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Harold Taylor is the Section Gardener in the Display Division, overseeing daily operations in the Idea Garden and Hillside Garden. In the more than thirty years he has been with Longwood since graduating from the Professional Gardener Training Program, Taylor has amassed extensive experience throughout these areas. He is also an avid home gardener.
Taylor will be teaching “A Peek Through the Back Door: Fabulous Fruits and Vegetables” on Saturday, June 26, 2010, 8-9:30 a.m.
Q. How and when did you get interested in gardening?
A. I grew up in Burlington County, New Jersey, in a rural area with many farmers. I was always fascinated with what they were doing. A neighbor down the street had a greenhouse, and that got me interested in horticulture.
My high school offered courses in agriculture and horticulture and also had a chapter of the Future Farmers of America. This was an area of interest and I started to explore career possibilities. In my spare time I worked for local greenhouses, tended the grounds at our church cemetery, and even built a greenhouse at home. My family was very supportive of my interests.
Q. What was your first connection to Longwood Gardens?
A. My parents brought me here when I was in tenth grade, this is when I met some students and found out about the Professional Gardener Training Program. I thought, “what a great place to learn!” We started talking, and they sent me to meet Dave Foresman, the program coordinator. When I was a high school senior, I applied and was accepted to the Professional Gardener Training Program.
Q. How did you go from student to employee?
A. When I was nearing completion of the program in 1978, there was a Longwood employee who had a great job as a ‘special projects’ person in the outdoor gardens. We got to talking, and I said how much I would enjoy doing something like what he did. Several months later he left Longwood for another position and his supervisor offered me his job after I graduated.
After working in that position for a while, I joined the arboricultural division for four years, but I missed gardening. I spoke with the head of the Horticulture Department and asked to be considered for a transfer. Several months later, a position in the Idea Garden became available. I have been a Section Gardener since 1992 and an instructor in the Professional Gardener program since 1988.
Q. How has the Idea Garden changed over the years?
A. When I moved to the Idea Garden in the early eighties, it was in transition. Several parts of the garden were new and other parts were being developed. The garden was being transformed, over a period of about ten years, to be more supportive of our educational programs at Longwood. To this day, the garden plays a major role in the teaching of plants and gardening techniques, while offering inspiration and beauty to our guests.
Q. Tell us about “A Peek Through the Back Door: Fabulous Fruits and Vegetables.”
A. It’s a fun way for visitors to be part of an informal discussion. We’ll take a walk in the Idea Garden, and I’ll share information about the fruits and vegetables we grow. The casual format will make it easy for me to focus on their interests and answer their questions. Since the class starts at 8 a.m., people can experience Longwood in the early morning before it’s open to the public.
Q. What do you like best about your job?
A. The day-to-day challenges of making it all happen, producing a garden experience for our guests to enjoy, explore, and learn. I do hands-on work but also rely on my team, staff, students and volunteers—I ask them to do a lot. Some of my job is to assign and oversee the work. The job requires a lot of energy, the days go really fast, and I’m never bored!
Q. How do you spend your spare time?
A. I have a vegetable garden, and I like to work around the house and on our property. I also enjoy outdoor activities and spending time with family and friends. My six-year-old daughter keeps me busy when I’m home.
For information about “A Peek Through the Back Door: Fabulous Fruits and Vegetables,” visit http://www.longwoodgardens.org/GardenersontheGo.html.
Don't forget that members receive a 10% discount.
Success with Succulents
with Kat McCullough
DATE: Saturday, June 12
9:00 AM to 12 Noon
FEE: $63 Garden pass member, $70 non-member
Succulents offer interesting shapes, textures, and colors, and can give your home and garden year-round interest. Since succulents have the ability to store water in their leaves or stems, they are ideal for low maintenance and water-conscious gardens. First, you’ll learn about the many different types of non-hardy succulents to use in your container gardens, and then we’ll get our hands dirty and create beautiful succulent gardens for you to take home. Plants and containers will be supplied. Bring gardening gloves if you’d like to use them.
Not Your Mother’s Container
with Kari Getchonis
DATE: Saturday, June 19
9:00 AM to 12 Noon
FEE: $63 Garden pass member, $70 non-member
Come and bring your dad to discover the variety of carnivorous plants that are native to the United States, such as pitcher plants, sundews, and venus fly traps. Few plants are as fascinating as those that catch insects and digest them for nutrients. Learn about where they grow in the wild, as well as many plants that grow with them in their natural habitats, and then learn how to grow them in containers for long-term enjoyment! Choosing containers, creating the correct planting mix, selecting appropriate plants, and maintaining the containers will be discussed. Participants will plant a bog container to take home with several kinds of carnivorous plants and companion plants. Flies beware!
Need a quick arrangement or hostess gift for the weekend? Try our Floral Fun classes. They are quick, fun, and designed for everyone, regardless of experience. Each month participants will create a themed design, perfect for weekend entertaining, to give as a gift, or just to enjoy at home.
June: A Garden Party
with Nancy Gingrich Shenk
DATE: Thursday, June 17
TIME: 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM
FEE: $ 45 Garden pass member, $ 50 non-member
Roses everywhere! We’ll feature these fragrant harbingers of summer in a pretty arrangement for an outdoor fete.
In their quest to develop an ever-blooming, cold-tolerant Camellia, Research Horticulturist Dr. Matt Taylor and his team use cutting-edge breeding strategies including “embryo rescue and somatic embryogenesis,” which Taylor describes as a kind of neonatal intensive care unit for seeds.
The team crosses a hardy Camellia with the rare Camellia azalea. “Many times the seeds we get are not viable,” Taylor says. “They wouldn’t germinate, but they are still living tissue. We put them into a culture with optimal light, temperature, water, fertilizer, hormones, and sugar. That’s called embryo rescue.”
If the seed germinates and grows, it is brought out of culture and planted. But what happens to seeds that don’t germinate normally?
“The seed is composed of many millions of cells,” explains Taylor. “Some can revert to an embryonic state, like stem cells. For example, leaf cells can change back and begin to divide—but instead of making a leaf, they make a new embryo, which is exactly what is in the center of a seed. This technique is called somatic embryogenesis. One seed in culture can produce an infinite number of somatic embryos, since cells will forever continue to divide.”
The goal is to produce morphologically and developmentally normal embryos. Hormones in the culture can manipulate undifferentiated cells. Cytokinin, for example, promotes cell division; other compounds influence whether the plant will use its energy to produce roots or shoots.
“We have a lot of success producing somatic embryos, but not a lot getting them to germinate into a full plant,” Taylor says. “We are the first people to do it with this particular plant species, and there’s a lot of experimentation with concentrations of hormones and nutrients in the culture media. Right now we have several hundred embryos. Our next hurdle is getting them out of culture and into the greenhouse environment.” Once they’re no longer protected in the lab, plants are exposed to insects, disease, water stress, and temperature fluctuations.
Taylor describes the challenges and importance of his work. “Camellia azalea is an endangered species. It is not known to self-pollinate, cuttings do not survive, you can barely graft it, and it’s native to the nearly tropical or sub-tropical Zone 10. Our long-term goal is to produce a Camellia for our zone, 6B, that would bloom all summer long and would be evergreen in the winter.”
Some of the 2008 batch of embryos now have six or seven true leaves. It may take another year or two to flower, and another few years to see what the adult plant would look like. But Taylor, who holds a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and Ph.D. in horticulture, is patient—and optimistic. “I’m hopeful,” he says.
Click here to take a special "Insider Tour" of Longwood's Research and Production Facility.
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Meet the arborists and gardeners that care for our trees and flowers throughout Spring Blooms, and see demonstrations throughout our Conservatory and outdoor gardens.
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Get ready for an evening of oohs and ahhs, as Longwood presents spectacular Fireworks & Fountains shows guaranteed to make your summer memorable.
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Registration is now open for our 2013 Continuing Education courses!
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