"Tamanend's Track" at the Philadelphia Flower Show

Anne Brennan, Horticulture Supervisor, prepares plants for Temple's exhibit at the 2014 Philadelphia Flower Show.

A walk through Temple University Ambler’s Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit is a walk through time.

Tamanend’s Track: The Path to a Portrayal of the Past” is a journey through the complex interconnectedness of what is; the illusory tranquility of what was; and an exploration of what could be again through ecological restoration.

Tamanend’s Track reflects how “landscape alteration has inspired regional artists within the context of modern landscape architecture and ecological restoration,” said Rob Kuper, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture.

“For the Flower Show this year, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society wants exhibitors to explore how landscapes, floral arrangements and gardens influenced old master and contemporary works,” said Kuper, who is coordinating Temple’s 2014 Flower Show exhibit with Adjunct Assistant Professor Michael LoFurno and Horticulture Supervisor Anne Brennan. “We wanted to focus on the inspirational aspect. How does an artist become inspired by the landscape; I think you have to consider the context in which that inspiration occurred.”

Presented by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the 2014 Philadelphia Flower Show — with its “ARTiculture” theme — will run from Saturday, March 1 through Sunday, March 9 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 12th and Arch streets.

Tamanend’s Track takes its inspiration from a variety of artists and ideas, including the “wild” frontier captured by the Hudson River School of painters in the early and mid-1800s. The exhibit is also greatly influenced by the ecological restoration work that Temple’s own Master of Landscape Architecture students are directly taking part in and, of course, Tamanend himself, the Lenni-Lenape spokesperson who established peaceful relations with William Penn and his fellow settlers and whose statue sits at the foot of Market Street in Philadelphia.

“We took a field trip to the statue, which is larger than life, and asked our students to discover what it was about the landscape at the time of Tamanend that inspired people; what it is about that landscape that we have lost,” Kuper said. “During European settlement, that was the time that degradation of the land began to occur — it’s the point where the landscape started to change.”

Seventeen landscape architecture students and four horticulture students have spent months developing Tamanend’s Track’s three distinct environments — the “Tangle,” the “Retreat” and the “Mend.”

In the Tangle, rogue plants emerge from a confusing mass of pipes, cables and masonry while in the Retreat, beautiful plants cling to dipping precipices. In the Mend, eroding slopes are retained with repurposed concrete and bundled sticks as foliage filters discharged water.

“We’ve tried to distill the process of inspiration into a story with a beginning, middle and end. When you think about our surrounding environment, there’s this tangle of information — social, physical, economic — and confusion such as the displacement of plants from other parts of the world,” Kuper said. “It’s easy to become distracted by the static of our lives. Within the context of inspiration, these are things you might want to turn away from.”

The Tangle depicts a degraded, manmade landscape “where plants literally grow out of cracks in the sidewalk, so we’re also including a number of invasive exotic plants this year, which is new for us,” said Brennan, who has worked closely with staff horticulturists Kathryn Reber and Merrill Miller to develop a unique forcing schedule for each of the 94 different plant species that make up the 2014 exhibit.

“One thing that Temple always tries to do is use native plants as much as possible. Most of the plants we are growing are appropriate for people to use in their own Philadelphia-area gardens,” she said. “The use of the invasives this year is meant to help people distinguish between these exotic plants and native plants, which often look very similar and can have the same aesthetic effect in the garden.”

According to LoFurno, the Retreat, with its large precipices and its reminiscence of American Indians living with the land, is a response to the distracting entanglements of our everyday lives.

“The Retreat is a way to show how ideas change and evolve; how viewpoints change in nature’s embrace. Landscapes were what inspired the Hudson River painters — they tried to document the landscapes beyond the cities and even at that time there were small encroachments; trees were being taken down for settlements, the locomotive was cutting across the country,” he said. “Their vision allowed people to travel vicariously to these places through their paintings — the images were so spectacular, people were blown away by them. We wanted to capture that spirit.”

The Mend, LoFurno said, is the resolution to the story, three levels of environments that illustrate how restored landscapes evolve and change. The exhibit, he said, is a “transition from the urban and neglected to a thoughtful, restored landscape shown through plants, paving and soil.”  

“This contemporary recovery to the landscape of Tamanend portrays and place of beauty, function and vitality. With Tamanend’s Track, we want to help visitors recognize that some of the landscapes in which we live have been degraded, destroyed or damaged and that there are methods to help restore these ecosystems,” added Kuper. “There are simple things that we can do to improve and recover our landscapes; to regain some of the diversity in our landscape that doesn’t exist and reap the ecological benefits.”

Horticulturally, the Mend represents the journey from disturbed wetland to pristine wetland and wet meadow, according to Reber.

“We selected plants ranging from Equisetum hyemale, a tough plant that can tolerate poor conditions to Sarracenia purpurea, one of our native Pitcher Plants that is far more particular,” she said.

The 2014 exhibit continues a long tradition in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture of interdisciplinary and hands-on learning experiences. In the Ambler Campus Greenhouse, horticulture staff have been working since August to help select the plant palette for the exhibit and ensure the plants and trees are ready for the big show.

“This year we have just over 1,400 plants currently in production. Besides the exotic invasives that will be an exciting educational addition to the exhibit, we think that some of the horticultural highlights will be Cercis canadensis ‘Merlot,’ a purple-leaved Redbud; Heuchera ‘Fire Chief,’ a bright red Alum Root; and Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls,’ our native Wisteria,” said Reber. “The biggest leap we have taken this year is in forcing exotic invasive weeds — they are typically not available for sale, fortunately, so we dug plants from campus with the help of some of the students from the Junior Landscape Architecture studio and also collected seeds. We are strangely excited about our success with Lonicera maackii, Amur Honeysuckle, and Microstegium vimineum, Japanese Stiltgrass.”

Temple University Ambler is one of only a handful of exhibitors that forces its own plants for their exhibits.

“Each year we try to hone our forcing techniques. With only two growing areas — our greenhouse and hoop house — we get creative with finding or making additional temperature zones and use every resource available to us to keep our crops on schedule,” Reber said. “As in the past few years, we forced many of our trees and shrubs in plastic humidity tents constructed inside the greenhouse — the concentrated heat and humidity helps them to break bud a little faster than they would otherwise. We keep meticulous records of the conditions and progress of each of our crops so we can try to improve upon our forcing schedules from year to year.”

For more information about “Tamanend’s Track: The Path to a Portrayal of the Past,” contact 267-468-8108 or duffyj@temple.edu.

The Philadelphia Flower Show is the largest indoor event of its kind in North America, welcoming more than 300,000 visitors a year.

Temple University Ambler has a long and illustrious history with the Flower Show, taking home “Best in Show” awards in 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1997, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2012 in addition prestigious honors from the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania in 2004 and 2011 and the Horticultural Society in 2006. In 2013, Temple University Ambler was awarded the Alfred M. Campbell Memorial Trophy, given to the “educational major exhibit that demonstrates the most successful use of a variety of plants in a unique fashion.”

Building upon a rich history of environmental teaching that dates back more than a century, Temple University Ambler is home to the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture. The degree programs are a unique blend of disciplines, providing students with the design and plant background necessary to succeed in any aspect of the Green Industry.

The Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture at Temple University Ambler, part of the School of Environmental Design in Temple’s College of Liberal Arts, is committed to excellence in ecologically based education. The department’s goal is to train leaders in the art and science of horticulture (A.S., B.S., and certificate programs) and landscape architecture (MLArch and B.S. programs). The programs provide students with knowledge and understanding of the environment so that they can improve the quality of our urban, suburban, and rural communities.

For more information on the Horticulture and Landscape Architecture programs at Temple University Ambler, visit www.ambler.temple.edu/la-hort. For more information on the 2014 Philadelphia International Flower Show, visit www.theflowershow.com.

CONTACT:    James Duffy, 267-468-8108, duffyj@temple.edu, release available by e-mail