This is the fourth of my informal reports about the visit by the Society to the USA in May/June 2014. A comprehensive set of articles by attendees will be published in Clematis International 2015 but here I'll give you my personal perspective of the event, in particular looking beyond the clematis as well as at them.
Part 1 and Part 2 covered the pre-meeting visit to Georgia for "A Taste of Viorna". Part 3 covered our first two days of the main meeting in Pennsylvania and Part 5 covers the last two days. Here you can read of the days in the middle of our Pennsylvania experience.
Part 4 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania continued
Wednesday 4th June - Terrain Garden Center
First stop today is the Terrain Garden Center. It looks relatively ordinary from the outside, a collection of possibly old wooden barns that have been put to various uses and certainly not a modern all glass construction as many modern garden centres are. But step inside and all is revealed, or perhaps I should say a little is revealed to start with but you just know there's more around the corner.
Terrain Garden Center contains an amazing and eclectic collection of all sorts of things for the garden and the gardener, sourced from many countries around the world. There was stylish footwear from Denmark, pots from Germany, books from Great Britain (and other countries), furniture for the conservatory and garden, and that's just for starters.
Outside there was a similarly diverse collection of plants, including a few clematis, though all large-flowered hybrids from what I could see. And then there were pots - just about every size and shape you could imagine, garden ornaments and statues, metal chairs and display stands.
Two things which particularly caught my eye were the beautiful fern leaf design metal grating and the use of galvanized funnels as vertical gardening containers. The grating was set into the ground, presumably as a soak-away. It must have been cut specially and by a specialist metal fabricator as it was a thick steel sheet.
The galvanized funnels were all similar though not all quite the same. I assume they were originally agricultural funnels, perhaps for pouring milk from large churns, but they made a very effective vertical gardening display. I wonder, are they all fed by a watering system or is it only the top line, which then drain through to those below?
It was a fascinating place to look around and time went surprisingly quickly. But it is possibly just as well that the majority of us would be flying home as this automatically precluded the most desired purchases.
Rose Valley Farm
Less than an hour later and we arrived at Rose Valley Farm. As our large coach turned into a modern and quite luxurious estate, we wondered quite how there could be an 1861 farm house anywhere near here, but there it was, pretty much in the centre of the estate.
The original farm dated from the 1680s, but in 1861, part of the farm was bought by the Quaker, Antrim Osborne, and it was he that built the stone farm house in the Italian Revival style so popular at the time. In 1901 the architect, William Lightfoot Price, purchased land and buildings for an Arts and Crafts Community, based on his Quaker ideas and those of William Morris and the English Arts and Crafts Movement. The house was then purchased by one of his backers, Charles Schoen, who commissioned Price to rebuild the house in the English Arts and Crafts style.
Initially run as a working farm by Schoen, over time land was sold of for housing. The present owners purchased the house, water tower, Schoen's office and gardens on a 4 acre plot in 2007 and started a full restoration.
If you like Arts and Craft style, and possibly even if you don't, the house is fabulously impressive. Many original features have been retained and picked out; for example the windows, lintels above the doors, mosaics. It is beautifully proportioned, low and spreading and asymmetric, which I enjoyed.
A pergola connects the house with a water tower, which has been converted into a lovely first floor sitting room from where one can oversee the formal gardens that surround the house. Then over to one side a slightly down a slope so that it is barely visible from the house is the building that used to be Schoen's office. Some office, it would make a reasonable sized house for many people.
Geoff welcomed us and gave a short introduction to the property and its history before letting us wander where we will.
Tucked into a corner at the edge of the property was a structure that intrigued me, the wrought iron framework of an old greenhouse. Apparently it had originally stood a little way outside the current garden and was about to be bulldozed, until Geoff had it relocated to the current position. On one of the wrought iron struts was embossed the name Hitchings & Co NY. I believe they were a maker of Victorian style wrought iron greenhouses in the 1880s and 1890s. I was fascinated with the guttering / water troughs along the two long sides of the roof. Instead of a downpipe, the water was funnelled into the greenhouse, presumably into a water butt - a clever idea!
In the centre of a relatively modern estate, albeit quite exclusive, this house and garden is a wonderful oasis of arts and crafts architecture and beautifully designed and maintained gardens.
Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College
Next stop was the Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College, the workplace of Jeff Jabco, one of the three organizers of this main meeting and where we were to stay for the rest of the day.
The origins of Swarthmore College date back to 1860 when members of the Religious Society of Friends, also known as the Quaker Society, collected money to found a school for Quaker children. The first intake came in 1869 and first degrees awarded in 1873. The Scott Arboretum was created in 1923 after a donation from the family of the former graduate, Arthur Hoyt Scott.
The campus is large and I suspect we only saw a small part of it, but it is very spacious, with open lawns and spaces between the lecture theatres and other buildings, the older ones in attractive stone.
Our arrival coincided with lunch time, taken in a grand marquee set on one of the lawns. The floral displays, incorporating clematis, of course, were particularly striking.
After a delightful lunch the majority were free to wander the grounds, including the clematis trial grounds. However for some of us there was work to do at the meeting of Council Members and Officers.
Fiona and I did manage a very quick 15 minute rush around the clematis - not nearly long enough but sufficient to see the clematis were looking very good.
C. 'John Warren'
C. 'Zoiamha' I AM HAPPY
C. 'Carol Lim'
C. 'Evipo062' ZARA
Two lectures had been organized for today, both open to the public. The first, prefaced by welcome speeches from Jeff Jabco and Linda Beutler, was given by Dan Long or Brushwood Nursery, Athens, Georgia, which was visited by those who went on the pre-meeting event in Georgia. Dan had a stall outside the theatre building with clematis for sale, and seemed to be doing a thriving trade. It was titled "Clematis You Need - You Need Clematis".
After Dan's lecture, we had cocktails followed by dinner, again in the marquee on the lawn. It was a lovely setting but we were luckier than we realized to enjoy it as shortly after our visit to the USA, a violent storm brought a massive tree crashing down exactly where the marquee tent had stood.
Following another excellent dinner, Raymond Evison gave the second lecture, "Clematis for the Present and Future".
Thursday 5th June - Mount Cuba Center
Today we venture into the Brandywine Valley, starting with the Mount Cuba Center. This not-for-profit botanical garden specializes on the study, conservation and appreciation of the Appalachian Piedmont Region native plants.
The site is the former estate of Mr and Mrs Lammot du Pont Copeland. They were both interested in plants and gardening and created a number of garden spaces on the estate, with formal planting around their imposing house and more natural woodland and wildflower areas.
Over time their concern for the fate of the native flora meant they focused more and more on studying and conserving these plants and their estate evolved into a botanical garden.
We gathered in the house for a welcome and brief introduction. The house itself has a wonderful view from the rear, overlooking a large open space and with a grand flight of steps leading away and down to the lawn. We would enjoy this again later in our visit when we used it as our lunch setting.
House at Mount Cuba Center
View from back of the House
View of back of the House
Start of Woodland Walk
Having been divided into manageable groups, we set off in different directions to explore the woodland walks and seek out the natives planted therein. Each group had both a guide and a plantsperson, to make sure we didn't miss anything. I've included a small selection of the native plants below.
Southern Lady's Slipper
Rubus odoratus (Flowering Raspberry)
Multi stemmed Pinus strobus (White Pine)
There are a lot of different paths through the woods and each one that we took revealed something new, not just in the planting but also the landscaping. So we came across this beautiful still and calm large pond (or is it a small lake?). There were little bridges with all sorts of interesting things around and underneath. And there was also this wonderfully amusing mailbox. Apparently, if memory serves me correctly, Mrs Copeland used to sit nearby and write letters which she'd put in the mailbox, presumably to be collect by one of the staff some time later.
Someone's spotted something!
Mrs Copeland's Mailbox!
Mount Cuba Center also contained a trials and native clematis area and after an excellent buffet lunch, which included a number of delicious local dishes, we had free time to explore. There were quite a few in flower and they made a very interesting collection.
C. texensis Tarpley River form
I will end this visit, not with plants, but with two unique garden sculptures. The first was close to the trial grounds and is a most fantastically beautiful wooden winged seed, probably a winged maple seed. It is on a vertical pivot and swings around in the wind like a weather vane.
The second were the entrance gates to Mount Cuba Center. These wrought iron masterpieces are a very intricate horticultural theme of branches, leaves and flowers. They are spectacular and a very fitting tribute to the delights that lie within.
Our second and final destination of the day was Longwood Gardens.
Longwood can be traced back to 1700 when George Pierce, a Quaker farmer, bought just over 400 acres. They cleared and farmed the land and around 1730 built the brick house that remains today, albeit somewhat enlarged. In 1798 the twin grandsons of George Pierce established a 15 acre arboretum, with specimens of both local trees and from abroad. By the middle of the 19th century the arboretum was one of the best in the USA.
Interest in the arboretum began to wane until the estate was bought by Pierre du Pont in 1906. Not only did he revive the arboretum, he started an extensive program of garden and landscape development, much of which remains to today. Pierre du Pont loved fountains and, starting in the mid 1920s, constructed a number of water gardens and fountain displays, many with multiple jets, including the Italian Water Garden. Pierre du Pont also installed the 10,010 pipe Aeolian organ in the ballroom, which has recently undergone restoration and was visible on our visit.
During the later years of his life, Pierre du Pont was conscious of ensuring the legacy of Longwood Gardens would outlast him and it was during this time that the Longwood Foundation was created and given the task of running Longwood as a public garden, which it continues to do. But the emphasis was changing to education and horticulture, with new study and research facilities being built and an international student intake. It was also during this period that the palm house was created, a most impressive building.
Today Longwood Gardens welcomes the public to enjoy the surroundings. They run lectures and classes, do research, run breeding programs, hold concerts, give firework displays, hold fountain and music events.
Our visit started with a look behind the scenes at some of there breeding program facilities, followed by time in their Clematis Trial Ground. We then assembled in one of the lecture theatres for a talk by Jessie Whitehead and Adam Glas on the Clematis Trial, and a lecture by Szczepan Marczyñski titled "Marczyñski's Clematis Collection - Breeding and Growing".
Research and Breeding Facility
Multiple Seed Planting Device
Clematis Trial Ground
Clematis Trial Ground
Pond, Waterfall and Tower
Dinner this evening was a particularly grand affair. It started with a drinks reception in the Palm House, very impressive and reminded me a little of the Palm House in Kew Gardens, Great Britain. This was followed by a served dinner in the ballroom. But possibly the star of the evening was to come, a music, light and water display. After dinner we were ushered on to the terrace overlooking the gardens and especially the fountains. With music playing behind us we enjoyed a spectacular display of water and colour from the lit fountain jets, all in time with the music. This "concert" was courtesy of Longwood Gardens, just one of a number of contributions they made to our visit to the USA and we thank them very much.
Vertical Gardening Corridor
Palm House Terrace
Palm House Terrace
Dinner in the Ballroom
Dinner in the Ballroom
Music, Light and Water Display
Music, Light and Water Display
For the first of these personal reports, covered the first couple of days of the pre-meeting visit to Georgia for "A Taste of Viorna", please click Part 1. For the second installment, concluding our pre-meeting visit to Georgia, please click Part 2. For the third installment, covering our first two days in Pennsylvania, please click Part 3 and for the fifth installment, covering the last two days in Pennsylvania, please click Part 5 .
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