TC3 Sustainable Growers Gardening Club – Cornell Plantations Botanical Field Trip – Student Post by Indigo
A monk by the name of St. Bernard of Clairvaux once claimed, “You will find more in the woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.”. I couldn’t agree more with this, the idea of nature providing more wisdom and knowledge than any human ever could. If focused in the present and observe what is, one can find an unparalleled education that is objective in the most extreme, provided by mother nature herself. That is exactly why the TC3 Sustainable Growers Gardening Club decided to take a Friday afternoon to go on a private tour at the Cornell Plantations Botanical Garden by Cornell’s Adult Educator & Volunteer Coordinator Kevin Moss.
On April 15th, we all meet up at the Botanical Gardens mid-afternoon. We really lucked out on the weather, while it was rather cold and grey all week, our tour day is nothing but clear blue skies and sunshine! Although it is fair weather, most plants have yet to bloom and pop with colors, but no matter – there is still plenty to be observed. We meet Kevin in front of the parking lot sidewalk, where a map of the gardens stands. Once acquainted, he begins to tell us about the intentional design of the U-sloped ditch in front of the lot. Various shrubs and plants just short of budding are arranged along the inside of the ditch, which he explains is carefully designed to drain rainwater on a slowly on an angle, in order to prevent erosion and the loss of soil nutrients. Even the parking lot was designed in coordination, so the water can drain from there mindfully as well.
As we walk up the path towards the Nevin Welcome Center, Kevin tells us how the Botanical Gardens and building structure was awarded with a gold status by the Leadership in Environmental Design, certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. We learn that the building features a green roof garden along with solar panels, and an eco-friendly venting system which automatically opens glass vents along the side of the building when a certain temperature is reached. The building also features sustainably harvested wooden slats across the large outside front windows, which helps block high-angled sunlight in the Summer, and break up direct light when the sun’s path is lower in the Winter.
Behind the center, we walk to the back where Kevin teaches us about the changing features of the back garden, which has recently lost a large Magnolia tree, which had once created a microenvironment where the tree’s leaf-covered branches once draped the plants beneath with plentiful, consistent shade. With the Magnolia gone now, shade loving plants are in danger of over-powering rays raining down in the hot months to come. New light-loving plants would now be the optimal choice for future renovations. Another quality to this small garden, as we learned, are the invasive and heavily present species of Asian earth worm known as Amynthas hawayanus. This species of worm is epigeic, meaning that unlike most worms, it burrows horizontally in the topsoil, depleting nutrients aggressively.
Next, we make our way to the specialized plant gardens which contain various sections of plants specific to categories such as medicinal, edible, decorative, and native varieties. If only it were June, the flowers would be flourishing! The gardens are beautifully structured, even decorated with an old grind stone set that had been repurposed as a mini-monument with an etched-tablet dedication, likely to a donor of some sort.
We make our way through the various gardens and head across the street where we get to look at a small sustainably run, raised bed vegetable facility. The facility utilizes educational signage, which give information on sustainably minded production methods as well as information on alleviating issues with Climate Change. The production yard exclusively grows vegetables and uses the space as a living classroom, not mention also hosts an annual family friendly agriculture festival where they present recent projects, celebrate, have guest speakers, and of course celebrate!
By the end of the tour I am dying to come back and visit as soon as the plants start to flower. We the thank Kevin for his time and take a moment to get a group picture, then ask any last questions before we leave. The tour really gave us good ideas of types of initiatives and focuses within the field of agriculture (pun intended). It shows us that one can help promote sustainability through eco-tourism, living educational facilities, and even getting involved in community events. Obviously not everyone has the option to build their own public botanical garden, but one can become more educated and then inform others on having value and respect for the natural world, which we are very much an integrated and interconnected part of. After all, knowledge is power.