Tyler’s Edible Garden: a Fresh Approach to Learning
After a productive first summer growing season in Tyler Arboretum‘s Edible Garden, the harvest can be reckoned not by just the tons of vegetables and fruit produced, but also in the seeds of ideas planted in the minds of visitors to the historic public garden in Media.
The Arboretum recently opened up a Schoolhouse building at the garden, which aids in the education of children, hundreds of whom have participated in the Garden Sprouts and Little Chefs programs at Tyler during the year. Class trips from various schools are expected throughout the year to visit, helping students to learn where their food comes from and how it is made delicious for them.
Adult cooking classes are also a major focus of the new learning facility. The handsome structure on the side on the south end of the garden plot contains educational facilities for up to 50 learners at once, facing a gleaming demonstration kitchen which would be the envy of any TV cooking show and beyond the dreams of most home chefs.
Mandy Santiago hopes that going forward, in exchange for fresh herbs and other fine ingredients grown in the Edible Garden, area chefs will donate their skills to teach healthy cooking and eating classes in the Schoolhouse kitchen. “We hope to get home cooks not only to try chefs’ new recipes at home, but also to implement ideas from our garden and kitchen for their own gardens at home.”
Back to Our Roots
The farm-to-table approach is elegantly presented at Tyler – appropriate, said board president Heather Saunders of Swarthmore: “Tyler was a family farm for eight generations, so we are kind of going back to our roots.” The design of the 1.25 acre garden and Schoolhouse harkens back to a time when most Americans lived close to where their food grew — often right in the middle of farms.
“There’s a lot of interior-exterior flow in terms of how people move through and use the space,” said Allan Summers of Wallingford, whose firm Robinson, Anderson , Summers created the conceptual design for the garden, which includes a rain garden and a ruin garden on the site of an old springhouse. The rustic aesthetic is picked up, said Schoolhouse architect Jules Dingle of Digsau, in the new building’s terra cotta tile exterior, which is now the color of a flowerpot, but being porous, will change over time as mosses and microorganisms grow on it.
Paths meander through the edible garden, wending through gates, arbors, pergolas, and converging along axes which balance other features of the site. In addition to sections featuring fruits, vegetables, flowers and other edible plants, the garden incorporates a nature play area, thanks to Mary and Shipley Allinson, longtime Tyler volunteers with extensive experience as horticulturists and landscape architects.
The Allinsons developed the landscape design and horticultural plan for the Edible Garden. Though they point to a team of 15 volunteers for putting in 60 or more hours per week to maintain the garden in productive and abundant condition, Summers credited the designers’ creativity and knowledge for the garden’s immediate success, and its beauty. In peak production season, the tomato plants alone were generating 200 pounds of fruit a week, which was donated to the Media Food Bank.
For this first year, Shipley Allinson said, “We grew everything, A-to-Z. Next year, whoever is hired to run the garden will have other ideas. And that’s fine. That’s natural.”
Speaking of edible gardening, Tyler will host Pumpkin Days on the weekend of October 12 – 13. Celebrate the fall with the most famous of gourds, locally grown, decorative, and delicious in dozens of pumpkin recipes you can make together with your young garden gourmet. Get details on the Festival and all Tyler’s offerings at tylerarboretum.org.