ganna Walska Lotusland

Fellow Tracy Qiu examines the beautiful tilework at Ganna Walska Lotusland (photo credit: Allie Skaer, Cheyenne Botanic Gardens)

The Symposium kicked off with an opening reception at Ganna Walska Lotusland, and docent-led tours provided attendees with fascinating insight on the life and loves of Madame Ganna Walska, a Polish opera singer and garden enthusiast. Her sense of style was visible all over the themed gardens in the form of lush tropical plantings, soda glass-lined gravel paths, oversized seashells surrounding a decadent pool, and many other details. “I’m an enemy of the average,” Ganna Walska is often quoted, and her vision of Lotusland certainly supports her words with its dramatic and whimsical designs.

The enchanting soda glass of Lotusland is also available in the giftshop as a souvenir!

The enchanting soda glass of Lotusland is also available in the giftshop as a souvenir!

Presentations began with a keynote address from noted environmentalist Sigrid Wright, followed by a risk management session – always an important topic when working with volunteer groups. The afternoon brought about an excellent exploration into diversity within volunteer workforces. Nayra Pacheco of Just Communities used a combination of guided exercises and free discussion to dialogue with the audience about the complex issues of race and privilege and how it relates to our volunteer workforces.

In the evening, shuttle buses whisked attendees to Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, where native plants, sustainable practices, and conservation highlight over 1,000 species of indigenous plants. A highlight of the event was an installation of yarn and fiber arts, surprising guests with bursts of color throughout the California landscape.

The breathtaking skyline of Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

The breathtaking skyline of Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Leadership was the central theme of the final day, with sessions that discussed leadership roles within the volunteer workforce and the multiple roles that volunteer program leaders must fill on a daily basis. The Symposium closed with a tour and reception at the spectacular Casa Del Herrero, a fine example of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture.

Tracy’s favorite memories of the Symposium include Lotusland’s charismatic cacti and succulent garden, the “mirrors and windows” exercise for diversity and representation, “extreme examples” in liability and risk management, and dinner at Mesa Verde with a fabulous group of garden and volunteer professionals.

Beautiful Santa Barbara, California

Beautiful Santa Barbara, California

Many thanks to the American Public Garden Association and planning committee for organizing the symposium, and to the staff and volunteers of Ganna Walska Lotusland and Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens for such a welcoming and invigorating experience! Fellows always look forward to opportunities to develop professional skills and to network, and the 2015 Volunteer Engagement Symposium surpassed expectations.

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!

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.

2015 Symposium Emerging Professionals Travel Award

symposium graphic-print full date

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!

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!


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!


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!


The First Years Visit the Delaware Center for Horticulture

Delaware Center for Horticulture (DCH) is not all about plants.  Not really.  This was the message we took away from our day spent learning about its current projects with Executive Director of 16 years, Pamela Sapko. This message was no accident; it is ingrained in the Center’s new Brand Strategy, based around the tagline, “People and Plants.  Growing Together.”

Why is this? It is because DCH is interested in outcomes, real, people-centric, community-building, crime-reducing, youth-developing outcomes.  Plants are just the medium for this great act of social intervention.

Don’t misunderstand me.  The plants are important.  They bring beauty to otherwise desolate concrete deserts, punctuating the urban freeways with spires of colour and rafts of texture, dancing in the wake of thundering juggernauts.  However, it is what the plantings can do that counts, and this is what DCH is really cultivating.

We are shown an Urban Farm that brings 18 families together to grow food for their own tables.  Eighteen families of children will know what it is to eat home grown vegetables in a neighborhood with 40 convenience or liquor stores but not a single supermarket; and it doesn’t stop here.

We see a whole block lifted by the efforts of one woman.  A small community garden surmounted by a vast mural in every conceivable color squats where once three derelict townhouses stood.  This interloping effort has gathered its own family around it: a row of window boxes extends 12-15 houses down the street; a double row of trees is passing through its ungainly teenage years, shortly to mature into an elegant avenue.  This is a street with a proud community, the drug dealers have been moved on, it is safe again.  It took one woman in her eighties with a passion for where she lived, who knew to look to the DCH for assistance.

Others needing help include people transitioning from prison back into their home communities.  One of the biggest predictors of reoffending is the availability of suitable transition to employment. Just as it would a struggling tree in an inhospitable urban landscape, DCH provides a period of stability and training for these vulnerable adults. It nurtures and supports, enables roots to be put down, trains, guides and prunes off the rougher edges where needed.  It helps them contribute again, in their own community.

Horticulture is a powerful medium to help people, linking us to nature and resonating with long forgotten memories within each of us.  DCH is keen to promote its message that people are the heart of what it does and horticulture is how it does it.  In our tour today, we saw that it really is about People and Plants. Growing Together.

Photography by Aubree Pack