As Centennial Approaches, Awbury’s Gardens & Grounds Receive Much-Needed Support
If you have kept the pulse of Awbury Arboretum over the past five years, you will know that this unique 55-acre landscape nestled into the heart of Northwest Philadelphia has experienced something of a renaissance in recent years. Pulling through an economic recession that threatened the stability of many long-standing organizations, Awbury has emerged with new vision and energy and is poised to enter its second century on a very high note. Open to the public 365 days a year without charge, Awbury is welcoming a growing number of visitors – more than 19,000 a year. Energetic leadership is positioning Awbury as an anchor in the Germantown community. New funding is supporting popular education programs for schoolchildren and the community. On the verge of its centennial in 2016, Awbury is becoming a destination of choice for all ages.
The Board of the Awbury Arboretum Association, buoyed by recent successes, has created a strategic vision for the upkeep of the gardens, meadows and trees that are the heart of the Arboretum. A Stewardship Plan, updated every two years, details the Top Ten landscape features that need attention over the next several years. To support our work toward the goals set forth the in the Stewardship Plan, the Board has created a Fund for the Gardens and Grounds with an initial goal of raising $150,000. Thanks to the generosity of many, Awbury has received initial gifts of more than $72,000 toward this goal since the fund’s launch in the spring of 2015.
As summer arrives in Philadelphia, the Board and staff of Awbury Arboretum are enjoying the changes the new season brings to the landscape and are diligently working to accomplish the work of the Stewardship Plan. Recent landscape-related developments include:
• Renovation of the Chew Avenue Gateway: Tree removals and initial plantings have been accomplished, and plans for the installation of a dramatic new Awbury Arboretum sign are underway.
• Clearing of “McNabbtown Field:” This area – the only relatively flat expanse in the Arboretum – was cleared by Awbury Arboretum Landscapes of many years worth of overgrowth late this spring and will now serve as the venue to host concerts, games, movies and community gatherings, including Awbury’s first Heartwood Music Festival, scheduled for July 12th.
• Awbury’s Agricultural Village’s partners: farmers, beekeepers, weaver/dyers and community gardeners are all hard at work as the growing season heats up.
• The Teen Leadership Corps has been recruiting young people from the community to participate in a variety of after school and summer programs focused on farm-to-plate and agribusiness enterprises.
• For the first time in many years, we have hired a full-time Assistant Landscape Manager and Horticulturist and expect you will soon begin to see many landscape “caretaking” improvements as a result.
As Awbury approaches its 100th anniversary in 2016, supporters near and far are coming together to ensure that the Arboretum will remain vital, vibrant, and as relevant to the coming generations as it has been to those of the past and present. The Board and Staff of the Awbury Arboretum Association urge neighbors, friends, and members to visit the Arboretum to see the improvements we are making and to join us for an event or program. If you would like to lend your support to the Fund for the Gardens and Grounds, contributing directly to the care of Awbury’s landscape, click here, and note “Landscape” as your funding interest.
Awbury Chosen as one of three 2015 Recipients for $100,000 Grant from Impact100 Philadelphia
The mission of Impact 100 Philadelphia is to engage women in philanthropy and collectively fund grants to charitable initiatives in the Philadelphia region. Each year, the foundation awards multiple $100,000 high-impact grants that serve under-served populations, raise the profile of deserving but lesser known organizations, and highlight unmet needs in the region. Impact100 members are women, age 21 years or older, who each contribute a minimum of $1,000 annually toward the grants to be awarded that year (Impact 100 Philadelphia). At the Impact100 Annual Meeting on June 1, 2015, Awbury Arboretum, The Center for Grieving Children, and Community Learning Center were each selected to receive a project grant of $100,000, plus an operating grant of $9,000. Awbury’s grant will support the continuation and further development of the Teen Leadership Corps Program at Awbury Arboretum (TLC). With a motto of “urban grown and raised: planting possibilities – harvesting skills” TLC welcomes urban high school students into a thoughtful and productive community of youth and adults from diverse backgrounds who work together to learn about food, farming, entrepreneurship, and each other. TLC focuses on urban agriculture, cooking fresh food, and food justice issues, and affords young people the opportunity to transform ideas into finished products and objectives through collaborative work. In its first year TLC participants developed a business plan – then planted, grew and sold thousands of herb plants, and hundreds of pounds of fresh produce; cooked and shared meals each week; and grew a community of youth and adults poised to begin this agricultural year with healthy soil in our new mini-market farm and raised herb beds. TLC participants earn modest stipends when they complete each after-school year session, and earn salaries for their full-time work in the summer through a partnership with the Philadelphia Youth Network. With structured opportunities to earn while they learn, and to develop job and teamwork skills, TLC youth take on leadership roles within TLC, and in support of Awbury Arboretum’s mission. Impact 100’s significant gift enables Awbury to build capacity for the continued success of the TLC program, including developing additional out of school time environmental and S.T.E.M. programing on our public garden campus.
“Food that’s In when School is Out” – Free Summer Lunch Program for Children to be Offered at Awbury
This summer, Awbury is partnering with Nutritional Development Services of the Archdiocese of Pennsylvania as a free summer meals site. Free lunches will be available for any child up to 18 years of age from July 6th – August 7th, 12:30pm – 1:30pm. Meals will be served at the picnic area adjacent to the Francis Cope House – One Awbury Road, Philadelphia, PA 19138. This is a free service to the community – all are welcome. For more information, call 215-849-2855.
Upcoming Events – Music Festival, Flea Market, Volunteer Days, Forest-to-Plate Dinner
On July 12th, Awbury will present a day-long music festival in conjunction with the Philadelphia Folksong Society. Back-to-back bands will play from 11am to 6pm, food and drink will be available via food trucks along Station Road, and local crafts people will have a market set up behind the Cope House. We will have 2 stages – one just for kids! Pre-sale tickets are just $10 (pay $15 at the gate). Bands include: Full Frontal Folk, Karmic Repair Company, No Good Sister, Norman Taylor, Kuf Knotz, Man About a Horse, Lizanne Knott, Better n’ Recess, Caveman Dave, and Two of a Kind. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.
Shop! Sell! Donate! Can you lend us a hand? We are looking for donations and vendors for Summer Flea Market and White Elephant Sale, to be held on Saturday, July 25th from 9am – 1pm. Funds raised support the care of Awbury’s historic landscape, which has remained FREE and open to the public for nearly 100 years, and the continuation and development of its community programming, which serves thousands each year! Vendors: Call 215-849-2855 ext 21 to Register. Bring your own table – $15, Rent a table $20. Donated items will be gratefully accepted through July 20th, Monday – Friday from 10am-4pm at the Francis Cope House. We are interested in: furniture, vintage items, jewelry, art, housewares, and instruments.
We invite volunteers to join us every 2nd Saturday to work on special monthly projects. Come help keep the Arboretum healthy and beautiful while enjoying the outdoors and meeting new people. 2nd Saturdays, June – November, 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM. Click Here for more information.
Save the Date! Jeffrey A. Miller, the Wild Foodies of Philly, and Awbury Arboretum invite you to an evening of wild edibles foraging, identification and fine dining. Friday, August 14th, 6:00pm – 9:30pm. Stay tuned for more information.
Curious Creatures Sculpture Exhibition Brings Magic and Mystery to Awbury’s Secret Garden
“Curious Creatures” took up residence in Awbury’s Secret Garden during the month of April, bringing over 450 visitors through this hidden area of the Arboretum and inspiring wonder and imagination in people of all ages. The creatures were the culmination of a collaborative public art project initiated by Awbury Arboretum and involving the Art Departments at Arcadia University and Project Learn School.
Inspired by a fall 2014 visit to the Secret Garden, first year art and design students at Arcadia University and students ages K – 8 at Project Learn School worked together over the 2014-2015 school year to design and construct each creature and plan the exhibition layout.
In April, the hard work of the students and their teachers and professors was finally realized as the Creatures made their debut to the public.
On April 10th, Awbury welcomed 150 attendees to a private opening for student-artists, their families, and project partners. A public opening the following day boasted a live animal show hosted by our friends at the Schuylkill Center, children’s activities, and freshly-made food by Herb Scott Catering. The exhibition was on display and open to the public during the entire month of April, and staff hosted daily visitors to the Secret Garden during office hours (9-5 M-F) and also on weekends – allowing unprecedented access to this beautiful but normally restricted area of the Arboretum.
Awbury, Arcadia, and Project Learn School are looking forward to continuing this collaborative exhibition model in future years, expanding on the framework developed during the pilot project.
Curious Creatures was funded in part by the Philadelphia Cultural Fund and would not have been possible without plentiful contributions of time, materials, and student-transportation costs from our tireless partners at Project Learn School and Arcadia University.
Welcome New Staff
Karen Flick – Assistant Landscape Manager
Karen Flick joined the Awbury team May 2015 as the Assistant Landscape Manager. She became acquainted with Awbury Arboretum’s community and grounds in 2012 as a horticulture intern assisting Denis Lucey. Since then, she has completed a degree in both psychology and horticulture at Temple University. Karen looks forward to applying her passion for enhancing public green space at Awbury and sharing in its seasonal pleasures with community members and guests.
Jessica S. Herwick – Co- Director, Teen Leadership Corps
Jessica S. Herwick is a dual certified educator, experienced garden designer and curriculum specialist who couldn’t be more thrilled to join the Awbury Arboretum team in the Agricultural Village, educating and inspiring youth through the Teen Leadership Corps (TLC) at Awbury. Jessica has designed and established programing from Baltimore to Boston intended to increase access to fresh local food sources, encourage healthful lifestyle, engage communities in environmental stewardship and enlighten communities to the therapeutic benefits enjoying nature and growing your own food.
Edwin Jellett, “Germantown’s Thoreau” on Philadelphia: “A Favored Region for Nature Study”
“If we travel for history, let us remember that no other settlement in America is as important as our own. If we travel for “nature,” let us not forget our bountiful blessings, for nowhere is there a stream more picturesque than our own Wissahickon, nowhere is there an outlook more beautiful than that of our own White-marsh Valley. Where we are able, travel we should, but let us keep in mind that among great travellers it was our own Cope who more than any other made known the prehistoric life of America, our own Lewis who made known the paths and progresses of the glacial periods, our own Kane who first made known the wonders of the Arctic Seas.
In every department of human knowledge we are represented, and in science, which now alone concerns us, our botanists, ornithologists and astronomers have done their full share in the development and encouragement of its offerings at their best. To Germantown on frequent visits came Audubon from “Millgrove” on the Perkiomen, and Wilson from his modest Milestown School, and among us following in their footsteps we have Gentry and Stone, two of the latest writers upon our native birds. Barton, Nuttall, Muhlenberg, De Schwenitz, Rafinesque, Darlington and other early botanical visitors have been followed by our own teachers and writers, Smith, Freas, Scott, Meehan and Dr. James Darrach, who wrote the latest “Flora of Philadelphia.”
While we should not “think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think,” we ought never to think less of our associates than they deserve. We live in a favored section for nature study, for in the “Philadelphia region” the floras of the North and South meet, and there are but few plants from Upper Canada to Southern Virginia which do not appear in our territory, so that a flora of Germantown and Philadelphia, with a slight addendum, includes the flora of the entire eastern section of our country.” – Excerpt from Germantown Gardens and Gardeners: Friday, July 10, 1903
Current Blooms – June 2015
-Karen Flick, Assistant Landscape Manager
The bottlebrush buckeyes (Aesculus parviflora), located directly in front of the Cope House, makes one of the greatest statements this time of year. This stand of buckeyes reaches ten feet tall and spreads thirty feet wide, making it hard to miss the continuous humming of bees on a sunny day. Bottlebrush buckeyes hold large displays of wispy white flowers on spikes reaching over a foot in length at the end of each branch. This native shrub is found growing throughout the Awbury grounds especially in the Secret Garden.
Between the parking lot and back entrance to the Cope house is a creamy sweet fragrance surprisingly strong for the low growing dwarf azalea (Rhododendron atlanticum) it is coming from. The dwarf azalea is a native deciduous shrub located in the Heath Garden. This azalea will only grow to be three feet tall. Its blooming relative, the sweet azalea (Rhododendron arborescens), located in the Heath garden and the Chew Avenue entrance, will reach 8 feet but does seem to match up in fragrance. This is up for comparison.
Just beyond the Cope house, heading toward Haines Field is the Hosta garden. Here, the oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) display their strong heads of white flowers. This is a great native shrub with blooms lasting from May to July. Keep an eye out for this plant year round as its lobed leaves turn burgundy and vibrant red in the fall, and its exfoliating cinnamon barked branches stand upright in the winter.
Awbury Arboretum Landscapes is happy to be able to report that this division of the Arboretum continues to grow its residential client base, its institutional client base and its service offerings.
We are particularly excited about the growth of our Native Garden installation work and our hardscaping businesss . Specifically, this Spring we were selected to design, install and maintain Native Garden Containers at the entrance to The Academy of Natural Sciences.
Later this Spring we designed and installed an extensive sun Native Garden for a Roxbourough residence that also included a living hedgerow, raised vegetable container beds, a rock garden, a new flagstone patio and a
Williamsburg style fence. Next week we will begin the installation of an extensive shade Native Garden Grove for a Mt. Airy residence.
In terms of hardscaping, over the past year, we have installed a number of new brick and flagstone patios and walkways.
And, finally, we are also in the process of curing many many cords of firewood which we can start delivering in August, so keep us in mind if you need well aged firewood.
If you would like to learn more about AAL, feel free to call Chris Carrington at 215-849-2855 ext. 17 or email her at email@example.com
Remember, whenever you use our services, all of the revenue we generate is funneled back into maintaining the Arboretum and its missions.
Countdown to 100 Years
“The Awbury Arboretum is before you. The beauty of its landscape, the result of one landscape gardener’s dreams and foresight of some sixty years ago, now appeals to us all…” – Arthur Cowell, 1919
2016 will be a year of celebration at Awbury Arboretum. Founded in 1916, Awbury has continuously served its community throughout the past century, providing a free and open environment for education and “the quiet enjoyment of nature,” as its founders intended. A gala commemorating this historic milestone is planned for April of 2016. Friends of Awbury should stay tuned for news, updates, and memories as we count down the days and remember our heritage. The first plan for the Arboretum, created and revised between 1917-1919 by Landscape Architect Arthur W. Cowell is viewable in large format by clicking the image below:
Board Member Spotlight – Nicole Juday
Tell us a bit about yourself – where are you from, how did you end up in Philadelphia? Working in your chosen field?
I grew up in rural Illinois on a farm. After art school I came to Philadelphia for graduate work and was blown away by our region’s public gardens– I had never seen anything like them before. Within a few years I switched careers from textile design to landscape design.
Were you aware of Awbury before you joined the Board?
Yes! When my children were tiny they went on nursery school field trips to visit the pond at Awbury. It was the only place in Germantown to see tadpoles.
How did you first get connected to Awbury?
For eight years I worked at Wyck, another historic landscape in Philadelphia where I became extremely interested in our city’s horticultural heritage. Philly been the epicenter of gardening for over 200 years. I did research on many historic landscapes for my job, and got fascinated by the story of Awbury and the Cope family.
Can you tell us a bit about your work outside of Awbury? At the Barnes Foundation? As a writer?
By day I run the horticulture school and manage public programs at the Barnes Foundation Arboretum. By night and by chance I write for gardening magazines, and on the weekends I like to work in my own garden, although there’s never enough time to get it looking right.
Has your work benefited from, and/or been influenced by, your connection with Awbury?
As a resident of Germantown, serving at Awbury has kept me engaged in my community, especially as we gear up for the Awbury Centennial in 2016. Historic landscapes are my first love, and what I’ve learned about them from my involvement at Awbury and other Germantown sites gives me a context when working on interpretive projects at the Barnes and in my writing about other gardens.
What do you think makes Awbury a unique place in the City of Philadelphia?
Awbury is one of the oldest public arboreta in the city. It’s amazing that the Cope family turned over the bulk of their private estate to the public in 1916 with no conditions, and it’s amazing that 100 years later the arboretum still serves Philadelphia citizens 365 days a year for free.
What is your vision for Awbury – 10, 20 years down the road?
In twenty years Awbury will be recognized for having stabilized and strengthened East Germantown, and valued for providing free access to beautiful green space. Supporters of Awbury will include a growing member base, stakeholders in the horticulture field, and philanthropic and civic leaders. The arboretum will have maintained its historic character and integrity while having its beauty and functionality enhanced by continued capital improvements, and it will be held in high esteem for being one of the longest-established free public gardens in the region.
Garden Stewards of Awbury Arboretum: A Note from Volunteer Coordinator, Leslie Cerf
Volunteers have always been an important force at Awbury Arboretum. This winter and spring, we have continued to develop our volunteer program. Dedicated individuals and groups have put in many hours tackling a variety of projects across the Arboretum. Several of our regular individual volunteers have given an extraordinary amount of time and effort, and I am pleased to be able to introduce them to you as “Garden Stewards of Awbury Arboretum.” Garden Stewards display a vested interest in the success of Awbury Arboretum by putting an above-average number of hours on a regular basis into a specific area or project. They are independently committed to achieving goals for improvements in their chosen area, and to learning and sharing gardening knowledge.
The individuals I would like to extend the invitation to accept the title of Awbury Arboretum Garden Stewards are:
Eldridge Ragsdale – President of the Awbury Arboretum Community Garden Club. Eldridge is not only my go-to guy at Awbury’s Agricultural Village, but has stepped up consistently as a group leader for many projects including last year’s Winter Greens Sale and hosting several volunteer program events and visitor groups this spring. I can’t keep track of all of the volunteer hours he’s spent leading as president of the Community Garden, not to mention City Harvest, the PA Horticultural Center’s Edible Demonstration Garden and POP’s Strawberry Mansion Orchard. Beyond the hours, Ragsdale’s good humor is always a valuable asset, so putting a number on his work just doesn’t say enough, though as a ball park guess, I know he puts in 10+ hours a week at Awbury during growing season.
Shanna Halpern – Through the dormant winter months, Shanna toiled away researching and combing through Awbury’s archives to study and obtain source material to develop a comprehensive walking tour program for Awbury Arboretum. Shanna has given generously of her time over the past year to work on the project – 108 volunteer hours in just this past quarter! Shanna says she loves digging into the old diaries and historic documents, such as captain’s logs on the Cope packet ships, and notes that the more she learns about all things Awbury, the more she wants to learn. Shanna has a diverse and extensive background including work as an attorney, professor, and the director of an international non-profit. More recently, Shanna decided to follow her dream of becoming a writer and enrolled in the Masters of Fine Arts program at Emerson College in Boston and currently writes poetry. She returned to the EPA in Philadelphia in 2008 to work on their Freedom of Information Act program, from which she retired in May of this year. Before Shanna even retired as a from her position at the EPA’s Philadelphia office, Awbury was lucky enough to capture her interest, and we are enthusiastic about sharing her work with you soon.
Marty Hudson – Late last Fall when Awbury’s Pollinator restoration project needed volunteer time and leadership, Marty was there and remains. On hand at least two or more hours a week, Marty created the garden’s new official title, Awbury’s Pollinator Habitat, and wrote its mission statement. From helping to start seeds in late winter through early spring to weeding and participating in the habitat’s evolving design, the project couldn’t do without her. As a retired hospital social worker and recent graduate of a master gardening program, Marty is a creative magnet for drawing like minded volunteers who are scientifically and horticulturally detail oriented, passionate about their work and hobbies, and goal-driven. In total, from January through May master gardeners have put in 200 volunteer hours on Awbury’s Pollinator Habitat.
Finally, I would like to give Jovan Lee from Parkway High School the title of Awbury’s Youth Garden Steward. Since his first volunteer day at the “Cookin’ with Who?” fundraiser last fall, Jovan has been there to volunteer for every public event we have put on this past year. He was there for the Harvest Festival, Greens Sale and Open House, Easter Egg Hunt, Spring Art Show and member of the TLC program. Jovan never says no to meeting people and helping staff at Awbury.