Longwood Gardens strives to preserve horticulture techniques for future generations

Photo: Forsaken Fotos/FlickrPhoto: Forsaken Fotos/Flickr

According to Longwood Gardens, the time and attention to detail given to the preparation of the so-called “thousand bloom mum” is something that not many young people are interested in anymore. The preparation process for this particular plant takes 18 months, thousands of work hours and at least six full-time workers the week before the annual Chrysanthemum Festival.

With fewer younger people choosing careers in horticulture, Longwood Gardens is working to ensure that the effort and expertise that go into growing this specialty Japanese plant are preserved for future generations.

By creating a video archive on how to successfully raise a thousand bloom mum, three college students are documenting what the process involves so that the videos can one day be used to teach future generations of horticulturists and also to spark an interest in the field. By the end of the summer, the students will have produced nine videos that document part of the mum growing process.

“The younger generation can’t see the reward of doing this,” Jim Harbage, floriculture leader at the 1,000-acre (405-hectare) garden and education center in Kennett Square, about 35 miles west of Philadelphia, told ABC News.  “It’s not enough to have a sense of pride. It’s not something that pays a lot of money.”

Unfortunately, for those in the horticulture industry, there is more at stake than just a fear of losing the preservation and growing techniques of chrysanthemums.

Patricia Binder, spokeswoman for National Garden Clubs Inc., told ABC News there is a concern, “about the potential loss of institutional knowledge and the loss of gardening knowledge in general.”

To help spark more of an interest in the trade, annual scholarships are annually awarded by the nonprofit organization to students studying horticulture and related fields.

The American Public Gardens Association has also partnered with public gardens nationwide, including Longwood, on the Seed Your Future initiative. This initiative promotes horticulture as a career for young people.

Each student involved in the video documenting process will have a different role. According to ABC News, sophomore Rebecca Ralston, who is studying wildlife and the environment, is writing the script for the video; junior Joy McCusker, who is studying landscape architecture and landscape horticulture design, is “the lens” while following the master gardener around as they work and taking precise notes; and senior Max Gold handles visuals by using drones, a GoPro and a gimbal camera to get his shots.

“We have to find new methods to add to the toolbox to teach new horticulturists what’s important,” Ralston told ABC News.

Longwood would like to see the thousand bloom top 1,500 blooms in time for the Chrysanthemum Festival in October.

Longwood says that attention to detail is critical, and some practices are more difficult to explain. The organization says that having a carefully narrated how-to video makes a big difference.

“Gardening is not a stagnant field. The nature of being a gardener is wanting to try something new,” gardener Tim Jennings told ABC News. “Every year it’s, ‘What if we did this? What if we changed that?’ We’re always trying to make things easier and less labor-intensive while balancing that with tradition and not straying too far afield.”

Even with the upcoming videos, Jennings knows that the world of gardening practices is always evolving and changing. He is confident that the video will serve as great beginning points for many gardeners, but he also knows that over the years, the videos will require updating.

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