Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens Partners with Botanical Artists for Florilegium Project

December 3, 2018 – Three talented botanical artists, Carol Ashton-Hergenhan, Deborah Keyser Dion, and Susan Mintun (Jenkins Board Member), have partnered with Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens to complete a florilegium comprised of approximately 36 artworks. Over the next two or three years, the artists will individually create paintings or drawings from the flora in Jenkins’ plant collection. The Florilegium will have many benefits: it will document the history of the garden, can serve as reference material for education purposes, and can even help to raise funds through the sale of reproductions. We will celebrate the completion of the project with a gallery exhibition in the John J. Willaman Education Center.

A florilegium is a collection of paintings or illustrations that serve as a permanent record of plants in a specific garden or geographic area. It doesn’t include each specimen growing in an area, but should include some of the key plants that are representative of the plant community. A florilegium depicts plants that make up the unique botanical significance, or the “essence”, of the garden. The Jenkins Florilegium Project will feature plants that make up the “essence” of Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens.

Be sure to follow along on social media for progress updates during the project and for the announcement of a date for a gallery exhibition at the completion of the project.

Gelsemium sempervirens

2018 – Carolina Jessamine

Carolina Jessamine is a 10 to 20-foot-long, twining evergreen vine native to the southeastern United States.  As it is a southern species, in southeastern Pennsylvania it is best to use the cold-hardy variety called ‘Margarita’ and plant it in a location where it will be protected from harsh winter winds.

Gelsemium is among the first plants to bloom every year – a welcome sign that winter is over and the long-awaited spectacle of spring is about to begin.  The bright yellow, trumpet shaped flowers are very attractive and their sweet, candy-like fragrance can be enjoyed from a distance, though you should never pass up an opportunity to get a close-up sniff.

This vine will grow best, and will flower most profusely in moist, well-drained soils and full, bright sun.  It is highly deer resistant and looks wonderful grown on a trellis, arbor, pergola, fence or wall and even makes a good porch cover.  If desired, prune immediately after flowering to control its height.

Aronia melanocarpa

2018 – Black Chokeberry

Black Chokeberry is an underused deciduous native shrub, but one that is gaining in popularity for a number of reasons.  Growing from about 2’ to about 6’ in height, depending on cultivar, it is a very tough plant able to grow in a wide range of garden conditions.  It tolerates pollution, salt, drought, insects, diseases, sun, shade, and even deer.


In addition to being tough, it is also quite attractive with all-season interest.  In spring, clusters of showy white flowers cover the shrub; in late summer, the flowers make way for clusters of glossy black fruits that dangle from the branches at around the time the leaves have begun transitioning for a fine fall show of red and burgundy; and in winter, after the leaves have fallen, the fruits persist and attract a variety of overwintering songbirds.  These blueberry-sized fruits are also edible for humans and though they are very tart and astringent when raw, they have been processed into a variety of anti-oxidant rich drinks and dietary supplements all around the world.

Black Chokeberry grows with an open, rounded habit with glossy, bright green leaves covering only the top 2/3 of the plant.  Knowing this, it is suggested to plant it in masses and in combination with other plants that will fill in the voids near the base of the plants.


Magnolia grandiflora

2018 Southern Magnolia

Southern magnolia is a medium-sized, evergreen understory tree native to the southern coastal plain from the Gulf Coast across the top of Florida and up into South Carolina.  Though not native to southeastern Pennsylvania, there are several hardy selections that make it possible for us to enjoy this beautiful tree in our own landscape.  Listed in order of size, from largest to smallest, some of these selections include ‘Edith Bogue’, ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’, ‘Kay Parris’, and ‘Teddy Bear’.

The ornamental qualities of southern magnolia are unlike any other.  It has large, thick, dark green leaves with a glossy shine on top and a layer of fuzzy brown hairs below.  Its classic, huge white flowers can be 12” or more in diameter and perfume the springtime air with an intoxicating, lemon soap-like fragrance.  By fall, the flowers have given way to large, cone-like fruits, containing orange-red berries that dangle on thin filaments and attract songbirds.

Southern Magnolia will grow in full sun to full shade, but will perform best in part sun with moist, rich, well-draining soils.  In our climate, it is best to plant in a location where it can be protected from harsh winter winds.  Like all magnolias, there are no major pests and it is highly deer resistant, though bucks may rub their antlers on the smooth trunks.

Harold Sweetman Announces Plan to Retire as Executive Director

August 8, 2018  – There has always been a Director with the Sweetman name at Jenkins Arboretum since 1974 until 2019. Leonard Sweetman was hired by the trustee at that time to begin the initial plantings even before opening to the public in 1976. As the only full-time gardening director, Leonard worked tirelessly for the last 12 years of his life in growing a public garden for the future yet one he would never have the opportunity to enjoy in his retirement.  Leonard dedicated the last months of his life to helping his son, Harold Sweetman, transition as the next garden director.  Leonard died suddenly from a stroke the week following his full retirement in 1986. Harold, like his father, was the only full-time staff/gardener until 1999.

Harold Sweetman, over the past 32 years, continued planting with each growing season.  In addition to growing the gardens, he grew a staff of dedicated horticulturists. Maggie Knapp was the very first full-time gardener in 1999, followed by remarkable Hamilton Educational Fellows, including Steve Wright, Director of Horticulture and Maddison Paule, current Head Horticulturist. With the gardens flourishing and the resulting increased visitation, the John J. Willaman Education Center opened in 2009. Behind the scenes, Janice Legg, Administrator, and Janet Bauman, Development Director, also became full-time staff in 2009. Also behind the scenes for 25 years has been a governing Board of Directors composed of talented community leaders, professionals, and horticultural enthusiasts.

With the Forever Jenkins – Endow an Acre Endowment Campaign well underway and approaching the $20 million goal, hopefully by 2020, it seemed time to make way for a new director. Undoubtedly the new Executive Director and passionate gardeners, staff, and community members all dedicated to the special mission of Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens will ensure that Jenkins will continue to flourish and be a vibrant public garden “Forever”.

Help honor the retirement of the Executive Director with a special endowment gift to the Fund in Honor of Harold and Christine Sweetman

The permanent endowment has many named funds that are recognized in all Newsletter/Annual Report publications. Past president of the Jenkins board, Karla Herr, and her late husband Phil, have been generous supporters for many years and it was their desire to establish the Fund in Honor of Harold and Christine Sweetman. Funds in the endowment will ensure Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens will be a public garden for many generations to come. Forever Jenkins – Endow an Acre Campaign is currently 67% ($13.4 million) toward the goal of $20 million by the year 2020. Help us honor Harold by contributing to the fund. Reaching the endowment goal of $20 million by 2020 will fulfill his vision.

Many people are unaware that Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins left in trust a modest $600,000 and there were no gardens – only undisturbed woodlands. The gardens and the endowment have grown dramatically over the years thanks to the wonderful generosity individuals and foundations that truly recognize the importance of preserving Jenkins will into the future.

Please help Jenkins reach our goal by contributing to the Fund in Honor of Harold and Christine Sweetman or by creating another named fund in someone else’s honor. If financially supporting this campaign at this time is not possible, please consider making a pledge or planned gift in the future by including Jenkins in your will. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration.