April Showers Bring…. May Showers

The author – puddle jumping

I love a good puddle jump as much as the next person. I am also fully aware, as I am sure you are too, that we need rain for the flowers to grow and for our trees to thrive. But it has been tough keeping a positive attitude about all of this rain.

The fuzzy leaves of Lady’s Mantle Alchemilla mollis collect rain drops.

We seem to be stuck in a pattern of Thursday – Sunday rain of some sort. It is true that this is a change from last year’s Tuesday then Saturday/Sunday weekly rain events.

Stunning when dry, these tulips glisten in the rain

We have had to cancel or reschedule many events and programs because of the weather over the last few seasons.  The weeds still grow and thrive. It seems you can just settle in next to a small spot of soil and watch them emerge they are coming up so quickly. And though cloudy and even rainy days make for some beautiful photos, folks tend to stay in on these dreary days.

The waxy leaves of Barrenwort (Epimedium) gather rain.

Some positives. Those photos – who does not love the water drops on foliage and gleaming flower shots?

And our garden renovations in progress are well-watered.

Male cones and the needles of Japanese Red Pine (Pinus densiflora) on a rainy morning.

And this cooler, cloudy weather has meant a prolonged floral display thus far this spring. Dogwoods, cherries, magnolias, horse chestnuts, hawthorns, redbuds all seem tohave kept their flowers longer than usual ensuring bright spots on the grayest of days.

Variegated Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’)

As always, I am here on my soapbox, especially during this dreary beginning to National  Public Gardens week, to let you know gardens are beautiful places ot visit in all weather.

After all, what other time will you be able to capture those dramatic drops on the leaves reflecting the world around you in a way you’ve never seen? Put on your raincoat and come visit!

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Bark at the Arboretum: Kuma and Jersey Visit

The Ambler Arboretum is a popular spot for more than taking in the beauty of the trees. Seems that many folks find it a great place to walk their dogs. We welcome dogs at the arboretum. Of course, if you decide to bring your canine companion to our gardens we do ask that you follow the following rules:

  • Dogs must be attended and on a leash at all times. Short leashes are recommended as poison ivy and interactions with wildlife in the gardens is possible on longer leashes.
  • Owners/attendants are responsible for removal and disposal of their dogs’ wastes in the proper receptacles (at this time the Ambler Arboretum does not provide waste bags for your dog). There are trash cans located throughout campus as well as in the visitor’s parking lot.
  • All dogs must have their vaccinations and registrations
  • For the safety of your pet and that of our plantings and the wildlife that calls the Arboretum home, please keep your dog on pathways and roadways, not in the gardens and planted areas
  • Do not leave your pets in unattended vehicles
  • Do not allow pets to urinate on  plants.
  • If your dog needs space or someone wanting to pet the dog should ask you before approaching the dog, we ask that you indicate this by tying a yellow ribbon to your dog’s collar or leashLearn more about the Yellow Dog Project.

Now that all of those rules are out of the way, let me introduce you to our first blog dogs Kuma and Jersey.

Cousins Kuma and Jersey decide which way to go in the Ernesta Ballard Healing Garden

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Tough Decisions


In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured.

Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte

Red Oak stump – photo Kathleen Salisbury

In February we had to make a couple of tough decisions. These are decisions we do not take lightly and decisions that we do not make in haste.

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A Late Winter Walk

Pollen on Mt. Aso Pussy Willow catkins

Each season I offer a mid-week walk around the arboretum for anyone interested in seeing what is going on.  From interesting seed pods and galls to flowers in all colors, here are the finds from today’s March 1, 2018 late-winter walk around.

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Marvelous Maples

Maple Sugar operation at Ridge Valley Farm

One of the things I am very excited to get to do for the Ambler Arboretum is connect our 187 acres of natural habitat and formal gardens to the greater community. This community includes the students, faculty and staff who work here daily, the students who attend classes here regularly as well as the students faculty and staff from main campus who may not get up this way very often as well as our neighbors in nearby Ambler and our home town of Upper Dublin.

I am also privileged to meet people from across the state and the region and to tell them all about the Ambler Arboretum’s terrific history and wonderful displays.  All of this in the hopes of connecting people to our resources and our activities with the goal of creating a community connected to each other and to nature.

To prepare for our upcoming March 24 program on Marvelous Maples, I visited Ridge Valley Farm, to learn about their operation and to see a maple-sugaring operation up close.  Jim and Sue Myers are enthusiastic syrup producers that have turned a hobby into a full-fledged agricultural enterprise.

We are thrilled they will be joining us for the free March 24 Marvelous Maples Celebration and hope you will be able to join us as well. We will have syrup tastings, a walk and talk so you can learn how to identify sugar maples and other maples, as well as information and demonstration on how to tap your own trees and make your own syrup. Not only will Ridge Valley Farm be here but our own Temple Ambler Student Organization – the Food Forest Club will be offering activities throughout the event.

We are really excited to host Jim and Sue here. According to the Myers’ their Ridge Valley Farm is a 30 acre farm near Green Lane, PA where the trees grow naturally and are free-range. Although they are not certified organic their maple syrup contains nothing but pure sap. Their trees are never sprayed or fertilized. The syrup is graded according to USDA standards and they are liscnsed by the PA Department of Agriculture. They carry a full line of grades and sizes of syrup as well as maple products such as maple coated nuts, maple granola,  maple sugar, maple cream and maple sugar candy.

While they are here they will have products available for sale and will have syrup to taste. And, if the weather is right, they may even have some maple cotton candy available!


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More than Plants

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Winter is not yet here, but the first snow fall of the season has come and left a blanket covering our dormant flowers and crowning the colorful berries our birds have not yet needed.  This is a special time in … Continue reading

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Autumn in the Arboretum

This gallery contains 6 photos.

According to the calendar fall is here. But when you look outside it is still a bit difficult to tell. With temperatures in the 80s and high humidity it certainly doesn’t feel like fall. Though the bright jewel-tones of autumn … Continue reading

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The other day I was asked to identify a plant by a verbal description. Now as a horticulturist and an educator, this is nothing new. Sometimes I am lucky enough to be able to decipher the clues and come up with an answer. Most other times, however, I need some assistance in the form of a visual.

The question was “I have a plant in my yard that looks like it has tiny little pumpkins growing on it. Is it a weed?”

My answer to any “is it a weed?” question is almost always – do you like it where it is? And if they do – well then it is not a weed (with some invasive plant exceptions) because a weed is simply a plant you do not want growing where it is. But rarely is this a sufficient answer for the asker. They want to know: Is this a weed? Should I pulling it out? Would I be mortified if a horticulturist stopped by and saw this growing in my yard? DOES IT NEED TO BE ELIMINATED IMMEDIATELY?

In this case I needed a visual. Could it be the ornamental pumpkin on a stick (Solanum aethiopicum)that is popular around the fall holidays (and, incidentally, actually an eggplant)? Or perhaps even Chinese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengi)? Or maybe even the  bur cucumber (Sicyos angulatis)? These all ran thorough my mind but I couldn’t answer the question based on the description alone – I didn’t have the right mental picture.

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Summer Blues

Photo by Kathleen Salisbury, Director, Ambler Arboretum

Asiatic Dayflower (Commelina communis)

I will be the first to admit that I am not the greatest fan of summer. Give me snow and mountains and a chill in the air any day over 95 degrees and 95% humidity. But… the flowers and fruits of summer are hard to beat and I have never been a fan of air conditioning. I am so lucky to live in an area where I get to experience all the wonders of each season.

As I begin here as Director of the Ambler Arboretum of Temple University this summer I get to learn more about the University, the College, the faculty, the staff, the students, the facilities and the gardens.  There is a lot of learning I must do. But that is just fitting isn’t it? I now have the privilege of leading this garden of learning.   So I head out into the heat and explore, and meet with people and listen and examine. I brainstorm and I listen some more. And I discover each nook and cranny. I try to spend time working with the volunteers, so generous with their time each Tuesday morning.  I observe how this space is used. Who is visiting? When? Why? How long? I am learning who is passionate about this space – about its amazingly rich history and the excitement over its potential. I am learning who is involved and who would like to be involved. At times it can be overwhelming. Other times it is inspiring. And sometimes it is possible to find the calm beautiful spot in the garden to reflect on all I have learned.

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