Heroes of horticulture



Maybe you’ve already read in Garden Design about the 2007 Landslide winners. Since 2003, the Cultural Landscape Foundation has been selecting a roster of endangered cultural landscapes, calling for nominations that adhere to a specific theme. This year’s theme was Heroes of Horticulture: “significant horticultural features that have stood steadfast in the face of almost insurmountable natural and cultural odds”

This is an interesting program that I’d never heard of until now. I became aware because photography of these heroic cultivars is on view at the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography in Rochester, NY, starting December 1. The show is up through March 2, after which it may travel. You can view all the heroes online at the link above, or you can see one or two of them in person—they’re distributed throughout the country.

I’m showing favoritism by spotlighting Buffalo resident John Pfahl’s shot of a rhododendron collection in a Meadville, PA cemetery that was planted over 100 years ago. There are 1,500 plants and some are 35 feet tall. (Meadville is also where you went to view blacked-out Bills’ games in the pre-satellite era, if you were that rabid.)


And here is Mark Klett’s photograph of a wild-growing Desert Ironwood (Olneya tesota), that has survived all kinds of natural and manmade vicissitudes and is now a treasured feature of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Here are a couple more of the heroes:
Tree Peony Collection, Pavilion, NY
This started out as a nursery in 1935; now it is an amazing collection that many of my friends have visted. I am hoping to finally see them this spring.
Bamboo Groves, Avery Island, Louisiana
Jungle Gardens was also started in 1935, and contains bamboo and other species from all over the world, some of the earliest introductions in the US. Tropical storms and lack of skilled maintenance contribute to the collection’s fragility.

There are many others, all beautifully photographed and each with a fascinating story. Many are not actually at risk right now, but they require care and stewardship to stay that way. Next year, the Landslide awards will go to “marvels of modernism,” so if there’s an a circa-fifties/sixties abstract/geometric park or playground near you that may be fated for the wrecking ball, contact TCLF by April 30.

Actually, I think I know of one, and it has been threatened. I’ll be posting on it soon.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. I noticed a lot of the landscaping they highlighted consists of non-native species. Bamboo, peonies, rhodies, Hmmm…wonder if this will rub some folks the wrong way.

  2. Yeah, I noticed that big time (though there are natives).

    This foundation is really all about cultivated plantings and hardscaping and has no native plant-related mission as far as I can tell. Hence, the interest of Garden Design. They are very involved with documenting and saving historic designed landscapes.

    I don’t have a problem, but I can see your point.

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