Traveling Back to Pittsburgh: Garden Communicators Plan and Dine

“The William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh was the place that champagne music was born.”  Lawrence Welk

Finally, then the champagne was poured.  I went to dinner with my wife along with friends who also are garden communicators.

GWA LAC, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Pittsburgh PA

From the Left:  Sara Brown, Doug Oster, Nancy Knauss, Sandy Feather, Martha Swiss, Phyllis Gricus, Denise Schreiber–Chairperson and Region II GWA Regional Director.

We communicated about another reason to travel back to Pittsburgh.

Garden Writers will be coming to Pittsburgh in 2014 for their International Symposium. Sushi, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Pittsburgh Local Arrangements Committee

They told me we would be eating Asian Fusion.  That is possibly the name given to this plate of assorted fish strips.  Or, culturally, we are trying to fuse with a lifestyle that requires less quantitative and more esthetically qualitative food.  The presentation was beautiful.  And I was admittedly not hungry at the end of the perfectly frozen coconut sorbet. 

My 312 years of experience have elementally changed me.

Kirk R. Brown, GWA LAC, Sara Brown, John Bartram, Phyllis Gricus, Denise Schreiber

The people on this committee are excited thinking that more of their GWA friends will be joining them in two years.  Pittsburgh will have a magical opportunity to shine.  Here at the beginning of the planning, it’s a time in any committee’s life when the members recognize the connection behind friendship.  This group is united in its passion for the art, theory, practice, and excitement of Horticulture. 

I love this group and the enthusiasm behind it!

Traveling Back to Pittsburgh: The Western PA Garden and Landscape Symposium

Traveling Back to Pittsburgh:  The Western PA Garden and Landscape Symposium

“The William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh was the place that champagne music was born.”  Lawrence Welk

“I am safe returned in very good health from Pittsburgh, God Almighty be praised:  haveing been down ye Ohio below Bever Creek & up ye Monongahela to above Redstone Creek then to Fort Cumberland thence to ye warm springs in Virginia near Great Cape Capon & Potomack.  Then to ye great cave near ye south mountain haveing crawled over many deep wrinkles in ye face of our antient mother earth haveing not observed one tree or shrub but what I have growing on my own land except a vine Aromatick which is very curious.  I found also some very pretty plants…”  John Bartram, John Bartram’s Journey to Pittsburgh in 1761.

Phipps Conservatory, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Western PA Garden and Landscape Conference

This garden globe was displayed in the entry court of Phipps Conservatory. It set the tone for the entirety of the earth-saving weekend of topics at the Western PA Garden And Landscape Conference

The first time I went to Pittsburgh, they were not serving Champagne.  The last trip out to that magical confluence of three rivers was decidedly in better time and style.  It was an opportunity to be met, to greet, to gather botanical information and samples, and to savour the finer aspects of gentlemanly living.

Hillman Center for the Performing Arts, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Shady Side Academy

A horticultural cornucopia of sparkly bits, gibecrake, givegoves, and falbalas.

My wife was also able to accompany me this time.  As well as my amanuensis, Kirk R. Brown:  for whom and by whom the entire trip was planned.

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Penn State Extension, Phipps Conservatory

Mr. Brown tried to answer the question, "Who is a Gardener..." and used lavish photographic projections to illustrate his talk.

You see it was from Mr. Brown’s book of lecture topics that the pages were pulled to edify and educate the general gardening public.  I became the defacto group travel leader–having been there on so many previous occasions.

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Phipps Conservatory, Shady Side Academy

The topic was horticulture and I was not the speaker. It's nice when there are opportunities for Kirk to bask in the light of his peers.

The host venue was the Hillman Center for Performing Arts at the Shady Side Academy.

Western PA Garden and Landscape Conference, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram

Shady Side Academy was a new venue for the conference. The crowd seemed to be pleased with the change in location. The facilities were amazing.

The hosting organizations were Phipps Conservatory and Penn State Extension.  It was an outstanding roster of speakers that attracted a large following of dedicated gardeners, designers, botanists, and shoppers!

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Phipps Conservatory, Shady Side Academy

Many of the vendors were selling a fabulous collection of new plant introductions. The quality of the displays was exceptional.

The last group was there especially for the Garden Marketplace:  a new venue that gave one expansive space to haggle with vendors on the purchase of garden art, horticultural whimsy, and the easy avenue of specimen collecting.  The pots were sitting there waiting to be selected!

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Western PA Garden and Landscape Symposium, Garden Marketplace

The succulents were just as their name implies. Tasty delights.

Not like the last time I was in Pittsburgh!

Other speakers were diverse in their programming and their approach.  I love the opportunity to hear talks on gardening from different perspectives.

Kirk R. Brown, Barbara Pleasant, Ruth Rogers Clausen, John Bartram

Sandy Feather is an extension agent from Western PA that I have known and respected for many years. She introduced Ruth Rogers Clausen and Barbara Pleasant.

It was an oppotunity to meet and discuss process with one the world’s most well-traveled plant hunter.  Dan Hinkley has been to more countries than plants I discovered.  I admit to being slightly envious (a non-Quaker emotion) over his ability to see so much more of the world.  He has selected some amazing plants on his collecting trips.

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Dan Hinkley, Phipps Conservatory

Dan Hinkley took the podium twice during the day of the Symposium

It was a very empathetic group of speakers.  I appreciate them all!

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Phipps Conservatory, Western PA Garden and Landscape Symposium

Phipps Conservatory was dressed for the day of the conference in international colors from all the world's flags.

Design Class for the Future of Landscape Design in America

“Things alter for the worse spontaneously, if they be not altered for the best designedly.”  Francis Bacon

My amanuensis was far afield this week.  His presentations at the New Jersey Landscape Design School were focused on the future of the art Landscape Design into the Future and the practice of  Sustainability.  The classes are held over two days with a third day devoted to study and an examination that tests the student’s retention of the material.

Rutgers Gardens, The Chair Garden, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram

The chairs in the garden were empty. All of the people were in the classes devoted to the New Jersey Landscape Design School

Mr. Brown’s passion for the subject of saving the world leaves me somewhat perplexed.  He talks a very good game but a slide on the uses of “The Little Green Bag…” will not go far to solve the problem of what’s been defined as Global Warming.

New Jersey Landscape Design School, Rutgers Gardens, Holly House, John Bartram Kirk R. Brown

The Little Green Bag was a subject of some heated discussion.

His presentations were on the second day for the education of a group looking to become certified in their love of gardening.  I congratulate them on their dedication.  The search for continuing education in the world of botany is a far-reaching one.  It is education that will return a restorative sense of health and well-being to seeker.  I am a living testament to its life-giving qualities.

Sustainability and the American Dream, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, New Jersey Landscape Design School, Rutgers Gardens, Holly House

Audience response was varied to "Sustainability and the American Dream." this response was unexplained at press time.

Denise and Eric Mattes are a husband and wife team of Landscape Architects who began the second day of the event with back-to-back, hers-then-his presentations on the history of their profession since the second world war.  His talk gave illumination to the practice of the science of recent design architects in a contemporary idiom. 

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, New Jersey Landscape Design School, Rutgers Gardens

The Mattes team of landscape architects presented history of the art and science of the craft since WWII.

Bruce Crawford, Director of Rutgers Gardens, delivered a brilliant close to the proceedings with his discussion of the relative growth and development of arboreta in America.  He demonstrated an almost life-long commitment to his own garden.

Bruce Crawford, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram Rutgers Gardens, Holly House

Bruce Crawford wrapped up the day with a discourse on developing "Community" around a botanic garden.

I had been with him on many previous occasions when his connection was an almost palpable topic in his speech.  His garden is growing and changing.  He is connecting with a wider community and using the examples of many other spaces to develop his own sense of place and space.

New Jersey Landscape Design School, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram

The audience seemed to enjoy all of the presentations on the last day of the design school.


I struggled all of my earlier life trying to connect people to my botanic garden.  I recognize a similar vitality in the work that Bruce brings to the green spaces at Rutgers Gardens.

Rutgers Gardens, Holly House, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram

The Rhododendron Collection was at the height of its seasonality. Beautiful color.

 Other botanic gardens that he used as exemplars include The High Line , The Atlanta Botanic Garden and my personal favorite of this and any group:  Chanticleer, A Pleasure Garden

Rutgers Garden, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Lilac Collection, Holly House

The Lilac Collection added another texture to the garden plantings: that of the sense of smell.

Time was scheduled during the day to take advantage of the beautiful spring weather and get some photos of the changes that have been wrought in the garden’s many rooms.  The hardscape that’s been added has expanded the bones of the spaces.  The new rain garden was an exciting new space that connected the sustainable theme of the day with the reality of green in a garden.

Rutgers Gardens, Rain Gardens, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Sustainability and the American Dream

The new rain garden makes contemporary sense and adds remarkable sustainability as a topic on the design table.

Rutgers Rain Garden, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Sustainability and the American Dream, Rutgers Gardens

The bluestone paving in the rain garden adds elements of texture, line, form and space to the overall design achievement.

It was a stunning day for an appreciation of the art of garden design and the growth and development of a public green initiative.  Congratulations for the success of the planning goes to Nancy Schmaltz and her dedicated crew of volunteers. 

Nancy Schmaltz, New Jersey Landscape Design School, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Rutgers Gardens, Holly House

Nancy Schmaltz introduced my amanuensis, Kirk R. Brown to the participants in the New Jersey Landscape Design School.

Gotti Kelley is to be commended for her control of a camera lens with which she was not familiar.  And as a final thought on the scenes of the day:  I want to acknowledge the beautiful presence of the native poppy in the distant fields of the garden.  Stylophorum diphyllum was the Latin nomenclature for such a

A Many Centenary Birthday!

“I am long on ideas, but short on time. I expect to live to be only about a hundred.”   Thomas Alva Edison

“The first hundred years are the hardest.”   Wilson Mizner

The Junior League of Philadelphia celebrates its centennial this year.  Philadelphia is home to such a large number of honored and ancient associations that it would be curious to investigate whether there is any year forthcoming in which some group or other is not celebrating a centennial…or a bicentennial…or a sesquicentennial…or an any-than-many-centennial.  When you lose count of the number of multiples of 100 that an association has been incorporated, perhaps it’s time to stop counting and go back to look at what the association was originally committed to promote.

So I believe that it is important to note the passing of important milestones; not so much to be self-congratulatory and smug, but as a way to call to mind why it was so important to meet and discuss things over a nice meal in the first place.  I greatly enjoy a nice meal with pleasant company that presents the opportunity to exchange ideas and ponder deeply.  Also, I just like to hear myself talk.  Ask my fine cook and wife if you don’t believe me.

Junior League of Philadelphia, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown

A hearty meal at the Junior League's Garden Meeting was enjoyed by my healthy appetite

I’ve finished celebrating my tri-centennial twelve years past already.  I enjoy when people try to date me.  Perhaps it’s easier to date a rock.  Perhaps the Pyramids are more memorable.  Perhaps the Acropolis is a better architectural statement.  Perhaps the Venus de Milo without her arms and head is a prettier picture than my sags and bags and wrinkles.  But then again, perhaps the memory of a fine day in the country amidst a group of fellow luncheon guests means more than the easily noted but soon forgotten thoughts what might have been better.  It is enough said to appreciate the wonders of being alive and in good company.

Junior League of Philadelphia Garden Club

As John was relating his historical adventures the crowd sat politely silent and appeared to attend his tale.

I was introduced to any and all who wanted to speak with me.  The day moved quickly through its paces.

The president of the club is Ms. Graham Boose.  She was grace itself when I accidentally took the seat promised to her at lunch.  It is my oafishness and lack of social etiquette that always prompts me to take the center stage and seek the strongest spot light.  My apologies go to her as I reflect on the minor contretemps that occurred over my disregard of the formalities of the day.

Junior League of Philadelphia, John Bartram, Ms. Graham Boose

John Bartram shared conversation with the President, Ms. Graham Boose.

A horticultural historian in the group, Ms. Mary Cloud Hollingshead, came prepared to best me in my challenge to always appear with the most outstanding hat.  I grant you that my striving for superiority is not in the Quakerly way of being humble, but then they were not welcoming of my opinions in all those years past.  I think I might be forgiven for a bit of harmless pride in the scale of my hat!  It has need to fit a large head after all.

Mary Cloud Hollingshead, John Bartram, Junior League of Philadelphia, Kirk R. Brown

Ms. Mary Cloud Hollingshead regaled John Bartram with stories of his own travels. I was very impressed!

The lady to whom I owe my thanks and gratitude for the invitation to share my story is Jane Acton.  She is the chairperson for programming.  Her charming notes and contacts over the many months leading up to the day were some of the most memorable of my experience.  It was truly an honor to be considered for this particular time and place.

Ms. Jane Acton, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Junior League of Philadelphia

Jane and John ending the afternoon with a contest of hats. I love hats!

I leave you with the thought that a celebration of 100 years is special.  Praise goes to any group capable of staying the course and successfully struggling with the vicissitudes of life that challenge us all just to get up in the morning.  Even more, I want you to think of my own personal journey of discovery during my own collection of 312 years past.  Come my next birthday, forget the extra candles and give me more butter cream icing with raspberry jam spread thickly between the layers.  Life is–and always should be–very sweet at birthday celebrations!

Junior League of Philadelphia, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown

The audience takes its seats for the afternoon's lecture to begin.