Stoneleigh: America’s Newest Public Garden, PLUS an in-depth chat with Ethan Kauffman about his vision and the plants he loves most in the garden

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Ethan Kauffman (pronounced cough-man) is on the show today. Ethan’s the director at Stoneleigh - America's newest public garden - and we’re talking all about this exciting addition to our nation's collection of public gardens. Plus I got the chance to talk plants with Ethan (that was exciting!) and not surprisingly, I learned a ton from him - which means, hopefully, you will, too. You’re going to love hearing his thoughts on favorite plants, using natives, and his choices for perennials that shine in different seasons. And all it can be found on the grounds of Stoneleigh.
 
By way of background: for over 80 years, Stoneleigh was the home of the Haas family. But, in 2016, they generously donated the property to Natural Lands for preservation and public enjoyment.  
 
Located next to Villanova University, Stoneleigh features some incredible and distinguished trees, gorgeous pathways, and verdant gardens. What’s more, it has been developed in the shadows of a some pretty esteemed landscape architects over the past century—including Charles H. Miller (who trained at Kew), George Pentecost Jr. (son of missionary and evangelist Reverand George Fredreick Pentecost and a founding member of the ASLA -The American Society of Landscape Architects),  Ferruccio Vitale (who created the country-estate landscape of Skylands and played an integral role for the magnificent Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. According to author Terry Schnadelbach who wrote, Ferruccio Vitale: Landscape Architect of the Country Place Era, he is "America's forgotten landscape architect”.) and finally the Olmsted Brothers, the sons of Frederick Law Olmsted - who is regarded as the father of American landscape architecture.
 
Now, a main priority at Stoneleigh is to showcase the beauty of native plants in a garden setting, something entomologist Doug Tallemy is a huge advocate for (and as luck would have it, he’s on the board of directors at Natural Lands - so his input is readily accessible). As a result, Stoneleigh is an impressive role model for home gardeners; showing how a native garden can be created to stunning effect! 
 
Stoneleigh’s opening weekend is this weekend, Mother’s Day weekend, May 12 and 13, 2018.  But if you can’t make it; never fear.  This garden will be free of charge and open to  the public year round. It’s truly a special place!
 
Stoneleigh: America’s Newest Public Garden, PLUS an in-depth chat with Ethan Kauffman about his vision and the plants he loves most in the garden
 
- that's the topic of today’s show and it’s coming up after:
 
An update on the Listener Community for the show and this week's Garden News Roundup.
 
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After nearly two years of planning and preparations, Stoneleigh: a natural garden, is about to open to the public and it is a very exciting addition to our country’s public spaces. 
 
Stoneleigh has a rich and fascinating history.
 
One of the first mentions of Stoneleigh appears in the Memorial History of the City of PhiladelphiaEdmund Smith, a son of Philadelphia, had married socialite Arabella Barnes and he had worked his entire life (from the age of 18) at the Pennsylvania Railroad - ultimately becoming Treasurer and then Vice President. In 1877, when he was 48 years old, Edmund purchased 65 acres of land in Villanova and built a residence on Spring Mill Road.   On July 31, 1895, at the age of 66, Edmund passed away while on a business trip in New York. It was reported that, “he was buried at Villanova, where he had a suburban residence, “Stoneleigh”. 
 
Stoneleigh was designed by the renowned architecture firm Wilson Brothers & Company and constructed between 1877 and 1890 in the Gothic style. Among many Wilson Brothers surviving buildings are the main building of Drexel University and and the Reading Terminal in Philadelphia.  Before he died, Edmund and his wife Arabella, hired the well known English landscape gardener Charles H. Miller. Trained at Kew Gardens, Miller later served as chief gardener for Fairmount Park and was best known for his “Sunken Gardens”.
 
At the start of the 20th century, Samuel Bodine acquired the property. At the time, Bodine was President of United Gas Improvement Company (UGI). At it’s peak, UGI was the second largest public utility holding company in the United States. In addition to completely razing the original home and creating the magnificent Tudor Revival home that exists today, Bodine hired the newly formed New York landscape architecture firm of Pentecost and Vitale to increase the formality of the gardens in the heavily ornamented and lavish “Beaux-Arts” style that had originated in Paris. George Pentecost Jr. had designed the National Mall between the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument. Ferruccio Vitale would work with many partners during his career, amassing an impressive clientele that included Isaac Guggenheim, Andrew Mellon, Percy Rockefeller, Alfred DuPont, the paint manufacturer Benjamin Moore, and the publisher Conde Nast. Their acclaim notwithstanding, Bodine was unhappy with the results of the work on the property at Stoneleigh. In 1908, Bodine reached out to The Olmsted Brothers Company—spearheaded by the sons of Frederick Law Olmsted and the most prestigious landscape architecture firm in the country at the time.  With the help of the Olmstead Brothers, Bodine oversaw the addition of new garden houses, greenhouses, and formal gardens. For over half a century, the relationship with the Olmsted Brothers would be affirmed time and again at Stoneleigh: rerouting points of entry, planning vistas and pathways, establishing gardens and adding terraces.
 
Three generations later, the property was divided and the southwestern portion of the estate was sold to Otto Haas, an entrepreneur and co-founder of Rohm and Haas Co. (later acquired by Dow Chemical). In 1964, Otto's son, John, and his wife, Chara, acquired the property.  John and Chara raised their five children at Stoneleigh and made it their home for the next five decades until their deaths in 2011 and 2012, respectively. For over 80 years, from 1932 until 2016, Stoneleigh was carefully stewarded by the Haas family. In 2016, the Haas family graciously entrusted the home and land to Natural Lands - ensuring that Stoneleigh’s extraordinary trees, sweeping vistas, and intimate garden spaces will be preserved forever. 
 
With plans in place to transition Stoneleigh from a private estate to a public space, things began to move quickly. Natural Lands started renovation on the property - on both the home and its gardens. After conducting a thorough search, Ethan Kauffman was hired as the director of Stoneleigh and his main job would be overseeing the transformation to a native garden.  Today, Stoneleigh is a showcase for blending the aesthetic beauty of designed gardens with the natural richness of native habitats. In addition, the Tudor Revival home at Stoneleigh serves as home to the Organ Historical Society – an organization that celebrates, preserves, and studies the pipe organ in America – and a space for a wide variety of programs in the future.
 
This weekend’s grand opening at Stoneleigh is the result of two years of planning, planting, and preparation.  On Saturday, May 12, 2018, from 4:00pm - 8:00pm, Natural Lands members are invited to an exclusive “first look” before the property opens to the public. Members can pick their own spot on the Great Lawn for a BYO picnic. Birchtree Catering is also available. Members can stroll the gardens and tour the Main House—the Tudor Revival mansion - at their leisure.
 
On Sunday, May 13, 2018, from 10:00am - 5:00pm, Stoneleigh officially opens to the public is invited for a “Stroll About” – a longtime tradition of the Haas family - a time when guests can explore winding garden paths and absorb the beauty of spring.  On Sunday there is also a Natural Lands Members-Only Mother’s Day Tea in the Main House—prepared and served by the award-winning Birchtree Catering. Reservations are required for one of three seatings: 12:00 pm, 1:30 pm, and 3:00 pm.
 
Becoming a member of Natural Lands means you receive a year’s worth of member benefits – plus your support will help to further Natural Lands’ mission to save open space, care for nature, and connect people to the outdoors. So please consider joining this worthwhile organization.
 
Today’s show is a wonderful introduction to our newest public garden: Stoneleigh - and a fantastic behind-the-scenes look at the transformation. I want to make sure to specifically recognize the great work of the dedicated team of people  who worked countess hours to get this amazing, historic property ready for it’s debut: Dennis Canakis, Laura Cruz, Cody Hudgens, Summer Sugg, Jason Wirtz and of course, Ethan Kauffman - Here’s Stoneleigh: America’s Newest Public Garden, PLUS an in-depth chat with Ethan Kauffman about his vision and the plants he loves most in the garden
 
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Well, That’s it for our show today on Stoneleigh: America’s Newest Public Garden, PLUS an in-depth chat with Ethan Kauffman about his vision and the plants he loves most in the garden
 
I hope today’s show gave you a better understanding of natural gardens and reinforced a desire to incorporate more native plants into your garden. I also would like to make sure to invite you necome a member of Natural Lands.  You’ll receive a year’s worth of member benefits – plus your support will help to further Natural Lands’ mission to save open space, care for nature, and connect people to the outdoors. So please consider joining this worthwhile organization.  Finally, I hope you get the chance to stop by Stoneleigh - have a stroll about - Enjoy the great work done by the folks dedicated to this amazing, historic property: Dennis Canakis, Laura Cruz, Cody Hudgens, Summer Sugg, Jason Wirtz and of course, Ethan Kauffman.
 
For my Signoff today, I leave you with this thought to help you grow...
 
  • Expand your appreciation for gardens by visiting a public garden in your area this year.
  • Bring a notebook.
  • Take some pictures with your phone.
  • Pack a picnic - and bring a pillow.
  • Spend some time, as Walt Whitman would say: to stand and sit among the gardens, musing and rehabilitating your sane or sick spirit, as near at peace at you can be.
 
Have a great week everyone!

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I never write reviews but this is the best gardening podcast out there. Jennifer has interesting topics and guests and is not one bit annoying like some others are. I love that she involves her kids at the end of the podcast - usually with poetry or music. Really good podcast.

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Still Growing is one of the reliably informative gardening podcasts from North America. The format consists of an intro (personal gardening status chat, seasonal remarks), an extended interview with a guest, and an outro with funny outtakes, side remarks, and some chatter (poems, readings) from the host's children. The podcast is focused on reliable knowledge - the guests are typically experts like academics, master gardeners, gardening entrepreneurs or public garden leaders. The intro and especially the outro give it a homey feel. Given I live in the high northern region, just a little below the Polar Circle, I'm always looking for more cold-weather oriented gardening information. Jennifer Ebeling is in Minnesota, so that's helpful to me! Vegetable gardening (my main interest) gets a good share, but is not predominant. Most topics transcend your specific gardening interest and are applicable to many styles: landscaping principles, vermicomposting, greenhouses. The episodes are typically an hour long, which is just fine for me.

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Jennifer Ebeling
Jennifer Ebeling is a proud Minnesotan and U of MN alumni. Gooooooo Gophers! Each week, Jennifer produces and hosts Still Growing - a gardening podcast dedicated to helping you and your garden grow. The show is an in-depth interview format. Guests featured on the show share a passion for gardening and include authors, bloggers, professional gardeners, etc. Listeners and guests of the show can join the Still Growing community on Facebook. It's a place to ask questions, share garden stories, interact with great guests featured on the show, and continue to grow and learn. Jennifer and her husband Philip have four children, a big golden lab named Sonny, and live in lovely Maple Grove, Minnesota. P.S. When she's not teaching her four kids a new card game - or teaching them how to drive a car - Jennifer loves inspiring individuals and groups to maximize and personalize their home & garden.
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