Let’s play connect the dots. This game will take us from the early days of Haverford College…..New Paltz, NY……botanical gardens and backyards around the world. Albert and Alfred Smiley Class of 1849 built the now National Historic Landmark, Mohonk Mountain House in 1869. Built in the Victorian style, just 90 minutes north of New York City, it has remained under the guidance of the Smiley family. It is one of America’s oldest family-owned resorts.
The eastern witchhazel, Hamamelis virginiana is abundant in the woods of the northeast extending south to Missouri. A number of years ago a red form of this native fall blooming witchhazel was found growing on the Mohonk Nature Preserve. What sets this apart from the norm (yellow petals) is that the petals are burgundy/red at the base and diffuse to yellow at the tips and it is lightly scented. They begin blooming in late October and continue today. I have planted Hamamelis virginiana and Hamamelis virginiana ‘Mohonk Red’ side by side at the northeast corner of the Gardener Athletic Center for easy inspection. ‘Mohonk Red’ was introduced to commerce by the Arnold Arboretum and has become a nice addition to the autumnal palette of blooming shrubs.
The life of a leaf is never easy. Our autumnal glory had its origin in the latent buds formed on the branches two summers ago. They sat waiting out the cold winter exposed to the ice, snow and frigid temperatures. As spring 2011 warmed the air and the sun’s rays shown on the naked branches our leaves began to wake. Slowly they swelled and woke up the physiological processes of the tree. Unfurling at a rate not too slow for us to enjoy, their life-giving duty to the tree began. I believe photosynthesis is the most important chemical process on Earth. Our leaves now are tasked with carrying out the exchange of CO2 and O2, providing complex sugars to the tree and driving the water uptake from the roots. This is no small assignment for such a delicate piece of Mother Nature’s beauty. Last summer’s prolonged dry spell and record setting consecutive days of at or near triple digit temperatures was more than some could handle. Those that the tree did not shed finally arrived to the welcoming rains of a very wet August. Before the tree can relinquish the army of leaves in the fall, they are asked for one more act. They must replenish the tree with all their stored up food supplies to get the tree through winter. While green chlorophyll exits the leaves it exposes the pigments that provide the stunning display of foliage. The anthocyanin and carotenoid pigments are presented to our amazement.
There is nothing better than watching the silver maple’s yellow leaves float playfully to the ground. It is a shame to disturb this elegant descent with the roar of the 100 dB (decibel) leaf vac truck. You’ll see and HEAR the Grounds and Arboretum crews clearing the leaves of the turf then sucking and shredding them as are taken to the composting site on campus.
The life of our leaf is long and arduous and has kept the majestic trees on campus healthy for another season.
Plant One Million Trees ! The Pennsylvania Horticulture Society (PHS) has launched a multi-state tree planting agenda. Three states and thirteen counties in the region are driving this ambitious campaign. Pennsylvania (PHS) is combining forces with partners in Delaware (Delaware Center for Horticulture) and New Jersey (New Jersey Tree Foundation). PHS President Drew Becher states, “Plant One Million will have a major impact on the environment and the economy of the whole region.” By the way, Drew was our guest speaker at the Arboretum’s Annual Dinner last month!
Haverford’s history with trees can be traced back to 1834 when English landscape designer William Carvill was hired by the college to “lay out the land.” Today we perpetuate those ideals as we continue to add to our more than 2000 labeled tree collection. The Arboretum will be submitting forty seven more trees planted this season to the count as we wrap up planting for the year.
You don’t have to be a municipality or college campus to participate. Every tree counts, even the one you may have planted in your front yard this summer. Learn more at www.pennsylvaniahorticulturalsociety.org
One week ago tonight, Founders Great Hall was comfortably occupied as retired and current faculty, staff, administrators, friends of the Arboretum, alums and current students came together for this annual event.
The setting sun cast long shadows in the Great Hall as the “cocktail hour” came to a close and we invited guests to find a seat. Arboretum Association President, Lathrop Nelson welcomed everyone and opened with a few remarks. Lathrop’s six year term as President came to a close that night. Bill Astifan, Director of the Arboretum spoke next and thanked Lathrop for his tireless work and leadership. Bill presented Lathrop with a bench that will be placed on campus. I would like to thank him in this forum for his generosity and dedication to the Arboretum. We all enjoyed a well prepared meal before settling in for the evening’s guest speaker.
Drew Becher, President of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society addressed the attendees with his personal story and his professional journey to PHS. The Philadelphia Flower Show and Plant One Million Tree campaign highlighted the many avenues in which PHS promotes horticulture and Philadelphia.
It is always a pleasure to welcome back to campus the alums and listen to their stories as they reminisce. I regret not making time to speak with each of these ‘Fords: Ted Lawrence ’42, Sam Hudson ’51, Pete Daorwart ’63, Matt Simon ’77 and Chris Chasin ’11. we were also joined by current students and Arboretum student workers: Jake Northatt ’12, Marissa Plowden ’12, Tamara Agins ’12, and Rebecca Kazinka ’12. Thanks to our student workers for assisting in decorating and making the centerpieces. It was a very enjoyable evening.
My 8 year old daughter, Catherine, is as old as some of the Plebes (freshmen) at the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY. were ten years ago. Having grown up about an hour from West Point, I have visited and attended many football games in autumn. This was a special weekend for a football game. The sense of pride and respect I felt Saturday was at times all consuming. The men and women at West Point will be put in harms way upon their graduation as our country continues the war on terrorism. The football game against San Diego State University served as a cloak over a larger series of events this weekend. Former Mayor of NYC, Rudy Giuliani, spoke at half time to the Cadets and those in attendance.
The drive back home to West Chester, PA Sunday morning was spent listening to the memorial tributes being broadcast on the radio. When Paul Simon sang The Sound of Silence at the WTC Memorial my emotions poured out. From the back seat, I felt Catherine’s hand on my shoulder and she passed forward a box of tissues. It is still difficult.
I spent much of the afternoon alone in my garden weeding upon returning home.
For three rainy day this week the Arboretum held its 23rd Annual plant sale and freshman plant give away in the Dining Center lobby.
Every Haverford freshman is encouraged to stop by and recieve their complimentary plant. This year 29% of the Class of ’15 did so. Some determined on the spot what they would name their little bundle of joy!
Student memberships in the Arboretum were purchased for ten dollars. This membership comes with the ever popular Arboretum t-shirt and enables students to bring their plants to the greenhouse over winter break or if they are studying abroad….plant sitting services. We welcomed 65 new and returning student members to the Arboretum.
It may have been a hurricane a century ago that forced the osage orange to its comfortable position. The climbing tree was made safe on Friday, last week.
Arboretum manager, Bill Astifan, Jim Ward of The John Ward Tree Co., and the arboretum horticulturists carefully inspected and discussed which limbs to remove. To return the prostrate tree to a safe position and once again, a living piece of playground equipment, a few larger limbs had to be sacrificed.
A tree that is already growing along the ground is hard to blow down, better luck next time Irene !
Last Thursday members of the Class of 2015 planted their class tree. Arboretum Director, Bill Astifan and Horticulturist, Carol Wagner welcomed the class. Under threatening skies and distant thunder (a non relative of Irene’s) the Prunus ‘Okame’ was settled in to the ground. ’15 takes up residence next to ’10 in the allee along Leeds green. These cherry trees are the first to bloom on campus.
Friday was a day of preparation for the pending storm. The entire college system was making arrangements. The upper classmen were allowed to return early, Safety and Security, Facilities Management and the College Administration had action plans in place.
The Arboretum only lost two large trees and they were both on the perimeter of the property. A Celtis occidentalis, hackberry, fell on the Feather Bed fields were the cross country course begins and a large Quercus alba, white oak, fell in the woods between HCA road and the south parking lot. The Climbing Tree, a sentinel of the college landscape and beloved by generations of kids, Maclura pomifera, osage orange, is being evaluated today as Irene’s wind caused it to shift and lean further to the ground.
Classes have started and everyone at the college is relieved and thankful to Irene. Considering the forecasts and projected sustained winds the campus was very fortunate and had minimal damage.
There are a few trees standing on this wonderful campus that may have seen the earliest Haverford freshmen. Welcome Class of 2015. Please join the Arboretum staff as we assist YOU in planting your class tree, Thursday, August 25, 9:30am on Leeds green.
You’ll see the Grounds and Arboretum crews raking leaves, mowing the grass, weeding, planting trees, and shoveling snow during blizzards. Say Hello!
Also, be sure to see us next week Tuesday through Thursday, August 30, 31 and September 1, in the Dining Center. Pick up a free plant for your dorm room and you can join the Arboretum Association. With that ten dollar membership you will also receive this year’s always popular Arboretum t-shirt. Additionally, if interested, you can talk to us about work study programs with the Arboretum.
I’ve posted a few images to illustrate how beautiful Haverford College is everyday of the year.