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Horticulture honor society inducts 28 new members

pax key

Phi Alpha Xi key

From Mark Bridgen, Professor and Pi Alpha Xi advisor:

Pi Alpha Xi (PAX), the national honor society for horticulture, inducted  a near-record 28 new members at a March 23, 2018 ceremony held in the H. H. Whetzel Room in the Plant Science Building on the Cornell University campus. Only the best students in the plant sciences are invited to join this national honor society.

Pi Alpha Xi was founded in 1923 at Cornell University and Cornell is the Alpha Chapter. Originally, it was the national honor society for floriculture, landscape horticulture and ornamental horticulture. In recent years it has changed and now honors excellence in all aspects of horticulture.

Since its founding, PAX has grown to 36 chapters at baccalaureate-granting institutions. Its mission is to promote scholarship, fellowship, professional leadership, and the enrichment of human life through plants. PAX was very active at Cornell University for many years, peaking in the 1970s. But the chapter went dormant for several years until its revival in 2013.

PAX inductees and officers with advisors Mark Bridgen (seated left) and Neil Mattson (seated right).

PAX inductees and officers with advisors Mark Bridgen (seated left) and Neil Mattson (seated right).

Graduating PAX seniors received their honor cords.

Graduating PAX seniors received their honor cords.

Also inducted into PAX: Karl NIklas, professor, Plant Biology Section (left) and Ed Cobb, research support specialist in the Plant Biology Section. Also pictured: Bridgen, Horticulture Section chair Steve Reiners, and Mattson.


New seed company restores vegetable flavor to savor

Row 7 Seed Co. founders, from left, Matthew Goldfarb, Michael Mazourek and Dan Barber.

Row 7 Seed Co. founders, from left, Matthew Goldfarb, Michael Mazourek and Dan Barber.

Cornell Chronicle, CALS News [2018-02-27]

Cornell plant breeder Michael Mazourek, Ph.D. ’08, noted chef Dan Barber and seed producer Matthew Goldfarb have launched a new vegetable seed company and catalog. The freshly minted Row 7 Seed Co. offers seeds that can turn a container garden or backyard plot into a summer vegetable bounty any foodie will crave.

“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned working with breeders is that there’s a huge link between flavor and nutrition, and the craziest part is that no one talks about it. Flavor and aroma compounds – the same ones that make tomatoes and melons mouthwatering – often derive from essential nutrients. It’s nature’s way of telling us what we should be eating,” said Barber, of Blue Hill, a farm-to-table restaurant in New York City, who frequently collaborates with Mazourek.

“Similar to how the farm-to-table movement increased public awareness around the provenance of ingredients, with Row 7 we want to shift the culture around food to drive people toward more flavorful ingredients and define nutrition in terms of diets, not single ingredients,” he said.

Read the whole article.

More coverage:

Rossi recognized for environmental efforts

Frank Rossi and McGraw Tower

Associate professor and turfgrass specialist Frank Rossi has been an intellectual force behind some of the most environmentally conscious concepts embraced by the golf industry. A profile in GCM Magazine celebrating Rossi’s selection as the GCSAA’s 2018 President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship notes that he is “renowned for his hands-on work with golf superintendents and  reputation for challenging convention at every turn.”

Read the whole article.

Sweep of Light: Scanner Photography and the Art of Horticulture at Mann Library Gallery

cyclamenA collaboration between the Horticulture Section of CALS’ School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS) and Mann Library, A Sweep of Light celebrates the intricate beauty of botanicals through the medium of scanner photography. Scanners can be used to produce distinctive, high-resolution images rich in both color and texture. A Sweep of Light features stunning, often large-scale works by photographer Ellen Hoverkamp, SIPS communications specialist Craig Cramer, students from Marcia Eames-Sheavly‘s course The Art of Horticulture, and Hortus Forum, Cornell’s undergraduate horticulture club.

The exhibit runs through the end of March, is available for viewing during normal library hours and is free and open to the public. A special reception will be held on Wednesday, February 21st at 4 p.m. where guests will be able to view contributing artist Craig Cramer demonstrate his technique of botanical scanner photography.

Mann Gallery

Restoration ecology class surveys Lake Treman

Students Stevanica Augustine, left, and Jonas Soe examine invertebrates along the streams that feed into Lake Trema

Students Stevanica Augustine, left, and Jonas Soe examine invertebrates along the streams that feed into Lake Trema

Cornell Chronicle/CALS News [2018-02-06]

Far above Buttermilk Falls in Ithaca sits a reservoir dam impounding Lake Treman. Hiking trails wend through the area, which for eight decades has slowly accumulated enough sediment to turn the lake into plodding marsh. Sometime in the next 30 years, it will completely fill and become a riparian marsh.

Cornell students in Tom Whitlow’s Restoration Ecology class spent the fall semester examining Lake Treman’s many components, and they worked with the New York State Department of Parks and Recreation to develop a plan for managing it.

The students presented their research to state parks officials in December. (View presentation video.) Generally, the class found no compelling reason to remove the dam, in spite of the increasing sediment, said Audrey Stanton ’19, a teaching assistant for the course.

Read the whole article.

Plant exploration in China with Michael Dosmann

The Arnold Arboretum’s Michael Dosmann with a Rodgersia leaf and plumes of Astilbe grandis (Photograph: Jonathan Shaw)

Michael Dosmann, PhD ’07 and keeper of living collections at the Arnold Aboretum, with a Rodgersia leaf and plumes of Astilbe grandis (Photograph: Jonathan Shaw)

Hat tip to Nina Bassuk for passing along the article Botanizing in the “Mother of Gardens” – Pursuing seeds and specimens in Sichuan which appeared in the January-February 2018 issue of Harvard Magazine.

Michael Dosmann, PhD ’07 and keeper of living collections at the Arnold Arboretum, led a team that braved terrestrial leaches, rockslides and other hazards while collecting plants in China for two weeks last fall.

Why explore for plants in China? The Harvard Magazine article points out:

“Though it might seem like a commission from another century, the hunt to locate and collect rare plants from around the globe so they can be grown for scientific study and long-term observation is very much alive, and carries new urgency. One in five plant species on Earth is endangered. Changing patterns of temperature and rainfall, competition from invasive species, and loss of habitat are spurring new exploration—particularly in biologically rich areas.”

Read the whole article.



‘Three Sisters in Soil’ wins global soil painting competition

Three Sisters in Soil

Soil, it turns out, can be a work of art — and a team of Cornell artists and scientists proved just that. A painting they created with soil captured first prize in the university division of the global soil painting competition sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Kirsten Kurtz, manager of the Cornell Soil Health Lab and a graduate student in the field of natural resources, organized the public event Dec. 5, 2017 in the lobby of Mann Library as part of World Soil Day. There, supporting artists and members of the Cornell community created two large canvases from more than 50 paints formulated from soils from around the world.

“It’s amazing the range of colors you can get from soil,” says Kurtz, who started using the technique four years ago. “Of course you have the usual browns and tans, some tinged with yellow and red. But some yield pigments from jet black to light gray and even green.” In addition, soil particles in the paint from gritty sands to fine clays give the works a unique texture not possible with other media.

Supporting artists Patty Chan (Plant Sciences major) Fatma Rekik (Soil and Crop Sciences graduate student), Emily Detrick (Cornell Botanic Gardens) and Shujie Li (Scanlon Lab technician) work on Three Sisters with Kurtz (right).

Her recipe includes pulverizing dried soil and mixing it with water and a gesso binder. Kurtz also led a similar event in 2015 that inspired FAO to take the idea worldwide.

On the main canvas, Kurtz and supporting artists affiliated with the School of Integrative Plant Science used soil paints to honor the Three Sisters of agriculture — corn, beans and squash — used by Native American communities. The scene they painted was based on Ringelreihen, a 1910 work by the German artist Franz von Stuck, which shows three women spinning arm-in-arm.

“We added three baskets filled with corn, beans and squash,” says Kurtz. “These are the crops used in the traditional ‘Three Sisters’ polyculture used by the Haudenosaunee here in the Finger Lakes for centuries, a technique that is a model of sustainable farming.”

The community canvas

Other members of the Cornell community tried their hand at soil painting on the second canvas, completing a mosaic-like design. Plans are to hang the works in the entrance of Bradfield Hall.

“My main goal for these events is to inspire people to think about soil,” says Kurtz. “It is as an essential natural resource – as important as clean water and air. We depend on healthy soil to provide us with food and fiber, and we can use soil to help fight climate change.

“We’ve got lots of great reasons to celebrate soil,” she adds.

See also:

Online organic gardening, garden design courses start March 12

Registration is now open for two online courses offered by the Horticulture Section in Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science:

Raised bed vegetable gardenOrganic Gardening is designed to help new gardeners get started and help experienced gardeners broaden their understanding of organic techniques for all kinds of gardens.

Starting with a strong foundation in soil health and its impact on plant health, the course then explores tried-and-true and cutting-edge techniques for all different kinds of garden plants including food plants, trees and shrubs and lawn.

Participants read assigned essays and book excerpts, participate in online group discussions with other students, complete reflective writing/design work and take part in some hands-on activities. 
Most students spend about 5 hours each week with the content, though there are always ample resources and opportunity to do more.

View more information and full course syllabus for Organic Gardening.

garden_designx300Introduction to Garden Design will help you apply basic garden design techniques to your own garden. We teach an approach to gardening that is based on the principle of right plant, right place. In other words, we will consider the needs of the plant in addition to the needs of the gardener.

You’ll learn garden site analysis and apply the concepts to your personal space, gain proficiency in garden design principles and lay out a rough site plan overview of your garden design.

You will write and reflect on the process as you learn with the instructor taking an active role in this creative endeavor by providing feedback on your assignments and journal entries.

View more information and full course syllabus for Introduction to Garden Design.

Questions about either course? Please contact, Fiona Doherty:

Save the date: Garden educator symposium in Ithaca, N.Y. July 11-14

symposium logoMark your calendar. Cornell University’s Garden-Based Learning Program will host the American Horticultural Society’s (AHS) 26th annual National Children & Youth Garden Symposium in Ithaca, N.Y. July 11 to 14, 2018.

This professional development event will bring together hundreds of educators, garden designers, community leaders, youth program coordinators, and others from across the country who are dedicated to connecting children and youth to the natural world. Attendees will:

  • Explore topics ranging from curriculum to program management to garden design and maintenance during four dynamic days of educational sessions, field trips, and expert keynote presentations.
  • Experience Central New York’s abundant natural beauty and the world-renowned facilities of Cornell University. Visit the award-winning Ithaca Children’s Garden, Cornell Botanic Gardens, Finger Lakes parks and wineries, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Johnson Museum’s botanical art collection and more.
  • Share ideas, success stories, and inspiration with like-minded colleagues from across the nation.

“Attending my first NCYGS in 2013 was a pivotal point in my career,” says Fiona Doherty, Cornell University Extension Support Specialist. “The symposium expanded my network, provided me with fresh perspectives and fueled my passion for youth engagement and garden-based education. Each symposium I have attended since has continued to inspire and energize me and provide me with new skills and ideas.”

Online registration will open in April and includes discounts for AHS members, students and presenters. Contact organizers for volunteer and sponsorship opportunities.

More program details and online registration will be available at:


Call: (703) 768-5700

Follow AHS on Twitter: @AHS_NCYGS (#ncygs18)

Tour California Spring Trials April 13-17

From Mark Bridgen, Professor and Director of the Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center:

We’re organizing a tour of several of the main stops along the Spring Trial route in California from April 13-17, 2018. This one-of-a-kind guided excursion is an intense, educational, and very entertaining way to visit several of the key Spring Trial locations with fellow horticulturists. The itinerary is jam-packed with three full days of tours with the days beginning early and continuing at a fast pace late into the evening. Guests will be able to visit the major horticultural companies that distribute plant materials and supplies and get a first-hand look at the products and new varieties that are available to the floriculture industry. This excursion is designed specifically for members of the greenhouse, nursery, and landscape industries, other horticulture professionals, and academics.

Deadline to register is February 9, 2018. More information and registration form.

If you have questions about details of the trip, contact me at or at 631-727-3595.

Mark Bridgen and Neil Mattson on tour of 2014 California Spring Trials.

Mark Bridgen and Neil Mattson on tour of 2014 California Spring Trials.

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