Rooted to the Spot!

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”  –Michelangelo

Kirk R. Brown, Steve Tobin, John Bartram, Roots

Roots. Actual. Cast in Bronze.

“For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.”  ––Martin Luther

Steve Tobin, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Roots, Glass Technology

Glass Technique from Tobin Studio. Flying debris or Eagles soaring?

I started on my journey to the congress of arboriculture in Indianapolis.  I didn’t travel far before my path crossed with a vast open site devoted to the cultivation and display of roots:  metaphysical, organic, actual, symbolic, historic and ultimately esthetic.  It caught my eye like a fish bone would capture a swallow.  I couldn’t get rid of it.

Kirk R. Brown.  John Bartram.  Steve Tobin

The Cemetery. Glass. Memento mori. Headstones. Visit the room of memories

So I stopped and began to capture the scene.  There was a name over the door:  TOBIN.  Cryptic.  Could it be read as a hope:  “To Be In…?”  I tried the door.  It opened and gave me access to a parallel universe of exploded forms differing from my 18th Century experience.  The colors and shapes and textures and lines and volumes were familiar.  But the media and the technology and the idiom were totally foreign.

Kirk R. Brown.  John Bartram.  To Be In

To be in. Simple. Sometimes. Or not.

It was as if God wanted us to see His creation as something empowering and we mere mortal phantoms were only secondary–or imaginary–to His primary goals and objectives.  The shapes took on iconic resonance with everything in His nature that draws me to it.  I am a slave to God’s nature.

Kirk R. Brown.  John Bartram.  Roots.  Trees.  Steve Tobin

Forest Floor in Bronze. The finest technique in keeping with the baptistery doors in Florence. Ancient and modern

I was rooted to the spot.  Tobin, if he was the owner, was not present.  But his life took shape on the table before me and was illustrated in his selection of art displayed about the room.

Kirk R. Brown.  Steve Tobin.  John Bartram

Dancing on the table. Name the rhythm. Test the steps.

His collection was displayed in maquette form.  Smaller than life.  Illustrious of what might be or what might yet be dreamed.  It was strewn in a magical order of rhythmic hierarchy across a natural wood expanse of conference table.  They were dancers.  Moving mystically, hysterically, literally.  And yet they were just roots to trees.  Intertwined, enmeshed, moving through their quadrilles, waltzes, tangos, embraces.  There was a sadness of passion presented in their intertwined limbs. 

Fred and Ginger.  John Bartram.  Kirk R. Brown.  Steve Tobin.  Dancing.  Roots

Fred and Ginger. I can’t state it any more simply. Can’t you see “Road to Rio?”

The decor surrounding this collection of dancers was eclectic. 

John Bartram.  Kirk R. Brown.  Roots.  Steve Tobin

Trees. Topiary. Horticultural Letters. Look very, very closely. This is hundred of hours of human labor.

It consisted of African tribal stools, contemporary leather sling chairs, patinated cupric towers, spheres, and eggs welded of cast letters.  Large images of his work decked the walls. 

Kirk R. Brown.  John Bartram.  Steve Tobin

Steve Tobin signing monographs. Artist. Artistically.

There was a rack full of cast bronze women’s shoes filled with the bounty of the garden.  They were empty of the life of the women but filled to overflowing with the bounty of Ceres.  God-like patinated reminders that solid form can become brittle bones or over-made rouged phantasms.

Kirk R. brown.  John Bartram.  Shoes hurt my feet.  Buckles.  Steve Tobin

Shoes. Bronze. Hard to wear. Solid. Not functional. Natural.

Small glazed pottery vessels spoke of natural volcanic eruptions.  Earthen-ware plates demonstrated a high technical skill rivaling any produced by ancient civilizations around the world.  And there was a layer of activity, production shop dust, stasis, and disuse about the space.  The real work and ethic happened behind the door.


Steve Tobin introduced himself with his art before I ever had the pleasure to meet him.  He came into the atelier later.  After I had time to sit down, remove my gloves, and absorb some of the eternity that had filled the previous fifteen minutes.DSC_0095

It all became a rush to discuss the root of the matter.  Were we talking about trees or art or nature or glass.  Was it a discussion of hard material or matter-of-fact dreams.  The roots were something tangible as he drove and I drooled.  He had me get out of the vehicle and view them from under, around and through. 

Roots.  John Bartram.  Kirk R. Brown.  Steve Tobin

Large Roots

He asked me to name another artist who captured in the same fashion the worlds he had created.  I was incapable or coming up with a contemporary name:  Gaudi’s sinuous curves and gothic arches, Durer’s detail and fantastical worlds, Escher prints, Italian, African, Old World, Prehistoric atavism.



International Arborists Gather

Quakers should be taught the “…Use and Service of Trees”       —From “A Mite Into the Treasury” by Thomas Lawson 1680

John Bartram, Wyck Rose Garden, Kirk R. Brown, International Society of Arboriculture

In any garden, John Bartram uses first his eyes and then his intelligence to identify the unique plant material and the botanical connections

“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

American Philosophical Society, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, International Society of Arboriculture

I passed the American Philosophical Society’s headquarters behind the State House on many a walk through the city of Philadelphia. The trees have prospered as well as the institution.


Indiana.  Indianapolis.  The name harkens back to an ancient Greek city-state:  “The City of the Indians.”  I’m told that it’s inhabited by a race of Hoosiers:  A species unknown to me in my youth, but entirely recognized as yet another of the subspecies of inhabitants we now know as Americans.  I used to fear and distrust the indians of my region.  But I’m told that the western settlements have been safe and quite civilized for these many years since.  There is even a well-respected zoo in this metropolis.  Perhaps it’s where they keep the more wild members of the community.

I’m traveling into the dark interior of this vast and daunting continent to conference with a band of arborists.  As you might know, an arborist is a person who specializes in the study and care of trees.  That would be me.  I introduced many dozens of them into the trade I conducted with my European counterparts:  Acer rubrum, Quercus rubrum, Magnolia grandiflora, M. stellata, M. virginiana, and so many more that I hesitate to have it appear that my pride overtakes my study of science.

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

Yet another Magnolia to investigate. This one is in the garden at Stenton, James Logan’s plantation house outside of Philadelphia in the modern community of Germantown.

Many people contributed to my success in the world.  Correspondence with Carl Linnaeus, The Dukes of Richmond and Norfolk, Mr. Philip Miller, Peter Collinson, Dr. James Fothergill, Peter Kalm and Robert James Petre (Baron Petre) of Thorndon Hall Essex gave me the professional encouragement that my lack of formal education denied me.  Personal friendships on this side of the Atlantic with Benjamin Franklin and James Logan allowed me to connect with a much wider circle of scientists, writers, and gentlemen than a farmer with 700 acres on the banks of the Schuylkill River could ever hope to reach.

Awbury Arboretum, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, International Society of Arboriculture

I always plan a detour when I hear that there’s a monumental tree in the neighborhood. This is in the garden at Awbury Arboretum.

I am an Arborist.  I consider myself a botanist.  King George III officially recognized my accomplishments by naming me “Royal Botanist to the North American Colonies.”   By extension, I believe that I can lay claim to the title of King’s Arborist.  I gave him many of my favorite discoveries.

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, International Society of Arboriculture, Scattergood Foundations

Large trees of great age are very expressive but silent sentinels in any landscaped space.

The meeting in Indianapolis will be conducted as a congress of professionals.  My amanuensis, Kirk R. Brown will also be delivering lectures on “Sustainability and the American Dream” with a great deal of help from Mr. Jefferson’s fundamental writings on the subject of Democracy.  His other presentation involves additional legalities confronting the horticultural community with “Storm Over Water:  Municipalities Regulate Land Use.”

I invite you to participate if you are resident in the area.  I also encourage those of you who read this to communicate any of your own observations on the topics under discussion.

Williamson Free School Gardeners and the Quaker Botanical Trade

“I am continually impelled by a restless spirit of curiosity in pursuit of new productions of nature, my chief happiness consists in tracing and admiring the infinite power, majesty, and perfection of the great almighty Creator, and in the contemplation, that through divine aid and permission, I might be instrumental in discovering and introducing into my native country, some original productions of nature, which might become useful to society.”    William Bartram

Williamson Free School, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Philadelphia Flower Show

The flag is displayed proudly on the parade ground of Williamson Free School where all classes and categories of students gather each morning for roll.

The landscape and horticulture students at Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades are working on an exhibit demonstrating the complexity of trading in botanical specimens during the 18th century.  Their investigations in the trans Atlantic crossing of seeds, roots, cuttings, divisions and containers will be unveiled to the horticultural public during this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show:  It will be a brilliant assemblage of English landscape design and American scientific ingenuity.

John Bartram, Philadelphia Flower Show, Kirk R. Brown, Williamson Free School

This miniature model of Independence Hall displays the level of professionalism and horticultural excellence attained by featured exhibits on the show floor.

The senior class, under the tutelage of Chuck Feld, invited me to tour their campus and discourse on the technical challenges of sending the dozens of Bartram’s Boxes that successfully landed on English shores.  Officially, the students attend this school to receive training in programs that award them a degree as an Associate in Specialized Technology.  Also helping the Horticulture, Landscaping and Turf Management class will be the combined efforts of the other programs in Carpentry, Paint and Coatings, Construction Technology and Machine Tool Technology.

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Philadelphia Flower Show, Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades

John Bartram joins the seniors of the Horticulture, Landscape and Turf class at Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades.

The display will showcase all of the native North American botanicals that I introduced to the world of horticulture through my correspondence with many of the world’s most famous men of letters, science, and industry:  James Logan, Peter Collinson, Philip Miller, Carl Linnaeus, Benjamin Franklin, Mark Catesby, Peter Kalm, Johann Gronovius, and Johann Dillenius.

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Philadelphia Flower Show, Williamson Free School

John in a familiar pose of writing to his many horticultural correspondents.

Featured in the exhibit will be rooted seedlings of the Franklinia alatamaha.  This tree, collected on a tour through the swamps of Georgia along the Alatamaha River, was never again found in wild after the early part o the 19th century.  The examples that we now have of it are all descendants of the original copse of trees that my son William and I discovered in 1765.

John Bartram, William Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Franklinia alatamaha

John and William Bartram discovered the unique Franklinia during a collecting trip along the Alatamaha River in Georgia.

The exhibit will educate the masses about the how, why, when, where, and who of the start of international horticulture.  This fine concept will ultimately recognize the amazing vitality and economic incentive given the art and science of botany by those members of the Philadelphia Quaker community.  Please stop by the booth on your trip through this “Brilliant” Philadelphia Flower Show between March 2 and 10.  I will be fronting the booth to welcome all comers during the first weekend of the display.

Williamson Free School, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown Philadelphia Flower Show

The senior carpentry class from Williamson Free School will be constructing the bones of the Philadelphia Flower Show Educational Exhibit

As the spring season opens, more will be said about the specifics of the display and the difficulty of translating a vision of 300 years of international plant search and sharing.

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