Monday, June 18, 2012

Legacy for Big Red

In the summer of 2009, while working at the Ambler Arboretum of Temple University, I had to make a tough decision.  The campus had a huge Red Oak (Quercus rubra) specimen that was in severe decline.  Many efforts had been made to save it, but nothing was helping "Big Red."  Eventually, there was only one living limb.  It was hung over one of the classroom buildings and was cabled to a dead trunk, making it severely dangerous.  Though there was opposition from campus alumni and current students, I had to make the decision to cut it down.  Since the much-loved tree was such an icon to the campus, I wanted to honor it in a special way.
Big Red at the end of her life, hanging over Cottage Hall.
A Valley Crest arborist sawing through one of the large limbs.
Cranes were used to lift each large limb as it was cut.
Despite my smile, this was a sad day.  I'm standing on the stump for scale.

I  thought that a good way to honor the tree would be to use it as a teaching opportunity.  I had the arborists cut a 12" slice of the trunk to save for me.  Then, my dad, Jim Chapman, came up from Florida to smooth out the surface of the wood slab with a router and sander.  He volunteered his time for 40 hours to beautifu our slab.  We then used it at Temple's annual Earth Fest celebration as a teaching tool for youth.  You can read more about my dad's wood working adventures on his blog, Wooden Bees.

The finished slab was used as a teaching tool at Temple University's EarthFest.


Seeing many examples of his work at other botanical gardens and arboreta, I also called wood working artist,Tom Pleatman, from Treasured Wood.  Tom uses fallen trees to make beautiful wooden turned bowls.  Tom came out and collected large chunks of the branches as the arborists were cutting down Big Red.  He loaded them all into the trunk of his sedan, which ended up riding a lot lower when he left than we he got there!  After the wood cured for about a year, Tom turned the bowls on his lathe and sealed the bowls, eventually presenting us with 19 gorgeous pieces of art; a true legacy of Big Red!

A rough-cut bowl will rest for about a year before it is turned.

The rough bowl is then turned on a lathe.
The bowl then soaks in a solution.
A few of Tom's beautiful finished bowls.
About a month ago, I got an email from Tom saying that he had found another rough-cut bowl from Big Red curing in his shop that he had forgotten about.  Even though I had left Temple, he said that he would like to give it to me as a gift for connecting him to our project.  A week ago, I received my now treasured bowl in the mail.  I can't describe how thrilled I am with my bowl!  It is such a fantastic reminder of my three years working at the Ambler Arboretum and the wonderful plant collections that were under my care.  I'll always treasure this memento!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Victoria Waterlilies at LGBG!

Waterlily pools in front of the Conservatory.
On Friday, we got a shipment of four Victoria amazonica 'Longwood Hybrid' at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.  We have great waterlily pools in front of our Conservatory which previously were a display area for hardy waterlilies.  I adore the tropical waterlily display at Longwood Gardens and I am beyond excited to be able to grow my own tropical waterlilies in Richmond!   

Currently the leaves on the young Victoria lilies are about 2 feet in diameter, but they should reach about 6 feet in diameter when full grown.  The Victoria amazonica 'Longwood Hybrid' is a cultivar that has a green upper leaf surface and bright red underside.  The edges turn up about 4-inches to form a lip which shows the bright underside of the leaf.  The Victoria waterlilies were grown by Bill Bonwell at Stony Mountain Nursery.  Bill specializes in waterlilies and other water plants.  He did a wonderful job for us and helped us install the plants in the pools.
The waterlilies were grown in large tubs that we submerged in the lily pools.

Karin Stretchko (Conservatory Horticulturist), Grace Chapman, and Bill Bonwell
The display also is showcasing different types of elephant ears (Alocasia sp.) as well as papyrus (Cyperus papyrus), variegated broadleaf arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia), pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata), soft rush (Juncus effusus), zebra rush (Scirpus tabernaemontani), and mosaic plant (Ludwegia sedioides).
The Victoria waerlilies will eventually fill the pools when they are full grown.


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