Pub­lic gar­dens work to pass on prized hor­ti­cul­tural skills

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Grow­ing the so-called "thou­sand bloom mum" - a show­stop­per at Long­wood Gar­dens' fall Chrysan­the­mum Fes­ti­val - takes 18 months and thou­sands of worker hours. In the week be­fore the an­nual event, at least six peo­ple work full-time prep the plant. But with fewer young peo­ple choos­ing ca­reers in hor­ti­cul­ture, Long­wood is work­ing to en­sure that the ef­fort and ex­per­tise that goes into grow­ing this Ja­panese spe­cialty plant is pre­served for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. Three col­lege stu­dents are doc­u­ment­ing how to suc­cess­fully raise a thou­sand bloom mum by cre­at­ing a video ar­chive that can be used to teach fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of hor­ti­cul­tur­ists and also spark in­ter­est in the field.

"The younger gen­er­a­tion can't see the re­ward of do­ing this," said Jim Harbage, flori­cul­ture Leader at the 1,000-acre (405-hectare) gar­den and education cen­ter in Ken­nett Square, about 35 miles west of Philadel­phia. "It's not enough to have a sense of pride. It's not some­thing that pays a lot of money." The fear of los­ing the tricks of the hor­ti­cul­ture trade is not lim­ited to grow­ing chrysan­the­mums. Pa­tri­cia Bin­der, spokes­woman for Na­tional Gar­den Clubs Inc., said there is a con­cern "about the po­ten­tial loss of in­sti­tu­tional knowl­edge and the loss of gar­den­ing knowl­edge in gen­eral."

In an ef­fort to spark in­ter­est in the trade, the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion an­nu­ally awards schol­ar­ships to stu­dents study­ing hor­ti­cul­ture and re­lated fields. Sim­i­larly, the Amer­i­can Pub­lic Gar­dens As­so­ci­a­tion has part­nered with pub­lic gar­dens na­tion­wide, in­clud­ing Long­wood, on the Seed Your Fu­ture ini­tia­tive, which pro­motes hor­ti­cul­ture as a ca­reer for young peo­ple. Long­wood Gar­dens de­cided to part­ner with the Univer­sity of Delaware as part of its "suc­ces­sion plan­ning," said gar­dener Tim Jennings, who spe­cial­izes in wa­ter lilies.

In days past, a young gar­dener would learn trade se­crets from a mas­ter gar­dener. Cur­rent Long­wood mum mas­ter, Amanda Galano, worked in the shadow of now-re­tired Yoko Arakawa, who brought the thou­sand bloom mum to the pub­lic gar­den. Arakawa learned the in­tri­ca­cies of grow­ing the com­plex plant through mul­ti­ple trips to her na­tive Ja­pan, where suc­cess­fully grow­ing a thou­sand bloom is con­sid­ered an art some call "high-wire hor­ti­cul­ture."

Find­ing new meth­ods

By the end of this sum­mer, the stu­dents will have pro­duced nine videos that doc­u­ment part of the mum grow­ing process. Each stu­dent has a dif­fer­ent role in doc­u­ment­ing the pro­cesses. Sopho­more Re­becca Ral­ston, who is study­ing wildlife and the en­vi­ron­ment, writes the script for the video. Ju­nior Joy McCusker, who is study­ing land­scape ar­chi­tec­ture and land­scape hor­ti­cul­ture de­sign, is "the lens," fol­low­ing the mas­ter gar­den­ers around as they work and tak­ing pre­cise notes. Se­nior Max Gold han­dles vi­su­als and has used drones, a GoPro and a gim­bal cam­era to get his shots.

"We have to find new meth­ods to add to the tool­box to teach new hor­ti­cul­tur­ists what's im­por­tant," said Ral­ston, who ad­mit­ted she wasn't aware chrysan­the­mums and mums were the same thing un­til her first day on the job. This year, Long­wood would like to see its thou­sand bloom top 1,500 blooms in time for the Chrysan­the­mum Fes­ti­val in Oc­to­ber. It can't get much big­ger, Galano said, be­cause it wouldn't fit through the green­house door. At­ten­tion to de­tail is crit­i­cal. Some prac­tices are sim­ply hard to ex­plain, Galano said, and a care­fully nar­rated how-to video makes a big dif­fer­ence.

That said, best gar­den­ing prac­tices are al­ways evolv­ing, Jennings said. He's con­fi­dent that while the videos will serve as start­ing points for new­com­ers, they'll need to be up­dated as years pass. "Gar­den­ing is not a stag­nant field. The na­ture of be­ing a gar­dener is want­ing to try some­thing new," he said. "Ev­ery year it's, 'What if we did this? What if we changed that?' We're al­ways try­ing to make things eas­ier and less la­bor-in­ten­sive while bal­anc­ing that with tra­di­tion and not stray­ing too far afield." — AP

Amanda Galano, third from right, demon­strates how she en­cour­ages the growth of a Thou­sand Bloom Chrysan­the­mum to stu­dents Re­becca Ral­ston, right, Joy McCusker, and Max Gold at Long­wood Gar­dens in Ken­nett Square. — AP pho­tos

Amanda Galano demon­strates to stu­dents how she en­cour­ages the growth of a Thou­sand Bloom Chrysan­the­mum in a green­house.

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