What makes a winter garden beautiful? How did rhododendrons and azaleas from China make their way into Cornell’s backyard? Why is a north-facing slope ideal for growing conifers? Besides love, what did the rose symbolize in ancient mythologies? Answers to these questions and other fascinating stories can now be told by Cornell Plantations thanks to the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust which granted Plantations $20,000 to develop interpretive signs and books for our Botanical Garden. Over the course of the next year, we will be adding six new interpretive signs around the Botanical Garden, and six new interpretive booklets in Plantations’ Young Flower Garden.
The proposed project will allow for the installation of an introductory panel in almost all garden areas within the botanical garden and to develop interpretive books for one garden. The purpose of the introductory signs is to introduce visitors to the main idea behind the creation of each garden, orient them to what they can explore, and share fascinating stories behind the plants found in each garden. The interpretive booklets being developed showcase flowers found in the Young Flower Garden and how they have been depicted in art and literature throughout the world and the cultural importance of the plants. Additionally, the new booklets are ADA compliant and weather resistant.
“Having a sign at the entrance of each garden is a way to ‘greet’ visitors and share with them what is unique about the garden and what they can experience in the garden.” says Sarah Fiorello, interpretation coordinator for Cornell Plantations. “These funds will help Cornell Plantations complete the final set of interpretive priorities from our 2009 Interpretive Master Plan and we are thrilled that Stanley Smith granted us this award.”
The gardens located in the Botanical Garden which are slated for interpretive upgrades are Conifer Slope, the Mullestein Family Winter Garden, Comstock Knoll, and the Young Flower Garden.
The Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust was created in 1970 by May Smith, in honor of her late husband. The Trust supports education and research in ornamental horticulture, primarily in North and South America. Grants up to $20,000 are typically made to botanical gardens, arboreta, and universities.
We are excited to share the news that Christopher P. Dunn, Ph.D. will become the next Elizabeth Newman Wilds Director of Cornell Plantations.
“Plantations is an integral part of Cornell, serving as both the largest laboratory and richest classroom on campus, while furnishing the university with a unique botanical character unlike that of other institutions of higher learning,” said Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in her announcement. “I am confident that Christopher’s depth of experience and passion will foster new opportunities for Plantations to enhance its conservation mission while continuing to promote the enrichment and well-being of the entire Cornell community.”
Click here to read the February 5 Cornell Chronicle article, "Plantations appoints botanist from Hawaii as director."
We apologize for the inconvenience. The Welcome Center will reopen on Saturday, February 1st at 10 a.m. Throughout the month of February, all of our holiday-themed gift items will be 40% off. Click here for the Nevin Welcome Center hours.
You've asked, we've listened, and now we are very excited to announce that parking at Plantations Nevin Welcome Center just got better!
Starting January 14, 2014, your first hour of parking is FREE! Yes, you read that right – FREE! You will still need to get a display ticket from the parking meter, but no payment is needed if you’re only staying for an hour. For longer visitis, the lot is metered during the weekday at a rate of $1.50 per hour from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. for a maximum of three hours. Visitors are not required to pay to park during evening hours and on weekends.
We hope that this new feature will encourage you to come out and take time to visit the Garden Gift Shop and the beautiful botanical garden.
Come see us soon!
Videos of our Fall Lectures are now available online. Please note Jim Sterba’s “Nature Wars” lecture is only available for viewing January 9- 16.
In addition to viewing videos of our Fall Lectures, a recording of the Panel Discussion sponsored by Cornell Plantations and Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future about coordinated deer management within Tompkins County is available.
Click here for links to videos of all Fall Lectures.
Click here to view Jim Sterba's lecture and the Deer Management Panel Discussion he participated in.
Photographer Carl Schofield will be displaying images of winter scenes in the Finger Lakes area and other regions on gallery wrapped prints on canvas and satin media. This display will be in the Nevin Welcome Center lobby through the end of February.
We apologize for the inconvenience. The welcome center will reopen tomorrow at 10 a.m.
Join Cornell Plantations on December 21 as we celebrate the Winter Solstice with our “Plants of the Winter Solstice” program, from 2:00 to 5:00 P.M., in the Mullestein Family Winter Garden and Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center.
By modern-day reckoning, the winter solstice marks the beginning of winter in the northern hemisphere, though in some earlier traditions the solstice was considered the middle of winter, or ‘midwinter’. Similarly, the summer solstice was once considered ‘midsummer’, as in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. This makes the Winter Garden the perfect spot to celebrate the first day of winter!
“The winter solstice has been celebrated around the world by many cultures since ancient times, and here in the West, a lot of our familiar holiday celebrations have ancient origins,” stated Kevin Moss, adult education and volunteer coordinator at Cornell Plantations. “Plants have always been a big part of those traditions. For example, evergreens were considered sacred by many ancient peoples because they were the plants that never died – they stayed green all winter long while other plants withered and died back when the life-giving sun was the furthest away. Evergreen wreaths, with their circular shape, are symbols of strength and represent the cycle of life, death and rebirth.”
Bringing evergreens indoors was believed to ward off misfortune through the winter season. A wonderful Celtic tradition held that bringing evergreens inside would give woodland spirits and faeries a warm place to spend the winter, and in return they would bring you good fortune. However, you had to make sure you didn’t leave the greens inside too long, or they might take up permanent residence -- and then you’d have a bunch of mischievous pixies living in your house!
Other plants such as oak, holly, ivy, and mistletoe have folk and mythic traditions related to the winter solstice as well. The Oak was usually used for bonfires during the midwinter celebration known as Yule by pre-Christian Germanic peoples. Celtic druids believe the oak to be the most sacred of all trees, and mistletoe that grew on oak trees was considered a powerful and sacred magical plant. Holly was included in the evergreens brought inside during the winter and was especially prized because of its shiny leaves and its ability to bear fruit in winter. Holly trees were sacred to the powerful Roman god Saturn, and holly wreaths with bright red berries were given as gifts during his holiday -- the Saturnalia, which was the winter solstice festival upon which the Christmas holiday was modeled.
You will discover the cultural and natural history of these plants and more at our “Plants of the Winter Solstice” program. The program will include a guided tour of the Mullestein Winter Garden, and participants will make a simple evergreen wreath to take home. Then, as darkness descends, we’ll head back outside for some traditional wassailing and a simple solstice ceremony at our outdoor fire pit. Refreshments and all materials will be provided. The cost is $36 ($30 for Plantations members and Cornell students). Pre-registration is required. Click here to register.
About the Winter Solstice
The winter solstice itself is an astronomical event that occurs as a result of the earth’s 23.4 degree axial tilt, and its relationship to the sun. On the day of the solstice, the northern half of the planet is tilted directly away from the sun, so from the perspective of those living in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun rises and sets in its furthest point south of the equatorial plane, and traces its lowest arc across the daytime sky. This also gives us both the shortest day of the year, and the longest night. From that point on, however, the days will gradually grow longer and longer, and the nights shorter and shorter, as the sun slowly returns to the north.
But everything is relative to your position on the Earth: on the same date, December 21, if you’re in the southern hemisphere, you’ll celebrate the first day of summer. Winter for you would begin around June 21 – which is the time of the summer solstice for us. The winter solstice occurs at 12:11 pm EST on December 21, 2013.
About the Mullestein Family Garden
You can enjoy the Winter Garden at Cornell Plantations throughout the year. This one-acre site contains over 700 plants chosen for their interesting bark texture, bark color, unusual growth habits, winter fruit, cones, or evergreen foliage. These qualities provide color and interest during Ithaca’s long winters, making the winter garden a year-round destination for visitors. Plants found in the garden include shrubby dogwoods, willows, birches, hawthorns, and small conifers in different shades of blue, silver, green, and gold, which provide an attractive backdrop for the bright fruit and bark colors.