Monday, September 22, 2014

The Polish Dendrological Society

This weekend marked the annual congress of the Polish Dendrological Society (PolskieTowarzystwo Dendrologiczne) in Warsaw, Poland. It was the first event I have attended as a member of this society. It was titled, Trees in the Shadow of Man, it was a great excuse to travel to Poland.

It was also my first opportunity to share my Master's thesis research Historic Tree Collections Management: A New Story for Old Trees, outside the USA. This time in the form of a scientific poster. The thesis itself if due to be available on line at the University of Delaware's Dspace in a few months.

Tony Kirkham, Curator of the Arboretum at RBG Kew, was the keynote. I had the pleasure of meeting with him at Kew last year, while the research was still underway, and I was excited to hear him speak and hopefully talk with him again. 

It was certainly a challenge being one of the few English speakers but the society is a warm group who are quick to laugh so we found our way. 

Most notably, we:

-toured the castle and garden Wihiowa and had a private tour (in English) of the restoration of each room. 

-Stopped in Wroclaw at the Botanic Garden, making note of the creative things they are doing with fallen trees.

-had a tasting of locally made vodka, flavored with botanicals.

-visited a stunning 800 year old Oak

-visited a family owned and operated Nursery and garden. The most impressive display and vast collection I've ever seen at a nursery.

-toured the site of two vast green roofs in Warsaw

-walked a new nature path along the Vistula River

-Visited the Pawiak Prison Monument Tree in Warsaw

I have submitted my masters research for publication in the Society's journal, so I will wait to hear about whether it is accepted.

The drive to Poland is somewhat long and difficult as one takes for granted the large highways and interstate systems in the US. The autobahns are slowly being completed and where they are already complete they are very fast. Where they are not it is very slow going through tiny towns and lots of fields. 

The people of the Polish Dendrological Society were so very welcoming to both me and my husband Thorsten, who participated as well. It was quite a merry band of international friends in the end. We made friends with a German woman married to a Polish man, who translated the Polish into German and then Thorsten would translate it to English for me. I made contacts with another Polish scholar who just completed her PhD in the evaluation of street trees of the urban canopy! And we were really lucky because she liked practicing English. Getting to spend the days with tree lovers of all nationalities including Tony Kirkham of Kew was icing on the cake. 

I detail the other interesting adventures of traveling through Poland in my other blog, Becoming a Franconian. (This blog chronicles the adventure of moving to Germany as an American and is updated almost daily.) 

Monument Tree at Pawiak Prison, Warsaw

Szmit's Nursery outside Warsaw

Wroclow Botanic Garden

Szmit's Nursery Garden

Wroclaw Botanic Garden

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Happy Humidity America!

This week I welcome my soon-to-be in-laws on their first trip to the United States.  In reality, I'm introducing them to a baptism by fire in the humid, swamp that is the hallmark of the East Coast summer.

Considering that Europe is comparably less humid, I realized that this familiar humidity is what perpetually assures me that summer has arrived.  The air you can practically see, and can hardly breath, the fact that you start to sweat as soon as you set foot outdoors--this is how I am know I am home in one of the original 13...Colonies that is.

On the eve of my move to Europe, I wonder how I'll know summer has arrived in a new homeland?  I wonder what other indicators of seasonal change I'll miss, and which ones I'll become accustomed to. As I contemplate what it will be like to become a Frau, I find myself cursing the heat and humidity while secretly I savor it. Curious about what's ahead, I will treasure this year's humid Independence Day. For my American self, aside from Blue Crabs, the 4th of July is the way I've always welcomed summer.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

One for one

Today was finally warm enough to plant seeds.  Looking through my stash, I chose snow peas.  They like the cool spring nights and should be ready to harvest in about 60 days.  Putting my hands into the dirt for the first time this year I thought about where I'll be in 60 days...mid-June.  By mid-June I'll surely have defended my thesis, the graduation ceremony and celebration will have passed and I will already have presented my research two times. It will be the beginning of a new era. The ground will be warm. The daffodils and spring's flowering trees will be long spent. On a fresh April morning like today it's hard to fathom June.

In my hand I held the seeds.  Placing them in the ground I realized, one seed doesn't yield just one fruit.  No, one seed produces a vine full of peas, an entire tree, or hundreds of basil leaves.  So it is with us.  One idea can turn into a symphony, one thought can forge a new path. We never know the harvest of our words, our deeds, or our thoughts, but we can be sure of one thing: it's never a one for one exchange.  Alternatively,  we never know what small seed was planted in us, contributing to what we've accomplished or yet to find the perfect conditions to grow.  We are a part of a system so much bigger than ourselves. There is so much to find out, to explore, to become.

On my desk:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Letting go

When we discuss Autumn, we talk about Fall.
     "Fall is the time of year when the leaves fall off the trees."  "Trees lose their leaves in fall," we say, as if the trees are stripped and naked in the freezing elements.

Losing and falling are terms that suggest a mistake or an accident. They are not terms that suggest greatness. And actually, these terms are inaccurate when it comes to trees.

Here are some other terms to describe Autumn: Release, allow, let go.

At the end of the growing season trees begin the process of leaf release.  They let the leaves go when they are no longer needed to participate in photosynthesis and when keeping them is going to do more damage than good. The tree allows the wind to sweep the leaves away. Leaf release is a carefully orchestrated, meaningful action that has nothing to do with an accident or a mistake on the tree's part.

Letting go is well-known phrase these days.  It's associated with 12 step programs and learning when enough is enough.  It's a regular part of growing up and creating boundaries in life.  We utilize this idea in relationships and at work.  It isn't always easy for us but it is biological.

This November I'm thankful for the trees, who have set an example of the healthiest way to live-- breath deep, bask in the sun, create something, let go.

Below is an excerpt from Peter Thomas's Trees: Their Natural History :

    "...leaves act as independent units, similar to a block of apartments.  If a tenant is not paying their rent, they are thrown out; if a leaf is a net drain on the tree--if is using more energy than it produces--it is shed...Leaf shedding is not just a case of leaf death: if a branch is snapped or the leaves are killed by sudden stress, the leaves wither in place but are remarkably hard to pull off.  Leaf fall involves a carefully executed severance..." 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Too decadent for dinner

Autumn's Gems
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine you are weeding. (I know this doesn't sound like the beginning of a fantasy but stay with me.) Every few minutes a sweet September breeze drifts by bringing cool relief from the autumn sun.  With it the honeyed scent of something fresh and delicious fills your sense. The aroma is like an outdoor candy store.  Distracted, you venture to find its origin.  There you stand at the foot of an enormous fig tree, overflowing with fruit and buzzing with all the other sweetness seekers: bees, butterflies and the like.  Scanning the garden for a container to collect your treasures,  you're nearly frantic that the pollinators will consume all of nature's sweetness before you find a proper basket.  Finally you choose a discarded plant container (a little potting soil never hurt anyone...)

This is not a dream.  This is Tuesday afternoon.

Incidentally it's the day before I am leaving to travel abroad for a thesis case study.  There isn't much in the fridge to make for dinner and I muse about how to use the figs before they go bad. (Their ONLY negative quality is that they really don't keep.)

Another quick Google search leads me to this a delicious sounding Fig and Almond Crostada. Since technically this does not sound like a dinner food, I think for a moment about a way to disguise this obvious dessert as a hardier acceptable dinner option...
To solve this dilemna, I make the most obvious choice: I add Bacon. I mean, the meal obviously needed a protein source. (If bacon is your fancy, slice it small and sprinkle on top before baking.) The recipe also says to combine the figs with a good amount of fresh lemon juice. Sadly without a lemon in the house, and am forced to use the next best thing: a lovely limoncello liquor...Voila, delicate, decadent, flaky, sweet and savory melt-in-your-mouth perfection.

In my defense I did pair it with green beans from the garden when I called it "dinner."

Try it for breakfast the next morning. It holds up well over night and can even handle a quick morning microwave buzz.   Enjoy!

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Carrot a day...

Actually other than "What's up Doc?" and something about the improvement of eye sight, I don't think there's an actual saying about carrots.  But for me, today was a carrot kind of day, as I harvested about 15 carrots that have been growing in my garden since late May.

Funny looking little buggers, home grown carrots, but man are they flavorful!  Today I roasted them.  Very simple recipe:

Clean thoroughly (more like scrub)
Cut off the greens (and save!)
Preheat to 450
Put on a cookie sheet
Drizzle with Olive Oil
Sprinkle with salt
Roast for 20 minutes until you see them turn little brown in spots

You can eat these with your fingers (once they've cooled) or be civilized and have them as a side dish with a knife and fork.

I was most curious about how to use the greens. Rumored to be poisonous, (don't believe it)  (Garden Betty Agrees) (Harold McGee Agrees too) they are delicious and useful.  Tart and a little bitter (think mustard greens and dandelion greens), a quick google search will bring you an array of recipe ideas. I chose this pesto and didn't regret it. As a result of a lack of planning I looked in the cabinet to find that I didn't have any pasta.  I did have red quinoa (how trendy). Given the salty tart flavor of this pesto, the combination worked perfectly.

Carrot Green Pesto

1/4 cup Olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1 -1 1/2 cups of carrot greens (stems removed, I blanched half of the greens and left the other half raw.)
1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
(a few leaves of parsely if you have it)

Put it all in the food processor and process till it has the texture you like!

80 degree temperatures and the early September sun made this day feel heavenly.  After I pulled the carrots, I pulled the spent tomato plants too.  In their place: lettuce, spinach and beet seeds.  'Comm'on Fall!'

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Plants all day, Party all night (LGP and the N. American Experience)

Old Oak @ the Arnold Arboretum
In the second summer of the graduate program, we get the pleasure of going on a week long regional trip in North America.  We don't get to participate in the planning process and are not allowed to campaign for cities or states that interest us.  The Director decides where we should travel and who we will meet.  We are finally able to view our agenda about 1 month prior to take-off.

Contrast at Tower Hill
Throughout the week, we are asked to think about the qualities and leadership styles of the staff we meet.  We are encouraged to discuss the varying operations and discover preferences for future work environments.  We are able to meet with the upper level staff and discuss all manner of operations of the garden or arboretum. From watering techniques to donor cultivation, from education programs to landscape architecture, from budgeting concerns to employee pay, all subjects are open to us and it's fascinating.

This year we traveled to New England, specifically to see 6 different institutions of horticulture in Boston and Maine. One classmate created a motto for the trip, Plants all day, party all night. Our "party" usually ended at 11pm... Although, one highlight did include a quaint hotel in Maine, where we got to sing along with the lounge singer at the piano bar.

On the trip, we each get an opportunity to act as photographer and to act as journalist for the Longwood Graduate Program Blog.  My day to do the reporting was Day 1 when we visited the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University.  My day to do the photography was on Day 3 when we visited Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Worcester, Mass.  

Links are below!

Trip to the Arnold Arboretum

Trip to Tower Hill