So what was I up to this week?
Well after finishing the initial line work for the comparable sites for the Chatham property, Chris Beagan bestowed on me another grand task: Make a plant list for Chatham. How you ask? Well, there are these photocopies of plans for the Chatham property drafted up by Ellen Shipman in the 1920’s. So armed with drafting dots, trace paper and pencils I set out this week deciphering small handwriting and getting familiar with perennials…I mean garden plants. With no experiences whatsoever with plants I had to quickly familiarize myself with several different genera, species, varieties and cultivars! There are so many plants… I don’t know how anybody keeps up!
Let’s take a step back and focus on whose drafts these were: Ellen Shipman. I didn’t realize it initially but she’s kind of a big deal. She was a very famous landscape architect of the time who made strides for women in the profession. Plus, she designed for some big names, like the Edisons. Her gardens are quite famous, featured in the magazines during her time. Just from spending hours staring at the Chatham plans, it is clear to me she was very meticulous about her layouts and favored variety.
Of course, I picked up on certain motifs in her planning (and her documenting). Delphiniums and Dahlias are almost always planted together. White foxgloves were often replaced with Snapdragons. The thing I cataloged the most was several different cultivars of Hardy Asters (St. Egwin, Madame Gonschault, and Nana to name a few!). So you’re probably wondering after all this researching and squinting at handwritten plans, what were my favorites…Well I must admit I’ve always been a fan of poppies (for their visual appeal and medicinally complex history) but one reoccurring genus that fascinated me as I was cataloging was the Dictamnus, otherwise known as the Burning Bush or Gas Plant, which is covered in volatile oils in the summertime making it highly flammable (hence the common name). Of course some of the names were just too tantalizing: Heliotrope, Funkia, Pulmonaria, Oenothera, Boltonia latisquama.
And there was even a connection to home!: The Yellow Rose of Texas — Rosa foetida var. harisonii! (Shipman grew up there too!)
For our brown bag lunch this week, Sasha and I had the pleasure of meeting Laurel Racine from Museum Services over at the Navy Yard. She specifically works with research, special projects, and planning. I didn’t know exactly what museum services entailed and I am glad she was able to outline that for us. We ended up spending the latter half of the conversation talking about how parks can improve their exhibits to engage its audiences, sharing our own personal experiences. It felt great to share our opinions with someone higher up. Maybe not tomorrow or the next day but hopefully this session will motivate some future experimentation.
I did finish the drafting of a plant lists from the 1902’s plans this week surprisingly! Now, Chris has informed me that I have a few more plans to catalog (restoration plans from the 1980’s) so stay tuned!