Monday, December 17, 2012

Integrated Pest Management Training

by Stephen Pyne, Martha J. Wallace Plant Propagation Intern

One of the benefits of being an intern at Morris Arboretum is the opportunity to take some of the amazing classes that the arboretum offers. I just finished taking an especially good one: The School of Arboriculture’s Integrated Pest Management Training. This three day class was taught by two entomologists from the University of Maryland; Dr. Michael J. Raupp, and Dr. Paula Shrewsbury. Three days is a lot of time to spend in the classroom, but the presenters made sure that we were never bored. It was obvious that Dr. Raupp and Dr. Shrewsbury both love their work, and their enthusiasm was infectious. Their presentations were full of interesting anecdotes and stories, and yet they always steered the class back to real life and practical information that I thought would be very applicable in my work as a horticulturalist.

During the breaks we were able to look at the professors’ extensive collections of bugs and see examples of specific insect damage. Breaks also were a great time to talk to the other people taking the class -- a diverse and interesting group of horticultural professionals.

At the end of each day we had some lab time. On the first day we walked out into the arboretum grounds where we looked at plants, identified their problems and the pest causing those problems, and came up with ideas for a remedy. The second day had us dissecting bagworm bags to find eggs, signs of parasitism, and other clues to help form a plan of treatment. We also looked at scale and several other examples of problem insects. Finally on the last day our tasks were feeding and observing beneficial insects. The young praying mantises were not all that hungry (they had just eaten a bunch of fruit flies), but the lacewing larvae chowed down on the aphids we provided.

I think you can tell from the photos, we all had a great time, and learned a lot.

Learn more about upcoming classes by visiting:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Crafting Holiday Cheer

by Stephen Pyne, Martha J. Wallace Plant Propagation Intern

It is a very special time of year… that time between Thanksgiving and the winter holidays… that time when Morris Arboretum’s horticultural staff gets together and makes Holiday Wreaths!

The Arboretum gives hand-decorated wreaths and swags as special gifts and it is quite a process to put them together.  We gather material from all over the Arboretum, trim, and prepare it for mounting on the wreath. Anyone who has worked around a holly can imagine just how prickly it is to wrap individual leaves onto a wooden pick. Our natural ornaments range from pine to Platycarya cones, magnolia leaves to boxwood branches.  Once we have enough material assembled, we start on the wreaths.  It is not a quick process, nor is it without some pain, but it is very rewarding.  Every year that I have done this project, I am amazed at the beauty of the finished wreaths and the creativity that goes into making them.

Morris Arboretum also has a variety of Continuing Education classes for holiday decorating.
Register for our upcoming Holiday Table-top Tree Workshop on December 13.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Glee is coming to Morris Arboretum...

...the Penn Glee Club that is!

Morris Arboretum welcomes the return of the Penn Glee Club for their Annual Holiday Concert on December 8 at 2:00pm.

The Penn Glee Club upholds a 151-year-old tradition of musical excellence at the University of Pennsylvania, beginning in 1862 with just 8 founding members. The Club has toured internationally since 1959 and has traveled to nearly all 50 states in the United States and more than 40 nations and territories on five continents. Since its first performance at the White House for President Calvin Coolidge in 1926, the Club has sung for numerous heads of state and world leaders.

We are pleased to bring their distinctive blend of choral excellence and theatrical showmanship to the Arboretum and its visitors again this season. Stop by on Saturday, December 8th for hot cocoa and cookies, and help us spread holiday cheer with the Penn Glee Club!

To learn more about the Penn Glee Club, visit their website:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Urban Forestry and Philadelphia Navy Yard

by Rebekah Armstrong, Martha S. Miller Endowed Urban Forestry Intern

The Morris Arboretum Urban Forestry Consultants have been spending a lot of hours at the opposite end of Philadelphia recently. We’ve been inventorying, assessing, and mapping 2,000 trees in the Philadelphia Navy Yard (PNY), at the southernmost end of Broad Street. PNY was the first naval shipyard in the country and the U.S. Navy still operates some facilities there. Aker, a shipbuilding company, now manufactures commercial ships at PNY. Then there are companies like Urban Outfitters that have reused the old Navy buildings for their headquarters. Point being, it’s a very cool place to spend time in: giant old ships and abandoned structures next to an active shipyard, constant renovation, and new construction.

During our inventory and assessment, we saw beautiful examples of big healthy spreading trees in lawns and then some sad cases: new trees battered by construction equipment and rubbed to death by deer, e.g.

In general, when we do field work, the urban forestry consultants look for hazardous trees – trees with branches that might fall, trees that are splitting – and then look at the overall health of the trees. We also measure the trunk and canopy, records the species, and map the trees’ locations. We then make recommendations for our clients and provide them with a complete map and inventory of their trees to help them manage their portion of the urban forest. To learn more about the Morris Arboretum Urban Forestry Consultants visit:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Holiday Display Returns to the Garden!

The Morris Arboretum’s popular Holiday Garden Railway Display returns the day after Thanksgiving.

Visitors of all ages will be wowed by a quarter mile of track featuring seven loops and tunnels with fifteen different rail lines and two cable cars, nine bridges (including a trestle bridge you can walk under!), and bustling model trains, all set in the lovely winter garden of the Morris Arboretum. The display and buildings are all made of natural materials – bark, leaves, twigs, hollow logs, mosses, acorns, dried flowers, seeds and stones – to form a perfectly proportioned miniature landscape complete with miniature rivers. Each building, while an exact replica of the original, is unique in its design. Philadelphia-area landmarks such as a masterpiece replica of Independence Hall are made using pine cone seeds for shingles, acorns as finials and twigs as downspouts. The buildings are all meticulously decorated for the holidays with lights that twinkle along the tracks and around the surrounding landscape.

The Holiday Garden Railway opens the day after Thanksgiving and is open daily from 10am-4pm through December 14 and 10am-5pm, December 15-31 (closed Christmas Eve and day, and New Years day).

A special Holiday Garden Railway Grand Opening Celebration will be held on Saturday, November 24 from 1-3pm that will include the sounds of carolers. Kids and adults will also have the opportunity to make an ornament or decoration from natural materials to take home.  The Holiday Garden Railway is a great way to kick off the season and also serves as a fabulous a backdrop for your holiday greeting card, so bring your camera!

The Railway is free with regular garden admission.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Up On the Roof

Autumn is the loveliest season on the intensive green roof, in the aerial gardener's opinion. The grasses have matured, displaying seed heads that dance in the slightest breeze, held high above tawny foliage. Rhus aromatica 'Gro-Low' glows crimson and copper, igniting the roof with fiery splashes. Keen eyed observers may spot standard dwarf iris cultivars blooming, such as citrine 'Prince Pele'. Spiky yuccas sport yellow and green striped foliage, striking a pose even after their September blooms have faded.

Bloomfield Farm Day presents a rare opportunity for the public to view the green roof. Free with admission, the roof will be the backdrop to this fun-filled day celebrating agricultural history, including demonstrations, animals, and live music. The Horticulture Center and historic Springfield Mills will also be open for tours. Find out more on our website.

Article by Louise Clarke, aerial gardener.
Photos by Louise Clarke (top) and Rebekah Armstrong (bottom).

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fall Color Favorites at Morris Arboretum

Autumn is one of the most popular times to visit the Morris Arboretum and visitors enjoy the vibrant display of color throughout the garden. Mid-October is a great time to begin your fall color wanderings through the gardens, returning whenever you can into November.

Be sure to explore some of our visitor and staff favorites:
  • From Widener Visitor Center towards Gates Hall, between the small parking lot and the Orange Balustrade you will find Acer palmatum ‘Heptalobum’, one of the most outstanding Japanese maples for red fall color.  Continuing from there toward Gates Hall, you will see the incredible golden foliage of Princeton Gold Chinese witchhazel (Hamamelis mollis ‘Princeton Gold’).
  • At the bottom of the Holly Slope, tucked behind the signature katsura-tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), are several broad-leaved evergreens.  These are Camellia oleifera (tea-oil camellia), with its beautiful white flowers, and Camellia sinensis, the plant from which tea is made, with its small white flowers. 
  • Around the corner from the Holly Slope is one of the most interesting plants for fall color, used as a hedge surrounding the Long Fountain, Lindera salicifolia (one of the Asian spicebushes).  This plant colors very late in the fall turning a variety of reds, yellows, and oranges, before the leaves fade to russet and persist through the winter.  
  • Downstream from the Swan Pond, along the East Brook are several plants of a native shrub, southern blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum rufidulum) with burgundy-colored leaves and bright blue fruits that are attractive to birds. Behind these stands the majestic Engler beech (Fagus engleriana) with its russet-red fall color and leaves that also persist into winter.
  • Surrounding the Engler beech are a number of small trees, including Stewartia pseduocamellia (Japanese stewartia) with beautiful bark, white flowers in June, and rich red-orange fall color; nearby is Parrotia persica (Persian parrotia) a medium-sized tree also with beautiful bark and leaves that start out with deep purple color before turning a mix of yellows, oranges, and reds. 
  • Finally, along the path near the Mercury Loggia is a concentration of witchhazels, including Sandra vernal witchhazel (Hamamelis vernalis ‘Sandra’), noteworthy for its red fall foliage.

These are just a few of the autumn gems on display at the Arboretum, with many more awaiting your discovery. Take the time to explore the Morris Arboretum this fall – you will probably see some old friends and no doubt discover some new favorites!

Acer palmatum 'Heptalobum'
Camellia sinensis
Fagus engleriana
Hamamelis mollis 'Princeton Gold'

Hamamelis vernalis 'Sandra'

Monday, October 15, 2012

Bald Eagles Spotted at Morris Arboretum

Photo courtesy of Ruth Pfeffer

Bald eagles have been spotted several times during the week of October 7 soaring over the Arboretum's wetlands. Adult bald eagles have dark brown bodies and wings with white heads and tails. Their legs and bills are bright yellow. Immature birds have mostly dark heads and tails; their brown wings and bodies are mottled with white. It takes young birds five years to get attain adult plumage. The bald eagle dwarfs most other raptors, including the turkey vulture and red-tailed hawk. It has a heavy body, large head, long, hooked bill and a 7 to 8 foot wing span. A bald eagle in flight holds its broad wings flat.

Morris Arboretum is sponsoring a trip to the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River to see bald eagles. The eagles feed on fish as they come over the dam. The trip is scheduled for Tuesday, December 11 leaving from the Arboretum at 7:45 am. For more details visit or call 215-247-5777 ext. 125.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Fall Tradition on Display...

A big 'Thank You' to all who came out for our Fall Festival this past weekend!

After a rainy weekend the sun is finally shining on our gardens and the weather is just right to come see a fall tradition at Morris Arboretum... The 5th Annual Scarecrow Walk! More than 30 creative 'crows await you along the Oak Alle. See if you can spot The Lorax or Strawbacca, or Rapunzel with her new straw hairdo. Make sure to snap a photo with these crazy cast of characters and vote for your favorite! The Scarecrow Walk is on display now through October 21. See you in the garden.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Komainu have returned
to the Japanese Overlook Garden!

by Robert Gutowski, Director of Public Programs at Morris Arboretum

Komainu have returned to the Japanese Overlook Garden in the English Park. How did they get there and where have they been? This story could begin about 2,500 years ago in India and follow the path of Buddhism and its variants through time and across China, through Korea and into Japan. More recently, John Morris purchased a pair of “Shrine Dogs” in 1912 from the Boston office of Yamanaka & Co., an antique dealer based in Japan with international distribution. The pair came from a Japanese temple in Nara and is dated to about 1700.  John Morris noted “They are certainly very rare in design and condition.” With the guidance of Y. Muto, a consulting Japanese landscape designer and Frank Gould, Head Gardener at Compton, the komainu were placed in the Japanese Overlook Garden as a part of the original design. Their return restores an important sense of place and visual reference points in the core of this very special garden.

Komainu is a Japanese term often literally translated as “Korean-dog” in reference to its origin. Komainu are typically pairs of shrine guardians set along the approach to the temple to ward of evil spirits. They have become iconic figures in Japan. They are distinguished from each other by the open and closed mouths. One often has a horn on its head. Gender is not so clearly distinguished as in their Chinese antecedent, the Foo-lions or dogs. In the 9th century the open mouth figure was referred to as shishi (lion) and the closed mouth figure as komainu (Korean-dog). Over time, the pair was referred to collectively and individually as komainu. The open and closed mouths reference the a-un posture or sound, the “alpha” and “omega” from Sanskrit.

Foo Dogs

The image above was sent to John Morris from Yamanaka & Co.  prior to their purchase for Compton.

During the Second World War, many of the Asian garden ornaments were removed from the garden.  While several lanterns and other feature have disappeared, the komainu were eventually relocated to the Bloomfield Barn. Their condition was such that a return to the garden setting was not possible. In 2012 replicas were cast of the originals by Campania International, Inc. through the generosity of Peter Cilio and his family. A gift from Christine James and her father to restore the Japanese Overlook Garden included placement of the replicate komainu in the garden where Section Head Kate Deregibus oversaw their installation with staff and stone masons from Joseph Monero & Sons.

The original komainu are now safely displayed in the Horticulture Center at Bloomfield Farm. Horticulture and Facilities staff lifted them into place using teamwork, muscle, ingenuity and a mobile hydraulic jack from the garage. 

If you haven’t been to the Japanese Overlook Garden, it may be time for your return.

Installing the new komainu in the Japanese Overlook Garden

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Up On the Roof

Louise Clarke, Aerial Gardener

Tradescantia ohiensis

Ohio spiderwort is an eastern North American perennial that blooms from May through July on the arboretum’s intensive green roof. Remembering this as a shady resident of my mother’s garden, I was skeptical of its performance on a green roof.

Spiderwort has adapted to the roof’s sunny, hot and dry growing conditions with aplomb. Its three-petaled blue flowers last only one day, like miniature daylilies. It receives no special care, other than being cut back in mid-summer after its blooms are spent. With adequate moisture, it may provide a second flush of flowers for fall. In garden beds Tradescantia may grow to 3’, but its stature is reduced on the green roof due to less moisture and leaner soil.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Young Red-winged Blackbird at Morris Arboretum

Tracy Beerley, The McCausland Natural Areas Horticulturist
Colonies of red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) arrived at the Morris Arboretum in early Spring. Within the Arboretum the birds are most common in the wetland and floodplain area.

The female spends three to six days building a nest constructed with grasses, sedges, mosses, and lined with mud. A clutch of eggs are incubated by the female and typically hatch in eleven to twelve days, the young birds are ready to fledge the nest two weeks after hatching.

This young fledgling is trying out his legs and wings for the first time. A male red-winged blackbird is watching overhead. You can hear his alarm call as he warns possible predators. The alarm call and nesting in groups are traits that reduce the risk of individual predation by increasing the number of alert and vocal parents.
Femal Red-winged Blackbird. Photo credit: Ruth Pfeffer
Male Red-winged Blackbird. Take note of the distinct red shoulder patch on the male. Photo credit: Ruth Pfeffer

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Up On the Roof

Louise Clarke, Aerial Gardener
If you visited the Arboretum during Bloomfield Farm Day, perhaps you noticed these cheery yellow flowers along the lower edge of the intensive green roof.

The eastern prickly pear, Opuntia humifusa, or devil’s tongue, is a native cactus of eastern North America. The green stems are flattened into pads armed with fine spines that easily dislodge, having an affinity for passing ankles. Last year’s edible red fruits persist through spring where they contrast with this year’s lemon blooms. Requiring full sun and a well drained location, the prickly pear was planted on the lower edge of the roof to spare the horticulturists a sharp surprise when performing maintenance.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Swan Pond

The Swan Pond at Morris Arboretum is one of our members' favorite places in the Arboretum. The Swan Pond is in a central location at the Arboretum (see map), very close to the Japanese Hill Garden. Some of our "Great Trees" are located right here - a Dwarf eastern white pine (Pinus strobus 'Nana), Weeping Canada hemlock (Tsuga canadensis f. pendula) and a Cilician fir (Aibes cilicica). There are also some beautiful ferns growing around the Swan Pond right now.

There is also a lot of wildlife that can be seen at the Swan Pond, including our new Mute Swans, Flora and Fauna. Enjoy these pictures, all taken in the last three days, starting with a pileated woodpecker one of our birding instructors spotted over the weekend.  This is a very large North American woodpecker almost crow-sized. Adults are 16 to 19 in long.

Flora and Fauna (the new Mute Swans), American Robin, Mallard, Canada Goose and its gosling all pose for a picture.


A gosling.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Wetlands Are Nurserys

The wetlands serve as a nursery for ducks and other wildlife

Tracy Beerley, The McClausland Natural Lands Horticulurist
Wetland ecosystems serve as a nursery for wildlife. The habitat provided by the plants and other wetland features make it a safe place to nest and raise young. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Listen and Look

Tracy Beerley, The McCausland Natural Lands Horticulturist
On your next visit to the Morris Arboretum's wetlands be sure to listen and look carefully for these creatures in disguise.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Native Flowering Trees in the Natural Areas

Tracy Beerley, The McCausland Natural Lands Horticulturist
Vibrant spring colors in the Natural Areas of the Arboretum.

Cercis canadensis, Eastern redbud, is a beautiful native tree that provides many benefits to wildlife and insects. It is recognized by pollination ecologist and by bee keepers, as attracting large numbers of native bees and an important nectar source.  Pink flowers in the spring make this small tree or multi-stemmed shrub a great addition to the landscape.

Cornus florida 'Cherokee Princess,' flowering dogwood. This small tree is an important understory species in many eastern deciduous forests, its habitat also includes thickets, streams, wood edges and dry uplands. There are many varieties of the native dogwood which select for different characteristics such as resistance to powdery mildew and anthracnose.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wetlands - high in the sky, low on the ground

Tracy Beerley, Natural Lands Horticulturist
A raptor soars overhead, high in the sky, this bird is lurking for its prey.  Low on the ground signs of spring continue to emerge.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Newly Released USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map Marks a Change for Philadelphia’s Hardiness Zone

The USDA has released a new Plant Hardiness Zone Map and the results indicate marked changes and warming trends for the Philadelphia area. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the standard by which gardeners and growers determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a given location. The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree Fahrenheit zones. The map is an important tool for the country’s estimated 80 million gardeners, as well as those who grow and breed plants for them.  

The last update to the Hardiness Zone Map occurred in 1990 using data from a 13-year period (1974-1986).  The most recent update utilized a broader data set (1975-2005).  The resulting information saw approximately a one half zone change across most of the Philadelphia region. Anthony Aiello, the Gayle E. Maloney Director of Horticulture and Curator at the Morris Arboretum served on the Technical Advisory team for the USDA team responsible for revising the map. The team was comprised of nursery professionals and experts in the scientific and public garden communities who evaluated the zones in their specific geographic areas.

The implications of the study for Delaware Valley gardeners are significant. On the positive side, the increase in zone allows for an expanded palette of plants that gardeners can reliably grow in this area. Some of these include traditional southern favorites such as crapemyrtle, southern magnolia and Japanese camellia.  Today, plants such as these should grow reliably in Philadelphia.  However, Paul Meyer, the F. Otto Haas Director of Morris Arboretum cautions, “Like financial investments, recent past performance may not necessarily predict future performance.”

Unfortunately, there is also a down side to the new information as well. The data solidifies the reality of climate change, suggesting even greater unpredictability with regard to future weather patterns and environmental conditions. Additionally, warmer temperatures in the colder months also lead to further pest and disease problems, as both are better able to survive in mild winters. Lastly, just as plants such as lilacs do not thrive in the south, plants at the southern limits of the Philadelphia zone may eventually be negatively impacted to the point where they will no longer be able to be grown in this area.
These are all very practical examples of how shifts in temperature, especially warmer winter temperatures, have a dramatic impact on how we garden, what we plant, and what will thrive in our gardens.
This winter has shown above average temperatures as well causing some confusion in local gardens. “A lot of our plants are coming out exceptionally early this year,” explains Paul Meyer, Executive Director of the Morris Arboretum. “I live on the grounds of the arboretum, and I’ve had a few early varieties of daffodils blooming for the past two weeks.”

Meyer says the warmth has not pushed native trees to break dormancy, but some non-native shrubs are blooming early, like Chinese witchhazel.

Much as many people embrace the warmer weather, there is no certainty that it will last. Meyer cautions that like the stock market and its unpredictable volatility, so it is with the weather. We may see some traditional winter conditions with colder temperatures and snowfall yet.