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Bailee Hopkins-Hensley is connecting people to plants

Cornell Chronicle and CALS News [2019-10-22]

Bailee Hopkins-Hensley ’18, MPS ’19, is passionate about exploring the connections that humans have to plants – especially the connections that indigenous communities have to the species that sustain them. Above, Hopkins-Hensley works with local children while interning at the Ithaca Children’s Garden in summer 2017. Photo provided

Bailee Hopkins-Hensley ’18, MPS ’19, is passionate about exploring the connections that humans have to plants – especially the connections that indigenous communities have to the species that sustain them. Above, Hopkins-Hensley works with local children while interning at the Ithaca Children’s Garden in summer 2017. Photo provided

Bailee Hopkins-Hensley ’18, MPS ’19, is passionate about exploring the connections that humans have to plants – especially the connections that indigenous communities have to the species that sustain them. She earned a bachelor’s degree in plant science in 2018 and a Master of Professional Studies in public garden leadership in 2019, but her interest in plants started when she was a child.

Her grandfather loved plants, and Hopkins-Hensley recalls his extensive gardens, both outside and in three rooms that were converted into a conservatory inside their Colorado home. He grew cacti inside and food plants outside. At age 12, she planted her first backyard garden.

“I wanted to explore the types of plants that my ancestors from my mom’s side of my family had planted to sustain themselves,” says Hopkins-Hensley. “I became very interested in the Three Sisters cropping system and tried growing squash, pumpkins and sunflowers.”

Cornell Botanic Gardens, in partnership with Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science, offers a one-year MPS program for individuals interested in leading botanic gardens and similar organizations.

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Schwartz Sax is new director of Connecticut College Arboretum

Miles Schwartz Sax

Miles Schwartz Sax

Connecticut College News [2019-07-09]:

Connecticut College has named Miles Schwartz Sax as the new Charles and Sarah P. Becker ’27 Arboretum Director, effective Aug. 1, 2019.

Sax received a master’s degree in public garden leadership in 2014 and a Ph.D. in horticultural biology in 2019 from Cornell University. His academic research focuses on issues relating to urban horticulture, tree selection and evaluation, stress physiology and rare plant conservation in the context of an increasingly urbanizing and warming planet.

The Connecticut College Arboretum, one of the most cherished resources on campus, consists of a very diverse 750 acres that include the landscaped grounds of the College as well as the surrounding plant collections, natural areas and managed landscapes.

“The Arboretum has a long history of doing exceptional work in land conservation and ecological landscape management, and I look forward to using this rich history as a foundation to continue to grow and expand the capacity of the institution,” Sax said.

Read the whole article.

Hort alums named to GPN ‘Forty Under 40’

Cheni Filios

Cheni Filios

Two alumni from the Graduate Field of Horticulture were named to Greenhouse Produce New’s 2019 Forty under 40.

Cheni Filios (M.S. ’14) is now Global Product Manager for Vegetables at PanAmerican Seed Co.  Since joining the team there, she has helped to double the company’s product portfolio and sales.  While at Cornell, she also received the Frederick Dreer Award, which she used to study post-havest horticulture in New Zealand and Europe.

Ockert Greyvenstein

Ockert Greyvenstein

Ockert Greyvenstein (M.S. ’09) is now a plant breeder, also at PanAmerican Seed Co.  There, he’s helped get the male-sterile patent approved for the company’s vinca breeding program and has been instrumental in the program’s trialing, evaluation, test production and ultimate product selection. He has also been active mentoring college interns in the company’s breeding program to create an exciting, meaningful and educational experiences.

Both were advised by Bill Miller, director of Cornell’s Flower Bulb Research Program.

Dosmann to receive Fairchild Medal

Michael Dosmann (Photo: Tony Aiello)

Michael Dosmann on collecting trip to China. (Photo: Tony Aiello ’85)

Dosmann in the field.

Dosmann in the field.

Michael Dosmann (PhD Horticulture ’07) has been named the 2019 recipient of the David Fairchild Medal for Plant Exploration from the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG).

“This is a very prestigious recognition,” says Nina Bassuk, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell University. “Plant exploration is even more important today as explorers like Michael travel the planet to find rare plants, conserve genetic resources and preserve biodiversity.”

Since earning his doctorate from Cornell in 2007, Dosmann has led and participated in multiple botanical expeditions to China and Japan, as well as in the Eastern U.S. and the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. These expeditions to acquire wild-collected seed have contributed significantly to the expansion of living collections, including those at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University where Dosmann is Keeper of the Living Collections. His collecting has focused on maples (Acer) hickories (Carya), hydrangeas, viburnums and other species of conservation concern.

NTBG President Chipper Wichman says Dosmann exemplifies the spirit of David Fairchild, an early “Indiana Jones” type plant explorer who led expeditions in Asia, the South Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

At the 147-year-old Arnold Arboretum – the oldest in North America – Dosmann curates and manages a global collection of temperate woody trees, shrubs, and vines comprising some 15,000 accessions. The Arboretum is an essential component of Boston’s park system, as well as an important education, research, and conservation facility.

In addition to being an explorer, Dosmann is also an enthusiastic advocate of having all people explore the plants in their own surroundings and worries people aren’t noticing the green around them. One of his professional goals is to bring the excitement of plant exploration to the public and inspire them to explore their own surroundings.

Wichmann also praised Dosmann’s very successful work popularizing plants through teaching and public education programs. “It’s researchers like Michael Dosmann who will engage the hearts and minds of the next generation of botanists,” he says.

“I think plant explorers have a moral obligation to bring back not just the plants, but also share the inspiration with others,” adds Dosmann, who will receive the medal February 1 at a black-tie dinner at The Kampong, NTBG’s historical garden and the former residence David Fairchild in Coconut Grove, Florida.

Based in part on National Tropical Botanical Garden news release.

Dosmann scans the canopy while collecting seed of Koelreuteria paniculata in South Korea in 2004.

Dosmann scans the canopy while collecting seed of golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata) in South Korea in 2004.


Botanic Gardens’ Detrick, M.P.S. ’16, connects people and plants

Emily Detrick, a horticulturist at the Cornell Botanic Gardens, uses the Pounder Vegetable Garden to teach students in Marcia Eames-Sheavly's Seed to Supper class.  Simon Wheeler/Brand Communications

Cornell Chronicle [2018-10-04]

With a background in fine arts and experience working in museums and galleries, Emily Detrick, M.P.S. ’16, has always been interested in curation – the documentation and care of collections.

Now a horticulturist at the Cornell Botanic Gardens, Detrick continues to curate collections. But now those collections are beds of live plants, and she spends her days connecting people with them.

“A botanic garden is a museum full of living collections,” Detrick says. “By definition, botanic gardens are public-facing in their orientation, providing a gateway to the natural world, helping people to understand what’s all around them and the importance of plants in our lives.”

Citing the Botanic Gardens’ new mission, Detrick said her role is to inspire people – through cultivation, conservation and education – to “understand, appreciate and nurture plants and the cultures they sustain.”

Read the whole article.

Crusader for environmental golf course management earns Excellence in IPM award

Bob Portmess was a mechanical engineer and former executive with Cox Communications who just happened to be an avid golfer.

That last item is key. Twelve years ago, Portmess walked into turf guru Frank Rossi’s office at Cornell University. He knew exactly what he wanted: to work, he said, “with the people who produce the finest golf playing surfaces in the world.”

Two years later, Portmess had received his Masters of Professional Studies in turfgrass management by synthesizing the practical knowledge that Rossi and colleague Jennifer Grant, now director of the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYSIPM), had amassed over seven years of experimental work at the world-renowned Bethpage Golf Course, also a New York State Park.

And a year after that, Portmess had developed an “IPM Handbook” of best management practices for sustainable turf, informed in part by his engineering background. This handbook, now translated into Spanish, served as a resource for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America’s seminar that Portmess co-instructed at several International Golf Shows. It continues to guide management of New York’s 29 state park golf courses as well as golf courses around the country that want to cut back on inputs while maintaining top quality turf.

Portmess’s passion for teaching turned out to be as consuming as his passion for golf. “Whether it was frequent light topdressing, root pruning, over-seeding, better ways to aerify the soil, or careful use of water—Bob taught them all,” says Larry Specchio, superintendent at Chenango Valley State Park Golf Course. Each tactic Speechio notes is a core IPM method.

“I find myself almost daily wanting to pick up my phone and call him; he was more than just a consultant to me,” Speechio says. “No one has a had a more positive impact on my career than Bob.”

Rossi couldn’t have predicted it at that time, of course, but that meeting in 2006 turned out to be one of the most important partnerships of his career.

“For that, I owe Bob more than simply a nomination for an award he is more than worthy of, but rather my own continued commitment to the work that he started,” Rossi says.

Sadly, Portmess passed away before he could see the full impact of his work. “Losing Bob Portmess was a tragedy” said Rose Harvey, commissioner of New York State Parks. “But his legacy lives on in the sustainable management of our golf courses.”

Melinda Portmess, Portmess’s widow, received the Excellence of IPM award at a ceremony at Green Lakes State Park in Syracuse on August 10th.

Learn more about IPM at

Joseph Sieczka, potato specialist, dies at 79

Joseph Sieczka

Joseph Sieczka

Cornell Chronicle [2018-08-09]:

Joseph Sieczka, professor emeritus of horticulture, an expert on potatoes, died July 29 at his home in Mattituck, New York. He was 79.

He also worked as a Cooperative Extension agent in western New York and served as coordinator of Cornell’s Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center in Riverhead, New York, for more than two decades.

Though he conducted research on vegetable crops, he focused on potatoes. Over the course of his career, he managed widely acclaimed potato extension programs, and his work on potato cultivation led to reduced grower costs and lower nitrate impacts on groundwater. Sieczka’s applied potato research included strategies for weed control and determining optimal applications of fertilizer. And he helped develop new potato varieties, including some that are resistant to golden nematodes, a major potato pest.

“Joe was extremely knowledgeable in all things ‘potato’ and had an encyclopedic memory,” said Donald Halseth, professor emeritus of horticulture. “He knew things about more potato varieties than anyone I have known.”

“From a personal point of view, I always valued the uncommon amount of ‘common sense’ that Joe showed when I would ask for his advice, which I did very often,” said Elmer Ewing, professor emeritus of horticulture. “He had sound judgment on important issues and was able to see the broad picture.”

Read the whole article.

Carl Gortzig, professor of floriculture, dies at 87

By Krishna Ramanujan Cornell Chronicle [2018-06-11]:

Carl Gortzig

Carl Gortzi

Carl Gortzig ’52, professor emeritus and chair of the former Department of Floriculture and Ornamental Horticulture, died June 2 at the Oak Hill Manor Nursing Home in Ithaca. He was 87.

Gortzig was also the Elizabeth Newman Wilds Director Emeritus of Cornell Botanic Gardens, formerly Cornell Plantations.

His research covered floriculture economics and marketing. He worked closely with the floriculture industry in New York state, and with the faculty in the former Department of Agricultural, Resource and Managerial Economics, including the late Dana Goodrich, distinguished emeritus professor.

“In a period where basic civility is daily being challenged, Carl Gortzig was a true gentleman; he treated all people, regardless of their role, with dignity and respect,” said Don Rakow, M.P.S. ’77, Ph.D. ’87, associate professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science. “He was devoted to the field of horticulture, to Cornell and to his beloved wife, Jean.”

After receiving his bachelor’s in floriculture and ornamental horticulture, the Buffalo, New York, native received his M.S. in 1963 and Ph.D. in 1976, both from Michigan State University.

He served in the United States Army as a first lieutenant from 1952 to 1954; taught biology, botany and math at the McKinley Vocational High School in Buffalo from 1954 to 1955; worked as an Erie County associate agricultural agent from 1955 to 1964; and was employed by Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as an admissions counselor from 1957 to 1958. He joined Cornell’s faculty in 1965, earned tenure in 1971 and was promoted to full professor in 1978.

Gortzig chaired the Department of Floriculture and Ornamental Horticulturefrom 1975 to 1988.

“Carl was a true Cornellian and incredibly dedicated to our land-grant mission,” said Joann Gruttadaurio ’73, M.P.S. ‘79, who served as a horticulture extension educator during much of Gortzig’s career. “While he was supportive of our teaching and research roles, what made him unique as a department chair and leader was his enthusiastic backing for faculty involved in extension and outreach. Those efforts resulted in huge impacts on commercial and home horticulture and 4-H youth programs, and earned him the respect of the industries, communities and citizens we served as well as the university administration.”

Gortzig also held a joint appointment at the Cornell Botanic Gardens, where he was acting director from 1989 to 1990 and the Elizabeth Newman Wilds Director from 1993 until his retirement in 1995.

For years after retirement, he continued to teach Introduction to Horticultural Science, and Horticultural Sales and Service Business Management. He also continued to serve on a number of university committees and as a consultant to the Cornell Botanic Gardens Advisory Board.

In 1989, he received the George L. Good Gold Medal of Horticulture, the highest honor of the New York State Nursery and Landscape Association, given annually “to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to horticulture in the state of New York.”

He was a member of the American Society for Horticulture Science, International Society for Horticultural Science, American Horticulture Society, Society of American Florists, New York Florists’ Club, International Plant Propagators Society and an honorary member of the New York State Flower Industries.

He is survived by his wife, Jean.

Arrangements for a memorial service will be announced at a later date.

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.

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