Herbaria 51

Internship Blog/Plants/Interesting Facts

Longwood Gardens: Day 8 August 3, 2011

Filed under: Longwood Gardens,Triad Internship — To Prune Or Not To Prune @ 7:57 am
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Today, I began the task of tagging plants within QUAD M10. When you put an accession tag on a plant, you must always place it on the north side of the plant.

Staking the tags or tying them to the plants may not seem like a lot of work, but it was definitely a work out! The worst plant to tag within the Quad M10 was Opuntia phaeacantha, also known as the prickly pear cactus. I got stuck several times trying to put the brass tags in the ground. If you think the large, smooth spines are a pain, just wait until you have to pull the smaller, finer spines out of your skin.

And yet another Piatt’s Pro-Tips for Landscapades:

The best recommendation for getting the smaller, finer spines out of your skin? Stand in the sun–you should be able to catch the sunlight on the spines to see them and pull them out. It also would be extremely helpful if you had a pair of tweezers. 



Longwood Gardens: Day 4 July 28, 2011

Filed under: Longwood Gardens,Triad Internship — To Prune Or Not To Prune @ 10:23 pm
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SPOILER ALERT: This post may have some spoiler material about Longwood Garden’s Christmas Display. Readers, you have been warned. 


Today, I took another walk in the Theatre Garden and found more plants. I attempted to find a few  tags on the roses that were in my area, but it was a complicated task. A few tags were missing, or some of the original brass tags were hard to read due to the weathering they have endured over the years. Plants such as the roses, a few masses of Japanese Pachysandra, and others have different accession tags than some of the others that are used within the rest of the garden.

Normal accessions at Longwood Gardens look like the following:


The “2011” represents the year in which the plant was accessioned (meaning the year in which a number was assigned).

The “oo13” represents the individual number given to the plant. So in this case, 0013 tells us that it is the 13th plant to be accessioned in the year 2011.

The “*A” can represent an individual plant or mass of plants. “*A” is called a qualifier, and qualifiers are added if there are multiples of a plant in different areas. To use the Theatre Garden as an example, I have two Clematis ‘Will Goodwin.’ They are not planted next to each other, but rather on opposite sides of the garden. Because they are in different locations, I cannot mark them both as A (as a mass planting). This is the time where you would use two different qualifiers: A and B.

I also got to attend a Horticulture staff meeting today. These meetings happen quarterly so that everyone in Horticulture knows what everyone else is working on and are able to hear the achievements or benchmarks that have been reached by each division.

Divisional meetings, as Kristina and Sara Helm (who works on the herbarium at Longwood Gardens) told me occur on a monthly basis.

I was able to learn about the theme of Longwood’s Christmas display: GINGERBREAD! I won’t ruin it for everyone, but let me just tell you this; Longwood Gardens’ Unofficial Motto is “Go big or go home.” I’ve seen pictures of the plans that they have in store for the Christmas season, and it is going to be spectacular. It is embarrassing to admit that I have never been to a Longwood Gardens Christmas display, but rest assured I will not be missing this year’s display!

I also got to learn about the community efforts in which Longwood Gardens is participating. They are working on the beautification project in Rodney Square in Wilmington, Delaware. Currently, the site serves as a small park and as a transportation hub. Most of the trees that had been planted in this area have been failing due to soil compaction. They plan to overhaul the area, making ‘tree cell pits’ to allow the trees to have plenty of room for their root systems. A few plants that will be brought in are Quercus bicolor and Alnus americana. 

They are also working on the Curtis Institute; Linfest Hall (which is a state-of-the-art living space) in particular. Two plants that they will be installing here are Acer campestre and Platanus acerifolia.

Last but not least, they are assisting the Hamorton Church which is right up the road on Kennett Square Pike. I don’t recall all the details, but I do know that Longwood Gardens will be donating at least 18 large shrubs and 12 large trees to give the church with an instant landscape.

After that, I took pictures of  some plants that didn’t have images up on Plant Explorer.

All in all, a very interesting and exciting day at Longwood Gardens!


Longwood Gardens: Day 3 July 27, 2011

Filed under: Longwood Gardens,Triad Internship — To Prune Or Not To Prune @ 10:11 pm
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My main focus today was using Plant Explorer. Plant Explorer is a site that was launched by Longwood Gardens last year to provide information to the world about plants that are in the collection. This morning, I used Plant Explorer to look for the plants in my area that did not have pictures uploaded to the site. The number of plants that didn’t have pictures was relatively small, so it shouldn’t take me long to snap a few and get them uploaded to the site!

After I made my picture list, I took a walk around my area to find the plants that were on my plant inventory sheet. My plant inventory sheet has several columns-three of which (Accession, Name, and Location) had been filled out for me, thanks to BG-Base. The other columns, however, I had to fill out. For instance:

  • Status- I had to mark the plant in question alive (A), dead (D), dormant (Do), or unable to locate (UTL).
  • Picture-  I had to mark Y(es) or (N)o.
  • Brass Tag- Woody plants get big brass tags, and herbaceous materials would be getting smaller dog tags.
  • Mapped-  I only had to map the woody plants that were not previously mapped and stored into BG Map; herbaceous materials were located in “beds”, which had been one of Mindy’s projects. (Mindy used to be the curatorial intern at Longwood Gardens; she is now a seasonal worker in the curatorial office).
M10 is a huge area to cover; I still have quite a few plants on my inventory to find!

Longwood Gardens: Day 1 July 25, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — To Prune Or Not To Prune @ 9:19 pm
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Today was my first day at Longwood. I’m working with Kristina Aguilar and her one-year intern,  Joshua Willis.

I got assigned to map a 200′ x 200′ quadrant at Longwood Gardens, which was the Theatre Garden and the surrounding area. The Theatre Garden is a formal area that is highly visible to the public (no pressure in identifying, labeling, and mapping the plants at all)!

This garden has a Mediterranean-Californian dry feel to it; it is home to plants like hens-and-chicks, trifoliate orange, and sedum (which, I’ve now learned, that they’ve broken down into 3 different genera: Sedum, Hylotelephium, and Phedimus). The plant beds had been renovated this year; some plant materials were taken out, and others were added. I’ll get the chance to play plant-detective.

Plant records are important. Kristina told me if you don’t have them: you’re not a garden, but a park. Most institutions use BG Base/BG Map; the first being a data base in which you can make accessions (or records) of plants that are being kept in the garden, and the second being a program that is set “on top” of AutoCAD and is used to map the plants in the collection.

Most institutions use BG Base and BG map, but Kristina told me that Winterthur was one of the few that uses its own data base. BG Base is the “brain”; for instance, if it’s alive or dead, if it has been planted, moved to a different location, or removed altogether, how it came to you (plant, cutting, bare root, etc). You can also use this data base to keep track of your plant sources: who you got them from, where you got them. BG Base is also used to export the data to the web.

There’s 3 main tables that I’ll be working in for my project:

  • Plants
  • Names-which is the largest table within BG Base (it has 10 pages to fill out for data)!
  • Accessions

The most important thing to do before you start adding data into the data base is to make sure that the name is accepted. The way to verify this is to check with multiple, current sources. A few of the sources I used today were:

  • USDA.gov
  • eFlora.org
  • GRIN (Germplasm Resources Information Network)

Overall, an overwhelming change from the Mt. Cuba scene! I knew Longwood Gardens was a huge institution when I’ve been a visitor; but being behind the scenes and  looking at just the number of Horticulture staff, it really blew me away!


Mount Cuba: Day 10 July 22, 2011

Filed under: Longwood Gardens,Triad Internship,Uncategorized — To Prune Or Not To Prune @ 10:56 pm
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Today was my last day at Mt. Cuba. I am really sad about leaving; I thoroughly enjoyed working with all of the staff at Mt. Cuba and getting to know them over the last two weeks. I couldn’t have asked for a better two-week experience (except for maybe more pleasant weather); I couldn’t have asked for a better crew or a better group of co-terns to work with.

We did our Friday plant walk with Eileen from 8AM-9AM, then we were with Renée from 10AM-11AM-ish learning about insects; some were beneficial and some were harmful to the garden.

After we were finished with Renée, we had about an hour to ourselves for lunch, as they let the grounds staff off early due to the heat. After that, we were off on our Friday field trip to Longwood Gardens.

We met briefly with Brian Trader as he talked about continuing education and various other programs in the horticulture field that Longwood has to offer. When he was finished, Dee gave us our tour. She’s currently in the 2 year professional gardener’s program at Longwood.

We toured the Idea Garden, the Chimes Tower, the Birdhouse Treehouse, the Lookout Loft Treehouse, the Canopy Cathedral Treehouse, and the Conservatory. We also had a behind-the-scenes look at the Production/Research area,  which is where I’ll be working on Monday (with Kristina Aguilar in Plant Records).

We finished our tour and we went on to La Michoacana as a reward for touring Longwood in the heat. La Michoacana is a little mom-and-pop ice cream shop. If you’re looking for awesome (and unique flavors) of ice cream, this comes highly recommended (and so does their corn ice cream) if you happen to be in the area!!!


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.