The Year of Natural Fibers

Capital Improvements: A Growing Place

Landscape News: Watercourse & Pond Restoration

Programs and Events: Spring is Around the Corner!

Save the Date: Awbury Al Fresco

Underground Railroad Quilt Code

Winter Exploration at Awbury

Wild Wisdom Program

New Summer Camps

TLC News

Iman Jones Photo Exhibit

Calling All Birders!

Philly Goat Update

Board Member Spotlight: Bryan Hanes

Wedding Wire Award

Awbury Garden Tours

Awbury designates 2019 as The Year of Natural Fibers

by Hideko Secrest, Leaflet Editor

Following its successful themed Year of the Pollinator, Awbury Arboretum has declared 2019 The Year of Natural Fibers. In partnership with the Philadelphia Guild of Handweavers (PGHW), Awbury is sponsoring twelve months of events, exhibitions, and workshops centered on fibers and associated crafts.

Program Director Heather Zimmerman explained that the idea for this literally grew from a Teen Leadership Corps (TLC) garden a couple of summers ago: “The kids from the TLC program were experimenting with growing flax and cotton. That, coupled with the weaving boards in AdventureWoods, ignited the idea of a focus on fibers—to not only explore fibers, but to examine the intersection of fiber and the social fabric.”

Flax plants

Last May, the Handweaver’s Guild got a grant from the Mid-Atlantic Fiber Association to purchase six rigid heddle looms. According PGHW Outreach and Education Co-Chair Sara Robbins, “That’s why we originally contacted Heather, to talk about offering a workshop on these looms.” Rigid heddle looms are “kind of the gateway [looms] to weaving …. It’s simple for beginners to learn on, it’s light, it’s portable, it’s easy to warp, and it’s inexpensive,” said Robbins.

In a meeting last spring with Zimmerman and PGHW Program Coordinator Judy Donovan, Robbins recalls, “I think we were in her office, and Heather said to us, ‘This is perfect timing, because next year is going to be the Year of Natural Fibers at Awbury.’” Robbins and Donovan jumped at the chance to collaborate, because, according to Robbins, “We’re community partners with Awbury and I personally am committed to Awbury. We have a natural dye garden [in the Agricultural Village]. We have participated for years in [Awbury’s] Fall Festival.… I go to a lot of the dinners there.” Donovan added, “Of course, we never say no.”

Wool samples

The Year of Natural Fibers kick-off event took place on Saint Distaff’s Day, January 7. Saint Distaff’s Day was a medieval holiday, taking place after the twelve days of Christmas when women traditionally went back to their work of spinning. The distaff was a long rod that held the unspun flax or wool, and was the archetypal symbol of women’s work. The event at the Cope House featured people demonstrating the entire journey from raw fiber to a woven piece of cloth.

Using a drum carder

Robbins elaborated: “We had Guild members carding the fleece: we had hand carders and one member with a drum carder. The carders would hand the rolags [rolls of carded fiber of uniform thickness] off to the five spinners. We had cotton, linen, and wool being spun. Then they handed it off to me and I had a small loom and I wove [the spun fiber] onto a warp I had set up.”

Both women mentioned that, when they do outreach events for PGHW, they like people to participate. “The hope is not only to share, but to get people interested in the fiber arts,” said Robbins, adding, “I’m also very committed to trying to bring people in to Awbury because it’s a little gem in the middle of the city that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.”

Sara Robbins demonstrates weaving

Donovan said they put their heads together to come up with a diverse list of workshops for each month: “Sara and I worked together on [the schedule]. We didn’t want it to be just weaving. We really had to stretch our imaginations to come up with all of the workshops. We wanted not only children to attend, but also adults. I knew that if we got people involved, they would be hooked.”

Among the many workshops you can sign up for are: a wet felting class, an eco-dyeing class where students will dye the imprint of common leaves and flowers onto silk or cotton, a basket-weaving class using reeds, and a class making ripped-up discarded clothing into jewelry or wreaths. “We’re trying to make it as natural and eco-friendly as possible,” said Robbins.

PGHW’s Judy Donovan and Bridget Flynn take a break from spinning

Rigid heddle loom

Donovan, who will be leading a number of the workshops here at Awbury, has been a fiber artist since she was 11. “I wouldn’t have called it art back then,” she laughed. “I grew up on an island in the South Pacific and there were no stores nearby; you had to order clothes from Sears & Roebuck. So I learned to sew; I sewed my own clothes. When I was in junior high and high school, I sewed [costumes] for theatrical productions…. My grandmother was a lace crocheter. She taught me knitting in my twenties. Then I started quilting, then beading, and then I started making wearable art and entering competitions. It combined the fabric, the yarn, and the beads all in one piece.”

image courtesy of Kelbourne Woolens

In the early years of Philadelphia, William Penn encouraged skilled textile workers from Germany to settle in what is now known as Germantown, which became famous for dyeing and spinning of wool and flax. This focus on fiber and textiles helped Philadelphia become known as the “Workshop of the World.” Thus, the Year of Natural Fibers will conclude in December with a dinner and talk by Barbara Parman on “The Fiber Mills of Northwest Philadelphia.”

Zimmerman noted that there will also be a number of other events with different partners, including a talk on quilt codes for the Underground Railroad in partnership with Johnson House, and a yarn-bombing event in AdventureWoods by a local knitting meet-up group.

As he did last year for the Year of the Pollinator, Social Media staff member Dan Sardaro is writing a monthly blog on the featured fiber of the month. He has already written on flax and cotton, and March will feature coir. He sees himself as both learner and teacher, in that he himself is learning about these natural fibers for the first time: “For instance, I had no clue what coir was until I researched it. …[It] is a natural fiber made from the husk of the coconut, and a valuable material in combating coastal erosion.”

Sardaro finds that the “most interesting thing about these fibers is how most of them date back millennia to a time when the dawn of some civilizations hadn’t even yet arrived. These materials are ancient…. I want people to look at their clothing, linens, or other fiber-based items and see that there is a long and … dense history behind each one of them.”

To learn more about Awbury Arboretum’s Year of Natural Fibers, click here.

Capital Improvements: A Growing Place

by Chris Van de Velde, General Manager

La Pelle House in 2008

An arboretum is understood to be a place where green things—except money, of course—grow. This time, however, we are pleased to announce that Awbury Arboretum is actually growing.

The property today

We have just purchased an abutting property, which includes almost one acre of land, a structure that was formerly a stable before being converted into a two bedroom apartment and art studio, and a carriage shed. The structures are in serious need of repair/restoration, but the land area can be a significant asset to the Arboretum’s landscape near the Cope House.

We have not made any decisions about how we can best use this space, but we wanted to let the Arboretum’s community and supporters know about the purchase. The serious planning for how to use the property, and pay for such use, is now underway. So—stay tuned: more information is coming!

Landscape News: Watercourse & Pond Restoration

by Chris Van de Velde, General Manager & Beth Miner, Grants Manager

Pond and watercourse, 1976

Great news! For over a year we have been working with staff at the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) to develop a plan for the restoration of Awbury’s watercourse and pond that can also serve as a stormwater detention basin to alleviate flooding problems in the neighboring area. On February 15th Awbury received notification that PWD had approved a grant of $261,000 toward the restoration of the Arboretum’s historic ponds and watercourse. Together with a grant of $75,000 received from the Pennsylvania State Department of Community and Economic Development in December of 2018, this provides us with the funds necessary to implement the much-needed project.

The pond in early spring 2014

We could not be more thrilled by this recent news, which follows over five years of research, planning, and fundraising work. When the 20-month-long construction phase is finished, we will have re-established one of our most important educational features and provided the City with an outstanding example of how public-private partnerships can address stormwater issues.

Pond lesson, spring 2009

Awbury’s watercourse—one of the Arboretum’s most unique and ecologically and educationally significant landscape features—has been in a state of disrepair for many years. The two ponds, which formerly hosted turtles, frogs, waterfowl, fish, and innumerable aquatic invertebrates, have failed to hold water for over a decade, and invasive plants have choked out critical native species along the banks of our stream—the last remaining above-ground portion of the City’s historic Wingohocking Creek. Though we have made significant progress of late in reducing invasive plant growth, we have had to put most education focused on pond ecology and watershed science on hold.

Redwing blackbird on the willow near the lower pond

Once completed, the restored aquatic ecosystem will be transformative for all members of our community, human and non-human: a healthy pond and watercourse will increase biodiversity at the Arboretum, beautify and uplift the neighborhood, and provide a primary venue for study of, engagement with, and contemplation of nature.

We will provide more detailed information as the final construction plans and timetable are established and construction begins.


Programs and Events: Spring is Around the Corner!

by Heather Zimmerman, Program Director

Chef Claire Phelan (at right) prepares dinner with staff

Chef Sue Wasserkrug with Native American cuisine

While the last of winter melts away, it’s worth dwelling fondly on two of our recent sold-out Supper Club evenings. Chef Claire Phelan’s Eating Antiquities series presented “a Valentine’s Dinner with Gertrude and Alice,” featuring the recipes of Alice B. Toklas, while the Germantown Supper Club presented Chef Sue Wasserkrug’s “Native American-inspired Venison Dinner.” Don’t miss out—register now for one of the upcoming dinners!

2019 will offer more opportunities than ever to connect with Awbury: hands-on workshops focusing on our annual theme, more monthly pop-up dinners, seven art exhibitions, community concerts and festivals, after-school wilderness skills classes, three new summer camp themes including camps for younger children, continued open hours for AdventureWoods, and many volunteer and partner-sponsored events. We are striving to provide quality programs that offer something for all in our community and would love to hear from you about your experiences and ideas. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me at

Hope to see you here soon!

3/10—Year of Natural Fibers class: Weave a Wall Hanging on a rigid heddle loom

3/15— We are thrilled to present the opening reception for Making Space @ Awbury, a partnership between Awbury and The Colored Girls’ Museum (TCGM), in celebration of Women’s History Month 2019. The reception will feature an art installation and a reading with author and scholar DaMaris Hill from her new book, A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing.

3/16—Fruit Tree Grafting Workshop with Philadelphia Orchard Project. Learn to graft and bring home your own apple or pear tree.

3/21—Germantown Supper Club: Global Comfort Food with Chef Gail Hinson

3/30—Seedfolks book discussion group: part of the Longwood Community Read Program, with Leo Cooper and the West Oak Lane Library Book Club

4/7—Year of Natural Fibers class: Finger Knitting

4/20—Welcome Spring! Egg Hunt & Spring Plant Sale, Opening of AdventureWoods for the season

4/25—Germantown Supper Club: Passover Seder dinner with Chef Sue Wasserkrug

4/26—Star Party at the Agricultural Village in conjunction with Philadelphia Science Festival

4/27-5/5—2019 Philadelphia City Nature Challenge BioBlitz: Awbury will take part for the first time in the City Nature Challenge, an iNaturalist-based urban bioblitz competition taking part in two phases, with observations April 26-29 and identifications in iNaturalist April 30 – May 5.

The Philly City Nature Challenge will cover the city of Philadelphia, as well as all counties bordering the city: Bucks, Delaware, and Montgomery in Pennsylvania; and Gloucester, Camden, and Burlington in New Jersey. You can read more about it here.

4/28—Germantown Supper Club: Sunday Afternoon High Tea with Chef Gail Hinson

5/9—Germantown Supper Club: Vegetarian Feast with Chef Claire Phelan

5/15—Awbury Al Fresco: Celebrating the Spirit of Play: Our spring fundraiser will take place in Awbury’s AdventureWoods Natural Materials Playground. Proceeds will support The Gay Gilpin Johnson Archives and Education Fund.

5/19Year of Natural Fibers class: Felting Fabulous Flowers

5/30—Awbury LIVE free community concert at the Agricultural Village with ALL Entertainment (more info to come)

Click here for more information on upcoming programs and events.

Save the Date!
Awbury al Fresco: Celebrating the Spirit of Play

On Wednesday, May 15, 2019 we will be holding our annual Spring fundraiser in AdventureWoods, where we will have activities celebrating nature play and will recognize the invaluable work of Bryan Hanes, of Studio Bryan Hanes, and Meg Wise, of Philadelphia Outward Bound.  Proceeds from the event will support the Gay Gilpin Johnson Archives and Education Fund. Hope to see you there! Stay tuned for more information later this month.

The Mystery of the Underground Railroad Quilt Code

by Hideko Secrest, Leaflet Editor

Quilt scholar Sharon Tindall (on left) posing with one of her quilts

On February 23, noted textile scholar and master quilter Sharon Tindall spoke to an overflowing crowd of over 140 guests at her lecture and quilt exhibition at the Cope House entitled: “The Underground Railroad Quilt Code: Fact or Fiction—Is There Proof?”

Cornelia Swinson, the Executive Director of the Johnson House Historic Site in Germantown explained, “We are partnering with Awbury to host this lecture. When we first started talking about this and Heather [Zimmerman] told me what the theme was, she suggested [that we focus on] quilts.” Swinson agreed, but wanted to feature someone who was not just a quilter, but also a researcher: “In the historic field there are those who believe quilts [made by African-Americans] had meaning tied to the anti-slavery movement and those who didn’t. I understand that there are arguments on both sides.”

Swinson chose Sharon Tindall to present because “I thought it was appropriate for Sharon to be featured in this exhibition, given her background in quilting and her extensive research. …It just elevates the whole … history about what’s so painful about cotton—it was an economic boon to this country, but the grim fact is that those who were enslaved for that economic advantage [suffered greatly]…”

Tindall started quilting in her forties. It started small: “I actually took a single quilt block and made it into a pillow. I’m a single mom and I wanted to make a little money, so I had a pillow party! I knew how to sew and I had been doing alterations for David’s Bridal and for a dry cleaner.”

It was a while later that her current interest took root. “I was actually helping one of my boys with a history project: they had to do a brief history of the Civil War.” She made a quilt that incorporated both the Union and the Confederate flags, and she told her son and his friends to start naming events and causes of the Civil War, which she then embroidered into the quilt. “These are the things they told me,” she said, waving her hand over the embroidered names of battlefields, generals, and abolitionists.” Then, “while I was doing my research on this project with the boys, I came across a mention of the Underground Railroad quilt code.” Intrigued by this mystery, she decided to delve deeper, not knowing that this was the start of a decades-long quest for her.

An overflow crowd listens

In 2011, Tindall was awarded a grant to investigate the possibility of coding incorporated into quilts made by slaves. She traveled to Charleston, South Carolina to collect oral histories about the quilts from the descendants of slaves who still practice traditional crafts. Then, in 2013, she realized her dream of pursuing her research all the way to Africa: “I went to West Africa. [At that time,] nobody was going to Liberia, so I arranged my own trip.”

The Republic of Liberia, located on the West Coast of Africa, began as a settlement of the American Colonization Society, who believed free and emancipated African-Americans would face better chances for freedom and prosperity in Africa than in the United States. The country declared its independence in 1847, though the U.S. did not recognize Liberia’s independence until it was in the midst of its own Civil War, in 1862. Between January 7, 1822, and the American Civil War, more than 15,000 freed and free-born African-Americans and around 3,000 Afro-Caribbeans relocated to the settlement. The settlers carried their culture and tradition with them to Liberia, as well as a rich oral history. And, of course, their quilting skills.

Attendees admire the centerpiece quilt of the exhibition

It was this history that Tindall was in search of: “… I was there three weeks—culture shock!” she laughed. It was difficult to nearly impossible to find written proof of the existence of quilt codes. She commented, “A lot of things weren’t documented.

Tindall teaches at a quilting workshop following the talk

They passed down what information they had [orally].” Still, the research trip was fruitful. She paused dramatically: “I learned the truth! But,” she added, laughing, “to get the whole story, you’ll have to read my book.”

Quilting pieces

The lively and informative lecture ranged from cotton’s origin in Egypt 12,000 years ago, to the struggles of slaves in this country striving for freedom, to the present day and how quilting as a craft and art form connects us with our past. The audience was rapt, and some commented afterward that they found the lecture personally moving. The talk was followed by a spirited question and answer session as well as a quilting workshop.

Winter Exploration at Awbury

by Karen Flick, Landscape Manager

Witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis “Amethyst”)

Winter has a tendency to leave us longing for something more vibrant. However, when we take a closer look, our senses can be satisfied with a world of life and changes. In nature, winter is truly no different from any other season: plants, animals, insects are all quietly continuing their efforts at survival. An early morning walk at Awbury after a snowfall reveals dozens of footprints: a neighborhood cat’s daily exploration, a fox passing by the Cope House porch, or raccoon tracks mysteriously stopping and vanishing.

Magnolia bud (Magnolia spp)

Plants are just as active in the winter: bulbs send clusters of leaftips inching above the soil, waiting for the right moment to burst fully above ground in the spring. The early flowering woody plants are swelling their buds on bare stems, like witch hazel (Hamamelis spp), magnolia (Magnolia spp.) and maple (Acer spp.) trees. The dried seed heads on perennial flowers and grasses, and the berries clinging to shrubs and trees are devoured by birds as their winter resources. These plants are not just providing a winter feast, but also taking an opportunity to spread their seeds for the upcoming spring.

Pruning tip for your late winter gardening: wait to prune your early spring bloomers. They have already formed buds the previous fall; if you prune them now, you will cut off your spring flowers! Wait until after they flower to prune, unless you need to remove branches that are dead or damaged from winter storms.

Even the soil is active in the winter: rain, snow, and the constant freeze and thaw of the winter weather aid our soil in repairing itself from the compaction that occurs during the other seasons. Watch for this in garden beds, planters, lawn or paths you walk along. The soil will form a hard crust of air pockets and broken up clumps of soil, heaving in all directions. The seeds and berries spread by birds and wind fall into these openings as nature’s way of gardening. Deep below the surface, roots gain space to grow. All of this can be seen and felt with a single crunching step.

Regular walks through a landscape, maybe out of need—like a brisk walk to the train station—or maybe for relaxation—like the opportunity to stretch your legs and shake off some cabin fever—provide the means to stay in tune with the habitats around us. Winter may be a quiet season, but it is anything but still.

Awbury Winter Nature Walk:

Paperbark maple (Acer griseum)

There is so much to see in the winter landscape, things not visible at any other time of year. Instead of taking a walk at Awbury this March to focus on the delightful winter blooms, add in a few more esoteric sights to your visit. Here are some examples of what you might find:

1) Paperbark maple: An ornamental tree, the paperbark maple may be small and very slow growing, but it takes the show in the winter when its vibrant orange peeling bark is fully displayed. This is one you will want to touch, but please do not peel!

Red pine cone (Pinus resinosa)

2) Red pine: A native to Northeastern United States and Canada, this pine prefers the rocky dry uplands of the Appalachian Mountain range. Recognizing this bark will help you to distinguish red pines from other natives also found in the same habitats. Look further on the ground for small tightly closed pinecones—this tree relies on the heat of natural fires to open its cones to spread its seeds.

Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa)

3) Kousa dogwood: This ornamental Asian native gives a full year of enjoyment in a landscape. The bark on this tree is mottled with nearly metallic gray and gold puzzle pieces with small patterns of bronze speckles. This particular dogwood growing on the edge of the copse has a twisting trunk, as though the wind whipping around the corner influenced its growth. Visit this tree in the spring for its display of creamy white flowers.

Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata)

4)  Shagbark hickory: One of Awbury’s Heritage trees, this native tree’s overall size and structure makes an imposing statement on the English Landscape hillside. The shagbark hickory is an amazing tree to visit year round. Its curving, exfoliating bark seems to barely hang on, but the larger pieces are strong enough for a bird to nest in. Imagine what else might be looking back at you from this endless column of curves.

English yew (Taxus baccata)

5) English yew: English yews became a popular landscaping plant long before Awbury’s landscape’s creation. While they are now commonly seen in very controlled settings as residential foundation plantings, the Awbury English Landscape displays long-standing groupings of natural-growth yews. Follow along any path to come across these plantings which become sculptures in a winter landscape.

Here are some more key features to look for on your winter explorations.

Varying tree heights in English landscape

6) Height & Structure: Winter enables us to enjoy the structures of the trees’ trunks and branches. Standing directly against a trunk and looking up, you can see how some tree branches are like spokes on a bicycle wheel. Other trees, like oaks (Quercus ssp.) stretch out broad branches nearly as wide as the main trunk. Visit the meadow or Haines Field to see single standing trees in full display of their natural forms. On the other hand, looking at the dense plantings in the wetlands or English Landscape copses you can compare the heights of trees, like the mast- straight trunks of the tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera).

Coneflower seedheads in pollinator garden (Echinacea purpurea)

7) Decomposition: This late in the winter, perennial plants, grasses and fallen leaves are really losing their structure, on purpose, of course. Walking through wooded areas you can see leaves remaining full and coarse, while more delicate ones may be broken down to crumbs. In the meadows and gardens, perennial flower stems are snapping and the seed heads are nearly bare. You may want to cut these down and remove them but remember there may be insects over-wintering inside. If you do cut these down than add the stems to a compost pile, rather than bagging, so the insects can survive until the spring.

Red-tailed hawk near watercourse

8) Signs of Wildlife: Gardens, landscapes and many settings provide habitat for wildlife of all forms. Stand quietly in the landscape and wait. Early in the morning or at dusk is when the most activity happens. The red tailed hawk is still out hunting daily at Awbury, and lately enjoying our open tent frame as a perch. Looking closely at the trees and woody plants, you will see hollows in trunks used for homes. If you do not see any activity now, remember where these holes are to watch in the spring.

Those are just a few ways you can enjoy the many habitats and diverse plantings within Awbury Arboretum’s grounds year round. Come visit to see what wonders the end of winter holds!

Wild Wisdom Foraging Course

by Heather Zimmerman, Program Director

Awbury Arboretum’s year-long Wild Wisdom course began this January with 24 students eager to learn what each new season has to offer in the field of wild edibles, medicinals, and fiber. This first-of-its-kind foraging program in our region was created by Lynn Landes, founder of The Wild Foodies of Philly, Alyssa Schimmel, Education Director of the Philadelphia Orchard Project, and Heather Zimmerman, Program Director at Awbury Arboretum.

The goal of the program is to familiarize students with at least 100 wild plants and their charms, challenges, and uses.  The Wild Wisdom course includes in-class and in-field time to botanically identify, gather, and harvest wild plants. It includes hands-on preparation time to process plants into various food, medicinals, and crafts.

This program is geared toward students looking to grow ever closer to the region’s wild sources of food and medicine and those committed to sharing this knowledge with others.  This course is fully registered for 2019, but please visit for meet-ups and additional foraging opportunities.

New Summer Camps Offered

by Nancy Pasquier, Field Studies Director

In addition to the popular camps for older children that we have been offering over the past few years (Camp Katniss, Ilvermorny Wizarding Camp, Welcome to Wakanda, Cooking in the Cope House Kitchen, and Advanced Wilderness Survival), we are now excited to offer camps for younger children, ages 6-8, for the first time this summer at Awbury!

Each of these new camps will feature a specific theme: we will offer a Forest Creatures Camp for a two week session, and Nature Superheroes and Nature Foragers for one week each.

In Forest Creatures, children will be invited to explore the Arboretum looking for native and not-so-native creatures. Through storytelling and imagination, they will travel throughout the Arboretum trying to catch fairies, trap gnomes, and find inspiration from the animals that call Awbury home.

For Nature Superheroes, children will be asking: Who flies the highest or runs the fastest? Which animal is the best hunter and which ones hides the best? Looking through the lens of Nature Superheroes, they will consider ways that they can be superheroes for the Earth as well as the powers that would help them in this quest. There are sure to be competitions but, fortunately, superheroes that unite on behalf of the environment also know how to get along and to value all superpowers!

Nature Foragers is for children who like to build, engineer, create, cook, and play. Each day will focus on one discipline—music, art, cooking, and crafts—and then we will get creative! Campers will forage for supplies and work together and individually to create things made from nature. Some of our creations will be short-lived, some will be edible, and some will go home with the campers at the end of the week.

To learn more, please click here.  Scholarships are available. Don’t miss out! Reserve your child’s spot now!

Teen Leadership Corps News

by Anna Herman, TLC Program Director

The TLC @ Awbury is back! We started our sixth winter session this February.  We are planning our spring gardens, selecting seeds, and are making crop rotation, weed and nutrient management some of the many goals for both education and production.

We are also busy focusing on learning about how gardening and farming practices impact climate change. In partnership with the Philadelphia Dept of Parks and Recreation (PPR) and Penn State Extension, TLC youth are working on activities and lessons to support climate change education in the PPR Farm Philly Program this spring.

Some of our TLC students and staff are also piloting several innovative urban agriculture technology initiatives. We have been building and programming simple sensors and controllers to help manage our 3 year old aquaponics system, and will soon be moving some of this tech outside to help monitor water levels and air quality.

Herb seedlings

For the Year of Natural Fibers the students will be growing cotton and flax. We’ve actually grown heirloom organic naturally green cotton before, and saved seeds which we are going to plant again. Flax seeds are started and looking good.

We are growing herbs and watercress inside, and have been eating the last of the vegetable stews and turkey soup that we cooked and froze last fall.

Iman Jones Photography Exhibit

by Dan Sardaro, Marketing & Social Media Staff

On December 2nd, a crowd gathered in the Cope House parlors to view the work of local photographer Iman Jones. The images, mostly in black and white, focused chiefly on the natural world. All were shot in Philadelphia, some right here at the Arboretum. Ranging from a lonely park bench in the midst of a foggy winter night to close-ups of native flowers, Jones’s images captured both the wonder of our environment and the attention of his audience.

“In my photography, I try to slow the pace of life down for my viewer so the experience transcends vision, to where one can imagine the smell of the roses, so to speak,” said Jones. “I would like people to come away with the feeling of wonderment and curiosity after viewing my images. I would want to them to feel what I felt in capturing the photograph.”

Jones started his journey in photography down the street at Central High School, where he used a single lens reflex camera to shoot whatever caught his eye. Today, he is a published photographer and lives in the Mt. Airy neighborhood.

Here at Awbury, giving local artists space to exhibit their creative visions is important to us. We take pride in knowing that our buildings, gardens and woods can be used for art that brings our neighborhood together. Iman Jones’s work illuminates the magical and mystical aspects of the natural world, and we couldn’t be happier knowing that he was able to reach a new audience last December. To see more of his work, click  here.

Calling All Birders!

by Branda O’Neil, Administrative & Facilities Manager

Red-tail hawk

The website eBird invites birders of all levels of experience to report their observations, compiling those sightings into an easily-searchable database.

Awbury is listed as an eBird “hotspot” location; click this link to learn which bird species have been recently spotted on our grounds, and expand the time frame to see the list of all 126 species reported over the last 15 years!

According to the eBird website,“eBird is the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project, with more than 100 million bird sightings contributed each year by eBirders around the world. A collaborative enterprise with hundreds of partner organizations, thousands of regional experts, and hundreds of thousands of users, eBird is managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.”

We thank the bird watchers in our community who have contributed to the list so far, and we encourage you to visit the Arboretum and add your own observations to the list.

Also be sure to check out our Birding page to find additional resources for birding in Philadelphia.

Philly Goat Project Update

by Karen Krivit, Philly Goat Project Director

photo ©Jerome Eno

The Philly Goats at Awbury have been enjoying many visitors and activities this winter. Highlights of the winter were a Christmas Day Hike with the Goats in Valley Green and a Christmas Pageant at St. Paul’s Church in Chestnut Hill on Christmas Eve, where some of the goats were cast as the camels for the Three Kings and our pregnant goat played the role of the donkey accompanying Mary and Joseph into the town of Bethlehem in search of shelter. We have also been enjoying our partnership with Cliveden for our indoor goat yoga fundraisers, which take place inside their converted barn.

photo ©Jerome Eno

We have been so fortunate to have the support and assistance from many incredible volunteers who help with daily activities as well as big events. Christmas Tree Recycling donation days brought hundreds of new visitors to the Agricultural Village every Saturday in January. Visitors brought their used Christmas trees for the goats to eat and enjoyed walks and visits with them as well as roasting marshmallows and sipping hot chocolate: a fine family activity for the cold winter weekends! Christmas trees are a nutritious addition to the goats’ diet in  the winter months. The trees are also being used as edible wind barriers to keep the goats warm during these remaining frosty days.

Animal-assisted therapy continues with the goats visiting and working with students from Widener Memorial School and the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf.

Our 3-year-old goat, Oonagh, is expecting her first baby around March 27th! The “ram” is a young buck from Pottstown named Hoedown. We are taking suggestions for baby names.

photo ©Jerome Eno

Free community walks through the neighborhood and Arboretum take place every weekend if not more often. Keep an eye on the Philly Goat Project website calendar, Instagram, or Facebook for walk dates and times. Starting in February, one of the walks will take place in partnership with Let’s Go Outdoors and will focus on learning about the waterways at Awbury.

Soon the grazing season will be upon us and the goats will be out and about on grazing jobs, clearing invasive plants on properties throughout the city and suburbs. We are working with special groups to teach the trade and skill of goat grazing. The little goats will remain around the Arboretum on small grazing jobs along with Oonagh and her baby.

Board Member Spotlight: Bryan Hanes

We caught up with Bryan Hanes a couple of weeks ago. A Board member for close to a decade, he is also one of the honorees at this spring’s Gay Gilpin Johnson Archives and Education Fund Award Dinner.

Tell us a bit about yourself: where are you from, and how did you end up in Philadelphia?

I grew up in rural Kansas. I moved here after school for work; I thought I’d be here for a few years, but I kind of fell in love with Philadelphia and never left. I moved to Philly in 1998, because it was one of the few places [that had] great opportunities to work in [my field of] landscape architecture. I came here to work at OLIN; I stayed there for about eight years before going on to open my own firm.

Were you aware of Awbury before you joined the Board?

A friend of mine was stepping down off the Board and suggested that I might be a suitable replacement. At a place like Awbury it’s nice to have a landscape architect on the Board. So I was invited onto the Board in 2011.

What changes have you seen at Awbury over the years?

One of the bigger changes has been to the landscape itself. At the time when I started, it was a place with mown lawn and big trees, and there were some issues with the house that needed to be addressed. Over the years we’ve seen a lot of philanthropic support, [with the result that] the landscape has changed into a sort of managed wildness now, which is ideal. Both Haines Field and the front of the house are less formal, more wild. Right now the grounds are more meadow-like: there are paths mown through the meadow, whereas, years ago, it was a manicured lawn.

Discussing a site

Can you tell us a bit about your work outside of Awbury?

I’m a landscape architect. I started my studio in 2008 with an intentional focus of working in the public realm of Philadelphia. And we’ve stayed true to that. Our work is focused on parks and public spaces in the different neighborhoods. We do a lot of work with the schools, universities,  and neighborhoods. [A recent project is] the Rail Park in Callowhill; it’s a conversion of an old rail line into a park that just opened in June.

Has your work benefited from and/or been influenced by your work at Awbury?

Map of AdventureWoods

I hope both of us have benefited. I’ve taken a lot of lessons from the place. I use it as a precedent; I look at what kind of activities might be happening there. It’s a great resource for me. We’ve been doing some of the recent work at Awbury, the terrace [behind Cope House] and AdventureWoods in the Secret Garden, for example. We did a couple of sketches of a plan for AdventureWoods for Heather and Karen and the crew to give a vision for the place and they did all the hard work of carrying that forward.

What do you think makes Awbury a unique place in the City of Philadelphia?

In the city we mostly see two different characters for natural places: manicured lawns and overgrown wilderness—Awbury hits that sweet spot of managed wildness. It has a unique landscape character. Layered on top of that are its great history and some fantastic trees.

What is your vision for Awbury 10, 20 years down the road?

I think part of our job on the Board is really to help steer the place and act as a steward of the place and hope that it [will come to have] a sustainable life of its own and that it can last. All of us kind of hope, at the end of the day, that [Awbury] will find a way to … embed itself into the neighborhood and become a cherished resource of the neighborhood.

WeddingWire Couples Choice Award

We’re thrilled to receive the Wedding Wire Couples’ Choice award for the 4th year in a row! This award recognizes local wedding professionals who demonstrate excellence in quality, service, responsiveness, and professionalism.  Winners are determined by the reviews from more than one million couples.

©George Street Photo & Video

Getting married soon or know someone who is?

Please help us spread the word!  Awbury has 2019 dates available and celebrating at the Arboretum supports our mission to connect our community to nature and history.

Click here for more about events at Awbury,

Click here to read our reviews,

or contact our team at for more details!


Awbury Garden Tours

by Nancy Pasquier, Field Studies Director

Curious about the family that lived at Awbury a century ago? Appreciate the Victorian landscape design and want to learn more about it? Looking for ideas for good native plants to grow in your own yard? Consider taking a tour! The Arboretum now offers staff-led tours for groups. The experience begins with a PowerPoint presentation that introduces visitors to the Cope Family and English Picturesque landscape design, then continues with a walking tour of the property. Click here for more information and pricing on guided tours.

If you prefer to go it alone, visitors are always welcome to walk the property free of charge and can pick up a walking tour in the Arboretum office in the Cope House Monday-Friday from 9am to 5pm. On Saturday and Sunday, you can visit the Arboretum but there is no access to the building. You can download a walking tour map from the website by clicking here.

For more information or to schedule a tour, please email .

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