Scott Arboretum

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Rosa 'All Ablaze' blazes cherry red in Burke Brothers' Tuscany exhibit, accenting classic Italian elements with bright flowers. (Ron Tarver / Staff photographer)

This is the new Wister Education Center and Greenhouse that opened at Scott Arboretum in Swarthmore in November. It's 5,200 square feet and has a classroom, an exhibit area for displays and plant evaluations, a greenhouse for growing and propagating plants, and space for staff and volunteers to - literally - hang their hats and ID badges. The new building replaces a tiny greenhouse that had been way too small for way too many years. And there were times, too numerous for staff to count, when workshops were held outside in the parking lot under a tent. Gardeners aren't fussy, but hey. The new building is light-filled and designed with sustainability in mind. It's very pleasant inside. But my main purpose in visiting the arboretum was to talk to Chuck Hinkle, Scott garden supervisor, to talk about the "no-mow" and "low-mow" alternatives to turfgrass that he's testing in the garden beds on campus. Despite the frosty cold, it was a very enjoyable - you might say educational - couple of hours. I particularly liked the dwarf mondo grass (3 inches high!), the straw-colored prairie dropseed, the mounded fescues and interesting carexes that, despite Chuck's insistence that they don't look their best in deep January, were surprisingly attractive. I'm not sure ordinary homeowners will ever come around to planting these in great swaths, as they do turfgrass, but for smaller or difficult sites, a patch here and there, why not? More to come.

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