Tag Archives: summer professional experience

2013 Professional Outreach Project Begins

Each summer the Longwood Graduate Program partners with an outside organization to accomplish a task that is both beneficial to the partner organization and educational for the fellows. In April the (then) first-year fellows sat down for the first meeting of the 2013 Professional Outreach Project (POP). Since that meeting we sent out our Request for Proposals, attended the 2013 APGA national conference, selected our partner organization for POP, tearfully said good-bye to the graduating class, and cheerfully said hello to the incoming LGP class of 2014. With all that excitement behind us now, we have gotten to work on this year’s POP.

Tyler Arboretum's Logo

We are excited to be working with Tyler Arboretum this year in Media, PA; a historic arboretum and landscape, Tyler is home to the historic collection known as the Painter plants. The Painter plants were planted in the mid-1800s by the Painter brothers, who lived on what was then their family farm. They were two Quaker brothers, who were true amateur naturalists – interested in minerals, animals, plants, and all things scientific.

During their lives they planted over 1,000 trees, shrubs and perennials around their house and barn (which are both still standing today), in hopes of gaining a better understanding of the natural order of life. After their deaths, the estate continued to be passed down through the family, until it was finally transitioned into a public arboretum in 1944.Unfortunately, many of these plants have not survived the decades, but those that have are magnificent specimens, many of which are now state champion trees.

Tree at Tyler

This summer the Longwood graduate fellows are undertaking the task of preserving and reinterpreting these historic plants. We started our process by combing through boxes of archival material from the Painter brothers, now stored at Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College, and reaching out to other historic institutions to learn as much as we could about the brothers, their plants, and about the era in which they co-existed.

As we move forward we will be looking at modern-day best practices for maintaining the health of historic trees, ways to propagate these plants in order to preserve their unique genetics, and how to best showcase these plants to visitors of all ages at Tyler Arboretum. It is a very exciting project we are undertaking, and we are excited to move forward with it. Check back later in the summer for more updates!

Students at Tyler

Visiting Tyler in the Rain

A Pleasure Garden

(Photos by Ashby Leavell)

On August 20th, the First-year Fellows arrived at Chanticleer in Wayne, PA, by 9:45am.  By 11:45am, it was one of my favorite gardens.  Ever.

What was it about this place that put it a cut above many beautiful gardens in my mind?  It might have been the highly detailed vignettes blended into wide-open views of lawn and woods, the intimacy and yet the expansiveness of it.  It might have been the tasteful combination of well-crafted furniture and artwork with solid horticultural knowledge.  It might have been the philosophy of the place: “To make each visitor feel like a personal guest of the Rosengartens’,” in the words of Executive Director Bill Thomas.

Open to the public since 1993, the Chanticleer estate was left in trust by Adolph Rosengarten Jr.  Without many restrictions on the development of the gardens, Chanticleer’s identity as a pleasure garden could be expressed in continually evolving ways: in exuberant tropical plantings around the house, creative container arrangements, unexpected paving designs, and idyllic seating areas with brightly painted Adirondack chairs.  No signs and few plants labels detract from the private garden feel; trashcans are nowhere to be found.

The garden itself unfolds gradually.  We were given ample time at the beginning and end of our visit simply to wander and discover.  At first look, you see a basically pretty landscape, colorful and thriving even toward the end of a tough summer.  Trees cast deep shadows over sloping lawns, and perennials and shrubs fill out planting beds.

Look longer, and stroll further in, and you begin to see why Chanticleer is so especially beloved of garden lovers.  Feathery sweeps of meadow grasses direct you up to a vine-covered “ruin,” inhabited by succulents planted in wall pockets, a reflecting “pool” table, and slate “books.”  The naturalistic Asian Woods are nonetheless dotted with the signs of human creativity: a rough stone holding a floating flower arrangement, hand-crafted bridge railings, an iron trellis guiding a vine up a tree trunk.  Leaning over a bridge to stare into the stream flowing beneath, you’re likely to see something like a leaf-shaped boulder in the water.

Chanticleer’s unique beauty is a tribute to the skill and creativity of its multi-talented staff members.  The seventeen full-time, year-round employees include seven horticulturists who spend the off-season (November to March) practicing various wood-, stone-, and metal-working crafts, the results of which are put to good use throughout the garden.  In addition, the horticulturists have a fair amount of autonomy to design their respective garden areas, drawing on inspiration gathered from traveling abroad, and sometimes helped along by serendipity.

Not for nothing is Chanticleer included in many “Best of” garden lists, including Tim Richardson’s Great Gardens of America.  On beautiful days, we were told, getting the last guests out after closing time is a challenge.  We were certainly reluctant to leave it behind ourselves, even knowing that we’d all be returning for another visit, and soon.

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!