Contributed by Jess Slade, the McCausland Natural Areas Horticulturist  

Last September, I traded places with Conor Langley of Windsor Great Park in England for a few weeks so that we could experience working in each other’s landscapes. This exchange program began in 2012 when Bloomfield Farm Horticulturist Louise Clarke traveled to Windsor Great Park and, after a lapse of a few years, the program restarted in 2018.

I was selected to represent the Morris Arboretum and Conor Langley, Horticulturist at Frogmore, a 35-acre Georgian landscape garden on Windsor Castle’s grounds, was selected by Windsor Great Park. The garden curators (John Anderson of Windsor Great Park and Tony Aiello of the Morris Arboretum) organized schedules for us and housing was provided by each institution.

The vastness and diversity of landscapes within Windsor Great Park, a 5000-acre park managed by the Crown Estate, provided for a rich learning environment in addition to the outstanding cultural experience of my first visit to the UK. If you aren’t familiar with this park, it features a 35-acre public garden called the Savill Garden, a 220-acre woody plant collection with a focus on ericaceous species, and thousands more acres of natural areas and a deer park.

During my rotation through the gardens, I worked alongside different horticulturists while learning about their backgrounds, challenges, horticultural practices, and prized plants. I shared many tea breaks with the gardeners and indulged in cakes, shortbread, and laughter. One of the highlights of my time in Windsor was visiting veteran trees with the park’s arboriculture team, including a 1,300-year old Quercus robur (pictured left), and learning about the fungi growing on them and how to read these as signs for management.

Conor, who takes care of the winter garden at Frogmore, was interested in visiting the Morris Arboretum to see how public gardens are managed in the US and how we care for our native trees. Our team enjoyed working with him in the field doing our everyday tasks, and we took him to visit a few of our favorite gardens in the Philadelphia area, including Chanticleer and Stoneleigh. Conor says that he especially enjoyed helping to install our scarecrow exhibit along the Oak Allée.

Much of the work (and the weeds!) was the same in England as in Philadelphia, but meeting other professionals with a shared passion for the plant world and ecology was an unforgettable experience that will shape my practices moving forward.