Drew Becher Has High Hopes for Horticulture

Today’s Philadelphia Inquirer features a letter to the editor from PHS president Drew Becher. Drew wrote in response to a January 6 article titled “Is horticulture a withering profession?” Unsurprisingly, his answer to the headline is a resounding “no!”—and with good reason.

Drew writes: “[PHS] membership has grown by 38 percent in the last three years, to 25,000 households. Among the fastest-growing groups of new members are those ages 18 to 35.” He also cites that when the Mantua Urban Peace Garden opened in October 2013, it attracted “more than 100 novice and very enthusiastic gardeners.”
You can read the full letter here.
Another indicator that now is a good time for horticulture is an article from Philadelphia Neighborhoods titled “Olney: Tending to Community.” The brief piece includes quotes from John Dobbs, coordinator for the Olney Tree Tenders, who helped lead the planting of 39 trees in November. Read that story here.
The PHS Tree Tenders program is going strong. In fact, a new session starts on January 25. If you’d like to enroll, please click here.
On behalf of PHS, thanks for your support. Just by reading this post you’re proving that horticulture is here to stay!

Morris Arboretum Presents Connections Beyond Our Garden

Morris Arboretum’s afternoon presentation series offers three fall sessions, each meant to inform and inspire.

First up is—well whattaya know—PHS president Drew Becher discussing “The Year-Round Flower Show.” You already know that PHS does much more than the Flower Show, but you may be surprised by the breadth and depth of our programs. You’ll also get a sneak peek of the 2014 Show “ARTiculture” and maybe even a tip-off about next year’s Pop Up Garden.

Drew’s presentation is on October 16 at 3 pm. PHS members can enjoy discounted admission ($15 instead of $20). To register, call the Arboretum’s education department at 215-247-5777 ext 156.

The other two presentations are equally compelling. In November, Harris Steinberg of PennPraxis will lead a dialog about the role of parks in 21st-century Philadelphia. And in December, Keith Thomson of the American Philosophical Society will speak to Thomas Jefferson’s lesser-known interest in natural history.

Quite a line up! Learn more about the lecture series here.


Drew’s View: New Finds at a Favorite PA Garden

Back in August, PHS president Drew Becher received a call from Michael Callahan, executive editor of Philadelphia magazine. Michael needed new venues to shoot some of the magazine’s beautiful spreads and figured (correctly) that Drew could offer some promising leads.

Without hesitation, Drew listed a dozen or so locations—Philadelphia is the cradle of horticulture, after all. Before the conversation ended Drew even agreed to personally show Michael the gorgeous grounds of Chanticleer Pleasure Garden in Wayne, PA.

When the day arrived, the duo was joined by David Fierabend of Groundswell Design Group and Matthew Rodrigues, on-air entertainment and travel personality. Chanticleer’s Jonathan Wright and Bill Thomas agreed to give a guided tour.

As they traversed Bell’s Run Creek and the Teacup Garden, Michael was aghast that he’d never been to Chanticleer and regretted lost years of potential visits. Even Drew, a Chanticleer regular, was treated to something new: a woodland area with a bridge that resembles a fallen tree. “It was the first time I really explored that area,” Drew said. “It’s overgrown with towering trees—very cool.”

Despite the new experience, Drew’s favorite element of the 35-acre garden remains the terrace alongside the Chanticleer house. From there, one has a sweeping view leading to large pond. As Drew says, “It is picture perfect.”

Of course Michael took many pictures to share with his colleagues back at the office. So the next time Philadelphia magazine shows up in your mailbox, don’t be surprised to see Chanticleer! And if you want to see the pleasure garden for yourself, sign up for one of the many PHS-sponsored evening lectures and tours. Click here to learn more.


Drew’s View: Chihuly Art Graces Texas Aboretum

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One of the benefits of working in horticulture is that it’s easy to combine business with pleasure. When PHS president Drew Becher went to visit family in Texas this summer, he easily convinced his kin to take a trip to the Dallas Arboretum. The beautiful 66-acre site is currently extra beautiful thanks to an art installation from world-famous glass sculptor Dale Chihuly.

Flower Show fans might remember Chihuly’s contribution to the 2008 Flower Show, “Jazz It Up!” For the occasion, the Washington-born artist constructed a sparkling chartreuse piano that was the centerpiece of the rotating performance stage.

Now, four years later, the large-scale installation in Dallas features more than 16 original pieces. Some are suspended on towering posts, other are staged so that they appear to float on water. As Ruthie Pack of the Dallas Arboretum Board of Directors says, “Chihuly’s colorful sculptures reflect his love of nature and look spectacular with the natural beauty throughout the garden.”

Following his visit, Drew said, “Because his work is site-specific, his creations have an amazing way of capturing a sense of place.” Of all the sculptures, Drew’s favorite was one called “Persian Pond,” which was situated in a section of the arboretum known as the grotto. Unlike the other Chihuly pieces—a colorful collection of reds and oranges—this sculpture is an ethereal, semi-opaque white. The indescribable glass formations might call to mind lily pads, conch shells, or even paper fans.

The entire presentation—on display through November 5—is sponsored by AT&T and Bank of America (among others). Bank of America is also a Flower Show sponsor, so clearly the company has good taste!

“While walking through the arboretum, I kept thinking of the all the fantastic places in the Philadelphia region that could inspire Chihuly and showcase his talents. There are 28 locations affiliated with Greater Philadelphia Gardens, and any one of them could host such an exhibit, or perhaps Chihuly could create one sculpture per garden—encouraging people to try to see them all.”

Great idea, Drew; let’s make it happen!


Join PHS As We Visit Northern Manhattan This Fall

PHS has planned some incredible trips to New York in October, and there are a few spots left for the trip to public spaces that have transformed neighborhoods in northern Manhattan on Monday, October 22, from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm.

This coach trip will be led by celebrated public garden designer Lynden Miller and PHS President Drew Becher. The day will include tours of a park and community gardens developed by the New York Restoration Project (NYRP), as well as two public spaces designed by Lynden Miller.

Featured sites include: Swindler Cove Park, encompassing five beautifully reclaimed acres along the Harlem River and featuring one of the only saltwater marshes on Manhattan’s shoreline; the Family Garden, sponsored by Tiffany & Co. and designed by John Loring and Rodale Pleasant Park community gardens in East Harlem, designed by Billie Cohen; Columbia University, where Lynden Miller created elegant and colorful plantings; and the Heather Garden in Fort Tryon Park, one of the largest heath and heather gardens on the East Coast, offering stunning vistas of the New Jersey Palisades.

Contact Carol Dutill at 215-988-8869 for more information, or click here to register. Fees: $110 members, $120 nonmembers.


PHS President’s Home Featured in Philadelphia Magazine

The quintessential recipe for a stunning magazine spread can be found in the April 2012 issue of Philadelphia magazine, where writer Emily Goulet profiles the 1926 English Tudor home of PHS President Drew Becher.

With gorgeous gardens and an elegantly decorated interior featuring the perfect furnishings and accessories, it’s difficult to believe the Chestnut Hill home was once surrounded by overgrown ivy beds and the interior walls were covered in layers of wallpaper.

Now worthy of the glossy pages in the magazine, the home is a warm mix of antiques and eclectic furnishings against a cool backdrop of soft grey walls. The gardens on the two-acre property showcase a collection of “ornamental grasses, blue and silver hostas, various herbs, black-eyed Susan, oakleaf hydrangeas, Japanese maples, elephant ears, and red ‘Jacob Cline’ bee balm for color accents.” According to the article, Becher has plans to inject the color purple into the planting beds.

We can only hope that we’re privy to some pictures soon! Click here to see the magazine spread.

Through Laura’s Lens: Stalking the Pandanus

Picture of Pandanus tectorius roots
Seen during setup week, this plant's roots look like something out of The Lorax.

When I saw these incredible prop roots during set-up week, I stopped dead in my tracks. What sort of plant could this be? I couldn’t find anyone who knew, so one of my fellow guides and I stopped Drew Becher, president of the PHS, to ask him.

Drew knew exactly the plant we meant and was very pleased about having it in the Show. In fact, he told us gleefully that he and designer Sam Lemheney had been on a shopping expedition at a Florida nursery and spotted it over in a corner. Ignoring the big royal palms the nurseryman wanted to sell them, they said, “we want that one.” It took Drew a couple minutes to pull the name off the tip of his tongue—don’t you hate it when that happens?—but he took the time to find it and get back to us.

Ppicture of Pandanus tectorius
Pandanus during a pre-show lighting test.

Pandanus tectorius, also known as hala or thatch screwpine, is one of the few surviving native Hawaiian plants; evidence of the tree predates the arrival of the first Polynesian colonists. Its leaves were used to make sails for sea canoes and fiber for weaving (the craft of lauhala refers to weaving baskets, mats, and other objects from the leaves of the hala).

Pandanus is a “floater”—its seeds are buoyant and can tolerate salt water. No wonder it can be found on islands and atolls all over the South Pacific. Here at the Flower Show, you can find the Pandanus in Pele’s garden, near the Hale (thatched hut). There’s another, smaller specimen on the rear side of the Men’s Garden Club exhibit, near the Marketplace—illustrating that you should always look for hidden gems on all sides of the displays.

The Pele’s Garden Pandanus sheds its usual grey-green color when it becomes a canvas for the fabulous light show. You can find many items woven from the Pandanus in the Hawaii Village in the Grand Hall. Check the schedule on your Flower Show app for weaving demonstrations in the Village as well.