Creating a computer catalogue of Haverford College’s historic Arboretum
By Eleanor Durfee
It was a warm day in early December, and Mike Startup, one of the Haverford College Arboretum’s three horticulturalists, was almost done for the day. First, though, he had to plant several new dogwood trees—and then input them into a computer program.
The new technology, which will help Startup and his colleagues to catalogue the many plant species and ages, is a far cry from the olden days of the Arboretum, which was founded in 1834.
tie the old and new together.
Now, the Haverford Arboretum’s new management, led by the plant curator Martha Van Artsdalen, is attempting to bring the Arboretum into the 21st century, a task that involves a complete computer inventory of it’s plants and trees. The technology represents the latest in landcape management. Still, many aspects of the work haven’t changed since the college started.
Startup pushes away the old roots from the planted tree, snipped off several hours earlier, and gently pours a jug of water over the mound of earth at its base. After covering this with fallen leaves, he pulls a metal tag out of his pocket, with the name of the species pressed into the metal.
“The white tags they come with just look cheap,” Startup explained. The new tags are made by the arboretum workers and lovingly tied around the young trunks, loose enough so that they won’t choke, waiting for the professional plaques that label all of the older trees on campus.
Startup used to work for Longwood Gardens, a botanical garden about 30 miles southwest of the College in Kennet Square, Pa. Longwood is well-known for its jaw-dropping cultivated gardens, which require immense amounts of precision and attention to detail from their teams of designers and horticulturalists.
Now, Startup has a different focus.
Describing Haverford’s atmosphere as “relaxed”, he summed up a year’s work in humble terms. Most of his work involves caring for the campus’s trees, many of which are rare or state champions, and tending to its many gardens. He and the other horticulturalists are also deeply involved in the reimagining the grounds, with each member responsible for a certain area of campus. Startup was deeply involved in the design of athletic center’s gardens. His favorite tree, a rare pine from Australia, sits near there.