Thursday, August 13, 2009

Last Day at Longwood

Well, it's been an amazing experience. I've learned so much--about the field of horticulture, gardening, the Northeast, as well as more about myself. I've met countless new people, made many new friends. Longwood is, as I'd heard, absolutely incredible. I remember being in awe and shock when I first arrived, and I still have a bit of residual amazement, 3 months later. I have such gratitude for everyone that contributed to my experience, especially Mr. Pierre du Pont.
Yesterday, my last day at Longwood, was really enjoyable. I worked with Joyce, doing a small bed change in the Tropical Terrace. We took out a large chunk of agalonemas that had a red scale on them, and replaced them with new cultivars. We worked with Paul, too, it looks great! I watered the Palm House next, then had some time before lunch to look in the library (I love the library...). I created a Powerpoint presentation on Aroids for Joyce after lunch, from which I learned a lot more about the Aracae family! I sat in the potting shed to do this, so it was great to be able to say goodbye to everyone there. I will miss it.

I went with Aubree, Paul, Deb, Nate, "Sid," Gavin, Allison, Jamie, and Dean to dinner (after having farewell coffee with Jeff) because Jamie left this morning. It was a good time, another opportunity to savor the last bit with everyone.

I have been packing today, feeling bittersweet about leaving. I want to stay at this wonderful place, but I also miss home in Arizona. I will get to go to Philly one more time tonight with all my awesome fellow interns to have dinner at Ralph's Italian Restaurant. Friday, Joyce will check me out of my room, then Ali and I will go to NYC (I've GOT to make it there before I leave! :) ). I don't know how I will spend my last day, Saturday, but I hope it includes Longwood Gardens and the people in it.

Thank you.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Last Day is Tomorrow...

It's been kinda choppy last week and this week at work, because I had family visiting since last Wednesday. I finally got to work with Mary last week Monday-Wednesday. We did lots of work in the Garden Path, planting Euryops and moving shrubs across the path, planting a new bed, pruning some vines, etc. Mary took me on a walk through the path to talk about some of the plants, and how she feels about their presence there. :)
Ali and I have been working with Mary together, doing some Christmas project mock-ups for the fern floor. We also spent some time on the Japanese black pine tree in the bonsai display. The natural shape of a pine tree is for the limbs to gradually point upward to slightly downward as you move down the tree. This is because light is allowed to reach those higher branches much easier than the lower ones, so they stretch upward moreso than those below. We used special copper bonsai wire to wrap around pairs of branches in a special way to allow the branches to be positioned properly. Eventually the wire will be removed, and the branches will remain in position. This work takes a lot of concentration and puzzle-solving to find the proper place to put the wires.
The weather has been spotty-rainy. It's showering sometimes in the afternoons, but it's been really hot and humid!
I took off Thursday and Friday (because of Weekend Watering), plus Monday to spend with Mike and my parents. We went to Chanticleer, walked around Philly, downtown Kennett Square, the ABBA fireworks show, all of Longwood (of course), played Scrabble, cooked and baked cookies--it was great time with my family. Eamon also came down from NYC.
I only had this morning to work, because I took my parents to the airport this afternoon. I worked with Marie in the orchid display, did some repotting, and then worked on repotting Disa's. Bill is a volunteer who's been at Longwood about 11 years. He's in charge of these orchids. The moist sphagnum must be changed every few months or so, because it begins to degrade and causes the plants to die. It's rather simple: divide the plant if possible (these are terresterial orchids, so there's corms, and new plants can grow from these organs), remove all old sphagnum, rinse the roots, loosely pack new sphagnum moss around the roots, place in a new pot, and water the plant in.
We had an all-staff meeting (with snacks!) before lunch, so by the time that was over, it was time for me to leave work to get to the airport.
So tomorrow's my last day of work. I am supposed to work with Joyce, which I'm happy about. I always learn a lot from her, and I love the houses she takes care of.
My internship coming to an end is somewhat bittersweet. I miss Tucson a lot, and the different work environment I have at the CEAC (controlled environment agriculture center) at the U of A, but I have also come to learn that Longwood is an amazing, wonderful place with tons of great resources, both human and plant material.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Recent Happenings

I have not written much lately because until this past Monday, I was working in the same area (Tim's) for four weeks. Besides field trips, there wasn't a lot of new stuff to blog about. But now I am working with Joyce Rondinella in the Tropical Terrace, Cascade Garden, Palm House, and Joyce's backup house ("the hut"). I'm SO enjoying the new plant material, change of scenary, and an entirely different form of plant culture. I have taken lots of notes about each of these area in my notebook that I intend to copy onto the blog. We had a bromeliad talk with Joyce a few weeks ago, and this Tuesday's walk (again with Joyce) was about palms. Karl Gercens gave last week's plant walk, entitled "Poisonous Plants," where each of the 10 plants were in the Apocynacae family. I took lots of notes on that walk, too.
Today, I helped clean up the various houses, then continued the work I began yesterday afternoon on the computer. I was working in Adobe Photoshop to create a conceptual "mock-up" of 2010 Orchid Extravaganza displays for Joyce. I am quite proud that I produced some images that she's happy with, because I was a little unconfident in my abilities at first.
I helped Jim repot some ferns in the afternoon, and I also helped him apply compost tea to the largest palms in the Palm House. This is done every week, I believe.
I was curious, and looked up a little fact in the library: tenufolia, as in Maxillaria tenufolia or Tillansia tenufolia, means "narrow-leaf." Joyce has a great concept: the thought/word/plant of the day for students. With some people I've worked with previously, they were so focused on putting you on a task, and not passing along knowledge. Mr. du Pont put so much emphasis on education at Longwood, and I think it's great that some gardeners want to enstill that in the students. I will be working with Joyce the rest of the week, so I intend to learn lots more stuff (that I haven't already crammed in my notebook...).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A few notes

-We had a good Tuesday plant walk with Karl Gercens, who taught us about 10 poisonous plants (all in the Apocynacae family). I took lots of notes in my notebook for each of them. :)
-Did you know that the hibiscus and rose bed soils are tested every week (Monday morning) for pH, EC, etc? Soil is sent to a lab in Florida once every six months for a thourough testing of micro/macronutrients, too.
-A lady named Lee visited the water lily pools this week with her mother to paint the flowers, and she wanted to snag a photo of me to incorporate into her acrylic painting! Then she wanted me to write (in cursive) my whole schpeal I gave her on the Victorias on rice paper, because she inlays it into the painting! How cool. I think I want to buy it from her when she's finished, it would be such a great momento from Longwood.
-A photographer was taking photos in the lily pools and Patrick Nutt was there. We were all chatting, and he took my photo with Patrick. :) He got my email address, and is going to sent them to me. I hope I can brag about that photo one day. Haha
-We took a great field trip to Philly today to see the Eagles' and Philly's stadiums. We also took lots of pictures! We were on the fields and everything! Got back-stage (or under-stadium, rather) tours of the facilities, which was pretty neat. Did you know that they paint the logos and stuff on the field with huge stencils??? We learned about the practices they follow to keep the fields safe, green, playable, and beautiful. The two stadiums have a combination of sod, seed, and plugs for their bermuda grass. We went to Pat's (and Gino's) cheesesteaks for lunch, and I think the word is that Pat's won. It was delicous! You have to order it like so: "Eh, gimme uh mushroom pepper cheesesteak WIT [onions]--provolone." And that comes to $9. Then you put red hot sauce on it, and eat a screamin' green or red pepper on the side. Delish.
-Tomorrow is my last day of the full month I will have worked with Tim in the rose house (and lilies). Next week is with Joyce and the bromeliads! Yay!
-I made my third batch of wonderful banana nut bread with the sweet plantains in the banana house. This time I used chocolate shavings, too...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Great Thursday Field Trip!

I absolutely loved the trip to Emory Knolls Farms/Green Roof Plants this past Thursday! The owner, Ed, and his employee, Jamie, gave us a tour of the facilities there. First of all, you get a good idea for the nature of the people and the business from the composting toilet and the "hippy parking only" sign. :) They were so friendly, and explained the green roofing process to us. Green roofs began to emerge in Europe around 1950. The plants were all succulents from all around the world, because they are pretty much the only plants that can survive in the harsh environment of a rooftop. Green roofs cost about 2x the price of a regular roof, but the "cool" part about them is that they can reduce the temperature of the roof by about 100 degrees F! A typical nasty coated roof can get ~150 degrees F. Green roofs reduce runoff water (on which there are many many laws and regulations) by over 50%, by significantly increasing permeability. It also reduces the temperature of runoff water (if there is any) to a much cooler temperature. The hot runoff (in an urban area) carries a lot of gunk and pollutants as it moves across parking lots, building roofs, etc, which then flows into waterways like the Chesapeak Bay. At the least, this has a big impact on the wildlife.
Green roofs are also aesthetically pleasing, especially on a layered building where the roof is visible from higher stories. Ed and Green Roof Plants supplying the plants for the new veteran's hospital in Gulfport, MS (that was destroyed in Katrina). What a wonderful addition and service to supply to the veterans of our country who maybe are disabled--they have a beautiful peice of green to view from the window. Ed is also doing a lot of research for the government to trial the green roofs' applicability around the world. Many government buildings are currently green roof'ed.
The production houses are completely solar-powered, and are hand-watered to supplement some overhead nozzles. Along the tour, I gathered that conservation is a huge part of Green Roof's mission. They are not only reducing the energy "footprint" we make on the environment, but improving the community by returning plants to the area that was cleared of them to pop up a building.
I was SO excited during the tour, so inspired by the creativity, wise business strategy (nothing is bought on credit--in these times, no debt whatsoever is surprising), environmentally-friendly practices, and Ed's genius expressed throughout the property. There are six full-time employees. The size of the business is refreshing. I would LOVE to work there!!!

We also went to Ladew Gardens, which is another beautiful garden in the area, with lots of topiary work and fountains. They also have a lovely nature walk that takes about 45 minutes. Several benches, umbrella'd picnic tables, and cute bridges are scattered within the gardens. I learned about topiaries from a gentleman caring for a little dog in the "hunt scene," how you have to avoid the temptation of electric buzzing the shape you want. This practice doesn't preserve the frame of the plant for long, because the inner canopy leaves are too shaded. Hand pruning and thinning must be done to allow light to penetrate inward. The topiary that the gardener was working on was over 50 years old. :)

Monday, July 6, 2009


Last week was the field trip to Chanticleer--which was amazing! While Longwood Gardens is so admirable for the history, spectacular specimins, educational program, and the support of the arts, Chanticleer stands out for its comfey, creative, modern-ish gorgeous gardens. I loved the pairs of cozy, decorative chairs scattered throughout the gardens. The plants aren't labeled or tagged for visitors (but for the maps that can be found nearby); the gardens are designed purely for gazing enjoyment. That is refreshing, just to sit and view the beautiful scenary... And the admission for the general public is quite inexpensive, and free to Longwood students! Every Friday, you're allowed to pick a spot and enjoy your picnic supper in the gardens. What a great idea! I really loved the visit, and will definitely come back.

I also covered for Tim last week, which I really enjoyed. I appreciated the opportunity to prove myself accountable and able to get the job done. The rose/hibiscus house looked wonderful when I left on Friday afternoon for Rehoboth Beach. Of course, it looked so messy this Monday morning...haha

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mr. Patrick Nutt

Oh, my goodness, I had no idea how HUGE it is that we have Mr. Patrick Nutt here at Longwood. He is claimed to be the "most authoritative and knowledgable person alive" by the International Water Lily Collection. WOW. The best person in the whole entire world to ask any question about water lilies is within my easy reach. And to top that, he introduced himself to me while I was working in the gardens one day! I knew that Pat was "something" when Ed Sommers told me Pat was a "walking encyclopedia," but it wasn't until I came home today from the lily pools to do some research on Eureali furox (according to Ed--huh???) that I realized the caliber of the man I so casually chat with at Longwood. I'm going to have a hard time not kissing his feet next time I see him.

Patrick Nutt: The Water Lily Man