HORT travels

Exploring the horticultural beauty in every adventure.

Henry Schmieder Arboretum in Spring

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National Farm School

What is now Delaware Valley University began as the National Farm School in 1896.

Forty acres of the main campus of Delaware Valley College (ahem… I mean UNIVERSITY, old habits, I am an alum) comprise the Henry Schmieder Arboretum.  As are many college and university arboreta and botanical gardens, this is open for exploration throughout the year and free of charge and serves dual purpose as public garden and living classroom.

Delaware Valley University

The Entrance to Delaware Valley University

One of the 36 garden members of Greater Philadelphia Gardens, the gardens are a mix of landscapes around historic and new campus buildings and specific garden spaces around the grounds.  As you wander through campus you will find a Peony and Iris Garden. It seems we had perfect timing to see irises and tree peonies in bloom on our May 12 stroll.  You will also find here a Winter Walk, Annuals Garden, the Oak Woods, the Martin Brooks Conifer Garden, an Herb Garden, Beech Collection and a Rock Garden.

Peony Del Val

A Tree Peony blooms in the Iris and Peony Garden

While named for a 40-year faculty member from the early 1920’s in 1966, the Arboretum was an important part of the campus from its inception 70 years prior.  As a student earning my BS in Ornamental Horticulture I valued the opportunity to learn about the plants by feeling them, smelling them and observing them in many seasons.

Dogwood Allee

An allee of Dogwoods line a path to Ulman Hall

I also benefitted from being on campus and able to study the plants regularly because I lived in the outdoor classroom, my dorm was surrounded by study plants. This enabled and enhanced my understanding of horticulture and my knowledge of plants significantly.

Aesculus pavia

Aesculus x carnea blooms on campus.

As a woody plant identification instructor myself now, the experiencing of learning in a living classroom and experiencing the value of hands-on education has instilled in me an understanding of the necessity of making living plants available to students. They must see, touch, smell, observe these plants to learn them. It is essential.

Strobili Picea omorika

The colorful strobili of Picea omorika in the Conifer Garden

This visit back to the Arboretum was certainly a trip down memory lane. Some gardens and plants I remember learning and becoming attached to are no longer there, while new buildings and gardens and paths are now there to explore. Just like nature is always changing, so too, is the university campus.

Campus Chapel Del Val and Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding Hearts grace the front entrance of the campus chapel

Experiencing a college or university garden is different than experiencing a garden whose sole-purpose is to be a public garden. These places serve so many functions – a teaching and learning space, campus beautification, event space, research space and a regional resource. Often these spaces are open to the public, all the time, at no charge which is unique and certainly presents a unique set of challenges when it comes to maintenance of existing gardens and funding new ones.

Beech at Del Val

The surprisingly soft, ciliate edges of newly emerging Beech Leaves.

The campus is more than a garden of course. It is a community resource. The day we were there the local YMCA was hosting a 5-K throughout the campus. The lovely scenery of the gardens is almost enough to tempt me into running… almost.

Red Oak Del Val

Red Oak

 

Just a final note, sharing a story that was shared with my Woody Plant ID class and I pass along to the students I teach. I have no idea if this is a myth or there is truth to this story:

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This is the bark of a Ginkgo tree.  Notice the lines in the bark?  If you know anything about Ginkgos you probably know they produce a fruit that smells. It smells like (apologies to the weak stomached…) vomit. These trees line the main walkway from the dorms to the classroom buildings. Every fall the female Ginkgos produce fruits that don;t really smell until they are damaged hitting the ground or by students walking their paths to class. The entire campus becomes engulfed in a stench I am pretty sure can be smelled in downtown Doylestown. While we found the smell putrid, we did see people harvesting the nuts from the ground, as they are considered a culinary delicacy in some Asian cuisine.  This is not the part of the story I am not sure is true…this I know for fact and from experience. (Some of us may have taken these stinky fruits and rubbed them on dorm door knobs and put them in work boots… the truth of that will remain a mystery!)

Back to the bark, those lines are rumored to have been created by a chainsaw. People on campus did not like the smell of those fruits and thought the trees must go. But they were old, majestic and healthy not to mention a significant landscape feature and so they remained. Someone decided to take it into their own hands to kill the trees by girdling them with a chainsaw. So they cut around the bark of the tree, hoping to stop the water and nutrient flow in the tree, killing them. However, whoever did this, did not know enough about the trees, merely scarring them and scaring the trees into thinking they may die. When trees are stressed or think they may die they tend to produce a bumper crop of fruits to ensure their next generation. So a lot of fruit on these trees in subsequent years, many are still living, the smell is a tradition at Del Val and the horticulture students were told that the culprits must have been those animal science students, because all of us would know better.

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Want to explore the public gardens in your area? Check out the American Public Garden Association’s Garden Finder.

What College and University gardens have you explored? What horticultural tall tales have you heard?

 

One Park, Two Champion Trees Susquehanna State Park

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Susquehanna State Park Sign

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.”
― William Blake

Susquehanna State Park in Havre de Grace, MD is home to two Maryland champion trees.  In addition to waterfalls and wildflowers I am always on the hunt for large trees.  I mean I planned a road trip and vacation solely to visit a large tree. So on this weekend camping trip we happened to set up the evening’s nylon shelter in a park with some big trees. We honestly didn’t realize it until we read the trail map.

While 15 miles of trails wind their way through the forested 2,753 acres, you need only to take one of them to see these two enormous trees.

Hop on the Deer Creek Trail and follow the green blazes. The well-worn trail will lead you to the trees.

White Oak (Quercus alba)

228″ in circumference, 99′ spread, 94.5′ tall

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Are you able to resist hugging a giant tree? Or reaching out to touch a special tree? I am not. Besides being able to walk right up to these trees and marvel in their magnificence, access to these tree also provides the opportunity to reflect on all of the American history they have been a part of.

It’s fascinating to see the size of this tree in comparison to all of the forest around it. It indicates, along with the Beech below, that these trees were solo specimens in a field at some point. This accounts also for the width of the trees. Competition in a forest situation forces trees to grow upwards towards sunlight resulting in narrow trees. Trees out in the open can grow wide without the competition for sunlight.

American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)

190″ circumference, 108.5′ wide, 97′ tall

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Carvings Kill

A nice feature near these trees is the signage they have for the trees. While there is no other educational signage along the trail, these two trees are well interpreted.  I especially appreciated the signage explaining why people should not carve into the tree bark. Beeches seem to be especially vulnerable to this with their smooth gray bark acting as canvas for so many tree maulers.

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Both of these trees are in decline. The white oak has evidence of a lightning strike and the Beech appears to be struggling as well. But for now, they are here in their magnificence, continuing to provide ecological services and continuing to inspire and instill awe.

As you work way to or from these massive specimens, you will also find yourself traipsing through a large patch of Pawpaws (Asimina triloba) They were in bloom while we were there and the grove we were walking through went on for as far as the eye could see.

Pawpaw Flowers and new leaves

Pawpaw flowers and new leaves

I never know just what I will encounter when venturing into a new park or forest or garden. The trick is to keep the eyes and the mind open, keep wandering and keep wondering.

Fairmount Park, Philadelphia – Shofuso Japanese House and Garden and Fairmount Park Horticultural Center

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A View of the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden

A View of the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden

With more than 30 public gardens within 30 miles of the city, Philadelphia is America’s Garden Capital. My hunny and I have a goal to visit them all this year. We began this adventure with an early spring visit to Fairmount Park.

West Fairmount Park in Philadelphia is home to Shofuso Japanese House and Garden and the Fairmount Park Horticultural Center.

Our first stop was Shofuso. The area occupied by this house and landscape has been dedicated to Japanese Culture and garden design since the 1876 Centennial Exposition. Both the garden and the house are open for exploration.

After a tour of the house interior in our stocking feet we put our shoes on to roam around the gardens. While at 1.2 acres the gardens are small they are packed full of interesting design and delicate attention to detail.

Bamboo against a wall at Shofuso House

Bamboo against a wall at Shofuso House

There is not a lot of signage related to the garden plants or design in the garden, but their website is full of information. It may be helpful to read up on the intent and history of the space prior to visiting making it a more rewarding experience.

According to their website:

A Buddha sculpture in the garden

A Buddha sculpture in the garden

“Three traditional types of Japanese gardens comprise our 1.2 acre site: a hill-and-pond style garden which is intended to be viewed from the veranda; a tsubo-niwa, or courtyard garden in the style of an urban 17th century Kyoto garden; and a roji, or tea garden, which is a rustic path to our tea house.”

We were there in time for the late blooms of Kwanzan Cherry.

Kwanzan Cherry

Kwanzan Cherry

There were not a lot of other flowers in bloom, which made it a great opportunity to see the structure of the garden and appreciate the role of evergreen conifers in the garden as screen and backdrop.

Shofuso Garden

Shofuso Garden

The Shofuso House and Garden is within walking distance of the Fairmount Park Horticultural Center. This is a greenhouse with surrounding gardens and really speaks to the horticultural past of this city park space.

Pink Flowering Dogwood

Pink Flowering Dogwood in Fairmount Park

The trees in the open spaces between the two gardens are large and diverse.

An Enormous Sweetgum in Fairmount Park

Enormous Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) in Fairmount Park near Shofuso

The Japanese Maples were just starting to leaf out and had their sinewy skeletons on full display. The dogwoods were in full bloom and chartreuse new leaves were bursting out on trees all over.

Japanese Maple Structure

The extraordinary structure of the Japanese Maples are evident before the leave emerge.

There was a community event going on inside while we were there. This is not uncommon as this space is frequently rented out for various events. I don’t think there is always beer available in the greenhouse, but there was on this day and that is my kind of greenhouse!

This is my kind of greenhouse

Philly Beer in a Philly Greenhouse.

Bermuda for 26 Hours (including sleep)

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Around Palm Island Nature Reserve Bermuda

Around Palm Island Nature Preserve Bermuda

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How do you spell the sound your bicycle tires make as they skid to a halt on a gravelly path? That is the sound I would like to spell now. This onomatopoeia is the sound my sister and the tour guides heard as I braked to a sudden stop on my rented mountain bike on a rail trail in Bermuda.  “Don’t worry”, my sister said to the guide, “she will catch up, she probably found a plant.”

I have been on a couple cruises in the past. My trip to Alaska and one to Belgium and Holland were aboard smaller ships. This was my first cruise on an enormous ship (though the smallest in this company’s fleet) and our destination was Bermuda.

This five day August cruise had us out on the open Atlantic for 2 days out and 2 days back and just over one day in Bermuda. This included sleeping time. So we had about 16 hours of time on the island.

In this time my sister and I managed a bike ride along the Bermuda Railway Trail National Park and enjoyed the aquatic wonders of a kayak excursion, to do some window shopping and a eat nice meal off-ship. Not bad for a few short hours.

Find plants I did. This is the one that had me screeching my tires:

Night Bloomuing Cereus Flower

The incredible fading bloom of a night blooming cereus

Sure I have seen plenty of night blooming cereus in greenhouses and conservatories and even bright sunny windows of friends’ homes. But the flowers on this plant were enormous, far larger than I have seen any in person. And they were just hanging out there over a wall for the entire world to see. Glorious cactus flower.  I believe this is a type of night blooming cereus flower just finishing up its bloom, but am unsure of the scientific name.  Notice the bee – pollinators seem to like it as well.

We biked to Heydon Chapel. The smallest church on the island dating back to the 1600s.  (We also checked out the world’s smallest drawbridge along the way) We toured the chapel’s interior and the walked around outside. Like on most islands, residents have to conserve water and catch fresh water where they can and even this small church has a rain water catchment system and a cistern.

Heydon Chapel Cistern

Water conservation at the Heydon Chapel in Bermuda

This stunning White Spider Lily (Hymenocallis) was blooming at the front of the chapel.

White Spider Lily Heydon Chapel Bermuda

White Spider Lily, Heydon Chapel Bermuda

But what fascinated me the most was learning about the Bermuda Cedar (Juniperus bermudiana).  It looks familiar at first glance, resembling our native Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana). Upon closer inspection it certainly is different.  This evergreen tree is endemic to Bermuda, only occurring on this island. A horror story of invasive species, what used to be a dominant species all over the island and vital to island society is now decimated to a small population due to the introduction of a juniper scale insect.  The decimated Juniper population led to a decline of the native species who depended on it. A native cicada is now extinct and a native bluebird is in decline because of the missing junipers. Rarely have I been on tours where every guide I encountered wanted to make sure we knew the consequences of an invasive introduced insect. It is a sad tale and not so unfamiliar here – think Emerald Ash Borer, Hemlock Woolly Adelgid and the latest, Spotted Laternfly, in the United States. Because Bermuda is a small island I am sure the effects were felt more immediately and dramatically than we tend to notice declines in the United States. Rest assured however that the repercussions are no less significant just because there is more land, or more diversity. There is also hope in this story and a model for moving forward after this type of ecological devestation. Bermuda encouraged the propagation of this species. Seedlings of surviving trees, due to an inherent resistance to the scale insects, were made available to residents and planted in parks and preserves. Though the population no longer resembles the dominating forests that used to occur on the island, they are present and thrive when protected from invasive plants and insects. It is a lesson we should all heed and start taking a closer look at our native plants, their associated wildlife and threats to them looming on the horizon.

Bermuda Cedar Fruits

Fruits of the Bermuda Cedar

Bermuda Cedar Leaves

Leaves of the Bermuda Cedar

Bermuda Cedar Bark

Bark of the Bermuda Cedar

Our travels also took us to Scaur Hill Fort which offers protection in a different sort of way today. Here you can find large specimens of the Bermuda Cedar.  More about Bermuda’s native plants and those endemic to Bermuda.

Scaur Fort Bermuda Cedar

The view of Bermuda Cedars and Ely’s Harbor from Fort Scaur

Finally we headed back towards the tour company’s home base. Back on the rail trail, through a tunnel created by a Banyan tree.

Banyan Tunnel on the national rail trail bermuda

A Banyan Tunnel on the Bermuda Railway Trail

Though we saw a lot in our short amount of time there. I am anxious to go back. To stay a while and explore even more. After all, there are the Bermuda Botanical Gardens to explore.

Transformation

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Honey bee on Dandelion

A honey bee forages for nectar in a dandelion while gathering pollen.

A man told me a story about his friend, a new homeowner with a yard for the first time. He said his friend called him to ask some help with lawn maintenance. He asked about the yellow flowers popping up throughout the grass. They are dandelions the man told his friend.  They chatted about options and pros and cons of not doing anything about them at all. The following week, his friend called again. He tells the man he didn’t do anything and all of the yellow flowers disappeared! But now he says there are white puffball plants all over the place!

I am not sure this isn’t an urban legend being repeated to me, but it is a good story and not completely implausible.

This got me thinking about transformation. In a past post I explored transition, the process of changing, but here I am thinking about the actual change.

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Jamaica State Park, VT

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The Dumplings in the West River in Jamaica State Park VT

The Dumplings in the West River in Jamaica State Park VT

Welcome to Jamaica. Jamaica, Vermont. No Caribbean for me, but that is just fine. I am happy to be where the days are cool and the evenings cooler. While spring sprinted by in what felt like just a few short days at home in southeast Pennsylvania, happily it is still spring here.  43 degree evenings, days in the mid-70s. Heaven to me.

I am house sitting in this area, the southwest corner of the state, near where Vermont, New York and Massachusetts all come together and attempting to make this an inexpensive bit of time away. Spending lots of time writing and exploring and not spending money. I brought all the ingredients to make my meals and stayed away from places designed to separate me from my money opting for hiking and other botanical explorations.

If you ever find yourself in the area, plan some time to explore (botanize?) Jamaica State Park.

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Snug Harbor – April 10, 2018

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Snug Harbor Sign

Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanic Garden is located on the northeastern corner of Staten Island. According to their website: this is “One of the largest ongoing adaptive reuse projects in America, Snug Harbor consists of 28 buildings, fourteen distinctive botanical gardens, a two acre urban farm, wetlands and park land on a unique, free, open campus.” It certainly is a model for how other urban places can work with their aging infrastructure to create an important and vibrant space.

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Just some of the historic architecture to be found at Snug Harbor.

This is a great place to visit because it has something for everyone – plants and gardens, historic architecture and visual and performing arts.

I visited on a spontaneous trip to Staten Island to visit my sister for breakfast and decided since I was in the area I would stop in and explore the gardens. I enjoy visiting gardens in ‘off-seasons’ to see what I can find of interest, admire the bold little blossoms blooming in the cold, and to admire the bones of the gardens. Thrillingly, this spring is coming slowly, allowing a gentle wave of flowers throughout the early months of the year rather than one glorious tsunami of everything blooming at one time.

Photo by KV SALISBURY

Prunus mume – The Japanese Apricot flowers early.

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