Each year, Moore Farms Botanical Garden plans a trip for our intern class to travel and discover more about horticulture. In mid-June, the summer interns and several full-time MFBG staff took a trip up to Philadelphia and Delaware. We went to swap plants and ideas with gardens and production centers and to see how it’s all done in other gardens. We started off by piling eight people and three seats full of plants into a van and hitting the road. Each of the four interns wrote about their experience at the incredible gardens that were visited throughout the week.
Brent and Becky’s Bulbs: By Olivia Kline
Our first stop on the drive was Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, a flower bulb supplier and family business in Gloucester Courthouse, VA. They have a small, but beautiful show garden with frog ponds, raised and traditional beds, and a wide assortment of colorful flowers and grasses. My favorite part of the garden was the honey bee hive viewing area.
Local beekeepers keep a few hives on the edge of the garden, surrounded by a screened in fence, so that visitors can get an up-close look at the busy worker bees flying in and out of the hives. Brent Heath was kind enough to give us an in-depth tour of the show garden, greenhouses, and shipping facility where his wife, Becky Heath, and one of their granddaughters were working.
We were lucky enough to see the Heath’s personal garden and house of fascinating collectibles. Mr. Heath was a history buff and had myriad maps, trinkets, and artifacts from America’s past. We also got to hear the story of how his grandmother smuggled daffodil bulbs from Holland to America by sewing them into the hem of her dress.
North Creek Nurseries: By Emily Stoffel
North Creek Nurseries is a wholesale plant producer in Pennsylvania. They focus not only on providing the healthiest and best plant to their customers, but also on being as environmentally friendly and sustainable as possible. While we were there, we were able to see their production centers and some of their ecological practices. They have a machine that not only fills plug trays with soil, but also waters them down. The whole process is done mechanically and saves the workers large amounts of time during the production process. We were able to view their greenhouses where computer programmed boom sprayers watered each type of plant to the correct specification. They also have a trial garden where several different cultivars of plants are grown side by side to compare them.
Outside of the office, there is a small trial rooftop garden where various types of sedum and plants were grown to display some of their product. A wall of stone container bricks is stacked to create a high heat, low water garden to showcase the plants that thrive under these conditions such as Echinacea. One of their main sustainability practices is their storm water runoff program. They strive to collect all water runoff and slow it down allowing it to seep back into the ground instead of causing erosion. They use swales and layered ponds to collect and slow the water and any sediments that it might be carrying with it.
North Creek was a great way to see a large-scale production center that utilizes very new technology. It was also a unique opportunity to see their sustainable practices as well as view a large trial garden and compare the various plants.
Bob Lyon/ University of Delaware: By Alex Dillard
There’s nothing like an unexpected homemade meal while travelling on the road for a week, especially if that meal comes with a story. While on the intern trip to Philadelphia, my group and I stopped to visit Dr. Robert E. Lyons, a retired Program Director for the Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture and Professor Emeritus at the University of Delaware. He was kind enough to relieve us of our frequent fast-food visits by opening his doors and kitchen to us, both of which are relatively new. This goes back to the “meal with a story”.
Once we all sat down to eat, Dr. Lyons told us that only a few years earlier his house caught fire and literally exploded. How’s that for dining room conversation? Thankfully, no one was harmed in the horrible incident, but Dr. Lyons did lose everything he owned. Never one to sulk in his losses, Dr. Lyons picked himself up, quickly recovered, and built himself a new house. With this new house, he wanted to incorporate his love for horticulture by creating a beautiful landscape/garden. From beautiful mass plantings of hostas to a sprinkling of variegated King Solomon’s-Seal, Dr. Lyons brought back the beauty that was taken from him. Like most horticulturists, home doesn’t feel like home if it only consists of a building. A person needs the beauty of nature to feel rightly contented.
I will always be grateful for my visit to Dr. Lyons’ house and for his story. It’s not one I will forget anytime soon.
Mt. Cuba: By Alex Dillard
“I want this to be a place where people will learn to appreciate our native plants and to see how these plants can enrich their lives so that they, in turn, will become conservators of our natural habitats.” This quote from Mrs. Copeland, one of the founders of the Mt. Cuba Center, perfectly sums up my experience at her garden. Everywhere I looked, there were native plants thriving as I’d never seen before. With every flower, shrub, and tree, it was evident how much thought and care went into designing and cultivating the grounds at Mt. Cuba. From the winding Woods Path, with its cathedral of tulip poplars, to the collection of ponds that participates in the annual frog migration of the very cute and tiny American toads, Mt. Cuba was without a doubt one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever visited.
Not only does Mt. Cuba provide stunning fields and gardens for their visitors to enjoy, they are also very active in the conservation of native plants in the Piedmont area of Delaware. They are a home to over 1,000 species of native plants, dozens of which are threatened by extinction. Mt. Cuba’s native plant collection was established over 50 years ago by Mr. and Mrs. Copeland. Their collections are maintained by propagating seed collected in the wild that are then grown in their on-site greenhouses, and placed in their gardens. In doing so, Mt. Cuba sets themselves apart as a highly regarded horticultural preservation site.
Having visited dozens of gardens in the last few years, if I had to recommend any garden to someone it would be Mt. Cuba. There are simply too many beautiful attractions within their gates to even begin to suggest anywhere else. A person could easily spend hours strolling through the formal garden, the dogwood path, and the lovely trillium garden. I deeply encourage anyone looking for a place to spend a lazy day to head straight for Mt. Cuba.
Longwood: By Olivia Kline
On Wednesday, we went to the endlessly impressive Longwood Gardens. Brendan Huggins, the Horticulture Supervisor at Moore Farms, was formerly a Longwood intern, and so we got a special behind-the-scenes look at the greenhouses, the composting yard, and the trial gardens. I loved being able to see how much work and forethought went into the gardens, because it made me appreciate the public side of the gardens so much more. We also got to meet several of the Longwood interns and exchange some ideas with them during a casual meet-and-greet. Then we were let loose to explore the gardens. Longwood is a huge place with a vast meadow garden, hiking trails through the woods, topiary exhibits, fountains, waterlily display, and a gorgeous conservatory.
It’s hard to cover all of the Longwood attractions in one post, so I’ll just focus on some of my personal favorites. I absolutely loved the meadow garden, which looked like it had been plucked straight from a Jane Austen period drama, complete with an 18th century stone farmhouse. It was full of tall wildflowers, rabbits, and songbirds, and it had more natural and unkempt look than the formal gardens. There are several trails that have been mowed into the meadow, so it is also a great way to stretch your legs.
In the conservatory, my favorite room was the Silver Garden. As the name suggests, the plants in here tended to be silvery in color, but the types varied from ferns and shrubs to succulents and towering cacti. One cactus was over twice my height!
We also got to catch a fountain show. Right outside of the conservatory is the formal fountain garden, where there is a 5 p.m. water show everyday set to the music of Etta James and John Lennon. It was a pretty short show, but well worth seeing.
Chanticleer: By Danielle Plank
Chanticleer Garden started as a summer escape for the Rosengarten family in the early 1900’s before becoming a permanent place of residence in 1924. The garden was privately owned until the garden opened to the public in 1993. Since then, the grounds have been available for the people of Philadelphia, as well as the world, to experience. Whether you are an avid gardener, a historian, or simply enjoy basking in natural beauty, Chanticleer Garden is a place for you.
On Thursday, our small group arrived early in the morning to get a tour of Chanticleer Garden. Before this day, I had never been to this horticultural establishment and was pretty excited to explore the grounds. Right from the moment I stepped out of the 15-passenger van, I was not disappointed.
The atmosphere was calming even amidst the sound of backpack blowers as the horticulture staff prepped the garden for the soon arriving visitors. We were only 45 minutes from downtown Philadelphia, Pa., but I never once felt like we were anywhere close to a large metropolis setting. The architecture and grounds are stunning, from the Chanticleer House all the way to the Ruin and Gravel Garden set on a hill.
Chanticleer Garden is a place for everyone to unwind and detox from a busy week of work. There is something for everybody to enjoy, whether you are a nature enthusiast, or simply enjoy taking long walks. Chanticleer Garden thrives on environmental impact, and education, and takes interest in teaching others about horticulture. I highly suggest taking time to visit this unique garden.
Morris Arboretum: By Emily Stoffel
The Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania is a little piece of heaven situated in Philadelphia. The land was originally the summer home of two siblings, John and Lydia Morris, whose love of plants brought a new life to the barren landscape. They traveled extensively bringing back not only plants, but also ideas and pieces of culture from all the places they visited.
Today, the arboretum features trees of all kinds over a century old – living relics from another time. Everywhere you look these giants are visible on the rolling hills. A towering blue cedar draws your eye as you round the bend. Further in the garden, twin metasequoias stand proud and tall near a small pond with a gazebo straight out of a Jane Austen novel.
There were areas to explore the canopy of the trees and a bird’s nest treehouse to pose for a quick photo with sky blue eggs. A formal rose garden featured plants of all types and acted as a test garden for certain species and cultivars. One of the most impressive features of the garden was the fernery. The sunken conservatory is modeled after those found in Britain during the Victorian era and was fully restored in 1994. A sea of green greets your eye as you walk down the stairs into the humid room and bubbling water falls into a pond filled with colorful koi fish.
The arboretum was a unique stop on the trip and the grounds provided ample opportunities for us to quiz ourselves on plant identification. We were able to chat with the production manager of the garden and tour the greenhouses as well as meet various members of the staff. It was a great way to compare horticultural techniques and network with other plant people.
Stoneleigh: By Danielle Plank
Stoneleigh’s mission is to bring people together, to enjoy nature and horticulture practices with a focus on plants native to the Villanova, Pennsylvania region. Once belonging to the Haas family, the estate, built in 1878, has since been donated to Nature Lands Trust in 2016. Currently the property is private, but will open spring of 2018 to the public free of charge.
Our group from Moore Farms Botanical Garden arrived at Stoneleigh later on Thursday evening. The grounds were still under construction, but that didn’t matter. The bare bones of the property showed a promise of what is yet to come; a great place to enjoy nature. Soon after our arrival, we began our tour with Stoneleigh’s director, Ethan Kauffman.
As we walked around the grounds, trees nearly a century old, loomed above our heads. The Haas estate was a magnificent backdrop to the large lawn and the surrounding area. The paths below our feet were made from porous material, so that rain could runoff into the ground instead of puddling on top. Even though we did not end up walking all 42 acres of the property, what we did see was a great opportunity.
I thoroughly enjoyed the tour of Stoneleigh; especially since the property is still under construction. There’s just something special about seeing a project before completion. Not only can you enjoy Stoneleigh’s fauna, but also the history of the property itself. In the near future, you can also benefit from the educational programs they will hold. When the garden opens in the spring of 2018, I definitely suggest taking time to come visit Stoneleigh: A Natural Garden.