Monthly Archives: October 2012

Annual Arboretum Dinner, 2012

It doesn’t seem like another year has passed but there we were gathered in the magnificent Founders Hall.  The annual event brought together current and retired staff, members of the Arboretum Association, alumni, current students and guests.  As is typical for the sun in mid October fashion, while it approaches the horizon it basks the Great Hall in beautiful long shadows spanning the width of the room.  Outside, the campus was in full autumnal glory.

Once the happy hour wrapped up, Arboretum Director, Bill Astifan greeted the attendees.  He then conducted a short business meeting followed by a brief historical jaunt through campus via power point.  Bill invited everyone to find their seats and then we were treated to a delicious meal.

The venerable and opinionated father of American botany was in attendance this night.  Quaker gentleman, John Bartram (1699-1777) portrayed in character and dress by Mr. Kirk Brown was sensational.
His musings of best friend Benjamin Franklin and additionally, contemporary plantsmen Peter Collinson, Dr.  John Fothergill and Billy (son, William Bartram) were stellar.  He talked about his travels down to south east Georgia where in its untouched splendor, he first encountered the Franklin tree, Franklinia alatamaha. This tree has been extinct in the wild since 1803.  Seeds collected by John and Billy are the reason we can still enjoy this plant relic.  The horticultural trade today owes him debt of gratitude for introducing 200 species which we take for granted in our gardens.

It is always a pleasure to spend this evening with friends and I look forward to our time together next year.


Arboretum PHANs

The event originally scheduled for October 7th was pushed back one week due to rain and what a beautiful day it was last Sunday (Oct. 14).  Members of the Philadelphia Haverford Alumni Network, PHAN enjoyed an afternoon back on campus hosted by the Arboretum.

Arboretum Director, Bill Astifan treated the group with a short power point presentation in Sharpless auditorium to begin the afternoon.  This pictorial journey featured many images from the college archives and some dated back as far as the nineteenth century.  The group was given a glimpse of how the campus evolved from its singularity of Founders Hall to what Haverford has become today, with emphasis on the landscape.  The scope of guests ranged from Class of ’71 to the Class of ’09.

Hot off the heals of the official dedication of Haverford’s two newest dorms the day before, Tritton and Kim Halls, we set out into the landscape.  I explained to the group that these were the first new dorms to be built since the late 1960s.  We talked about the obstacles that lie ahead for the horticulturists and grounds crew. The design was accomplished by a landscape architecture firm from New York City and installation of the plantings handled by a landscape contractor.  Now, we are given the reigns to maintain the space.  It poses no shortage of challenges but in time we are excited to cultivate this new landscape.







As we meandered our way up to The Peace Garden, a few moments were spent discussing the majestic trees on Founders Green.










Horticulturist, Carol Wagner informed the group about the history of peace gardens world-wide and how Haverford’s Peace Garden came to be through the efforts of then student, Jenn Weitz ’08.  The garden has become a quite sanctuary along a busy route to the dining center.





Our final destination transported the group to the orient.  The Asian gardens welcomed the group with a well deserved resting place.  A wine and cheese reception ended a wonderful afternoon.  It is the hopes of the Arboretum staff that by bringing back alums, the memories of their beloved college and its landscape are being thoughtfully cultivated for future generations of ‘Fords.



How would have Cinderella gotten to the ball without a pumpkin patch?  Or poor Linus, after being ridiculed by Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang sat in his pumpkin patch through the night waiting for the Great Pumpkin to arrive and proclaim his was the most “sincere”.  Another masterpiece of American literature asks the question; why did Brom Van Burnt laugh out loud when people talked about the broken orange pumpkin found near Ichabod’s old dusty hat?  Who knew the little jack-o-lantern would ever be raised to such cultural prominence?

Now, just for clarification, the pumpkin is not a vegetable, botanically speaking, it is a fruit!  Cucurbita pepo is the Latin name that catches a large representation of the grocery produce isle:  acorn squash, cucumber, summer squash, cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, gourds and the pumpkin.  For the record, Ron Wallace from Greene, Rhode Island has grown the world record pumpkin.  His behemoth tipped the scale on September 28, 2012 at a mind blowing 2009 pounds!  Pumpkins of that stature come from good genes.  Two of the favorite seed names are Goliath Giant and Atlantic Giant.

Following, is a list of important tips for growing the big ones from  Start with great soil and lots of organic material.  Seeds should be started indoors since these giants take 140 days or more to size up before harvest.  The vine is a heavy drinker, so poor on the water.  There is an art to the fertilization regime and here is a stripped down sketch.  Fertilize with high nitrogen in spring.  Switch to a high phosphorus mix in advance of blooming and fruit set.  Once the fruit is getting some size, change to high a potassium formula.  Finally, an important micronutrient not to be forgotten is calcium.

The life of a regular sized pumpkin must first be field sown 85-110 days before one can begin to create all the wonderful tricks and treats this seasonal favorite has to offer.  Give them room it is a sprawling vine.  They have many insects and diseases that creep up; for example, cutworms, cucumber aphids, squash vine bores, powdery mildew, fruit rots and wilts. Their flowers are edible and the plant bears separate male and female flowers, so insect pollination is critical for fruit to be produced.  Nutritionally, pumpkins are loaded with the antioxidant Beta carotene.

If you venture to the World Championship Punkin Chunkin in Bridgeville, Delaware be sure to have nourishment for the ride with a pumpkin bagel from Panera Bread Company and a pumpkin spiced latte from Starbucks!