Hello! This is the first official blog post from the Class of 2017. You can check out our bios and see our shining visages here. We look forward to connecting with lots of new people and institutions in the world of public horticulture over the next two years.
As a part of our summer orientation, we will be visiting a variety of public gardens and sharing our experiences with you. Our first trip was to Haverford College Arboretum. It was a glorious sunny day to walk around the 182 year-old university arboretum–the country’s oldest. Our tour guide was Director Bill Astifan.
Bill’s encyclopedic knowledge of the grounds and trees was impressive, to say the least. As we walked through the beautiful 200-acre arboretum, Bill shared the history of the landscape and buildings, and seemed to know the history of each and every one of the 3,000 labeled trees on campus. This gorgeous campus is maintained with three full-time horticulturists who have one full-time student worker in the summer and 8 to 10 students part-time during the school year.
At the heart of the Arboretum’s mission is educating and connecting with Haverford’s student body. In addition to the student workers, the Arboretum works with the Environmental Sciences Department and other departments on campus and offers student memberships.
The level of the arboretum’s involvement with the needs of the student body struck home when Bill pointed out some planters that had been newly installed to help guide a visually impaired student around campus.
We met Martha Van Artsdalen, the Arboretum’s Plant Curator, who discussed some of the many rare and important tree specimens in the Arboretum. They have an impressive collection of conifers in their 18-acre Pinetum. We visited several of the 15 state champion trees, the largest of their kind in the state.
Another star of the collection was a descendant of the Penn Treaty elm (Ulmus americana). William Penn and the Lenni Lenape Chief Tamanend met in 1682 and pledged a treaty of friendship on the banks of the Delaware River under the shade of a giant elm tree. The Arboretum is dedicated to preserving this living piece of American history and has donated seedlings to local Quaker meetinghouses and other organizations that have requested them.
The Haverford College Arboretum was a beautiful place to spend a morning and an excellent start to the Class of 2017’s summer field trips. Many thanks to Bill and his staff for their hospitality!