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Senior Gardener Joyce Rondinella has been very patient for the past two years. But all of her patience paid off on April 1, 2011 when her propagated Encephalartos woodii pup produced a flush of new green growth in the tropical growing house.
“I am thrilled—the survival rate of the Encephalartos pup is less than 20 percent. I knew all along we had a viable propagation because the pup took root. The next step was to patiently wait and hopefully be rewarded with new growth. Seeing that first flush of green growth was cause for celebration,” says Rondinella.
Propagating this plant was quite unique because the Encephalartos, housed in Longwood’s East Conservatory, is extinct in its native environment in South Africa. Longwood Gardens is one of the few gardens that are fortunate to have this beautiful rare specimen on display.
Rondinella always had an interest in cycads, which are native to subtropical and tropical climates.
“I was always drawn to cycads such as Encephalartos woodii because many of these specimens date back three millenniums to the Jurassic period—to me, taking care of these plants is like respecting your elders,” says Rondinella.
Rondinella says most cycads are endangered in their natural environment due to habitat loss.
“I wanted to propagate this cycad with hope in the future that we will be able to share successful propagations of Encephalartos with a public garden that can offer the proper cultural conditions for this rare specimen. After all, the purpose of public horticulture is sharing your plants and knowledge,” says Rondinella.
Before starting the propagation process, Rondinella spoke and met with cycad specialists. They informed her that this would be a challenge. “The Encephalartos doesn’t root easily and is slow growing—but I knew if I had enough patience and really devoted myself to monitoring the plant’s progress, that we could be rewarded in the end.”
Although the propagated pup isn’t on display yet, Rondinella hopes that in the future it will be an established plant to showcase in our Conservatory. “Right now we’re monitoring the rooted plant closely in a tropical growing house,” says Rondinella.
Rondinella is a graduate of Longwood’s Professional Gardener Program and holds a B.S. in Horticulture from Temple University. She started her career with Longwood Gardens in 2002.
“I am from Pennsylvania and often visited Longwood. Working here is a rewarding career. I feel very fortunate to have the support and resources to pursue projects like this unique propagation,” says Rondinella.
As well as caring for Longwood’s tropical plant display, teaching horticulture and sharing information with our guests is what Rondinella enjoys most. During your next visit, be sure to keep an eye out for Rondinella working in the tropical displays. Ask her about the Encephalartos or one of the amazing plants under her care.
Click hereto read our blog post about Rondinella’s Encephalartos propagation.
Click hereto watch a video posted on YouTube of the propagation process.
Longwood Gardens’ popular Lilytopia returns May 20-30—and the guest of honor is a beauty named “Lily.” In case you missed it last year, Lilytopia is the largest lily show in North America and features the latest lily cultivars from renowned lilium breeders of the Netherlands, a professional symposium, and even a Lily Idol competition!
“Longwood Gardens is delighted to bring the best lily growers, breeders, retailers and floral design professionals together once again for Lilytopia,” said Longwood Gardens Director Paul Redman. “Lilytopia showcases the diversity and beauty of lilies and is featuring even more flowers than last year. Guests can see thousands of cut stems fashioned into towers, arches, vases and other innovative displays designed by Dutch floral artisan Dorien van den Berg. In addition, Lilytopia offers valuable educational and networking opportunities for growers and retailers to take their businesses to the next level and will inspire consumers to use lilies in their gardens and floral arrangements.”
Each year lily breeders introduce many new lily varieties, and one of the goals of Lily Idol is to showcase these new varieties in an engaging way.
During Lily Idol—a voting competition that spans the entire 10 days of the display— 26 new lily varieties will take center stage on eleven platforms in grand vases in the Conservatory.
Voting is simple, and only requires your mobile phone. During your visit, look for the “Vote” graphics at each of the Lily Idol plants. Once you find your shining star—pick up your phone and call in your vote—it’s that simple! Some of the new varieties include Pink Blossom; a bright pink, double flowered variety that is also pollen-less and Stainless Steel (photo is to the left); a bright orange lily that is also pollen-free.
Visitor Education Coordinator Joe Lomicky decided to bring back this cell phone driven competition for a second year in a row because the voting sparks a contagious conversation among guests about the new lily varieties during the exhibition. Lomicky says, “We want our guests to interact with the display, and what better way than telling us which new lily variety they like best? We got tremendous feedback last year, and we wanted to offer our guests the same exciting experience again.”
Although there is no official winner or loser at the end of the exhibition, guests can see the standings and voting results after each Lilytopia day on Longwood Gardens’ website. Click here to see the lily varieties that you can vote for.
“Even though we don’t name a winner or a loser of this competition, we still find the information from voting invaluable because we share the results with the lily breeders and in some cases the overwhelming crowd favorite may influence decisions about next year’s lily crops,” says Lomicky.
In all, 13 Dutch breeders are contributing 13,000 flowers for the display. The cut-flower arrangements, ranging from 12-foot tall towers, to expansive vases, to lily-covered walls and archways, will feature the style and design techniques of Dorien van den Berg, the noted designer of the lily show at Keukenhof, who will travel to Longwood from the Netherlands to oversee the creation of the display.
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Enjoy family-fun activities, an outdoor concert, and behind-the-scenes experiences.
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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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