College Awarded $3,000 for Conifer Garden at Earth Science Center

Published 11.20.2006

Landscape/Plant Production
School of Transportation & Natural Resources Technologies News

A $3,000 grant will provide the literal seed money for a conifer garden at the Schneebeli Earth Science Center, Pennsylvania College of Technology's living laboratory about 10 miles south of the Williamsport main campus.

The college's School of Natural Resources Management received a $1,500 Jean Iseli Memorial Award grant from the American Conifer Society, honoring the late founder of Iseli Nursery Inc. in Boring, Ore. The nursery, recognized as the nation's leading supplier of dwarf conifers, Japanese maples, specialty broadleaf shrubs and unusual garden trees and from which the majority of Penn College's new plants will come then supplied an identical funding match.

The successful grant proposal was submitted by Carl J. Bower, horticulture instructor, after discussions last spring with Richard J. Weilminster, who retired after more than three decades as a faculty member at the college and its predecessor, Williamsport Area Community College.

"We're so pleased that Carl wrote and applied for the Iseli Memorial Award," said Mary A. Sullivan, assistant dean of natural resources management. "The grant award will allow us to supplement our existing outdoor 'laboratory' with some unusual varieties of conifers and to add a beautiful new dimension from an aesthetic perspective, as well. We're eager to make this a reality."

In his application, Bower noted that Penn College has won the Mid-Atlantic Regional Landscape Field Day Competition 13 out of 18 times, a testament to the landscape/nursery technology curriculum and its students who learn to identify more than 500 plants during their tenure in the associate-degree major.

He supplemented his request with an exhaustive roster of plants the school hopes to acquire with the grant funds and an equally detailed inventory of the scattered conifers to which students are exposed in the 5-acre arboretum at the Allenwood-area campus.

"We would like to use the ACS funds to add to that list of conifers and focus on dwarf and slow-growing, unusual varieties," Bower wrote. "It has been our desire to have a dedicated dwarf-conifer garden at the arboretum for some time now, but spending money just on dwarf conifers usually takes a back seat to more common plants that the students would use on a regular basis in a landscaping situation."

Developing such a garden will give students a broader understanding of what is available to them and how they can be used in the landscape, he explained, "as well as to appreciate the beauty that is a dwarf Chamaecyparis the size of a tennis ball, or the twisted foliage of a Pinus parviflora, or the yellow foliage of I could go on forever!"

Construction will begin next year, and an article in Conifer Quarterly the official publication of the American Conifer Society will document the project. Befitting the hands-on hallmark of a Penn College education, students will help build the conifer bed, but Bower said the actual planting will take place after Spring 2007 classes end in May.

Large rocks from elsewhere on the property will compliment the contoured garden, and blue spruce trees will provide an attractive backdrop to the chosen area, he added.

The society is accessible online, as is the Iseli Nursery.

For more information about the programs offered by the School of Natural Resources Management, call (570) 320-8038, send e-mail or visit online.