Herbaria 51

Internship Blog/Plants/Interesting Facts

Mount Cuba: Day 9 July 21, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — To Prune Or Not To Prune @ 7:21 pm
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This morning, I briefly worked with Donna to water the South and East Terraces before the interns from Winterthur Gardens arrived to have lunch with us at Mt. Cuba. The Winterthur interns showed up around 10AM, and we gave them a short tour of Mt. Cuba, as it was hotter than blazes outside.

The lunch was wonderful (thanks Jeanette for ordering it!), and it was informative to hear the Winterthur interns talk about their experiences.

The grounds staff were dismissed at 1:30pm due to the heat, so we didn’t get much of a chance to work with our mentors. I didn’t go home because of the Intern Conference at Winterthur at 5:00pm. Interns from all over the area (Longwood Gardens, Winterthur, Mt. Cuba, Chanticleer, and Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve) attended and we all mingled. I  had a blast at the picnic even though it was so hot out! We played some volleyball (yes,  myself and the other interns are crazy!),  and ate some food and had some ice cream to help combat the heat.

I saw Joshua, who is the year-long plant records intern at Longwood Gardens, and told him that I’d be seeing him on Monday.

I can’t believe that tomorrow will be my last day at Mt. Cuba. Time has really flown!


Mount Cuba: Day 6 July 18, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — To Prune Or Not To Prune @ 8:04 pm
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Today was HOT with no end in sight (the temperature is supposed to be creeping all week)! Donna, Mike, Walker and I worked over in the Lilac Allée. Mike and Walker mulched a bit while I weeded in/around the other plants.

When we were done, I watered the forecourt, which was home to some Geum, Carex, and Phlox.  They definitely needed the water; they are the border plants that surround the house which is made out of brick, and most of the forecourt is a paved surface.

I finished that, and watered both the South and East Terrace before lunch. After lunch, Donna had me start watering 1/2 of the Sweet Gum Allée, as it was in the shade. We actually worked through afternoon break! So we decided to take a little breather, and I laid down in the shade of the Sweet Gum Allée because I didn’t have enough energy to go to the head house (which is where breaks and lunch normally happen).

I have almost mastered that blasted water meter, but a hose decided it was going to kick my hind end at the end of the day when we were packing up. I fought the hose, but the hose won.  I definitely will be sleeping good tonight!


Mount Cuba: Day 4 July 14, 2011

Filed under: Mt. Cuba Center,Triad Internship — To Prune Or Not To Prune @ 8:56 pm
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This morning, Donna had me water at the end of the Sweet Gum Allée  in the four beds surrounding the sculpture “Samara Turning in the Wind,” and around the Maltese cross pool in the Round Garden. These areas (well, almost all of Donna’s areas) can get extremely hot in the afternoon, as they are on the south side of the house.

Donna helped to put watering plants into perspective for me. Sure, we have all watered plants at one point or another but Donna said that the average Joe’s definition of “watering” is waving the wand over top of the bed half a dozen times. Poor watering like this tends to show in the plants: smaller size, less flowers, shallower root system. How much water a plant needs is determined by the type of plant and the size of its roots (or root ball).

To give one an idea, here’s a general list of what needs the most amount of water to the least:

  • Trees
  • Shrubs
  • Perennials
  • Annuals
It may seem common-sense to some, but you’d be surpr

We then moved on to the East Terrace to remove the last of the Agapanthus because of the Staff Picnic we will be having tomorrow. We dead-headed them and moved them to the greenhouse area, and went back to the terrace to clean up the spent flowers. I also ended up watering as well as dead-heading the hibiscus, and watered the Joe Pye Weed.

Before lunch, we potted up two Hydrangea quercifolia (oak-leaf hydrangea) ‘Little Honey’ in the greenhouse. They have the most beautiful chartreuse leaves. We brought a third plant to shadier side of the East Terrace to brighten it up.

After lunch, we visited the Lilac Allée to weed and water.

When afternoon break was over, Pete went over the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), or the Hazard Communication Safety Training. OSHA(Occupational Safety and Health Administration) states that every employee has the right to have a safe work environment, and that employers are required to train employees about potential hazards on the job, methods to prevent accidents or incidents, where eyewash stations are, etc. For more information, check out OSHA’s website at http://www.osha.gov/workers.html.

After Pete was done with me, I went back to Donna and we retreated at the end of the day to the kennel to sort accession labels by bed numbers to make it easier when the time comes to label the plant material.


Mount Cuba: Day 3 July 13, 2011

Filed under: Mt. Cuba Center,Triad Internship — To Prune Or Not To Prune @ 6:55 pm
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Today, Donna had me water the terraces first thing in the morning. She helped me with attaching the water meter. I would say that I lack finesse with putting it on, but I am 99.9% sure that the meter has a mind of its own and was being difficult to spite me. I managed to water the entire South Terrace without a problem, but the real fun began when I went to move my hose from the South Terrace to the East. I detached the meter from the hose, but I forgot to do one important step before removing the meter.

And thus begins Piatt’s Pro-Tips for Landscapades:

Be sure to ALWAYS release “pressure” from the wand end of the hose, or else you will take a shower–whether you want one or not.

I can’t complain much about getting a little wet; with the heat we have been experiencing, it was welcomed! I finally moved my hose from the South Terrace to the East, and proceeded to hook up my equipment. I watered half of the East Terrace before I came to my second problem: I somehow managed to knock loose that infernal water meter and lost water pressure. I shut off the water and attempted to fix my predicament, but to no avail. I went to search for Donna, but found Mike Janis (who volunteers at Mt. Cuba three days a week) instead and I asked for his help.  He kindly stopped what he was doing and came to my rescue.

Mike shares  my same view on the water meter, and told me that the most important thing was to make sure that the threads line up on both the water meter and the hose. It is a little difficult to do since the water meter is made out of metal and the hose is plastic, but if you take your time, there should not be an issue. Mike, thanks again for helping me out.

I finished watering the terrace, and after break, Donna started me on dead-heading Echinacea purpurea (cone flower) in the Round Garden. I worked on them before and after lunch; it was a long project. Which brings me to the next several Piatt’s Pro-Tips for Landscapades:

  • If you know that you’ll be working with things like Echinacea (cone flower), or  Heliopsis (woodland sunflower), wear the appropriate clothing.  They may seem harmless; delightful even, with those cheery brightly colored flowers, but they will make you ITCH. They have hairs all over their leaves and stems which aggravates the skin. Wear gloves. Wear jeans/long pants. Wear a long sleeve shirt if you want. You’ll be happy you did.  I did not know I was going to be working with them today, or I would have worn long pants. At least I had my gloves.
  • Be aware of the wildlife around you. More specifically, the insect life around you. Even more specifically: bees. Bees are doing what they were born to do: Pollinating flowers.  They do not mind being cozy with you. In fact, they don’t even pay attention to you; they just don’t pollen-pickin’ care. Just be aware of them and dead-head things with caution. Sometimes, the bee decides she’s going to land on the flower you want to dispose: let her. Pick another flower to prune in the meantime. She will  fly away soon enough. Although I did not get stung today, this is just a cautionary tip to others if they ever need to dead-head flowers in the presence of bees.
  • If you know a plant has a virus or disease, always clean your equipment. Cleaning your equipment saves lives and money.  It saves plant lives and your money. I had to do this today with the cone flowers, as some of them had a virus. I sprayed my pruners with some Lysol after every plant, to avoid spreading the virus to other healthy plants.
This concludes your Plant Service Announcement.

Mount Cuba: Day 2 July 12, 2011

Filed under: Mt. Cuba Center,Triad Internship — To Prune Or Not To Prune @ 8:47 pm
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Donna and I did not waste any time getting to work today; we were busy bees! I occupied myself with dead-heading the Nile Lilies that we had moved from the terraces yesterday while she took care of some paperwork. I could hardly believe how much sap came out of the plants while I was cutting them back. I also had to be a little wary of some bees getting some last-minute breakfast out of the flowers; getting stung by a bee was not on my to do list! When I  finished with the Nile Lily, I moved on to the terrace where I dead-headed the Hibiscus ‘Luna White’ and weeded underneath the Magnolia tree.

After we tackled our tasks, Donna and I headed to the Round Garden to do some pruning. Donna had some Itea plants in the garden that begun to morph into a hedge. She instructed me on how to prune them to their “natural” shape, and told me that she wanted them to become individual plants again. I was a little confused and about how to prune Itea, and a little nervous to cut as it was my first time working with the plant. I have only pruned the lilac in my garden and a few viburnums in Dr. Frey’s Production and Management of Ornamental Plants at the University of Delaware during the spring of 2010.  The general rule of thumb for pruning shrubs is to cut one-third of the oldest stems. This encourages new growth and rejuvenates the plant.

Donna informed me that it was okay to be a little aggressive with Itea virginica (Virginia Sweetspire), and I felt more comfortable about pruning it. Once Donna felt I had the hang of it, she then moved me on to pruning some Ilex glabra ‘Densa’ (‘Densa’ Inkberry)into a  “meatball” or rounded shape. She told me that ‘Densa’ Inkberry is the native response to using boxwood (Buxus sempervirens). By pruning the Inkberry into a rounded shape, we can make it look denser than what it appears.

I met with Julia during break to discuss my project for Mt. Cuba. We decided that I would be doing the Fall handout for the docents (or the people who give tours at Mt. Cuba), where I have to give descriptions of 15 plants that have fall interest. I can’t wait to start on this–it’s right up my alley! (Or should I say “allée” ?) Not to mention, it will give me an opportunity to brush up on the ornamental values of native plants.


Mount Cuba: Day 1 July 11, 2011

Filed under: Mt. Cuba Center,Triad Internship — To Prune Or Not To Prune @ 8:33 pm
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Blogger’s Note: I have back-dated my first two entries to when they were originally supposed to be recorded, instead of them being posted today (7-13-2011). My first two days at Mount Cuba were a whirlwind; the first thing I wanted to do when I got home was: Take the world’s coldest shower. The second? Eat a bunch of water ice and call it “dinner.” And the third? GO TO BED! The last thing I wanted to do when I got home was getting on my computer… Another thing to mention: I will be making separate posts for pictures that I have taken for my first 3 days at Mount Cuba. Sorry for the inconvenience, but these entries will be long enough without them!

I arrived at Mount Cuba at 9:00AM and I was greeted  by Eileen Boyle. She gave me a brief tour and showed me a short video about the history of the Mount Cuba Center.  Mrs. Copeland was the one who pushed for more native plants within the landscape at Mount Cuba. She passed away in 2001–and in 2001, Mount Cuba officially became a non-profit organization which focuses on the use of Appalachian Piedmont plants and their conservation.

When setting up my rotation  a few months back with Julia Lo Ehrhardt (who is the Education Coordinator at Mt. Cuba), I had expressed an interest in plant education as well as maintaining and preserving historical landscapes. As a result, after the video I was handed over to Donna Wiley, who will be my mentor for the next two weeks.  She is in charge of taming the terraces around the house, the forecourt, the Round Garden (which was designed by Marian Coffin* in 1949), and the Lilac Allée.  Donna is very personable; I know I am going to enjoy working with her!

Donna and I began our work by staking some Delphinium that had been grown in a container, so that we could take it up to the East Terrace. We also moved some potted Agapanthus africanus, or Nile Lily, from the East Terrace down to the greenhouse area because they were nearing the end of their flowering stage. To replace them, we brought up Hibiscus moscheutos ‘Luna White’ (common swamp mallow) and Eupatorium purpureum ‘Little Joe’ ( dwarf Joe-Pye weed). Donna refers to ‘Luna White’ as the “party dress” plant; its flowers are showy and beautiful, one can’t possibly miss it! I think it looks like a bigger version of Catharanthus roseus!

During break,  I met some of the other Mount Cuba staff and some of the interns. It’s going to take me a few days to learn names and faces!

After break, Donna and I headed back to the East Terrace. While Donna rearranged the planted containers to her liking, she had me water the South Terrace which is home to some Impatiens, bog containers full of native pitcher plants (Sarracenia species), and other plants. We had to attach a water meter to the hose, which was quite cumbersome to attach, let alone lugging it around all over the terraces. I have a feeling that the meter and I will be sworn enemies by the end of this rotation…

It was very hot today, and both Donna and I were relieved when 4:30pm finally rolled around so we could retreat home and cool off in the air conditioning. 🙂

*Marian Coffin was a landscape architect; one of the very first women to enter into the field. She became a landscape architect out of necessity, and graduated from MIT.  She had a long career that spanned 53 years!  Her work can be seen not only at Mt. Cuba, but in other areas of the First State as well: the University of Delaware, Gibraltar, Winterthur. She has also done work in various areas of New York. For more information about Marian Coffin, I suggest reading Money, Manure & Maintenance: Ingredients for Successful Gardens of Marian Coffin (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Money-Manure-Maintenance-Ingredients-Successful/dp/0964300303).


The Eve Before: Triad Internship Musings July 10, 2011

Filed under: Longwood Gardens,Mt. Cuba Center,Triad Internship,UD Botanic Gardens — To Prune Or Not To Prune @ 10:02 pm
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I am extremely excited to start working for the next six weeks in the public horticulture field, getting dirty, and learning about the layered definition of “public horticulture” concerning the three institutions that I chose as my host gardens for the Triad Internship, which is sponsored by the Center for Public Horticulture at the University of Delaware.  I selected the Mount Cuba Center, Longwood Gardens, and the University of Delaware’s Botanic Gardens as my hosts because I feel they would give me the most accurate overview of what public horticulture means to the size of an institution. I have also interacted with each institution on a personal level as a visitor during one trip or another. I think that the Triad Internship provides an excellent opportunity to get a closer look and examine what goes on “behind the scenes” and focus on aspects of each garden setting that is not at the forefront of a visitor’s mind.

Tomorrow, I will be starting my first Triad Internship rotation at the Mount Cuba Center in Hockessin, Delaware. During the past two summer breaks from the University of Delaware, I have taken different classes here to further my education on plant materials:

  • Liliums
  • Plants in the Sun
  • Plants with Bold Visual Interest
  • Container Gardens – Pitcher Plants
The courses offered were led by different staff members of the Mount Cuba Center, and offered a plant to take home at the end of the class. All of the classes that I have taken have been informative, enjoyable, and affordable (which is extremely important for a college student!!), and I highly recommend that others look into these courses–they offer something for everyone.
Stay tuned to find out what the Mount Cuba Center has in store for me during the next two weeks!