I love visiting plant nurseries because I know the potential they hold for the future of our environment. Just like visiting a children’s nursery school, one learns the potential of our future people power. There are so many similarities between people and plants I am surprised that few people draw the connections between the two. In fact, some people think that if you do draw these connections it’s almost sacrilegious. But, I on the other hand believe that all living things have a far greater connection than we would like to admit because that would take humans off their pedestal and put them at the same level as everything else on the planet – including plants, rocks and other animals. It would also mean that we would have to value other living things more and put humans in context with all other living organisms on earth. The entire thought might be scary to some, but I believe we have to start thinking this way in order to solve many of the global problems that are happening today. If you could for a few moments think of what a tree might see from where it is standing, or what moss is feeling as sits hugging the ground.
I took my graduate students on another journey to see how native plants are grown at the Collins Nursery. http://collinsnursery.com/ There is a rich history to this nursery started by John Collins http://collinsnursery.com/john_f_collins the famous landscape architect. The nursery is now in Glenside, a small town that is situated northwest of the City of Philadelphia. Here in a castle on one of the highest points in the area, John Collins continued his work of growing native plants for landscapes. John died in 2011 but now the nursery is in the able and loving hands of Diane Erich who was mentored by John for numerous years. She greeted us when we arrived. Mrs. Collins also welcomed us to the property that is opened by appointment only – with the exception of open days in the spring and fall.
Diane took us on a tour of the nursery after we passed through a tall deer fence. Diane talked about collecting seed at our Ambler Arboretum. She also has many plants to gather seed from on the Collins property which is planted with a huge diversity of plants. Diane is best known for her pawpaw (Asimina triloba) trees.
The castle built in the 1800s has many newer landscape features that John built that look like they were built with the home from its inception. A double staircase of stone is brilliantly designed for easy access to side and back garden. The old baptismal font found in one of the many antique stores in Glenside looks like it was made for the garden.
After our wonderful tour and the discussion of seed propagation – it was time for the students to buy some of their first plants for their own properties.