Category Archives: The Latest

Carol builds a cold frame


Carol Wagner with a Penn Treaty Elm seedlin

Carol Wagner with a Penn Treaty Elm seedling

This winter, Carol Wagner found herself on the losing side of a battle with squirrels and chipmunks. As horticulturist in charge of the historic Penn Treaty Elm, she collects seedlings from underneath its boughs each fall and pots them up in our nursery. She also takes cuttings from rare shrubs and roots them in potting soil so that we’ll have replacement plants in the future.

These rows of pots with fresh soil are just too tempting to the critters. Store them outside, and the squirrels dig them up. Store them in the greenhouse, and the chipmunks scoot in when the automatic windows crank open and they, also, upset the tiny twigs in an effort to find a seed or acorn.

But this spring Carol has fought back.

With the help of colleague Claudia Kent, she’s built a 3 by 13 foot cold frame, essentially a dug-out pit covered with glass (or in this case, two acrylic storm doors) and tipped toward the south. This mini-greenhouse protects seedlings in early spring and can keep veggies going well into the fall. An automatic hinge will tilt the top open on warm days to avoid over-heating the young plants. And any adventurous rodents, no matter how cute, will be foiled by a strong screen Carol plans to extend across the top.
~~ Martha Van Artsdalen, plant curator

Once she adds screening, Carol hopes her plants will be safe from squirrels and chipmunks.

Once she adds screening, Carol hopes her plants will be safe from squirrels and chipmunks.

Magnolias: Part One

Star magnolia

Star magnolia

The first blooms of Haverford’s 31 magnolia species and hybrids have opened. Looking at these bold, yet delicate flowers, it’s odd to think that scientists studying fossil records have determined that magnolias were the first flowering trees to evolve after the conifers, or cone-bearing trees— between 3 million and 66 million years ago. The name magnolia honors French botanist Pierre Magnol (1638-1715).

At Haverford, the earliest bloomers are the star magnolias, Magnolia stellata, and the saucer magnolias, Magnolia x soulangiana. These trees are native to Asia and their flowers are too delicate for our chilly climate. Each year, we have our fingers crossed that dipping temperatures won’t zap the fragrant petals and turn them into sad, brown lumps. Happily, it’s been a good year for most –but not all –of our early blooming magnolias.
~ Martha Van Artsdalen, plant curator

'Jane' magnolia

‘Jane’ magnolia

Saucer magnolia

Saucer magnolia

White saucer magnolia

White saucer magnolia

Kobus magnolia zapped by chilly temperatures

Kobus magnolia zapped by chilly temperatures



We have babies!

Haverfarm blog 01     This time of year is dear to the heart of every gardener. It’s seed-starting time. Outside the weather may still be blustery and damp, but step inside the Arboretum greenhouse. You’ll be hit with the smell of warm soil and the sight of tray after tray of tiny seedlings uncurling in their pots.

These are cool season vegetables destined for the Haverfarm garden. Until construction of the student greenhouse complex is completed, Haverfarm fellow Aubrey Delone and her student crew in the Environmental Studies Program are growing the first of hundreds of plants from seeds in the Arboretum greenhouse across from the Facilities Maintenance building. The students are starting with kale, leeks, cabbage and broccoli.

As the young plants emerge, the students will move them in stages to a simple outdoor structure to harden off before planting in the Haverfarm garden.

A busy growing season is ahead. But the Haverfarm students will be ready.

~ Martha Van Artsdalen, plant curator

Haverfarm blog 02


The first blush of spring

Prunus 'Okame' Mar2016 001 - 2ndCopy

Spring officially begins March 20, but at Haverford it arrived the other day when the Okame cherry trees (Prunus ‘Okame’) turned into a beautiful pink haze of budding flowers. This is the first cherry species to bloom on campus, and the color is such a hopeful sign of warm weather and sunny days ahead. The allée of trees between Magill Library and Leeds Green is especially breath-taking.

Many of these were planted by incoming freshmen during Customs Week. Each year, the Arboretum has been welcoming new students with the gift of a class tree somewhere on campus– and the shovels to help plant it! Included in this sidewalk allée of Okame cherries are trees planted by the Classes of 2010, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

This coming August, when the Class of 2020 arrives, we’ll get out the shovels once again and help them become a part of the Haverford community by planting their own Okame cherry as the allée of trees nears completion.

~ Martha Van Artsdalen, plant curator


Prunus 'Okame' Mar2016 008copy



Meet Our Student Workers

Lauren Morse 02

Lauren Morse ’16 sows vegetable seeds in the greenhouse.

On cold days they come out to help shovel snow and spread salt on icy sidewalks. On hot days they can be spotted kneeling in the dirt and digging out weeds. In between, the student Arboretum workers help plant trees, rake up huge piles of leaves, prune back shrubs and even make floral arrangements for events in the Great Hall.
We really appreciate our student workers; they are the best!

Adriana Cvitkovic ’16, Abby Fullem ’16, Andrea Gaughan ’16, Brian Keller ’18, Zoe McAlear ’16, Lauren Morse ’16, Brandon Sickel ’18, Bethany Simmonds ’16, Miwa Wenzel ’16, Meghan Wingate ’17 and Nick Rhodes ’19

−Martha Van Artsdalen, plant curator