Raleigh, North Carolina: Horticultural Hot Spot!

Raleigh, North Carolina: Horticultural Hot Spot!

“The only thing that two gardeners ever agree on is what the third gardener does wrong.”   Tony Avent, Plants Delight Nursery

I love traveling. You might be able to tell from the illustrations on all of these pages. I especially enjoy traveling back to North Carolina. My step-brother lived on a plantation near Wilmington.

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Kirk R. Brown and Tony Avent touring Plants Delight and Juniper Level Botanic Garden.

These days it’s much easier to get to towns and cities more interior to my previous coastal travels. Raleigh is a prime example of a new city rich placed strategically on a confluence of roads and rivers. It is also a horticultural hotbed.

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Hellebores were in season at Plants Delight. Lovely to touch; impossible to leave without purchase.

I recently visited the nursery and botanic garden of one of the country’s premiere horticultural professionals. Plants Delight is just that: a place where horticulture is displayed and priced to entice the most jaded of plant collectors. The attached display grounds are known as Juniper Level Botanic Garden.

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Shipping and receiving at Plant Delights Nursery is very reminiscent of my own shipping operation at Bartram’s Garden. Big difference: corrugated cardboard, Styrofoam peanuts and plastic wrapping material.

These gardens are tended by plantsman extraordinaire, Tony Avent. He is a gentleman and a rabid Hortistician. He was a gracious host to my amanuensis and his traveling wife. If you are in the neighborhood it will be good for your soul to stop and touch the merchandise.

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Around the table: Kirk R. Brown, Brienne Gluvna Arthur, Jared Barnes, Lizzi Lathers, Erin Weston. Enjoying the best barbecue in the south!

While still in Raleigh, I also made contact with a new generation of professional plants people. Dinner with them was both entertaining and educational. I know that I shall reflect on the experience for many a future experience with people younger than 100 years old.

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Dr. Jared Barnes was introduced to his alter ego in the latest edition of Organic Gardening. He was named one of the horticulture’s rising star by Ken Druse.

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Brienne Gluvna Arthur working at Camellia Forest Nursery.

Brienne Gluvna Arthur, Dr. Jared Barnes, Erin L. Weston and Lizzi Lathers are in a group of rising stars of horticulture and should be watched…closely, carefully, and regularly…to see how their rooting is coming.

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Brienne Gluvna Arthur holding Cubby while Sara E. Stine Brown looks on with the envy only a cat person could have.

It’s All About the Plants: Davidson Horticultural Symposium

“Something made me pick up a spade and start digging; and with the smell of newly turned earth, I felt my life returning.” Holly Shimizu, United States Botanic Garden

“A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.”  Liberty Hyde Bailey

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John Bartram at the Davidson Horticultural Symposium, 2014. It’s All About the Plants. Celebrating 30 years of educational horticulture.

During the 30th anniversary of this fabled gathering, the committee decided to literally go back to its roots and be all about the plants. Their speaker roster includes a Who’s Who of the most famous horticultural speakers, writers, plant hunters, photographers, growers, scientists, horticulturists, designers and artists known to the industry.

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Paula Gross, Holly Shimizu and David Culp photographing gardens in the rain. True dedication. Beautiful lighting.

For this season’s special program, they returned to the reason that we garden: for the joy and inspiration we feel when observing the subtleties of form, color, touch, fragrance, and history of the plants.

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Holly Shimizu, US Botanic Garden, and Tony Avent, Plant Delights Nursery/Juniper Level Botanic Garden, garden touring in Davidson North Carolina.

And then they asked me to deliver the keynote address. I could not have been more honored, thrilled or astounded to be included. It was an horticultural blessing.

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The house was packed at the Knobloch Campus Center of Davidson College, Davidson North Carolina

The tribes gathered in Davidson North Carolina. It was held in the Knobloch Campus Center of Davidson College. The program was sold out.

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John Bartram was the opening Keynote Speaker at the Davidson Horticultural Symposium: It’s All About the Plants. 2014.

The other speakers chosen for this auspicious day included David Culp on tour with his book The Layered Garden. Holly Shimizu, Executive Director of the US Botanic Garden, spoke of the history of that illustrious institution and the many collections that it houses. Paula Gross, UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens, delivered the design lecture of the day basing her presentation on a Southwestern Plantswoman’s Favorites. The program closer was Tony Avent, owner and raconteur from Plants Delight Nursery and Juniper Level Botanical Gardens in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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The Zimmerman house was an authentic recreation of a Renaissance Florentine Villa. Magnificent dedication to the art of architecture married to landscape.

We five speakers were treated to lunch by the occupants of an Italian Renaissance Florentine villa.

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The Renaissance forecourt gave obvious views to the house but allowed for its defense in times of siege.

For the event we were seemingly transported to the countryside surrounding that ancient and famous city for the sheer delight of the possibility.

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A recreated Renaissance pipe organ. The sound was ethereal.

The lord of the manor pleased our desires and played his authentic 16th Century bellows pipe organ. It was a meal and an occasion that blissfully blended the centuries and the stories. Fiction is never the equal to fact.

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We raised a toast in a recreated southern-style barn. It was the perfect evening before the Davidson Horticultural Symposium.

John and Ann Professional

John Bartram was joined by Sara E. Stine Brown at lunch during the Davidson Symposium. Kirk Brown was just out of the picture frame.

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There was time between speakers to enjoy networking in a gathering space outside of the hall. Here John Bartram is joined by Marian St Clair from Greenville South Carolina.

On the evening prior to the event, our hosts gathered at a celebratory dinner in a great hall of communal proportions. The networking was outstanding. I was feted, wined and dined in great style and superior harmony.

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I caught Kirk Brown with his wife in this picture from the evening’s gathering in the woodland barn. We all had an amazing time at the Davidson Horticultural Symposium.

On the day of the lectures, the crowds gathered in the lobby during recesses in order to participate in networking opportunities and purchase much-in-demand books. The stellar opportunity also existed to partake in delicious foods and flavors native to the region. And, as always, plants were offered for sale!

West Chester University Tree Campus USA

West Chester University Tree Campus USA

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”  John Muir

“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”   Mahatma Gandhi

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Humphrey Marshall, West Chester University, Tree Campus USA, Darlington Herbarium

A gathering of tree tenders.

West Chester University was named Tree Campus USA. A ceremony of dedication was planned by School’s Administration during Earth Week and specifically on Arbor Day. 

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Humphrey Marshall, West Chester University, Tree Campus USA, Darlington Herbarium

Formal dedication of the Tree Campus USA with the great Bartram Oak standing behind.

In order to qualify for Tree Campus USA status, an institution of higher learning must submit an application that demonstrates they have adhered to a set of five standards: 

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Humphrey Marshall, West Chester University, Tree Campus USA, Darlington Herbarium

The office of the President of West Chester University. Mr. and Mrs. Greg Weisenstein with Mr. and Mrs. John Bartram.

Standard 1—Establish a Campus Tree Advisory Committee. This committee must include a representative from the undergraduate or graduate student body, faculty, facility management, and the community at large. 

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Humphrey Marshall, West Chester University, Tree Campus USA, Darlington Herbarium

John and Ann Mendenhall Bartram near the gothic arcade.

Standard 2—Manage a Campus-wide Tree Care Plan. From a clearly stated purpose, goals and objectives will be outlined. Responsibility and accountability will be defined. 

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Humphrey Marshall, West Chester University, Tree Campus USA, Darlington Herbarium

A true photographic opportunity.

Standard 3—Campus Tree Program with Dedicated Annual Expenditures. The hard work of establishing any garden is the money required to plant and maintain it. A suggested budget of $3.00 per student is a base line. In fact, the national average among recognized Tree Campuses is currently $9.00 to $11.00 per student. That is an empowering statement of intent. 

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Humphrey Marshall, West Chester University, Tree Campus USA, Darlington Herbarium

The Earth Day celebration carried over onto the Campus Quadrangle.

Standard 4—Celebrate Arbor Day. I was present to witness the monumental undertakings that the college had put in place.

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Humphrey Marshall, West Chester University, Tree Campus USA, Darlington Herbarium

A War Reinactment and conflict of interesting peoples.

They had a grand military reenactment, a quad-full of earth day student organizations, and the recognition of their Bartram Oak. With John Bartram. Outstanding! 

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Humphrey Marshall, West Chester University, Tree Campus USA, Darlington Herbarium

Schedule 5 has students, faculty and the community planting trees on the West Chester University Campus

Standard 5—Development of a Service Learning Project. At West Chester, the student body was actively involved in a series of tree planting and gardening projects. This was a very life-affirming group of young adults. 

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Humphrey Marshall, West Chester University, Tree Campus USA, Darlington Herbarium

In the wilderness searching for colonies of wild Ginseng.

After the ceremony, I was shown the wilderness preserve. It was the spring season when the forest floor was coming alive. The curator of the wilds directed me to an area fenced off as protection from deer predation. The fencing was protecting wild Ginseng. 

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Humphrey Marshall, West Chester University, Tree Campus USA, Darlington Herbarium

In the Darlington Herbarium, perusing Humphrey Marshall’s collection of Bartram’s Garden Franklinia alatamaha.

Lastly, the director of the herbarium unlocked the door to a room of wonder. Behind locked metal doors on cabinets lining the walls were books filled with hundreds of dried examples of natural botanical history. A book was brought out and placed on the clean steel surface in front of me. It was the collection samples gathered by Humphrey Marshall from Bartram’s Garden. 

Humphrey was my cousin. Our mothers were sisters. He had a collection of native specimens in a botanical garden he created in Marshallton. In 1785, he published Arboretum Americanum: the American Grove, an Alphabetical Catalogue of Forest Trees and Shrubs, Natives of the American United States. 

And there in my hands was the result of his passionate dedication to collecting. From my garden. And possibly a leaf and flower from the first successfully cultivated Franklinia Altamaha.

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Humphrey Marshall, West Chester University, Tree Campus USA, Darlington Herbarium

The surprise of coming up against a Franklinia leaf collected from Bartram’s Garden in the first generation of its discovery.

A Gardener’s Studio

A Gardener’s Studio

“A society grows great when old men plant  trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”   Greek proverb

“Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God.”   Thomas Jefferson

Gardeners Studio, Philadelphia Flower Show, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown

John had help from the students at Williamson Technical School as well as the staff at PHS.

Staff members from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society asked me to talk. I agreed. If an opportunity presents itself to share a good word on the cause of botany before an enthusiastic audience, one should always accept it.

John Bartram Lives, Kirk R. Brown, Gardeners Studio, Philadelphia Flower Show, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

The audience was stilled by the discussion of John’s position in horticultural history.

The presentation was a give and take. Reviewing nearly 300 years of horticultural history can be a daunting proposition if all that’s covered is facts, figures, faces, and fictions.

Gardeners Studio, Philadelphia Flower Show, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown

After the introduction, I had the audience to myself.

It’s much better if the history takes second place to interest, enthusiasm and contemporary point of reference.

Gardeners Studio, Philadelphia Flower Show, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown

The amplification device suited my mood and costume.

I was directed to use a device to project my voice over a large area of benched seating. There was a crowd of people collected on the seats while others walked past during and around the events of the hour.

Gardeners Studio, Philadelphia Flower Show, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown

I had a full house at the first appearance.

Questions were asked and answered. And I was included in the discussion. “Who was I?” “What did I do?” “Are you William Penn?” (That was a popular question posed throughout the day!) “How do you ship plants in wooden ships?”

Gardeners Studio, Philadelphia Flower Show, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown

The snake on the stick was a great topic of conversation. Throughout my entire appearance on the show floor.

All of the questions were well received and thoroughly dissected.

John Bartram Lives, Kirk R. Brown, Gardeners Studio, Philadelphia Flower Show, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

Louise Clarke was present to confirm some of the horticultural details.

I must say that it was a pleasurable honor to be asked to speak. It was a momentous occasion to then have a repeat performance on a second night. It allowed me to change my linen and present a much more formal front.

Gardeners Studio, Philadelphia Flower Show, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown

Large format advertising. The best format there is!

As for my wife, Ann had finally been allowed to come out from the fireside and experience her husband’s rhetoric in the first person.

Gardeners Studio, Philadelphia Flower Show, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown

“Wait a moment!”

It’s a grand night when family members can come together in public to bask in the reflected glow of the limelight.

John Bartram Lives, Kirk R. Brown, Gardeners Studio, Philadelphia Flower Show, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

Kirk joins Sara out of context and out of character during the Press Preview of the Philadelphia Flower Show. It’s an awesome experience to see the exhibits being installed!

Going to The Hamptons and Old Westbury

Going to The Hamptons and Old Westbury

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”   F. Scott Fitzgerald,  The Great Gatsby

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”    F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Westhampton Beach Garden Club, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Old Westbury Gardens, Montauk Daisies, The Hamptons

These Montauk Daisies are given their name because of their location: Montauk Point, Long Island, New York.

I was told that I needed to travel to “The Hamptons.” It was a journey of many miles and required travel over several large water courses. The Hamptons are on the Long Island of New York State.

Westhampton Beach Garden Club, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Old Westbury Gardens, Montauk Daisies, The Hamptons

The 18th Century means of transport to and around Long Island New York.

Its nature is one of sand dunes, pines, and junipers. In the fall it’s spotted with large colonies of Montauk Daisies. It is a summer retreat for wealthy city dwellers. They look to the cooling ocean breezes and the proximity to salt water to remind them of comfort and ease against the stress of Manhattan.

Westhampton Beach Garden Club, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Old Westbury Gardens, Montauk Daisies, The Hamptons

Old Westbury Gardens. The mansion.

There are many mansions. One that we visited was called Old Westbury. It was grander in scope and dimension than any of the finest residences in Philadelphia.

Westhampton Beach Garden Club, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Old Westbury Gardens, Montauk Daisies, The Hamptons

The dining room was crafted in the Georgian style. It was a room to entertain Kings.

The dining room alone would encompass my entire house of Kingsessing.

Westhampton Beach Garden Club, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Old Westbury Gardens, Montauk Daisies, The Hamptons

Old Westbury Gardens garden folly feature.

Westhampton Beach Garden Club, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Old Westbury Gardens, Montauk Daisies, The Hamptons

Old Westbury Gardens. The mixed flower borders. A perfect English pleasure garden.

But the turn in the gardens was worth the ransom of a King. They were magnificent. The borders were developed and planted along the English model. The grand sweep of lawns would have graced any Duke or Baron’s estate designed by Lancelot Capability Brown.

Westhampton Beach Garden Club, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Old Westbury Gardens, Montauk Daisies, The Hamptons

The Great Beech on the West Terrace of Old Westbury Gardens. It was transplanted to this location as a mature tree.

On the West Porch of the mansion there is an ancient Beech (Fagus sylvatica) This large specimen was transplanted into its position many years ago while it was already a gigantic caliper tree. The effort is greatly appreciated because its situation is perfectly scaled to the garden room at that end of the house.

Westhampton Beach Garden Club, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Old Westbury Gardens, Montauk Daisies, The Hamptons

The Westhampton Beach Garden Club gathered in the club house of Westhampton Country Club. It was a well-lit room.

I was invited to speak at the garden club of Westhampton Beach. We met in the mansion-house of a sequestered golf course. The room was crowded but lit through large expanses of clerestory windows.

Westhampton Beach Garden Club, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Old Westbury Gardens, Montauk Daisies, The Hamptons

High tea after the presentation before the Westhampton Beach Garden Club meeting in the Westhampton Country Club.

High cream tea was served in the dining room. Ann and I were treated well with all of the trimmings associated with leisure and royal breeding. I felt like I had been transported to London in the time of my great correspondent, Peter Collinson.

Westhampton Beach Garden Club, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Old Westbury Gardens, Montauk Daisies, The Hamptons

Ah the lifestyle entices. The beach calls. Calm overtakes the senses.

At the end of the day, it was pleasant to think that we could relax in Old Westbury’s gazebo as the sun sank in the west. West Hampton.

Westhampton Beach Garden Club, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Old Westbury Gardens, Montauk Daisies, The Hamptons

Old Westbury Gardens gazebo at sundown.

Michigan Herb Associates in Congress

Michigan Herb Associates in Congress

“Travel brings power and love back into your life.”  Rumi

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page,”  Augustine of Hippo

Michigan Herb Associates, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sambucus canadensis, Lansing MI

John Bartram appears at the annual Michigan Herb Associates celebratory banquet. He appears to be as Ben Franklin’s printing displays best: Black and white and red all over…

This was another wondrous opportunity to meet a dazzling array of botanists and herbalists. Last year’s Herb of the Year was Sambucus spp. It was a grand celebration around the merit of not only that species but on all of the herbal and pharmacological benefits of plants in general.

Michigan Herb Associates, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sambucus canadensis, Lansing MI

Elderberry was the theme of the symposium. That’s Sambucus Canadensis in the Linnaean nomenclatural system with the native found in the wilds of North America

I presented three separate lectures on varied topics related to my interests, history and knowledge of botanicals.

Michigan Herb Associates, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sambucus canadensis, Lansing MI

A reflection of the warmth in the room!

Michigan Herb Associates, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sambucus canadensis, Lansing MI

The banquet was a sell-out! Notice that the centerpieces had John in a bottle. How perfectly captured I felt!

I appeared as a guest at the annual banquet. The centerpieces on the table had copies of my only known printed likeness pushed inside a bottle. Like a stranded seafarer, I was cast away on all of the tables waiting to be picked up and discovered.

Michigan Herb Associates, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sambucus canadensis, Lansing MI

Members and vendors interact. It’s a natural occurrence.

One of the special lectures was on my contributions to the Appendix to the Medicina Britannica of 1751.

Michigan Herb Associates, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sambucus canadensis, Lansing MI

John Bartram displays his knowledge of the natural medical pharmacopeia.


Coming out of that document is my description of the well-known American Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis):

“It makes a fine Salve for healing Wounds and Ulcers or to remove Pain and Swelling. It may be used as a purgative or an emetic. This will promote labor in childbirth and has curative powers over pains in the head and congestion in the Kidneys and Lungs.”

Michigan Herb Associates, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sambucus canadensis, Lansing MI

Vendors at the trade show represented a beautiful array of crafty botanicals and natural plants.

The rest of the outing to the campus of Michigan State University included a visit to the remarkable Children’s Garden.

Michigan Herb Associates, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sambucus canadensis, Lansing MI

It’s a small world of discovery in the Children’s Garden at Michigan State University.

Michigan Herb Associates, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sambucus canadensis, Lansing MI

The beauty of the Children’s Garden at Michigan State University is in the colorful details of arbors, houses, and paving. Even with winter’s snow on the ground the garden presents a friendly, welcoming face to young people.

Even though it was under snow, I could see the very happy bones of the place. It would have entranced my children when they were of that age.

Michigan Herb Associates, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sambucus canadensis, Lansing MI

Colorful sunburst paving opens the experience at the Michigan State University Children’s Garden.

Even in my advanced years, the color of the architecture and the quality of the paving achieved a harmony of natural connection that could not fail to amuse the younger set.

Michigan Herb Associates, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sambucus canadensis, Lansing MI

The Michigan State University Clarence E. Lewis Landscape Arboretum has an imposing entrance to the grounds.

While just across the way, there was the entrance to the Clarence E. Lewis Landscape Arboretum. What a surprising trip it was. I experienced gardens, within gardening, within friendly meetings. All around successful.

Bartram’s Boxes at the Philadelphia Flower Show

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sara Brown, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, PHS, Philadelphia Flower Show

John and Ann Bartram in their recreated garden at the Philadelphia Flower Show

“My head runs all upon the works of God in nature. It is through that telescope I see God in his glory.”   John Bartram, December 3, 1762

“Since ten years old, I had a great inclination to plants.  I knew all that I observed by sight, though not by the proper names having no person or books to instruct me.”   John Bartram

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, Sara E. Brown, Philadelphia Flower Show, Williamson Technical School

The history of Bartram in his garden was explained by the display constructed by Williamson Technical School at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

It was a glorious day to return to Philadelphia. Members of the senior class of Williamson Technical School unveiled their exhibition on the cultivation, harvesting, packing, and transport of plants and seeds for my Bartram’s Boxes. This major tribute to my seminal work on the distribution of native plant species through the horticultural world was on display at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, Sara E. Brown, Philadelphia Flower Show, Williamson Technical School

John Bartram fronting the Williamson Technical School booth on the historic Bartram’s Boxes.

I greatly enjoyed sitting in the front of the display. Some would say that it is the height of recognition to have a booth at the world famous Philadelphia Flower Show dedicated to one’s life’s work. So noted! The show’s sponsor, The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, is an organization founded in 1827 at a meeting “of gentleman farmers, botanists and other plant enthusiasts” that included members of my family. From that simple beginning such a tremendous show has grown.

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, Sara E. Brown, Philadelphia Flower Show, Williamson Technical School

The display of seeds introduced by Bartram in his overseas shipments of botanical boxes was encyclopedic.

On exhibit were bags of all of my most favored plant species: Quercus rubra (Red Oak,) Acer rubrum (Red Maple,) Magnolia grandiflora and all of the magnificent understory shrubs. The assortment was greater than any I’d seen collected since days of my youth!

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, Sara E. Brown, Philadelphia Flower Show, Williamson Technical School

All of the samples were displayed in historically authentic context. The boxes would actually have looked like this.

The team of students from Williamson was a collection of scholars, botanists, artists and carpenters that reminded me of me at the same age. They were enthusiastic in their conversation. They were engaged with the topic. They were well turned out.

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, Sara E. Brown, Philadelphia Flower Show, Williamson Technical School

There were substantial awards given to the Williamson Technical School Booth on their demonstration of the Bartram’s Boxes.

As a result of their study and their industry, the display was awarded many prestigious prizes. I was very glad for them that their effort received its due recognition. How amazing after all of these years to be confronted with the very image of my house and garden and work rooms and packing stations.

History can and does repeat itself!

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, Sara E. Brown, Philadelphia Flower Show, Williamson Technical School

The major awards for this display on Bartram’s Boxes reflected the student’s dedication and passion to the subject. John Bartram would have been very, very proud!