Sam Fry

2022/23 GCA Interchange Fellow on placement from the UK to the USA

Longwood: A warm welcome

Arriving on what seemed to be always sunny days just outside of Philadelphia, I started my fellowship at Longwood Gardens. My first placement was in The Idea Garden, where I was warmly welcomed and spent from September to November gardening away in the Vegetable Garden, the Perennial Garden, and Combination Borders.

The vegetable garden is a curated collection of culturally significant crops, from cotton and collard greens to displaying local growing techniques like the Three Sisters method for beans, squash, and corn. Alongside being educational, the garden is productive. Crops are selected and grown for the local food cupboard, where more than 408kg was donated in the second quarter of 2022 alone.

Alongside my time in The Idea Garden, I helped plant bulbs along The Flower Walk. Around 300,000 bulbs were planted over two weeks featuring a medley of Tulipa, Narcissus, Allium, Hyacinthoides, Camassia, and Fritillaria for a display in April. My time outdoors came to a close with the Christmas changeover, a weeklong event where staff from all areas of the garden come together to turn Longwood Gardens into a Christmas wonderland.

Mid-term report

Sam is halfway through his fellowship. Sam's mid-term report describes his experiences and learnings from time spent on different teams at Longwood Gardens. (Full-term report available further down the page).

Longwood: Fall colours

I was fortunate to take a trip to northwest Pennsylvania with a fellow RHS gardener to experience the fall colours. We travelled 270 miles with days spent among the most vivid foliage I have ever seen. Forests featuring Liriodendron tulipifera, Acer saccharum, and Nyssa sylvatica painted the landscape crimson and gold.

Our trip culminated at Kinzua Bridge, a disused railway viaduct rebuilt to become a skywalk 225ft above the forest. The torn and twisted metal of the crumpled viaduct beneath the walkway rests among the seed heads of summer, spires of Verbascum and bursting pods of Asclepias scattered through the rewilded landscape.

Thoroughly hooked on chasing the fall colour, I returned north to Connecticut with some of the Professional Horticulture students at Longwood. Driving through the gently rolling hills of New England against the gold, crimson, and green foliage to visit Broken Arrow Nursery and Hollister House, gems of the northeast.

Longwood: The garden capital of America

Philadelphia is known as the ‘garden capital of America’, with more than 30 public gardens within 30 miles of the city. Chanticleer called first and loudest, this inspirational garden is filled with botanical delights and horticultural splendour. The gravel garden is a highlight, a delicacy of drought-tolerant planting. We also went on a fantastic tour of Mt Cuba, a garden composed solely of native plants.
There was an after-hours run around Winterthur, along with a tour from the owner of Hollister House, an English-inspired garden in Connecticut nestled into the hillside. A visit to some private gardens in Delaware thanks to the Garden Club of America and its members and friends was rounded off by an educational day spent at Morris Arboretum at Swarthmore College for the Perennial Plant Conference. Most recently was a day spent gardening at Brandywine Cottage, talking plants with a group of like-minded people.

Full-term report

Sam has completed his fellowship. In his full-term report he discusses his placements, experiences and future plans.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.