Journalist: Dongah Shin
Photographer: Kate Baltzell
On a beautiful day to visit a garden, Clerodendrum ugandense (butterfly bush) welcomed us when the First Year Fellows of Longwood Graduate Program (LGP) arrived at the Landscape Arboretum of Temple University - Ambler. While we were waiting for Grace Chapman, the Horticulture and Landscape Arboretum Supervisor, also one of the former LGP Fellows, we enjoyed the white arches, the red logo of Temple, and the butterfly bush at the entrance of the Arboretum.
The Temple University – Ambler campus was started in 1910 when Jane Bowne Haines purchased a 71-acre farm and founded the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women (PSHW). While PSHW experienced tremendous growth from 1924 to 1952, under the Director Louise Bush-Brown, an additional 116 acres were added to the campus. In 1958, PSHW merged with Temple University to be used as a center for sustainability. The 187-acre Ambler campus that has a great tradition of horticulture and landscape design was officially designated an arboretum in 2000.
The Landscape Arboretum of Temple University - Ambler has a diverse range of learning gardens, including an annual trial garden, a sustainable wetland garden, a healing garden, a formal perennial garden, an herb garden, and a native plant garden. The Landscape Arboretum has two full-time staff and one part-time staff; there are also two full-time and one part-time student who are shadowing gardeners for the summer. And, the bus drivers are supporting the gardens by mowing for the summer while students are on vacation.
We were introduced to Eva Monheim, a lecturer of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture at Temple Ambler, also an instructor in the Continuing Education and Professional Gardener Programs at Longwood Gardens. She explained within the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture, there are about 250 students representing diverse backgrounds, a range of ages, and varying levels of experience. The classes at Temple Ambler are offering practical knowledge and skills to students. The gardens and campus are serving as outdoor teaching laboratories where the students obtain hands-on experience. For example, students who took the Woody Plants class were leading a mapping project to identify tree assessment at the Arboretum and to tag labels. Eva mentioned that Grace has brought invaluable knowledge to the Arboretum in terms of plant records.
Since beginning her job, Grace has been doing multiple tasks: overseeing the curatorial system and staff at the Arboretum, teaching a class, and working on the preparation of Philadelphia Flower Show. The third year Landscape Architecture students participate in a class about the Philadelphia Flower Show and are designated for leading the project along with Horticulture students growing plants for the Show. Temple-Ambler University has been recognized with multiple awards at the Philadelphia Flower Show. With Grace’s help, Temple Ambler’s “Green Renaissance” gained a PHS Academic Education Award and five other awards at the 2009 Philadelphia Flower Show. Unlike other flower show exhibitions, Temple’s exhibition is not temporary and currently resides at the Arboretum. We saw the three gardens; the Wetland Garden, Healing Garden, and Herb Garden that are recreations of the designs they used at the Philadelphia Flower Show.
The Sustainable Wetland Garden at Temple Ambler is brilliant! It was inspired by Temple’s 1997 Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit, “The Green Machine.” The plot where the Wetland Garden is now, used to be a muddy, poorly drained area because all the water from Ambler’s campus flowed to this location. After the exhibition, the third year students designed and installed a garden setting that demonstrated several principles of sustainability. For example, the wood pergola (covered with Parthenocissus quinquefolia) has solar paneling, which powers the motor that forces water through the fountain so when it is cloudy, the stream slows down and is naturally turned off at night. And the colorful tile wall, a feature of fountain, is made of recycled glass paving stones.
“Nature Nurtures — Mind, Body, Spirit,” another award-winning exhibition of the 2006 Philadelphia Flower Show, was re-born last year as the Healing Garden to honor Ernesta Ballard, a Temple alumna and a founding member of the Ambler Campus Board of Visitors. Ernesta fully believed in the healing power of a garden and was very interested in healing gardens, particularly labyrinths and their potential to help with healing stroke victims. The Healing Garden includes a central labyrinth, a woodland glade, two pathways, a wooden bridge constructed from the wood of a black walnut tree that once stood on the site, three rain gardens, and a swale containing a variety of trees, shrubs and bulbs. Grace cited that the Healing Garden originated from invasive dumping ground to one that gives meditation and functions as a rain garden.
Finally, we encountered the historic horticulture feature of the campus, the Formal Perennial Garden. I imagined the early 1900s when the women creating the long English-style perennial borders standing at the Wisteria arch, located in the end of the borders. The gardens of the Landscape Arboretum of Temple University - Ambler demonstrate sustainability, the health benefits of gardens and the history of women in horticulture, agriculture, and design like their mission.
Grace presented a jar of honey to Dr. Lyons from the beehives at Temple Ambler. She said the Arboretum harvested 150 jars this year and is selling a jar for $7 as a part of fundraising. So, we bought few bottles to support the Arboretum and the Temple Ambler’s work at 2010 Philadelphia International Flower Show. As ending the pleasant field trip, we appreciated Grace and Eva for their time giving us tour and imagined that they would be a part of history at Temple Ambler 100 years later.