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Blog Posts

A Bountiful Harvest

OSGF

The formal garden at Oak Spring is half an acre of wildflowers, herbs, ornamentals, espaliered fruit trees and vegetables. For the past two years, our team of gardeners has been working to revitalize the garden, resulting in a place of great beauty and serene peace. There is another outcome of this new life, however – the garden produces a lot of food. 

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Apple Cider

OSGF

Along with its alcoholic derivative, hard cider, apple cider was a staple in the early days of the United States. Apple cider provided hydration and nourishment for many people along the American “frontier” and more developed areas alike. Having brought in a large apple crop this fall, we made a couple batches of our own at Oak Spring.

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Ginkgo: A Sexual Curiosity

OSGF

From above, the trees appear as a mass of vibrant yellow covering the western corner of Blandy Experimental Farm in Boyce, Virginia. At eye level, rows of tree trunks shade grassy hillocks that abut cattle and horse pasture on one side and a patch of forest on another, all framed by a winding gravel road. Amidst the grass itself, seeds sit enclosed in a pungent, fleshy covering that lends an inescapable aroma to the air of the grove. In China, these trees are called “silver apricots.” In the United States, we know them better by the Chinese-derived scientific name, Ginkgo biloba, or just “ginkgo.”

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A Season for Caterpillars

OSGF

It seems like everywhere we go there are caterpillars – crossing streets, crawling through fields, on fallen logs. They dot the fall landscape like leaves. In many ways, these insect larvae are synonymous with fall and the coming of winter: they are the Wooly bear caterpillars, larvae of the Isabella tiger moth (Pyrrhactia isabella). 

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A New Old Meadow

OSGF

From no-mow zones to native reforestation, we have been ramping up our sustainable land management plan at Oak Spring. Our most recent project in this plan is an eight-acre native wildflower meadow, which is showing some early signs of new life. 

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Eating Acorns

OSGF

It isn't common to see acorns on the ingredient list for modern recipes. Unless prepared properly, they have a bitter taste and can cause an upset stomach. Acorns do have a long culinary history, however, and we decided to explore this with a hands-on approach – by making our own tree to table treat.

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Joseph Dalton Hooker

OSGF

Joseph Dalton Hooker is remembered as one of the greatest British botanists and explorers of the 19th century. Among his many accomplishments, he founded the field of geographical botany, served as the director of Kew Gardens, and was responsible for the creation of countless artworks of foreign plants. The Oak Spring Garden Library is home to four rare books by Hooker, which altered the history and future of plants for centuries to come.

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Coffee and Climate Change

OSGF

When Ellis discovered the fragrant and popular plant, he wrote an introduction to An Historical Account of Coffee describing the flower and fruit. While many of Ellis’ affiliated contemporaries studied plants, he was not only interested in growing them: he was most interested in the culture plants created. By the time he caught wind of Coffea arabica, it was most prominent as a beverage consumed while people assembled “in crowds to pass the time agreeably.” In 2017, we face the threat of losing the cultural staple to climate change.

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Friendly Weeds

OSGF

Vanity Fair once described Bunny Mellon as the “high priestess of pruning and pleaching” for her devotion to gardening and personal love for pruning. While Bunny had an affinity for picking wildflowers and celebrated vegetable gardens, she loved pretty weeds as well.

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John Ellis and the Venus Flytrap

OSGF

Charles Darwin once said that the Venus flytrap was “one of the most wonderful [plants] in the world.” The carnivorous plant was discovered in North Carolina, soon to become one of the most fascinating studies in plant discoveries during the 18th century. Behind the doors of the Oak Spring Garden Library is a manuscript of England’s first formally recorded encounter with Dionaea muscipula.

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Lectures and Learning

OSGF

OSGF President Sir Peter Crane has been hard at work in Inner Mongolia and Shenzhen, China. Read about his recent expedition and research, as well as his upcoming lecture at the XIX International Botanical Congress.

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Protecting Native Pollinators

OSGF

European honey bees may be the most recognizable pollinators in the world. But the busiest workers in American gardens are often overlooked: these are the bats, birds, flies, wasps, solitary bees, and other animals that make up the native pollinator population. In the midst of the summer pollinator frenzy, we want to celebrate and protect the species that have pollinated native plants for hundreds of years.

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Growing With Our Interns

OSGF

A critical part of the Oak Spring Garden Foundation's mission is to foster knowledge among young leaders in the fields of horticulture, plant science and garden research. This month, we are very excited to welcome our first gardening interns from the School of Professional Horticulture!

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Anna Maria Hussey

OSGF

As part of an initiative to increase recognition of the role that women have played in the development of plant science through botanical art, the Oak Spring Garden Foundation has been hosting interns to visit the Library and research our collections. One of the women researched was Anna Maria Hussey, an artist and mycologist.

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Mellon and Schlumberger

OSGF

Bunny Mellon and renowned jewler-designer Jean Schlumberger shared interests at the intersection of style and the natural world. See how their friendship is being honored at VMFA and at OSGF.

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