A Seeker After Trees and Truth

“Scilicet ut vellem curvo dinoscere rectum atque inter silvas Academi quarere…”  (So that, you know, I was eager to distinguish the straight from the crooked, and to hunt for truth in the groves of Academe.. )   Horace

I am a quester.  That is:  a seeker.  The word comes from the Latin verb, Quarere.  The meaning is “to seek, to ask.”

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, American Philosophical Society, Questers, Quercus rubra

John Bartram co-founded the American Philosophical Society with his friend and mentor, Benjamin Franklin

In my searches I have discovered many new genus and species of plants.  I have also discovered amongst the roots of nature a trail that leads straight to God.  Quarere Deum.  Search for God.

James Logan, Stenton, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown

John Bartram in the Library at Stenton

Did I know that I was searching for God along the trails, among the natives, abreast with fellow seekers?  Life always becomes more clear by the nearer you come to the end of the story.

Wyck, Quaker Horticulture, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown

John Bartram traveled far and wide to discover new genus and species. Here is admires the prized antique roses at another Quaker garden: Wyck.

Perhaps through self-revelation, the Latin word for Oak is quercus.  Derived from the same Latin root.  It is the stately tree in ancient forests to which the mages, priests, elders and sages traveled to question their natural gods.  It was the tree through which all answers came.

John Bartram, Awbury Arboretum, Kirk R. Brown, Historic Trees

John Bartram under a record-holding tree. Regardless of genus or species, he invariably traveled out of his way to see the premiere example of the plants he went on to collect.

I question everything and notice much.  My quest is to discover the reasons for God’s handiwork.  As a quester, I strive to extend the reach of man’s knowledge to benefit all and praise a benevolent deity.

Kirk R. Brown, Independence Hall, John Bartram, Founding Fathers

John Bartram traveled in company of the famous and the scholarly. His garden was only a short trip from the political center of Independence Hall

I am a quester.  Then.  Now.  Forever.  I will be appearing with others of my stock when the Moland House Questers gather on January 9.  I look to meet and greet as many as I may.  My spirit will forever stay young in the search for wisdom and knowledge and fellow travelers!

Populist Botanist

“I wake up every morning at nine and grab for the morning paper.  Then I look at the obituary page.  If my name is not on it, I get up.  –Benjamin Franklin

“I should have no objection to go over the same life from its beginning to the end:  requesting only the advantage authors have, of correcting in the second edition the faults of the first.  –Benjamin Franklin

John Bartram American Horticultural Society

John speaks about his passionate desire to introduce children to the magic and mysteries of nature.

As Ben noted, it is so much easier to be viewed as proficient or wise the second, third, even fourth or tenth time that I have to revisit a topic or a geographic location.   At this time of my life, I can even be viewed as prescient on most of what I’ve been preaching for many of these 300 years.

John Bartram, AHS, University of Maryland, Children and Gardening Symposium

John Bartram is reviewed by his audience after his presentation for the Children and Gardening Symposium. He was hosted at the University of Maryland by the American Horticultural Society.

I love to travel.  Even more, I love to be engaged with conversations struck up with perfect strangers.  I love entering a roomful of expectant and attendant listeners and leave having entertained and been entertained by their curiosity.

John Bartram, William Paca House, Annapolis MD, Annapolis Horticultural Society

John Bartram returned to Annapolis MD this past summer. His lecture to the newly formed Annapolis Horticultural Society allowed him to visit the home of a former colleague and client, William Paca at his house and gardens.

It is a wonder to me why I haven’t conceived of this conceit before now.  My current life is manifested by curiosity enabled by passion wrapped in color and drowned by sheer force of nerve.  Little else could survive the heat of the flame to which this chrysalis is held.

John Bartram, Kirk Brown, Maitreyi Roy, Bartram's Garden Scattergood Foundation

John Bartram recognizes the winner of the Horticultural Illustration exhibit at the Scattergood Foundation’s celebration of 200 years. He is shown with Maitreyi Roy, newly named Executive Director of Bartram’s Garden.

A Degree in Landscape Contracting

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement and success have no meaning.”  Benjamin Franklin.

I have survived through several months of extensive travel and experiential education.  My trips abroad have been many and varied.  I will be writing of them as quickly now as I can give air-wings to words and post them to this site.  I have missed many opportunities for communication because of overlapping and very conflicting duties and responsibilities.

I am writing today to post my good news of meeting with a group of fellow horticulturists engaged in the education and certification of more practitioners to the trade:  the Lehigh and Carbon Technical Institute.  I serve as an advisor to their academic program.  It is a pleasure and an honor for me.  I do not necessarily know of the effects my service of volunteerism has on the students impacted.

The photographs below illustrate the level of technical support this group enjoys.  The sophistication of materials and equipment far exceed my grasp of how to, what to, and where to.  They are a privileged group of children.  I hope their level of gratitude extends to the same depth of my own public support.   I cherish this opportunity to “Pay it forward!”

The tools almost always look neat and clean.  In my experience, it takes the authority of a strong teacher and mentor to make this happen at the end of a long and tiring day.  Professor Mario Galanti is the authority figure in these classes and my knowledge of him defines him as the perfect mentor for these students.

The Banner on the wall says it all:  The doors are open to your personal journey of discovery.  Enter and find a future.  Make an attempt and secure your brightest dream.

I will join my group of co-administrators for a marvelous feast on this coming Wednesday evening.  The culinary arts are well-represented among the category of educable students.  The meal is hearty.  The company good.  And the opportunity to challenge, opine, teach and be taught is unparalleled in my worlds of travel.  Thank you LCTI!

John Bartram Celebrates Scattergood Foundation’s BiCentennial!

“Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.” ~Thomas Jefferson

“If we do not lay out ourselves in the service of mankind whom should we serve?” ~John Adams

I will be delivering four new lectures over the next two weekends on the occasion of Scattergood Foundation’s celebration of its BiCentennial.  It is an excellent opportunity to focus on the achievements of Quakers in both Horticulture and other Medical and Scientific Disciplines.  I am awed by how much has occurred under our direct control for the benefit and future success of the human race.

John Bartram Scattergood Foundation Quaker Horticulture

The invitation for the official celebration of the Scattergood Foundation’s BiCentennial Celebration has been sent to numerous recipients in the greater Philadelphia area.

It is at times such as these, that we should reflect on the journeys that we have made.  We should revisit both the sparkling sun on tops of mountains we have climbed and quiet shade by rushing rivers in the darkened valleys.  It is the time to be poetic and allow some brief enjoyment of refreshments and self-congratulations! 

Scattergood Foundation, John Bartram, Horicultural Lectures, Botanical Art

I examine a device used in the early treatment of mental disturbances. Benjamin Franklin was obviously involved…

Time is of the essence.  You may yet still register for these special celebratory gatherings.  Certainly be aware that the botanical artists’ exhibit is running throughout the entire month.  Let us be happy in our country and with its many benefices.

John Bartram, Scattergood Foundation BiCentennial, Independence Hall, Quaker Horticulture

Here I’m seen celebrating July 4 at the center of the political world in the State House, downtown Philadelphia

The following are the subjects and the descriptions of the lectures that I’ve developed over these last many months and with much additional study.  My travels have been extended by visits to others of the major Quaker gardens in the greater Philadelphia area.

Scattergood Foundation Registration, John Bartram, Botanical Artists Exhibit, Quaker Horticulture

This is the official Registration publication for the upcoming Bicentennial programming at Scattergood Foundation. Celebrate the Quakers in Horticulture and the Botanical Arts with 330 years of perspective!

John Bartram and the Quaker Botanists

John introduces the fellow Quakers that worked to define the science and practice of Botany to the world.  Their remarkable legacy makes the world richer for the plants that were discovered, the system of nomenclature that was developed and the interaction of old-world aristocracy with new-world exploration.  John’s humor, his passion and his achievements will entertain, inspire and awe as he shares his hope for the future of the earth and the men who inhabit it.

John Bartram, James Logan, Stenton, Germantown, Scattergood Foundation

I walked miles on my many trips to the plantation house of James Logan at Stenton. This was a very familiar return to my educational roots.

John Bartram’s Horticopia

John Bartram will welcome you with the horticultural history of America as it began in Philadelphia and Penn’s Woods.  His story starts in 1699 and moves up to the American Revolutionary War and 1776.  He stands at the very beginning of the international world of plant discovery and identification.  He introduced more than 200 species and 100 trees to the trade.  His plant shipments reforested the whole of Southern England and gave color to the island’s autumns with native American trees like Maples, Oaks, Magnolias, Poplars, Hawthornes, Ash, Beech and Willows.

John Bartram, Chionanthus virginicus, Awbury Arboretum, Scattergood Foundation

I momentarily rest on my travels through the world and centuries of Philadelphia Horticulture underneath the blooming Chionanthus at Awbury Arboretum. Awbury was home to generations of the Quaker Cope family and their descendants.

John Bartram:  A Physician’s Gardener

            From an early age, John Bartram was a leader in the horticultural world promoting the healing benefits of plants and gardening.  His physic garden was a model of the time for the wealth and diversity of homeopathic plant material.  His neighbors consulted him for his advanced knowledge and keen eye.  His reporting skills and his insatiable curiosity opened the doors that kept him in correspondence with some of the greatest scientific minds of the age.  He placed a very high value on the restorative power of nature.

John Bartram, Wyck House, Rose Garden, Botanic Art Exhibit, Scattergood Foundation Becentennial

I consider the selection of heirloom and historic roses in the garden behind the Wyck House. Two hundred years later, the garden is still full to overflowing with the scent and sense of Quaker Horticulture in Philadelphia.

John Bartram:  The King’s Gardener

Passionately religious, John’s dozens of plant forays into the wilderness of the original colonies always completed his vision of a God-centered life.  He traveled across the Eastern Seaboard and into the wilds of the interior virgin forests.  He saw divinity in the spirit of his trees.  Along with his son, William, his explorations of Georgia discovered at least one species known only through his collection:  Franklinia altamaha. Close friends with Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington as well as many of the other founding fathers, he is credited with starting the first public garden in America.  After years of new plant introductions, John was rewarded with the title of Official Botanist to the North American Colonies by King George III and presented with annuity of 50 pounds per year.

John Bartram, Thomas Scattergood, Scattergood Foundation Bicentennial, Quaker Horticulture

I recognize Thomas Scattergood by his portrait hanging in the Foundation Director’s office. He was minister to his flock and a boon to the community. His life was an exemplar of his good works.

Thomas Scattergood, John Bartram, Bicentennial Celebration, Botanic Art Exhibit, Horticultural Quakers

Scattergood Foundation, Friends Hospital, Arboretum, John Bartram, Horticultural Lectures

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.  http://njclubs.esiteasp.com/gcnj/landscape_design_school.nxg  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.  http://rutgersgardens.rutgers.edu/director.html  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 http://www.thehighline.org/ , The Atlanta Botanic Garden http://www.atlantabotanicalgarden.org/ and my personal favorite of this and any group:  Chanticleer, A Pleasure Garden http://www.chanticleergarden.org/

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 http://rutgersgardens.rutgers.edu/RainGarden.html 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