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verdant views ISSUE 5 Summer/Fall 2013

The magazine of Cornell Plantations

verdant views Summer/Fall 2013 Plantations News Don Rakow Reflects on Plantations Mini Trucks Jim Kastenhuber Remembered Spicing Up New Classes Staff Favorite: Morgan-Smith Trail Town of Ithaca Award New Ad Campaign Bioswale Garden Poetry Audio Tour Gift Sustains Lewis Building

2 4 4 5 6 7 8 9 9 10

Features Fall Flowers

by Mary Hirshfeld

Behind the Scenes of

Nature’s The Private Life of Deer

by Lynn Purdon Yenkey

11 15

Book Review: Nature Wars 17 by Don Rakow

Roots of Plantations: F. R. Newman Arboretum 18 by Beth Anderson

We Speak for the Trees


Shrink Your Garden’s Climate Footprint


PEEPS Program Grows Teen Ambassadors


Student Artwork


by Sarah Fiorello by Liz Bauman

by Olivia M. Hall by Zach Velcoff

Publication of Verdant Views is made possible with support from the James L. Sears ’24 Plantations Director’s Discretionary Fund, a gift of Mary Helen Sears ’50. Verdant Views is published by Cornell Plantations: the botanical gardens, arboretum, and natural areas of Cornell University. Send inquiries about Cornell Plantations or Verdant Views to: Cornell Plantations One Plantations Road Ithaca, NY 14850-2799 E-mail: Telephone: 607-255-2400 Web: Cornell University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action educator and employer. Cover photo: Bioswale Garden, Chris Kitchen Inside cover photo: Watercourse Garden, Paul Schmitt This document is printed with soy based ink. This paper meets all sourcing requirements for SFI and FSC certifications. 100% of the recovered fiber used in the manufacture of this paper is from postconsumer waste. All liquid solvent waste generated in the printing of this document is recycled at the site of the printer. 9/13 2750 CP


Moving Forward with Plantations In early June, my interaction with Cornell Plantations was limited to weekly runs along the many beautiful paths in the gardens and natural areas, and occasional outings to take pictures of flowers—happy, satisfying experiences with this valued Cornell institution. A week later, Plantations became my home again, when I agreed to serve as acting director during the search for a new director. Quite a switch, but also an interesting opportunity for me, since I had served in this capacity seven years ago while Don Rakow was on sabbatical. This gives me the chance to compare the state of affairs here at two points in time, and to play a small role in moving the institution forward.

Chris Wien Named Interim Director While the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences conducts a national search for Plantations’ new director, Dr. Chris Wien is serving as interim director. Wien, who is a Cornell professor of horticulture, was our acting director from July 2006 to January 2007, when Don Rakow was on sabbatic leave. Sonja Skelly, director of education, said, “When Chris was here before he served Plantations exceptionally, and we are excited to have him back at the helm until we find a new director.” Wien received his master’s degree (1967) and Ph.D. (1971) from Cornell, and joined the Department of Vegetable Crops as a postdoctoral fellow in 1971. Research took him to Nigeria to study grain legume physiology, but he returned to Cornell as an assistant professor in 1979. He served as chair of the Department of Fruit and Vegetable Science, and then the Department of Horticulture, from 1996 to 2002.

Photo: University Photography

Wien’s recent research has focused on cut flower production and herbaceous perennials. He also leads outreach projects encouraging the use of high tunnels—simple unheated greenhouses in which plants are grown in the ground—among growers and in school gardens. He continues to work in Africa, with smallholder horticulturists in Zimbabwe, and leading student trips through the Cornell International Institute of Food, Agriculture and Development’s SMART program.

Since I served as interim director, Plantations has developed significantly under Don’s capable leadership. For instance, the operating budget has grown 31 percent, from $2.57 million in 2006 to $3.37 million in 2012, while the endowment increased from $15.36 million to $18.68 million. But aside from these raw numbers, what impresses me most is the dedication and leadership of the staff, who have been essential to making these changes happen. It is a joy to see people of all ages exploring the new gardens at the Nevin Welcome Center, including the bold tropical plantings around the patio and the magnificent Bioswale Garden. In concert with the university, Plantations’ natural areas program has made major new commitments to safety, infrastructure, and visitor access improvements in Cornell’s iconic gorges. The new Plant Production Facility and Lath House, completed in 2007, enables the horticulture staff to grow on-site most of our plants. Following the opening of the Nevin Center in 2011, the education and outreach staff have expanded their programs and are now welcoming thousands more visitors each year. As it always has, Plantations serves both the campus and local community, providing a place of beauty and quiet repose, and a variety of opportunities to learn about plants and reconnect with nature. Counting on solid support from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and from our alumni and friends, we look forward to charting the future with optimism and the resolve to practice Plantations’ green mission.

Chris Wien, Interim Director, Cornell Plantations Read this online and find past issues at 





An Opportunity to Dream On an early morning walk through the botanical garden, wending my way from the Mullestein Winter Garden to the Nevin Welcome Center, I’m startled to recognize that twenty years have passed since I first arrived at Cornell Plantations. It truly does seem like only yesterday that I was offered the position of associate director here. Under the guidance of then-director Carl Gortzig, I immersed myself in the study of budgets, managing staff, fundraising, community relations, university politics, and strategic planning. Throughout that three-year apprenticeship, and in the 17 years thereafter as the Elizabeth Newman Wilds Director, I have been involved in many accomplishments—from the creation of the Nevin Welcome Center to the development of the Graduate Program in Public Garden Leadership—that have provided me with enormous satisfaction. Yet some of my greatest pleasures have come from less obvious sources: learning that an alumnus of our graduate program had been offered a prestigious public garden position; talking with a community member who was astounded by the beauty of our collections; or celebrating with our son and his soon-to-be-spouse as they welcomed the joining of their families in a dinner at the Nevin Center. What underlies all of that, and what I have appreciated most during my tenure at Plantations has been the opportunity to dream—to work with staff, advisory groups, and university colleagues to conceive of and then give life to bold notions aimed at moving our ambitious mission forward. Each idea, whether it was one that led to a new program or never rose above the level of discussion, was given with a true caring for and commitment to this beautiful and precious place. I feel very privileged to have served at Plantations for these past two decades. I’m returning to my academic position now so I can devote myself to another set of activities that I truly love: teaching, researching, writing, and advising graduate students. But the passion that I feel for Plantations and what it represents is something I will always proudly carry with me, and I will admire from the sidelines the execution of bold ideas in the future.

Donald A. Rakow, Associate Professor, Department of Horticulture The Elizabeth Newman Wilds Director, Cornell Plantations (1996–2013) 2 

verdant views Summer/Fall 2013




Don Rakow: 20 Years of Leading Growth Dr. Donald A. Rakow stepped down from his position as the E. N. Wilds Director of Cornell Plantations on July 1, 2013, to return to a full-time position in the Department of Horticulture. In thanking and recognizing Rakow for his 20 years of work, Kathryn Boor, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said, “Don’s leadership has been a key part of the transformation of Cornell Plantations in the last two decades. I am grateful for his expertise, enthusiasm, and partnership.”

Photos: University Photography

Rakow has been a member of the Cornell faculty since 1987. He was appointed associate director of Plantations in 1993 and executive director in 1996. During his tenure, our staff doubled in size, the book value of our endowment funds increased from $4 million to $18 million, and we raised $14 million for a series of capital improvement projects, which culminated with the dedication of the Nevin Welcome Center in 2010. Reflecting on his directorship, Rakow says, “Our growth, even through periods of budget limitations and challenging economic climates, has certainly been among my greatest satisfactions. For so much of this, I credit Plantations’ amazing staff and our incredibly generous donors and advisors.”

Rakow led two master planning processes to develop and improve the botanical garden and arboretum, as well as the 2000–2010 “Plantations Transformations” initiative to provide us with the facilities needed by a top-ranked university botanical garden, including these capital projects:

Renovation of the Arboretum Center (2000), Horticultural Center (2001), and the Ramin Administration Center (2003) Design and installation of the Mullestein Winter Garden (2002) Construction of the new Plant Production Facility (2007) and Lath House (2009) Renovation of the Lewis Education Building (2008) Planning, design, and construction of the Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center and the Bioswale Garden (2010) Mary Hirshfeld, director of horticulture, says that all of those improvements “left us poised to forge ahead with developing the botanical garden bowl. Despite all he had already accomplished, Don didn’t lose sight of that goal. We now have a host of new gardens as a result of his vision and devotion, and are moving forward to raise funds for the new Peony

and Perennial Gardens and Six Friends East Asian Garden.” Rakow’s planning efforts also opened avenues for Plantations’ flourishing education and natural areas programs. Over the past 10 years, both have substantially increased their size, breadth, and beneficial impact on learners and our natural world. Throughout all this time, Rakow retained his position and responsibilities as associate professor of horticulture. In 2000 he conceived of and received university approval to establish a Masters of Professional Studies program in Public Garden Leadership (PGL). It is one of only two such programs in the U.S., with 20 alumni to date. Rakow coauthored the first-ever text in the public garden field, Public Garden Management, published in 2011. His informal teaching has included Cornell Adult University Garden Study Tours for alumni, leading and lecturing in gardens throughout Europe.

House Fellow; Cornell Committee on Sustainability and Transportation; Campus Planning Committee; and the Cornell Land Use Management Committee. Locally, he also has served on the boards of directors for the Finger Lakes Land Trust, Ithaca Sciencenter, and Cayuga Waterfront Trail. With his return to full-time teaching and research, Rakow will continue to direct the PGL program, teach, and mentor undergraduate and graduate students. He is writing a new book on the social roles of public gardens.

In service to the university, Rakow has been an active member of many committees, including the Gorge Safety Task Force; the President’s Sustainable Campus Committee and Land Practices Workgroup; Cornell University Council Administrative Board; Hans Bethe House,

Read this online and find past issues at 





Maximum Benefits from Mini Trucks

In Memoriam: Jim Kastenhuber 1952–2013

Plantations’ intimate garden areas demand vehicles that can navigate narrow paths and leave nary a footprint. ATVs did the job, but we wanted a vehicle that offered better fuel economy to help meet our goals for sustainable operations. Looking for alternatives, I discovered a mini truck in use at Cornell’s Ken Post greenhouses. Mini trucks have been used for decades in Japan but are just beginning to be imported to the U.S. 4 

verdant views Summer/Fall 2013

Mini trucks allow our gardeners to maneuver lightly while getting materials right where they are needed. Their fuel economy helps us meet sustainability goals, and they better protect gardeners in any weather.

Test driving a mini truck on some challenging arboretum terrain demonstrated that it matched and in some cases exceeded the off-road capabilities of our ATVs, but with important upgrades. Most obvious is the protection their enclosed cabs provide for operators, so frosty open-air mornings are a thing of the past. Most minis come standard with four-wheel drive, fuel-efficient three-cycle gasoline engines that claim 39 miles per gallon on the highway (ours tested at 30-32 mpg on uneven terrain variously loaded), and cargo beds that can be configured with power dump boxes, scissor-hoist beds, even side-dump beds. Their fit for Plantations seemed perfect, and in 2009 we purchased the first two of four mini trucks. Mary Hirshfeld, director of horticulture, was one of the first to use the mini truck. After using hers for three seasons, she states, “I love my mini truck. It is far more maneuverable than the ATVs, and steering is smooth. Trying to turn the

ATVs around tight corners was useful for building upper body strength, but not really convenient. The mini is compact enough to get into gardens with six-foot paths, like the Winter Garden and the Mary Rockwell Azalea garden on Cornell’s main campus, so I can unload mulch right where I want it and don’t have to haul it from the truck in a wheelbarrow.” The best example of mini trucks bringing staff closer to gardens in less intrusive ways might come when the planned Peony and Perennial Gardens become reality, designed with vehicle pull-offs and narrower pathways to maximize available planting space. But our fleet of minis has already proven itself, with better comfort, utility, and efficiency, helping us create and maintain collections and gardens Plantations can be proud of. Jim Mack, Horticultural and Grounds Operations Manager

What I have just described was my personal relationship with our friend and colleague, Jim Kastenhuber, who passed away in February. I suspect that my recollections will resonate with other Plantations staff. Jim was one of those behind-the-scenes guys who did what he did so expertly that you didn’t even notice. He “turned wrenches” as a vehicle mechanic at Plantations for nearly 11 years, but gave much, much more. He could be counted on to help wrangle up the grill and condiments for the annual summer staff picnic, direct traffic during Cornell Reunion and at Beebe Lake functions, and answer our vehicle distress calls anywhere anytime with battery charger in hand. When he often asked how you and your family were doing, he sincerely meant it. This edition of Verdant Views is dedicated to Jim’s memory, for all of the ways those of you who knew him will remember him. Here’s to you, Jim. We’re all smiling right back at ya! Jim Mack, Horticultural and Grounds Operations Manager

Photos: Mini Trucks, Jay Potter; Jim Kastenhuber, Carol Grove

Imagine your hair blowing in the wind, blood pumping, eyes squinting against the sun as you drive down a winding road. The time: just past sunrise. The date: late March or October. The temperature: hovering around freezing. Now imagine you are behind the wheel of an open-topped allterrain vehicle (ATV), the bone-chilling conditions causing your teeth to chatter, numbing your fingers, toes, and face. That used to be the early morning kickstart for Plantations gardeners driving our ATVs from the Horticulture Center to chores waiting in the botanical garden or arboretum, before we discovered something better for staff, our gardens, and the planet: the mini truck.

Occasionally in life we meet someone who is so genuine, friendly, unassuming, and willing to go out of their way to make your problem their problem that you instantly take to that individual, looking forward to the next time you see them. Indeed, some relationships are so comfortable— like that one co-worker exchange in your busy day that you can always count on to turn out right— perhaps we take them a bit for granted.




Spicing Up New Classes Garden to Table Series

Photos: Anthony Jordan, University Photography; Nevin Welcome Center exhibit, Jay Potter

Sungold and green zebra tomato bruschetta, bourbon-braised kale, sweet potato curry, herbed Morroccan charmoula batata—these were just a few of the delectable dishes served up last summer during our inaugural Garden to Table class series. Chefs from Cornell’s Taverna Banfi and Ithaca’s Simply Red Events & Culinary Center, along with a regional nutrition educator, joined Plantations gardeners to offer delicious insights into growing vegetables and herbs, and then cooking with them in new ways. The sold-out series of three classes represents a new way that we’re showing people how to fully appreciate the importance of plants in our lives and the potential of the beautiful vegetables they can grow. One participant called her experience “beyond expectation,” saying, “I loved hearing about growing heirloom vegetables. Then learning how to turn them into such wonderful and tasty dishes was the best part of this program.” This summer we partnered with some of the same chefs for the second series of Garden to Table classes, focusing on cuisines from Tuscany, Japan, and India, and we are looking to expand the program this fall.

Another new program we were excited to offer this year is Landscape for Life™, developed by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the U.S. Botanic Garden. The five-session, sold-out course taught gardeners to recognize the potential in even the humblest home landscape to clean air and water, reduce flooding, cool the surrounding community, combat climate change, and alleviate some of the pressures traditional landscaping methods can place on Earth’s ecosystems.

Anthony Jordan, Chef de Cuisine, The Statler Hotel with freshly picked vegetables from the Pounder Heritage Vegetable Garden.

A highlight from Taverna Banfi’s class was Chef Anthony Jordan’s bruschetta: SUNGOLD AND GREEN ZEBRA TOMATO BRUSCHETTA From Chef Anthony Jordan of Taverna Banfi 8-12 ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced (reserve juice) 3 tbsp finely minced garlic ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley ¼ cup chopped chives 1 tsp fresh lemon juice 2 tsp white balsamic vinegar ½ tbsp extra-virgin olive oil ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes 2 loaves crusty bread, cut in ½ inch slices 6 cloves cut in half Mix all ingredients except bread and garlic gloves. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside unrefrigerated for 3 hours. Heat oven to 350° F. Toast bread on a baking sheet. Rub cut side of garlic on each slice. Top with tomato mixture. Check out more recipes at the Further Reading link for this issue at

Herbs, spices, and other plant-based ingredients that create the iconic tastes and aromas of Indian, Italian, and Japanese cuisine are on display through December in a Nevin Welcome Center exhibit, “Savor the World’s Flavors.” Visitors can use the accompanying brochure to find the featured plants in the Robison Herb Garden. Our Garden to Table cooking classes showcased cuisines based on these ingredients.

Plantations gardener Josh Whitney attended a training program at the USBG to tailor our course for upstate New York audiences. Landscape for Life is based on the national Sustainable Sites Initiative™, which guides landscape architects in creating, building, and maintaining environmentally responsible gardens. (Learn more about SITES, as it is known, in Verdant Views Issue 4 in “Sustainable Practices Protect Our Landscapes.”) The home program is for anyone who gardens, giving easy and practical methods to work with soil, water, plants, and materials. Participants receive a Certificate in Sustainable Home Landscape Design from Cornell Plantations. Plantations’ goal is to change minds about conventional gardening practices. We aim to provide better approaches that save money and time while helping gardeners create great-looking, sustainable landscapes that are healthier for families, pets, neighbors, and the environment. We will offer the Landscape for Life program again this fall. If you can’t attend our courses, learn how to work with nature in your own backyard from the excellent website, Sonja Skelly, Director of Education Read this online and find past issues at 





A favorite of Billy Kepner MORGAN-SMITH TRAIL Along with the awe-inspiring forest, Kepner treasures the seclusion of this trail. “You sort of leave town,” he says, “but you’re on campus. It’s like being someplace totally different than Ithaca.” People dropping by the arboretum or touring through are unlikely to happen upon the Morgan-Smith Trail, which begins midway up the DeCoursey Stairs. (These climb the hill east of the Zucker Shrub Collection to Plantations Road, topping out near the Native Maple Collection. See  1 in the map below.) Discovering it feels like being let in on a secret.

“The Morgan-Smith Trail is my personal favorite because I love to run through it. It’s gorgeous!” Kepner gets his heart pumping over the undulating terrain of the half-mile trail while on loops through the arboretum, often with his running group, and loves experiencing all the moods of the forest: “I’ve gone through it in on beautiful hot sunny days when it was a cool respite. Then on days after a rain, there can be a mist that is quite lovely.” Agricultural economics professor emeritus Robert S. Smith and his wife, Mary Morgan-Smith, both deceased, gave the gift for the trail. It connects the cultivated collections in the F. R. Newman Arboretum to the Park Park Natural Area, and surrounds visitors with the historic beauty of the Fall Creek valley. Here you can walk among trees more than 150 years old—tall, straight sugar maples (Acer saccharum) and tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera), spreading hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) and white pines (Pinus strobus), basswood (Tilia americana), and cucumber magnolias (Magnolia acuminata). Midway through, growing right next to the trail, stands the tallest black cherry tree (Prunus serotina) natural areas director Todd Bittner says he has ever seen. It is likely more than 200 years old. Just across from the cherry lie huge stumps of American chestnut trees that date back almost 100 years.

Though the forest feels wild, the trail of wood chips and a boardwalk section is comfortably wide and well-maintained. But, Kepner advises runners not to be lulled by this in the dense woods. “Out and back, the Morgan-Smith Trail is a nice mile walk,” he says, “but for running, it’s one of those trails that you have to pay attention to,” noting sets of stairs where he does running sprints. (See  2 in the map.) The rewards for the climb are tremendous views and a look over the natural history of the valley. Kepner and his running mates treasure the serenity and challenge of the Morgan-Smith Trail.

Younger forest grows in sections that were once used for agriculture and where a wind storm flattened trees in the 1980s. The understory throughout is thick with blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), ferns, mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum), Trillium species, and other indigenous wildflowers.

“At the top of the trail, after the turn-off to Park Park, you reach benches under a canopy of trees, and a really lovely vantage point to see and listen to Fall Creek,” he says. (See  3 in the map.) Looking down, you can find floodplain terraces the creek has carved into the hillside as it descended over thousands of years into bedrock.

verdant views Summer/Fall 2013

Go to the Further Reading link at for more about this trail and others in the Fall Creek valley.

Lynn Purdon Yenkey, freelance writer, editor, and photographer

Tours on the Run

It can be hard enough to keep up a fitness routine on vacation, but Billy Kepner needed to get in a 13-mile run while visiting Chicago, a city he didn’t know, while training for a marathon. He found the perfect solution in a running tour, pacing with a guide and making short stops at the city’s high points. He immediately thought, “We should try this at Plantations!” Kepner worked with running mate and Plantations interpretation coordinator Sarah Fiorello to develop running tours of the F. R. Newman Arboretum’s plants and landscapes. In May, they led two tours for students (5K and 10K), a 5K tour for staff and faculty, and another 5K and 10K for community members. The pace wasn’t fast, a moderate jog, he says, but racing wasn’t the point. “The idea is that so many people use Plantations for fitness and running, but may not take time to look down to see what they are running though and the significance of where they are running. Now, for the ones who come on the tour, their runs can have new meaning.”



“Early fall is the prettiest time to run there, with the tinge of summer ending, especially if you want to go for a run when it is still hot out.” In any season, Kepner assures, “It’s a great place to escape to!”

Photo: Jay Potter

Much of Billy Kepner’s work as our marketing and retail coordinator keeps him near the Nevin Welcome Center and around the heart of the botanical garden. But his favorite place at Plantations takes him to heights along the northern slope of the arboretum, into old-growth forest and the ancient atmosphere of the Fall Creek valley.




Town of Ithaca Awards Natural Areas Program The board also considered the range of endeavors at work in the 600 acres of Plantations natural areas in the Town of Ithaca (out of 3,400 total acres). Two of our most unique sites there, Coy Glen and South Hill Swamp, support rare species and ecological communities of statewide importance, and account for many rare plant occurrences in Ithaca.

Photos: Paul Schmitt

This spring, Cornell Plantations Natural Areas Program was honored to receive the 10th annual Richard B. Fischer Environmental Conservation Award from the Town of Ithaca’s Conservation Board. Named in memory of the late Cornell professor and longtime Ithaca resident, the award recognizes organizations and individuals exemplifying Dr. Fischer’s dedication to environmental conservation. Plantations staff, volunteers, and Natural Areas Academy participants celebrated with the conservation board in May, planting a native swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor) on the East Ithaca Recreation Way trail. James Hamilton, vice chairman of the conservation board, said the board encouraged the Natural Areas Program to apply for the award “because we thought they probably deserved it.” Hamilton appreciated our work firsthand as a participant in the 2011 Natural Areas Academy, saying “the idea of teaching nature-lovers how to preserve, protect, and understand natural areas is central to the Fischer Award, and we on the conservation board like how [Plantations] reaches out to local residents” to foster environmental stewardship.

The board noted our efforts to model sustainability through environmentally sensitive design like that of the Gold LEED certified Nevin Welcome Center. They were impressed by our challenge to garden and lawn maintenance paradigms through efforts like the native lawn demonstration at Mundy Wildflower Garden. The native lawn replaces traditional turf grass (non-native, highly dependent on fossil fuel and chemical fertilizers, of low quality for wildlife) with 10 species of indigenous, low-growing grasses, sedges, and wildflowers that require significantly less water, fertilizer, pesticides, and mowing. An infestation of the pale swallow-wort (Cynanchum rossicum) plant in the Town brought home the importance of Plantations’ battle against invasive species. Todd Bittner, director of natural areas, alerted Town crews to swallow-wort growing unchecked up a fence around a Town water tank. “The fence helped the swallow-wort spread its seeds to the adjacent [Plantations South Hill] natural area,” says Hamilton, “and a Plantations presentation of that problem to the board got us working on a cooperative solution.” According to Hamilton, it also influenced the board to produce a white paper urging the Town to establish an invasive pest management policy permitting herbicide application where appropriate. “This would not have happened,” he continues, “if Plantations Natural Areas Program hadn’t helped

us understand the importance of preventing the spread of this nasty weed.” It exemplifies how we are helping the conservation board “understand an effective and scientifically appropriate stewardship for natural areas in the Town.” Our proactive approach toward pest management is saving area hemlock trees from decimation by the hemlock wooly adelgid insect. We support a long-term biocontrol research project at our Edwards Lake Cliffs Preserve, and have treated over 850 hemlocks within six other natural areas to safeguard the invaluable genetic diversity of these iconic trees. We saved hemlocks estimated to be over 300 years old in the Fischer Old Growth Forest, named in memorial for Dr. Fischer. This forest was recognized for its significance by the Old Growth Forest Network, and registered as the network’s 16th protected forest in September 2013. Plantations preserves are intended primarily for educational and scientific use, but most are open to the public and free to use for exercise, play, and exploration. “It makes a pretty irresistible combination for those of us who love the outdoors,” says Hamilton. We hope this access will inspire citizens to care for our local ecosystems in the spirit of Dr. Richard Fischer, and continue to cherish and protect the landscapes we all love. Visit the Further Reading link at to watch a video of James Hamilton and Todd Bittner speaking at the tree planting party. Lynn Purdon Yenkey

An arboreal giant grows in the Fischer Old Growth Forest, one of the few remaining pre-settlement forests in our region. 7




New Ad Campaign Launches

When City of Ithaca’s Mayor, Svante Myrick ’09, was a Cornell student, Plantations was a place to unwind. As a resident of Ithaca, it is a place where he reconnects with nature. As Mayor, Cornell Plantations is an asset to the community.

For Cornell students Camille Sims ’15 and Antonio Di Fenza (PhD Candidate) ’16, Plantations is a place for romance. They love spending time together getting lost in the gardens and hiking the wooded trails through the arboretum. But their favorite place is the Herb Garden, where the stone benches, floral fragrances, and lush landscape lend the perfect backdrop for a date right on campus.




All the ways our visitors enjoy Cornell Plantations show that this is more than just a public garden. Some run or hike through for fitness and wellbeing. Others come to peer into our famous gorges. Couples take romantic walks among spring flowers and fall leaves. Families picnic here in summer, and sled in winter. Our new marketing campaign, “Cornell Plantations Is,” launched this summer to share the variety of these stories—well-being, gorges, romance, family, and more. The faces you see aren’t models; they are real people telling their authentic stories about what Cornell Plantations is to them. 8 

verdant views Summer/Fall 2013

The series of multi-sized ads will appear on buses, in print, and through videos posted on our website and on Facebook and Twitter. The message through all of them: Cornell Plantations is more than plants. It’s bigger than trees. It’s a place that brings inspiration, joy, and well-being to so many. We invite you to watch the videos and share what Cornell Plantations is to you at

For Dr. Robin Davisson and her running group, who run through Plantations weekly, this is a place to run and to be with friends, a place to take a moment and appreciate the beauty all around in every season.

Visit to find us on Facebook, Twitter, and our other online outlets.

For the Eckenrode family, Cornell Plantations is their past and now it’s their future. Kris and Josh Eckenrode fell in love here over dates under the Treman Willow. Now they bring their young girls here to play. For them, Cornell Plantations is Family.


c o rn e l l p l a n ta ti o n s . o rg


Photos: (Page 8) Myrick, Romance, Well-Being, University Photography; Family, Rachel Philipson; (Page 9) Bioswale Garden, Chris Kitchen; Poetry Tour, University Photography

Bioswale Garden Honored

Oliver has spent the last few years traveling the U.S. recording poets reciting their work, funded by a grant for her project, “Knox Writers House,” a “map of voices” literary audio archive. She wanted to find an unusual way to make the recordings she’s collected accessible to the public. Working closely with Plantations staff, Oliver developed Poetry Walks of Mundy Wildflower Garden.

icons, Beebe Lake, which lies just west of our gardens. Managing water effectively was an essential component in the Nevin Welcome Center receiving its LEED Gold designation.

The award recognizes the creative interworking of the parking lot with its planted filter strip, arrival plaza, and bioswale to slow and filter runoff and pollution from rain and snowmelt, protecting one of Cornell’s most precious natural

Lynn Purdon Yenkey

“We are thrilled that our hard work and conscientious development have been recognized by this prestigious organization,” says Irene Lekstutis, Plantations landscape designer. “Cornell Plantations strives to be a model of bold, sustainable design in all of our projects.” Likewise we enjoy being able to share what we have learned from our approach with SCUP’s community of planners and designers in higher education.


Poetry Audio Tour: A New Way to Explore the Mundy Wildflower Garden Plantations’ Mundy Wildflower Garden has the richest diversity of early-blooming wildflowers in the area and is a must-see in early spring. This past April, Cornell Master of Fine Art student Emily Oliver matched her favorite poems to many of the garden’s wildflowers, creating a unique audio tour.

You might never notice it, but Plantations’ commitment to sustainable design appears as soon as you step foot from your bike, tour bus, or car at the parking lot for the Nevin Welcome Center. Your eyes are drawn to the maple trees edging the Nevin Welcome Center’s parking lot, with their underplantings of native flowers and grasses, and beyond to swaths of perennials tumbling into the Bioswale Garden. But the tough tactical heart of this gorgeous garden design is a parking and storm water management site plan that recently received the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) Honor Award for Excellence in Landscape Architecture.


Since April was National Poetry Month and the time when early spring wildflowers are prolific in the garden, pairing poems to these delicate blooms was a perfect match. At first, Oliver was nervous that her collections of poems would not appropriately match the essence of each plant. With help from Krissy Boys, who curates the Wildflower Garden, she researched each spring wildflower. “As I learned about each flower, it just became clear which poem to choose...detail of the natural description felt akin to an image or phrase in something I’ve recorded,” Oliver said. Throughout the month of April, visitors to the wildflower garden could dial a number indicated on a small sign next to each plant in bloom to hear information about each plant and a poem recited by the author. To hear one of the poems, go to the Further Reading link at Sarah Fiorello, Interpretation Coordinator

Mia Spada, of Ithaca, pauses among Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) to hear a poem on the tour. Read this online and find past issues at 





Fond Memories Lead to Gift to Sustain Lewis Building’s Legacy

Planned gifts can secure your future—and ours! Gift planning can help you meet your financial goals while also providing Cornell Plantations with vital long-term resources. From a simple bequest in your will to life-income agreements that can help secure your retirement, there are a wide range options.

Photos: Lewis Building, Plantations Archives; Ann and Bob Shaw, University Photography

A scene at the Lewis Building, preparing to build the Herb Garden.


Childhood memories and knowing what it takes to maintain a historic building inspired a major new planned gift to Cornell Plantations from Bob Shaw ’63, MS ’64 and Anne Meads Shaw ’64. Their gift will establish a future endowment fund to support upkeep of the Lewis Education Building and infrastructure and botanical collections on Comstock Knoll.

Ann Meads Shaw ’64 and Bob Shaw ’63, in front of the Lewis Building.

After the school closed in 1964 (the same year Bob earned his M.S. in electrical engineering), the building became Plantations headquarters. The old playground in front was dismantled, but the gravel yard remained for 10 years before the Robison York State Herb Garden was built there. Today the building houses our education and visitor services staff, and is named for Plantations’ first executive director, Richard Lewis.

Bob Shaw grew up in Forest Home, on the outskirts of the Cornell campus, and spent many happy days with his two brothers (also Cornell graduates), exploring the woods along Fall Creek. Their parents, who were both Cornellians, worked at the university. R. William Shaw PhD ’34 was a professor and longtime chair of the astronomy department, and Charlotte Throop Shaw MA ’36 worked in the music department.

Bob remembers how much his mother enjoyed seeing our botanical gardens develop, and walking in the woodland across Judd Falls Road, which is now the Mundy Wildflower Garden. It was in her memory that he and Anne first started making gifts to Plantations. As their 50th reunions were approaching, they began thinking about how they might do more to create a permanent source of support for Plantations.

The boys attended the nearby Forest Home elementary school, where Bob remembers playing among the tall pines on Comstock Knoll, sledding down the hillside in the winter, and playing baseball in the schoolyard in the summer.

“The Lewis building and the properties around it were an important part of my early years,” says Bob. “Anne and I want to be sure that Plantations has the funds needed to maintain and preserve them over the years ahead.”

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Former Plantations director Don Rakow said, “We are delighted that Bob and Anne feel so strongly about supporting Plantations. It takes a special kind of understanding and foresight to recognize that building maintenance funds are not easy to come by.” Over the next four years, Bob and Anne will add new gifts to the charitable remainder unitrust they’ve already established at Cornell. They receive income from the trust for their lifetimes, and after their deaths the remainder will be divided to support the Sustainable Energy Systems program in the College of Engineering and to establish the “Robert and Anne Shaw Plantations Endowment.” We will use the payout from their endowment to maintain or improve the Lewis Building and the pathways, stairs, summer house, or other infrastructure on Comstock Knoll. The fund may also support other landscape improvements or enhance the knoll’s botanical collections. Beth Anderson, Director of Development

For many donors, gift annuities and charitable remainder trusts provide the security of having a continued income stream for themselves or heirs, and significant tax savings. The charitable IRA rollover is also an option for 2013, and if you are 70½ or older, you could move up to $100,000 from your IRA directly to Plantations without paying income taxes on the money.

For more information about how you can support Cornell Plantations with a planned gift, please contact us: Cornell Trusts, Estates & Gift Planning Phone: 1-800-481-1865 E-mail:

September brings thoughts of the approaching riotous finale of bright leaf colors that gild the Ithaca hills in October....





Fall Flowers By Mary Hirshfeld

But here in the final days of summer, a select palette of herbaceous perennials is just beginning its flower display. Goldenrod and asters are familiar late bloomers, but less well known are toad lilies, anemones, and wax bells. Here are several we grow and love at Plantations.

Other T. formosana hybrids that have performed well at Plantations are ‘Empress’ and ‘Taipei Silk’. ‘Empress’ reaches up to three feet, establishing colonies of upright, glossy-leaved stems carrying terminal, open clusters of white flowers heavily spotted with velvet purple. ‘Taipei Silk’ is noteworthy for large flowers and unusual coloration, having three purple petals and three narrower white petals sparingly spotted with purple. Gardeners can find a wide array of variegated toad lilies with different patterns and colors of variegation such as streaked, or edged with gold or white. None of these have proven to be vigorous or long-lived here at Plantations, but that doesn’t mean I won’t give them another try! The speckled blooms of a hybrid toad lily (Tricyrtis formosana x hirta) on Comstock Knoll

Toad lilies, woodland beauties

Just as gardens begin to look weary of the summer and ready for fall’s frost, toad lilies come into their own. These woodlanders are native to China and Japan and tolerate dry and evenly moist but well-drained soils. Plant them up close to best appreciate their unusually patterned, exquisitely shaped flowers: six basally fused upright petals are 12 

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crowned with a central columnar star of stamens and pistils, resembling an arching fountain. Petals are white to cream, ornamented with dense spots of purple, reminiscent of the pattern on a toad’s back. Tricyrtis hirta and its pure white-flowered form, ‘Alba’, were the first toad lilies to become widely available, in the mid 1980s. They have since been surpassed by a plethora of new hybrids, most of them resulting from crossing T. hirta

The weight of the flowers causes the stems to bow gracefully forward, so the best way to enjoy them is to plant them on a slope where they can cascade smoothly downward. Once difficult to find, this lovely plant has finally been noticed and is widely available in the nursery trade.

Anemones reign in fall

Japanese garden anemones, especially the hybrids, are the royalty of the late summer and early fall garden. The species anemone, Anemone hupehensis, blooms first and is shorter with a more mat-forming habit. Flowers are a lovely two-tone pink, the petal backs on alternate petals being a rich dark pink with an interior several shades paler. ‘September Charm’ is a lovely selection of A. hupehensis and quickly forms a substantial, dense colony of 18-inch tall wiry stems carrying clouds of soft two-tone pink flowers. ‘Crispa’ is one

Waxbells cascade in the shade

Kirengeshoma palmata, or yellow waxbells, impresses me more every season. A robust native of Japan, it reaches three to four feet high, adapts to sun or shade, and throughout the summer brings bold texture to the garden. Stems are often purple-tinged, strong and upright, clad in lavishly lobed foliage. Waxy yellow bell-shaped flowers are held in terminal clusters in August and September. Yellow waxbells (Kirengeshoma palmata)

Photos: (Page 11) Bioswale Garden, Chris Kitchen; (Page 12) Toad lilies, Phil Syphrit; Yellow waxbells, Jay Potter

with T. formosana. ‘Tojen’ or ‘Togen’ is a vigorous and lovely selection that blooms a bit earlier than others with profuse pale lavender flowers that lack the characteristic decorative spotting. Plants form impressive colonies.




is one of my favorites, with delicate semi-double white flowers. ‘Party Dress’ is a stunning selection that reaches to three feet, flaunting very large, double, soft pink flowers composed of overlapping rows of unusually narrow petals. All the Anemone x hybrida selections are more clump-forming than A. hupehensis, but once well established will begin to form loose colonies. Move them in spring, and plant with care in soil that drains well, since the fastest way to lose fall anemones is to let them sit in a wet site over winter. They will tolerate part shade to full sun, but not heavy shade. Like many plants that wait until fall to fully develop, they can be slow to emerge and begin active growth, and it’s easy to mistake them for dead. Be patient: they will emerge!

Photo: Anemone, Jay Potter; Joe Pye weed, Julie Magura

Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’

of my favorites. Its decorative, ruffled and frilled foliage is a standout all summer, and in fall is embellished with rich single pink flowers. Relatively new on the scene is the Pretty Lady™ series of A. hupehensis that have been introduced from Japan. All are more compact than the species, reaching to 16 inches and displaying varying shades of pink flowers. ‘Pretty Lady Diana’ produces two-inch wide blooms in deep pink, while ‘Pretty Lady Emily’ and ‘Pretty Lady Julia’ carry double flowers, with ‘Julia’ being the darker, more richly colored of the two.

Welcome goldenrods to the garden

The real gem of the genus is Anemone x hybrida, the Japanese garden anemone, which is a hybrid of A. hupehensis var. japonica and A. vitifolia. Since the original hybrid was developed in 1848, many stunning cultivars have been developed, offering single and semi-double flowers in white, cream, and shades of pink. One of the oldest and still one of the best is ‘Honorine Jobert’, a vigorous, fourto-five footer that produces masses of crystalline single white flowers accented by a central cluster of golden stamens. A mass planting of ‘Honorine’ in the Groundcover Collection at Plantations reliably stops September visitors in their tracks. ‘Whirlwind’

Here in the Finger Lakes region, goldenrod is so ubiquitous in fall that it is not usually considered a valuable addition to the garden. Several striking cultivars, however, are worthy of a prime location there. One well-known and widely grown goldenrod is a selection of Solidago rugosa, the rough-stemmed goldenrod, dubbed ‘Fireworks’. Typically S. rugosa reaches up to five feet and can run vigorously, forming large colonies of floppy hairy stems that are not highly ornamental. Ken Moore, of the North Carolina Botanical Garden, noticed an individual plant in the wild with a shorter stature and more clump-forming habit. He brought the plant back

Spotted Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum)

to the NCBG for evaluation and later introduced ‘Fireworks’ to gardeners through Niche Gardens Nursery. It has proven to be quite well-behaved, requiring only mild spring removal of running stems to keep it in its designated spot. Stems grow up to three feet, unbranched for about twothirds of their length, and then suddenly explode into slender side shoots, each of which carries more explosions of axillary branchlets coated Read this online and find past issues at 





See Them at Plantations Botanical Garden Goldenrod (Solidago)

‘Fireworks’—Bioswale Garden, parking lot, Mullestein Hillside Garden, Young Garden, and Herb Garden ‘Solar Cascade’—Mullestein Hillside Garden and at 130 Forest Home Drive ‘Wichita Mountains’—North Walk

Late-blooming plantain lily (Hosta tardiflora) Groundcover Collection

Japanese anemones (Anemone) ‘Crispa’—Groundcover Collection ‘Honorine Jobert’—Groundcover Collection ‘Party Dress’—Mullestein Hillside Garden and the Groundcover Collection ‘Whirlwind’—North Walk of the Herb Garden

Purple-leaved bugbane (Actaea) ‘Chocoholic’—Nevin Welcome Center, Groundcover Collection, and Young Garden Toad lilies (Tricyrtis) ‘Togen’—Comstock Knoll Yellow waxbells (Kirengeshoma palmata) Comstock Knoll

with tiny yellow flowers. The decorative habit and delicate flowers of ‘Fireworks’ make it a brilliant addition to the fall garden. Two exceptional, more recent introductions are ‘Wichita Mountains’ and ‘Solar Cascade’. Nurseryman Steve Bieberich discovered ‘Wichita Mountains’ in their namesake mountains of southwestern Oklahoma. It is unusual among ornamental goldenrods in having flowers carried in a dense terminal spike. At Plantations it has been very slow to establish and has not displayed the expected ironclad goldenrod constitution. However, it is worth babying because a mature plant or— even better, a grouping—is stunning, flaunting golden yellow spikes throughout autumn.


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‘Solar Cascade’ is a selection of S. shortii, Short’s goldenrod, which is on the federal list of endangered species. It is native to Indiana and Kentucky, where only small populations have been found. ‘Solar Cascade’ produces an unusual, striking display of flowers held in small clusters along the upper portion of arching stems, bringing to mind a series of exploding fireworks. Although it looks delicate, this is a tough plant that can tolerate dry conditions once established. Solidago ‘Nag’s Head’ is a robust plant, towering to four feet and carrying a much larger version of the typical terminal cluster of goldenrod flowers. Its one drawback is that it is extremely late to flower, and in some years has been marred by Ithaca’s fall frosts. Even with that possibility, ‘Nag’s Head’ is a

commanding addition to any garden, and makes a stunning display in concert with other statuesque fall bloomers, such as spotted Joe Pye weed or tall asters. Come visit Plantations to look for these as well as purple-leaved bugbane (Actaea ‘Chocoholic’), hardy cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium), lateblooming plantain lily (Hosta tardiflora), and the magnificent pink flower heads of spotted Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum ‘Gateway’). Fall glory is about more than just the leaves! Mary Hirshfeld is director of horticulture at Cornell Plantations. Finding and bringing new plants to our gardens is her enduring passion.

F. R. Newman Arboretum Goldenrod (Solidago) ‘Wichita Mountains’—Upper loop of Arboretum Road, near the parking bay just west of the Goldsworthy Holocaust Memorial ‘Nags head’—Watercourse Garden and Treman Woodland Walk Hardy cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium) Allen Trail

Spotted Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum) ‘Gateway’—behind the Munschauer bench Toad lilies (Tricyrtis) ‘Empress’—Treman Woodland Walk Yellow waxbells (Kirengeshoma palmata) Treman Woodland Walk

Photo: Solidago ‘Fireworks’, Jay Potter

Solidago ‘Fireworks’




Behind the Scenes of Nature’s The Private Life of Deer about them?” says Bachar. “Where do they go? How long do they live? What do they eat?” Bachar and his team spent two months tracking and filming deer from the Florida Keys to northern Wisconsin looking for answers, but another question brought them to our neighborhood to film the bulk of the show: “Why do they love our backyards?” According to Bachar, they wanted a large part of the film to deal with deer and people, and looked into a number of towns known for interaction between people and large numbers of deer. He says they selected Ithaca and Cayuga Heights partly for proximity to Pangolin’s New York City base, but also because, “boy, they have a lot of deer up there!”


A wary doe and buck in a scene from Nature’s The Private Life of Deer, filmed in part at Plantations and in surrounding communities.

If yours is one of those yards where deer families eat, nap, and socialize unmoved by your presence, your car, even your barking dog, then a documentary film titled The Private Life of Deer might sound puzzling. Not very much about them seems discreet when deer wander some neighborhoods as comfortably as kids walking home from school, and belly up to bird feeders and gardens like invited guests. Common as sparrows in places like Ithaca and Cayuga Heights, New York, they hardly seem wild. That’s exactly what interested Kevin Bachar of Pangolin Pictures in producing a natural history film about white-tailed deer for renowned PBS program Nature, with several Plantations staff members, Cornell scientists, and area home owners playing vital roles. “We see deer all the time in our backyards and alongside of the road, but what do we really know

To help capture the story of a deer’s life in the suburbs, the filmmakers enlisted about 30 homeowners, including Sonja Skelly, Plantations director of education, as well as their scientist interviewees, including our natural areas director, Todd Bittner. Producers supplied phone-sized, high-definition video cameras and asked people to record their meetings with deer over a few months. The “citizen filmmaker” approach was a first for Pangolin and “one of the things we were looking forward to and what Nature was really interested in,” notes Bachar. One thing they were not interested in, and made clear to all involved, was the controversy surrounding deer management. North America’s population of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) has swelled to 30 million in the 100 years since humans hunted them down to almost nothing at the beginning of the 20th century. Now we can’t miss each other. And whenever we are pressed together in suburbs, says Bachar, “there’s controversy: ‘What to do with the deer? How do we manage them?’...

Whatever way you are looking to manage the deer, we told [communities] we weren’t interested. We were interested in the behavior of the animal, how wild behavior translates to behavior in the suburbs, how it’s the same and how it changes.” Making a Living in the Suburbs The most obvious behavioral change deer make when they keep bumping into people is to lose their fear of us. During her observations, Skelly was struck by “how totally unfazed they are. I would often walk right up to them, drive within feet of them, and they would simply stare at me or go back to eating whatever scrumptious garden plant they were enjoying. There is evidence of them everywhere in my yard—trails, poo, prints—even a fawn that nested in a flower bed attached to my house, right outside my front door!” Proximity makes for easy filmmaking. Pros expect to spend many hours tracking and waiting behind long lenses to film elusive wild animals, and it can take days to capture just moments of footage. So a big change for the Pangolin team was walking right up to suburban white-tailed deer to get lengthy close ups. To Bachar, it felt “kind of bizarre, but great as a filmmaker!” It even inspired a “making of” segment within the documentary. “I was filming deer,” Bittner recalls, “and they were filming me filming the deer.” While he narrated, the crew followed with camera and sound boom, and Bittner also wore a buttonhole microphone to narrate what he saw. Even with all the activity surrounding him, he was able to use his handheld camera to film a doe and two fawns at Plantations from as close as 10 yards. Humorous but unnerving scenes that pepper the film show just how comfortable suburban deer can become compared to rural deer that flee at the mere scent of a human. A woman walks dogs right past a deer grazing at the edge of a yard, and none

Suburban white-tailed deer don’t fear living close to humans.

take notice of each other! Unflustered deer ignore dogs that bother to bark, and understand just how far a familiar dog will chase, waiting safely just out of range. In perhaps the film’s funniest segment, Bernd Blossey, professor in Cornell’s Department of Natural Resources, assists filmmakers with an experiment that tests how deer will respond to commercially available coyote silhouettes intended to perform like scarecrows for deer. Blossey sets up a remote video camera to capture the behavioral responses. First, deer approach cautiously, but soon learn that silhouettes don’t behave like coyotes. Before long they are grazing among them, then a deer licks one, and the scene ends with it tipping the scarecrow almost playfully. “It shows their adaptability,” says Blossey. “They are always responding to an environment.” Read this online and find past issues at 




accompanying footage of large bucks leaping tall fences from a standstill is breathtaking. The producers were interested in the contrast between vegetation inside and outside the fiveacre fenced deer exclosure at Plantations’ Mundy Wildflower Garden (which covers a total eight acres)—what Bittner calls “a night and day difference.” In a variety of takes, they interviewed him inside among regenerating trees, shrubs, and wildflowers; and then immediately outside, where “there’s literally nothing green between your ankle and your chin.”

Sonja Skelly is interviewed by the Pangolin Pictures crew.

Trail cameras were also used to try to capture deer behavior that is very hard to film, like mating. Blossey says he’s seen that only once or twice over 20 years in the woods. Ithaca’s suburban deer did not oblige the documentarians, either. It seems they do still have a private life. The Omni-Herbivore No documentary about deer could fail to mention their appetite, and opening scenes include Skelly and others airing frustrations about deer treating their gardens like a buffet. Deer need to eat 3 percent of their body weight daily, anywhere from 4 to 10 pounds for bucks, and the narrator says they will eat almost any plant—about 600 species—even twigs and poison ivy in lean times.

Regrettably, but not surprisingly given the film’s mission, The Private Life of Deer leaves out any discussion of impacts to biodiversity. Unfortunately, technical trouble forced them to leave out Bittner, too. After more than two dozen takes in and around the exclosure, Bachar discovered the battery to Bittner’s portable microphone was dead the entire time. The filmmakers were dismayed, Bittner says, “and very apologetic.”

New Neighbors, New Risks As coordinator of Cornell’s Deer Research and Management Program, Boulanger knows well the issues that arise when deer and humans become close neighbors, and provides many of the film’s eye-opening facts. Hearing “there are a lot of deer here” is easy to shrug off, but when Boulanger states that Cayuga Heights has 100 deer per square mile, when “what we need is more like five per square mile,” it gets your attention. It also begs ecological questions the short natural history film does not explore. Some of those surround Lyme disease, transmitted by black-legged ticks, commonly called deer ticks. Adult ticks will feed on small mammals like raccoon and opossum, but they prefer deer as hosts, and there is a strong correlation between deer density and large numbers of ticks according to the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Wildlife Damage Management fact sheet, “White-Tailed Deer.” Off-camera, both Bittner and Boulanger cite the sharp increase in reported cases of the disease

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Lyme disease can be devastating if not properly treated, and Bittner knows that worry firsthand. While searching for bucks to film in a brushy area near the Wildflower Garden, he was bitten by a tick that gave him Lyme disease. He never saw the tick and didn’t get the tell-tale bulls eye rash, which complicated a proper diagnosis and treatment for over two weeks. Ultimately his treatment was successful, and should prevent the kind of pain and neurological problems that some people experience years after infection. The incident reminds him of concerns he never used to feel out in natural areas, though he has had his share of ticks. Three more Plantations staff members and one volunteer were treated for Lyme disease in the last two years, and Boulanger relates three cases in his department, too. While the connections between ticks, deer, a changing climate, and other factors that loop them together are still being researched, it makes sense to take precautions when living and playing alongside deer. Private Life does address one of the most serious concerns for humans living close to deer, and the gravest for the animals: deer-vehicle collisions. Tens of thousands of people are injured every year in accidents where deer are present, and an estimated 200 lose their lives. Crashes with vehicles are the main cause of death for urban deer (their typical lifespan is 10–12 years).

Jay Boulanger, also from Cornell’s natural resources department, is interviewed saying, “We as humans have created pretty much the perfect habitat for deer.” Besides the lack of any predators, suburbs “have a wide variety of plants that deer can eat versus a rural forest.” With that comes the chore of keeping deer out of tasty landscapes, surely a boon to the fencing industry. Homeowners show their caged saplings, yards and gardens enclosed by mesh and chain link, but lament that often their fences aren’t tall enough. In fact, Boulanger says that with a running start, deer can easily clear an eight-foot obstacle. The 16 

in Tompkins Country, from just 2 in 2006 to 109 cases confirmed in 2011.

Road kill is a sad and familiar sight, but we don’t often see the suffering of deer that are struck but not killed on the road. Just moments after his first attempt filming deer at the Wildflower Garden, Bittner found two bucks bedded down, one showing signs of stress and a softball-sized inflammation around a wounded foreleg. “He was hobbling around and instantly I knew he had been struck by a car.” A few months later, staff found him dead near the creek in the garden. Bernd Blossey places a trail camera to capture deer behavior.

Photos: Film Crew, Jeff Maggard; Bernd Blossey, ©THIRTEEN



A deer’s ability to learn how to survive in suburbia and the risks our species present to each other appear in one scene that perfectly combines animal tracking, scientific narration, and serendipity. As Boulanger and the film crew follow a mature doe with two yearling fawns one early morning, the deer pause at a roadside. At the same time, a school bus stops to pick up children a block or so down. Boulanger describes the behavior as it happens: the mother deer has learned to read traffic patterns, and she looks both ways before deeming it safe enough to step slowly across the road. But her fawns, eager to follow but not yet as careful, dart after her pell-mell. Boulanger says the young deer’s unpredictable behavior, so dangerous to drivers and themselves, is something he sees almost daily during his fieldwork in the area.

Photos: Fawn, ©THIRTEEN; Screening, Sonja Skelly

The Unveiling In partnership with its regional PBS station WSKG, Plantations hosted a screening of Nature’s The Private Life of Deer for more than 100 visitors in the Nevin Welcome Center a week before it aired in May on PBS. Bittner was emcee, and Blossey and Boulanger said they had a good time fielding questions from the room during a post-film Q&A, even correcting a few points they felt were errors. (For example, the film says deer are nearly blind and rely solely on movement; these seasoned deer observers feel their eyesight is better than that.) The film ends saying that deer “are a link back, a reminder of the wilderness that surrounds us still.” The conservationists, ecologists, wildlife biologists, and horticulturists in the room who helped bring so many deer secrets to light know that deer are more than a graceful emblem. Perhaps a sequel will delve into what has come from humans shaping the land to our needs, and from deer learning and shaping it again because of theirs. Lynn Purdon Yenkey is a writer, editor, and photographer in Chicago, where she misses seeing the deer.



Book Review: Nature Wars by Don Rakow

Suburbanites like Skelly are often surprised to find that mother deer will hide fawns in their gardens, like this one pictured from the film. However, most fawns like this have not been abandoned. They are born with almost no scent, and lying still under cover is their best defense against predators.

Jim Sterba’s Nature Wars starts by posing a dilemma: how can a remarkable recovery effort— the restoration of our eastern forests—have turned into an ecological disaster? To solve this riddle, Sterba systematically reconstructs our treatment of land resources since Europeans first settled this continent. He starts by describing how the agriculturally based societies of the 18th and much of the 19th century caused the widespread destruction of the forests that colonists first looked upon with awe. Sterba then recounts how three important trends transformed America from a land of depleted natural resources to one in which we are at war with our indigenous species: abandonment of less fertile farmlands; institution of game conservation laws; and the post-war movement into the suburbs, which he calls “the great sprawl.”

Over 100 people attended the film screening at Plantations in May.

Watch the full episode and short segments of Nature’s The Private Life of Deer at For a list of deer-resistant plants and other resources about deer, visit the Further Reading link for this issue at

In this thoughtful, very well-researched book, Sterba is not making a plea for all of us to take up muskets (or their more technologically-advanced equivalents) and set out into the woods in search of a prize catch. Nor does he present a series of success stories in which out-of-control deer or goose populations have been brought back into balance through targeted hunts. In fact, if there is one shortcoming of this otherwise excellent text it is the paucity of solutions he has identified for dealing with ever-increasing populations of what have come to be recognized as problem species. But the author is not without hope. In the final chapter, he outlines various approaches that could reduce populations back to manageable, sustainable levels. After showing how we have created this mess—destroying the forests primeval, killing off game and economic species, and recently fumbling to protect much of that fauna—he argues that it’s our job to embrace the means to live in harmony with the animals around us for the next hundred years. Don Rakow is the former Elizabeth Newman Wilds Director of Cornell Plantations. Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds, by Jim Sterba, is 338 pages long, published by Crown, and is $26.

Jim Sterba Speaks at Cornell October 23: As part of the Cornell Plantations Fall Lecture Series, Jim Sterba, author of Nature Wars, will give the fifth annual Elizabeth E. Rowley Lecture on Wednesday, October 23, at 7:30 p.m. in Statler Hall Auditorium. October 24: Jim Sterba will take part in a Deer Management Forum sponsored by Cornell University’s David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and Cornell Plantations, where local and regional stakeholders will begin a dialog about coordinated deer management within Tompkins County. Sterba will be on the panel at the public forum, “Regional deer impacts and management strategies,” Thursday, October 24, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. in Cornell’s BioTech building room G10.

Read this online and find past issues at 





Roots of Plantations: F. R. Newman Arboretum By Beth Anderson

With its stands of mature trees, sweeping meadows, and vistas dotted with sculptures, it’s easy to assume that Plantations’ 100-acre F. R. Newman Arboretum has always been part of Cornell. But longtime Ithacans and alumni who were students through the mid-1970s will remember when the area was a working farm and pasture for agricultural teaching and research. Only 40 years have passed since the arboretum’s first phase was finished, but it had been a long time coming. An Almost Ideal Site The first formal recommendation for a campus arboretum was made in a 1925 Cornell University Plan Commission report. It urged that nature preserves be created above the gorges along both Cascadilla and Fall Creeks, to be connected by a belt of wooded parkland that would form “an almost ideal site for an arboretum.” In 1934 the University’s Board of Trustees approved a general ground plan in concept, but did not allocate any funding. Fortunately, the university was 18 

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Groundbreaking for the arboretum expansion, June 1981

successful in its application for federal aid under the Works Progress Administration, and a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp was established at Cornell the next year. Between 1935 and 1941, some 200 CCC laborers worked on the arboretum project, clearing and grading land, constructing nearly eight miles of roads and paths, building stone retaining walls, and moving or planting over 12,000 trees and shrubs. Then known as the “Cornell Arboretum,” the area included Cascadilla and Fall Creek gorges and natural areas, Beebe Lake and its surrounding woodlands, Comstock Knoll and the horticulture department’s gardens (which later became Cornell Plantations’ botanical gardens), and other natural areas that formed a horseshoe around the Agricultural College’s farmlands to the east. In 1944, following the recommendation of Liberty Hyde Bailey, the university trustees officially approved renaming the arboretum “Cornell Plantations,” and elected Bailey as its chairman.

At his 70th Cornell Reunion and the dedication of the F. R. Newman Arboretum on June 10, 1982, F. R. “Flood” Newman said that the arboretum was the “crowning touch” to his “long and happy participation in the university’s growth and advancement.” Twenty years later, the Department of Animal Science ceded its farmlands along Fall Creek to Plantations. Along with the horticulture department’s test gardens on Forest Home Drive, the entire area was earmarked to become a formal arboretum, with accessioned collections of trees and shrubs that would support teaching and research. The nut tree collection along the main road was planted in the early 1960s, funded by and named in honor of the Class of 1901.

An Arboretum Sponsor In 1967, F. R. “Flood” Newman, a university trustee and member of the Plantations Sponsors, gave $40,000 to fund a master plan to fully develop the arboretum. The first phase of the project was finished in 1973, and Newman Meadow was named in recognition of his support. It was another seven years before all of the necessary funds were raised and the Board of Trustees authorized completion of the project. Again, Newman provided the lead gift. In 1982, at his 70th Reunion, the arboretum was dedicated and officially named in his honor.

Photos: Plantations and Cornell University Archives

Cows grazing on the future arboretum, mid-1900s


F. R. and Helen Newman with family and friends, June 10, 1982

A Special Place Today’s roads and pathways flow naturally through the arboretum’s topography of hills and bowls. These formed about 10,000 years ago when the last glaciers receded, leaving Fall Creek to carve its meander through glacial deposits of silt and gravel. Most of the overlooks and stone walls, many of original CCC construction, are built with locally quarried Llenroc limestone (that’s Cornell spelled backward). Springs were excavated to create Houston and Grossman Ponds, and the soil removed was used to form the berms along NYS Route 366. At 17 and 15 feet deep, the ponds don’t freeze solid, so their aquatic plants and wildlife survive Ithaca’s winters. The arboretum was first designed to make maximum use of existing trees, like the now iconic oak that stands above Newman Meadow. Today it is home to diverse tree and shrub species, cultivars, and hybrids, many that are native to our region, as well as specimens imported from similar climate

zones around the world. Collections focus on oaks, maples, crabapples, dogwoods, nut trees, and urban trees. Specialty gardens include the Zucker Shrub Collection, Treman Woodland Walk, and a watercourse garden. Altogether, there are more than 18,300 accessioned plants and trees in the F. R. Newman Arboretum. Beth Anderson is director of development at Cornell Plantations.

F. R. Newman at the dedication, June 10, 1982

Recalling the Arboretum’s Benefactor: F. R. “Flood” Newman Floyd R. Newman, known as “Flood” or “F. R.” by everyone who knew him, graduated from Cornell University in 1912, and began his career in the oil industry. After serving in the army in WWI, he cofounded the Allied Oil Company in Cleveland, Ohio, serving as secretary, treasurer, and general manager until it merged with the Ashland Oil and Refining Company in 1948. A staunch and dedicated Cornellian, Newman was a university trustee (1951–1958), a founding member of the Cornell University Council, and remained actively engaged as a Presidential Councillor until his death in 1990, just weeks shy of his 100th birthday. He was a generous benefactor of Cornell Plantations, geology, engineering, and athletics. Among his major gifts were four endowed professorships, the Newman Laboratory for Nuclear Studies, Helen Newman



Dedication of Newman Overlook, F. R. Newman Arboretum, November 1986

Hall and an endowment for the Helen Newman Director of Women’s Athletics position (both named in honor of his wife). In his estate, he left a trust to benefit his daughter, Elizabeth Newman Wilds, which later endowed the directorship of Cornell Plantations in her honor. In April, Don Rakow met with Dave Dunlop ’59, retired director of major gifts for Cornell and past chair of the Plantations Advisory Council, to talk about Dave’s memories of Newman. Dave’s first assignment as a newly hired development officer in 1960 was to raise funds for Plantations. (DR) Don Rakow; (DD) Dave Dunlop DR: Dave, what do you recall most about F. R. “Flood” Newman? DD: I met F. R. early in my career working for Cornell; he would have been in his 70s. The thing I remember most is that he was always so attentive to people—to everyone he met—even Read this online and find past issues at 




Judy’s Day celebrations by Houston Pond, September 2009

a young person like me with no experience. He would be interested in you, your family, your job, everything about you. He also was thoughtful and generous with everyone. Once when I visited him at his home in Medina, Ohio, I admired an old bell he had by the walk down to his house. He explained that he got it from an abandoned school house many years ago. Perhaps my admiration went too far, because soon after I returned to Ithaca the bell arrived at my house in a large wooden crate! It’s been hanging outside my back door ever since, and I treasure it because of all of my memories of him. DR: I know he was a very active alumnus, and served as a university trustee and a Presidential Councillor. And he was extremely generous in his support for many areas at Cornell. DD: Yes, he was a very prominent figure. He supported many projects that were priorities for 20 

verdant views Summer/Fall 2013

Ponds in the central bowl of the arboretum, October 2011

Cornell. For example, he funded the construction of a new laboratory for nuclear science [in 1949]. In those early days, he knew how important it was for Cornell to be a leader in the studies in that field. And, because his own business was in petroleum distribution, he responded to that need at Cornell because he was interested in energy issues. He once told me, “That’s a gift I made because Cornell needed it.” When he talked about Plantations, though, it was easy for me to see that that’s where his heart was. He got joy and satisfaction from seeing the perfection in nature, and he had a true appreciation for the importance of environmental preservation. DR: How did he first become interested in Plantations? DD: Oh, I remember clearly how he got first involved with Plantations. It was probably 1960

or so. I was with George Rockwell and we were standing in front of Day Hall, about to walk over to Toboggan Lodge to meet with the Plantations Sponsors for lunch. George invited Mr. Newman to join us, and F. R. said, “Yes, I’m interested in that.” So, that’s how it happened—a chance encounter on a street corner! [Rockwell, class of 1913, was a University Trustee. In 1958 he founded the “Plantations Sponsors,” a committee to promote support of Plantations.] DR: Both Rockwell and Newman shared an appreciation for horticulture and nature, but that meeting was really just serendipitous. DD: One of the reasons why George gave the Mary Rockwell Azalea Garden on Tower Road was to show his fellow trustees and other friends how they could enrich Cornell by a gift to Plantations, in addition to supporting other university priorities. As for F. R., I don’t know how much gardening he did himself, since he had 10 or

12 gardeners at his home! [The Mary Rockwell Azalea Garden is located near Malott Hall.] DR: So, was it Rockwell who got Newman interested in the arboretum? DD: George was a genius with the soft-sell approach and he was tireless, especially if he believed he knew a good fit for a donor. I remember that he arranged a bus tour after one of the Sponsors’ luncheons, to see the area they were talking about for the arboretum that the Animal Science Department was giving up. George, F. R., and several others walked the land that day, so F. R. was in on the plans for the arboretum from the start. He could see how the arboretum would be a benefit to Cornell, and how he could help make Liberty Hyde Bailey’s vision for Plantations a reality. But most of all, I think that Flood Newman’s heart and soul were really tied into a love of nature.

Photos: Judy’s Day, Carol Grove; Aerial Photograph, Jon Reis Photography





We Speak for the Trees

New Interpretation Emphasizes the Value of the F. R. Newman Arboretum

Photos: Nut Tree Collection, Bo Lipari; Audio Tour, Jay Potter

value of the arboretum, provide points of interest, and a feature a map of nearby plant collections. The F. R. Newman Arboretum at Plantations is different things to different people. Winter-weary Ithacans might come to celebrate spring’s arrival under the Flowering Tree Collection’s vibrant display of blossoms. A visiting scientist might tour the extensive Maple Collection, a valuable part of a nationwide reference collection of wild and cultivated maples, the North American Plant Collections Consortium (featured in Verdant Views Issue 3 in “Living (Collections) for the Future”). Some might stop by simply to pause in nature. For all our visitors, new interpretive signs and cell phone audio tours are better communicating the significance of this special place and its plants. Funded by a grant from the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust, we installed six new interpretive panels, 14 signs marking each tree collection or point of interest, and 16 audio tours that visitors can access by cell phone. Located at four major gathering points, the new signs emphasize the

Two signs replaced outdated versions orienting visitors to the system of interconnected paths they can walk to tour Cornell Plantations and campus. A phone call to numbers on or nearby each sign reaches a three-minute recorded narrative on the subject. These new interpretive features were a milestone project included in Plantations’ Interpretive Master Plan completed for 2007-2012, and helped address our goals to enrich the experience of visiting and understanding Plantations. The arboretum will always be a contemplative, beautiful place. Our hope is that these new signs and narratives will emphasize that these living collections are a rich educational resource as well. Visit to learn more about arboretum collections and listen to the tour.

Sarah Fiorello is the interpretation coordinator at Cornell Plantations. Read this online and find past issues at 




Shrink your Garden’s Climate Footprint

apply enough of these organic amendments to supplement what the natural nitrogen cycle going on in the soil cannot supply.” Timing is important, too. Avoid applying nitrogen in very early spring— let the soil warm up and microbes go to work releasing ammonium and nitrate for the plants.

Second in a two-part series on gardening in the era of climate change. Read our “Primer” and “Advice from a Climate Change Expert” in Issue 4 at

Traditional lawns are especially dependent on nitrogen-based fertilizer, but you can be more efficient with less fertilizer in several ways:

Compiled by Liz Bauman from “Gardening Sustainably in a Changing Climate,” a chapter by David W. Wolfe for the book, The New American Landscape; and The Climate Conscious Gardener, a publication of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. With our close connection to the earth, gardeners have a natural opportunity to be part of the solution to climate change. But gardening and lawn care over the past century have relied heavily on practices that truly work against nature. Cornell professor of horticulture and climate change expert David Wolfe warns, “It is easy to become a bit obsessed with having a perfect garden and end up making a significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.” Fortunately there are plenty of ways to make our landscapes go easier on the atmosphere. Even better, gardening with climate change in mind can reduce the costs and labor involved in gardening.

Follow these strategies to move your garden closer to a carbon-neutral state. Reduce or Replace Nitrogen Fertilizer The simplest change you can make is to stop or sharply reduce using synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, such urea and ammonium nitrate. Wolfe calls this the “lowest hanging fruit of greenhouse gas mitigation” for gardeners. Since synthetics require a lot of energy to manufacture and transport to market, and emit up to four-to-six tons of CO2 22 

verdant views Summer/Fall 2013

Tens of thousands of pounds of toxic lawn and garden waste are collected annually at municipal facilities like this one. Unkown quantities end up in landfills.

equivalents for every ton produced, buying just one bag ups your carbon footprint. To reduce use of synthetics, integrate legumes such as beans and peas (edible or ornamental) into your gardens, and clovers into your lawn. Legumes have a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in their roots that convert atmospheric nitrogen gas into ammonium with fewer emissions than synthetic fertilizer. They are a time-honored natural soil builder. When plants die, incorporate them entirely back into the soil. Replace synthetics with organic sources such as manure or compost. Be sure to use compost, not peat, to amend garden soil. More than half of the planet’s soil carbon is sequestered in the

peatlands of the Northern Hemisphere. Harvesting it releases enormous amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. The use of peat is now banned by the European Union. Synthetic fertilizers increase a garden’s carbon footprint because they are energy-intensive to manufacture, but the overuse of either synthetic or organic fertilizers releases some of the nitrogen into the atmosphere as nitrous oxide, which has 300 hundred times more warming potential than CO². “Even in an organic garden relying exclusively on manure and composts, gardeners should use them strategically and sparingly to minimize emission of nitrous oxide and contributions to global warming,” Wolfe advises. “The key is to

• Set your mower higher than three inches to promote root growth and exploration of more soil for nitrogen. • Leave lawn clippings in place on the lawn, since they hold nitrogen and other nutrients, which are recycled back to the lawn. • Use organic nitrogen sources, such as manure and compost. • As in gardens, avoid applying nitrogen in very early spring. • For healthy, mature lawns in shaded areas, try using only two applications of supplemental nitrogen per year, in early summer and late fall, and apply only one to two pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. • If you must use synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, choose urea over ammonium sulfate or ammonium nitrate. The manufacture of urea produces less greenhouse gas emissions, and urea is more slowly released in the soil, making it more available to the plants as they grow. Rethink Lawns Because so much U.S. acreage is devoted to lawns, their environmental cost is huge. Gasoline used by power mowers, and fertilizers derived from fossil fuels contribute large amounts of climate-altering gases to the atmosphere. Cut out the need for both by replacing high-maintenance turf with no-mow grass varieties.

Photo: Jay Potter



Photos: Rock Garden, Plantations Archives; Vegetable Garden, University Photography; Wildflower Garden, Paul Schmitt

Heasley Rock Garden at Plantations

Fine fescues grow slowly and reach a mature height of only 8 to 12 inches. They don’t like a lot of fertilizer, and thrive in dry, infertile soil. Sedges are close botanical cousins of grasses and look much like them. Properly selected and planted, sedges can function as a traditional lawn. Try a clovergrass mixture in low-traffic areas.

“This is a great example of how by doing less, you do more for the environment,” Wolfe says. “Tillage over-aerates the soil,” breaking up connections made by mycorrhizal fungi, and “literally fanning the flames of microbial breakdown of organic matter—and release of CO2 into the atmosphere.”

they are adapted to local climate, soils, pests, and diseases, they require less protection, water, and fertilizer—and can be just as lovely as exotics. Keep in mind the phrase, “right plant, right place,” and provide the light, moisture, and drainage a plant needs to thrive without coddling.

Wolfe says that some gardeners get “addicted to tillage” by starting with a legitimate need to till compacted soil, but then this burns off organic matter and the soil becomes more vulnerable to future compaction.

When buying plants, look for the “Veriflora Certified Sustainably Grown” label, a third-party verification that plants meet stringent standards for environmental and social responsibility.

If you can’t replace an entire lawn, shrink it by replacing sections with varied, sustainable gardens—try native plant gardens, rain gardens, rock gardens, dry gravel gardens, labyrinths, or perennial-grass mixes. Experiment with what works in your climate.

“Low organic matter reduces flora and fauna in the soil overall, and these organisms are essential for good soil aggregate stability because they release sticky substances that help hold soil particles together,” he explains. “Poorer aggregate stability makes soils more prone to compaction, and the downward spiral continues.”

Make Your Garden a Carbon Sink As plants die and decompose, much of their carbon becomes part of the soil’s organic matter, sequestering carbon there instead of releasing it into the atmosphere as CO2. By tilling less, gardeners can help build up soil carbon and feed the soil’s food web.

Leaving soil undisturbed promotes beneficial earthworms, which can move 20 to 30 tons of soil per acre per year almost imperceptibly, not contributing to rapid carbon loss. Using cover crops (do incorporate these into the soil) with deep root systems crowds out weeds, breaks up compacted layers, and moves organic matter deep into the soil. Plant Strategically One of the most important environmental decisions you make as a gardener is what you plant and where. Choose native plants when possible. Since Native plants in Plantations’ Mundy Wildflower Garden

Pass up designer potting mixes, too. Most are loaded with synthetic fertilizer, and many use energy-intensive ingredients from around the globe. Make your own potting mix: a common recipe is one-third mature compost, one-third garden topsoil, and one-third sharp sand, also known as builder’s sand. Planting trees can help take up some CO2 from the atmosphere, although, as Wolfe points out, trees have been “overhyped by some politicians and city planners as a panacea for global warming.” But woody plants do capture more carbon than fleshy herbaceous species, so plant as much of your property with trees and shrubs as possible. Placing trees, shrubs, and vines to block winter winds and create summer shade can reduce the amount of energy required to heat and cool your home. Vary Your Vegetables If you grow fruit and vegetables at home, you have already shrunk your carbon footprint, since picking produce out of the backyard eliminates the need for fuel to transport, store, and package it. Still, you can do more by growing plants from seed and adding diversity. Perennial vegetable and herb beds interplanted with annual crops require less fertilizer and maintenance than monoculture beds of annual plants.



Power Down and Recycle In the backyard, as in all our activities, we should strive to use less fossil fuel. If you have a large lawn or must use a power mower, mow less often and keep the engine well tuned. Hang up the weed whackers and leaf blowers: mulch well to keep weeds down, and rake a little every so often, composting leaves in small bursts rather than waiting for one giant cleanup. Manufacturing and transporting new products eats up fossil fuels, so reuse existing and salvaged materials for garden construction, like bricks or stones for patios and paths. Find what you need in garden products made from recyclables, like planter boxes and compost bins made from plastic milk jugs; garden hoses constructed from old car tires; birdbaths molded with recycled aluminum; mulch, picket fencing, and flower pots made from wood waste or paper. If you must buy new, purchase products made locally and certified to minimize climate change. Like any change, moving toward sustainable gardening begins with a single step. Try out a few of these tips, even just one, as an alternative to old habits. Gardeners can’t solve the problem of global climate change alone, but understanding the challenges in our own gardens can help us comprehend the wider implications of climate change for our communities, our nation, and the world. Liz Bauman is a freelance writer and editor in Ithaca, New York. David Wolfe, professor of plant and soil ecology in the Department of Horticulture, is a leading authority on the effects of climate change and rising atmospheric carbon dioxide on plants, soils, and ecosystems. He is a contributing author on the U.S. National Climate Assessment soon to be released, and teaches a course, Climate Change and the Future of Food, at Cornell. Read this online and find past issues at 




How is Plantations Going Greener?

Practicing sustainability is essential at Plantations, reflecting Cornell’s commitment to environmental stewardship. We model this in all our horticultural, conservation, and administrative practices: Designing for the environment • Our Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center is certified LEED Gold (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) by the U.S. Green Building Council. • The Welcome Center’s bioswale garden is an integral feature of the sustainable sites development credit for the LEED certification, slowing, collecting, and filtering snowmelt and rainwater from the parking lot and sidewalks before it can enter Beebe Lake.

• Our native lawn demonstration site uses lowmaintenance grass species and native plants, and we offer ongoing educational presentations and seminars on this topic. • Since 1990, we have used an integrated pest management (IPM) plan for all of our managed lands, minimizing the use of chemicals. IPM incorporates various methods of management: soaps, oils, preventative measures such as pruning, manual removal, and biocontrols (especially in greenhouses). Toxic chemicals are a last resort. • We actively control invasive species in our collections and natural areas, and follow protocols to prevent further introductions.

• Rain gardens in the arboretum and in the planned Peony and Perennial Garden keep water in the ground and off streets and paths. Operating Mindfully • We limit mowing in Plantations’ natural areas to specific areas, and when we must mow, it is timed with ecological and seasonal rhythms (for example, ground nesting birds or seedling plants). In the arboretum, we mow meadows infrequently to save fuel, foster more plant diversity, and create a beautiful experience for visitors. Newman Meadow, unmown in early summer

Volunteers pulling garlic mustard in the Wildflower Garden

• We manage our vehicle fleet to be as sustainable as possible, using hybrid cars and fuel-efficient mini trucks. • Plantations’ buildings use in-line water coolers that tie directly into and filter tap water, so we don’t transport water from other sources. • We make conscientious decisions about our plant collections, like replacing most of the annuals in the herb garden with perennials. • Mulching and judicious irrigation conserve water throughout our collections.


verdant views Summer/Fall 2013

Recycling • We reuse materials wherever possible, like fencing, trail surfacing materials, plastic sleeves, bolts, pots, rocks, etc.

Conserving plants, habitats, and resources • In our natural areas, we conserve and preserve globally vulnerable plant species and their habitats such as American globeflower (Trollius laxus) and locally rare plants such as fringed gentian (Gentianopsis crinita). We safeguard their habitats, collect and save seeds, and keep track of lineages to capture diversity. • We work with the Center for Plant Conservation to save seeds from specific plant species in a national seed bank.

• With the help of Cornell Farm Services, we create our own mulch, recycling leaves from the Village of Cayuga Heights that would have gone to the landfill, and wood chips from Plantations and campus. • We participate on the Safety, Health and Environmental Management (SHEM) Steering Committee for Cornell Greenhouses. Our greenhouse coordinator is an active member on the Plastics Recycling Sub-committee, following and helping shape Cornell’s recycling program. • Most of our publications are printed on 100 percent recycled paper and with soy-based ink. We print fewer publications and make many of them available online. Interpretive signage and visitor maps have replaced several paper brochures. • When purchasing materials, tools, and equipment, we weigh all of the options through the sustainable lens: renewable items, recycled materials, and the item/material life cycle.

• We catalog and preserve the genetic information on cultivated plants in our arboretum and botanical gardens. This preserves their germplasm, the genetic material necessary to propagate plants. Our collection inventories ensure genetic diversity. • Plantations natural areas sequester approximately 4,207 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year according to Cornellconducted research. This offsets more than 15 percent of annual CO2 emissions by Cornell faculty and staff commuters. Spreading the word • The Plantations Environmental Education Program for Sustainability (PEEPS) brings the message of environmental stewardship to high school students (story on page 26). • Adult classes, lectures, and seminars focus squarely on sustainable issues, like Landscape for Life™; Heirloom Vegetables: Past, Present and the Future; Rain Gardens; the Natural Areas Academy, and many others.

Our Caroline Pinnacles natural area, shown opposite, helps sequester CO2

Photos: Meadow, Leigh McGonigle; Volunteers, Robert Wesley; Mulch, University Photography



Photo: Caroline Pinnacles Natural Area, Plantations Archives




Environmental Education Program Grows Teen Ambassadors By Olivia M. Hall

Last August, Amy Zhong made a pledge. She vowed not to drink out of plastic water bottles for one year. “Before, I would buy a plastic bottle of water every day at school, and then I would drink it and recycle the bottle,” she says. “So this year I got my own water bottle, and I haven’t drunk any water from a plastic bottle since.”

where, in addition to learning skills and having fun gardening, we explore environmental issues as they relate to our lives, our community, and larger global issues.” This year, for example, corn is not only a garden crop but also at the center of discussions on sustainability, food sovereignty, plant breeding, biofuels, and nutrition.

As an Ithaca High School junior, Zhong came to this conviction as one of six participants in the 2012 pilot run of PEEPS, the Plantations Environmental Education Program for Sustainability. Led by Donna Levy, environmental education coordinator, this outdoor, hands-on apprenticeship for teens is currently in its second year. PEEPS is for high school students who hope to gain appreciation for the natural world and learn how to be environmental ambassadors to their communities.

With each activity, the students learn to consider their choices critically. For example, is it better to use plastic seedling pots or peat pots that decompose but destroy peat bogs, which are ageold, carbon-storing ecosystems? “I don’t always have the answers,” Levy admits, “but what we’re doing is learning to ask the right questions. The term “sustainability” has been used very loosely, so we are thinking about what it really means.”

This year’s new and returning participants have committed to spending after-school and weekend sessions in the spring and fall plus six full-time weeks in the summer digging, planting, exploring, discussing, hiking, teaching, and simply having a good time. At the heart of these activities lies Plantations’ Sustainable Backyard Demonstration Garden. The first year’s crop of students built its beds, while this year’s members will plant more vegetables, herbs, flowers, and a few peach trees. “Last year I just wanted them to get a taste for gardening, and they actually ended up asking for more gardening time,” says Levy. The daily hour or two of gardening is one lens through which participants delve into nature. “The backyard can be a metaphor for how one lives one’s life,” Levy explains. “It is a place 26 

verdant views Summer/Fall 2013

Many of the program’s activities are designed to benefit the wider community. As citizen scientists, this year’s participants are monitoring the floral and leaf development of certain plants. Their data will flow into Project BudBreak, created by Cornell senior research associate David Weinstein to observe the effects of climate change on native plant flowering times in central New York. Donna Levy (fourth from left) with PEEPS members Garrett Giles, Amanda Heitzman, Ian Statema, Amy Zhong, Annie Henderson (PEEPS intern), Emma Grimm, and Abe Messing, in the Sustainable Backyard Demonstration Garden.

Photo: Sonja Skelly

Once a week, “Mile Away” hikes take the group into the field to interpret plants and the environment, often with the help of Cornell faculty and staff. “We went on a lot of interesting field trips,” Zhong remembers of last year’s excursions. “We went to see the insect collection at Cornell, and one professor talked to us about dirt.” With a laugh, she self-corrects: “I mean, soil. That’s what we learned to call it. And I also learned a lot of plant names.” On Cayuga Lake’s Floating Classroom, the group studied the issues around hydrilla, an invasive aquatic plant.




I recognize that my generation as well as succeeding generations are the fuel and engine needed to power the change that must happen. PEEPS has entirely changed my view of the natural world...

Photos: Donna Levy

– Amy Zhong (from her 2013 PEEPS application)

Read this online and find past issues at 




PEEPS gets an introductory bee keeping lesson from the Cornell Bee Keeping Club.

Amy Zhong and Amanda Heitzman in the Sustainable Backyard Garden.

Building on the success of last year’s “food pool,” students are also inviting people to bring surplus produce from their home gardens to several stations around Cornell Plantations. The group donates the bounty, along with harvest from the Sustainable Backyard, to a local charitable food bank. Ultimately, Levy hopes that PEEPS graduates will emerge as leaders on environmental issues. This is what drew Zhong to the program. “I was really aware that the planet that we live on is going down pretty quickly,” she says, “so I wanted to learn anything I 28 

verdant views Summer/Fall 2013

could to help it and how to reach out to people and get them motivated to stop being wasteful and not caring about the environment. And I thought this program would be perfect for that.” Grouped by age into three tiers, participants practice their outreach skills twice a week during their apprenticeship. Green Partners, the youngest, help with programs at the Ithaca Children’s Garden, and the slightly older Garden Apprentices work with Plantations gardeners. The eldest participants, the Environmental Ambassadors,

contribute to Plantations’ weekly staff letter, and make what they have learned about sustainability accessible to the public through interpretive signs and in person at the Sustainable Backyard. “The tiered structure of the program is used to build leadership,” Levy explains. “We ask the kids to come back and we try to keep them for two to four years.” Zhong, for one, has come back for more. “PEEPS has entirely changed my view of the natural world, and I would love to learn some more,” she says. “It’s a really interesting and fun program; I really like it.” Zhong’s promise not to drink from plastic water bottles is evidence of the long-term impact that PEEPS hopes to have. Challenged to come up with

Through the lens of corn, PEEPS students learn many lessons about sustainability.

a pledge to change their behavior for the next year, other participants decided to take shorter showers or buy only food that comes from within a 500-mile radius. “One participant,” says Levy, “said she’d think several times before purchasing anything. The interesting thing was that her dad ended up buying her an eco-friendly computer case because of her challenge. So it went to the next level, where someone else was affected by the changes.” An earlier version of this article appeared in Tompkins Weekly on February 25, 2013. For information about next year’s PEEPS, see the Further Reading link for this issue at

Olivia M. Hall is a freelance writer and anthropologist.

Photos: Donna Levy


Music, Plants and Looking Closer For Marcia Eames-Sheavly, “witnessing the unfolding of a student’s sense of what it is to be creative is one of the greatest joys of teaching Cornell’s Hort 2010: The Art of Horticulture.” She says that many students start off her class with trepidation if they are not natural artists, especially since by course-end they are expected to “figure out the mechanics and horticultural challenges required to create a final project, a work of art all their own.” She continues, “Most go on to tap and discover unknown depths of resourcefulness and imagination, along the way exploring media ranging far and wide, from grass to concrete. In Zachary Velcoff’s case, it was words and images.” For his final project, Velcoff made a chapbook pairing his poems and photographs, and he has agreed to share one pairing here. Curious about the connection he made between an image of sedum and the poem’s title, “Moonflower,” a vine gardeners know to be quite unlike the lowly succulents in the photo, we invited Velcoff to introduce them:

Photo: Sedum and Saxifraga, Zach Velcoff ’13

The link between my poem and photo isn’t illustrative so much as abstract. I wrote this poem after attending a Carlos Santana concert at Jones Beach Theater. A family of three sat a few rows down; their daughter had Down syndrome, and before the show began, she seemed to be in pain, moaning and shaking violently. As the music played, however, she calmed down, began to dance along, and started to smile. At the same time, two swans swam to the edge of the stage and stayed there, listening to the music, for the entire performance. That evening, I learned something about the power of music— that it can awaken the true self within, and that it can break down the barriers between humanity and the natural world.

I called the poem “Moonflower,” in part because that’s the name of the song Santana was playing when I first noticed the swans and the change in the girl, and in part because this poem taught me to see music as a force that encourages us to bloom. Months later, taking the long way through the Plantations Herb Garden on my way to the Art of Horticulture studio, I almost passed by these low-growing sedums on the stone steps. I saw them when I stopped to tie a shoe, and knew I had to take a picture. From above, I barely noticed them, but on their level, I could experience their beauty. I paired this photo with the poem “Moonflower” because (for me at least) both acknowledge that beauty, while always present, is not always evident; to see it, sometimes we have to look closer.





By Zach Velcoff

When he played down the rain, crying blue to the bay, you were with us and elsewhere, my small-fingered daughter, gripping your blameless world. When he played to the night of brittle peace, from the stage on the water to the plum-sliding sky, strumming sunset’s leaking clouds, calling the white swans close, When he played, it soothed your ceaseless lurch, lent rhythm to your writhing mind. You saw the swans through conscious eyes – the two attending music’s edge.

Sedum spurium growing with Saxifraga in Plantations Herb Garden.

Zach Velcoff ’13 recently finished his Interdisciplinary Studies degree in the College of Agriculture and Life Science with a focus on writing and the natural sciences. Moving on from Cornell, he plans to begin a career in museum education and exhibitions.

Swaying to forces you felt, for a moment, the smiling girl you needed to be and calmed, beaming, broken no longer, you laughed when he played down the rain. Read this online and find past issues at 


Nonprofit Org. U.S. Postage PAID Cornell University

One Plantations Road Ithaca, NY 14850-2799 Address service requested

Upcoming Events

at Cornell Plantations


October 9.


COMMUNITY EDUCATION fall classes Rain Gardens

The Joy of Ginger!

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 5; 10:00 A.M. TO 12:00 P.M.

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 7; 10:00 A.M. TO 12:00 P.M.

Designing for Habitat on Your Property

Arboretum Tour for Photographers

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 7; 2:00 P.M. TO 4:00 P.M.

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6; 3:30 P.M. TO 5:30 P.M.

Winter Garden Tour

Seasonal Meditation Series: Autumn Reflections


SUNDAY, OCTOBER 13; 2:00 P.M. TO 4:00 P.M.

Plants of the Winter Solstice

Plantations 5k Running Tours

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 21; 2:00 P.M. TO 5:00 P.M.

FRIDAYS, OCTOBER 4 & 18; 12:00 P.M.


October 23. Elizabeth E. Rowley Lecture


November 6. Audrey H. O’Connor Lecture

EXHIBITIONS Upcoming art exhibitions in the Nevin Welcome Center.


Birds and Blossoms in Favored Places: A Photographer’s Potpourri of the Finger Lakes by Paul Schmitt

November-December Les Arbres by Camille Doucet

7:30 p.m. Statler Hall Auditorium, Cornell University

Visit or call 607-255-2400 for more information about all of our classes, exhibits, tours and events!

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