Oct 17, 201211:57 AMCulture
Fun and Culture in the Mid-State
Hershey's Nut Grove
(page 1 of 2)
Pawpaws, persimmons, pecans and Persian walnuts. What do they have to do with Hershey Gardens?
While the 75th anniversary of Hershey Gardens is being celebrated, and the M.S. Hershey Tribute Garden is being opened to the public, an unannounced, unusual and innovative project is taking shape behind the scenes that will change the garden’s profile forever.
Located in the gardens’ eastern end, beyond the children’s garden and perennial garden, planting, potting, growing and grafting are currently in progress on close to a third of Hershey Gardens’ 23 acres, adding a new concept to enhance and expand Milton Hershey’s initial idea “to create something beautiful.”
The original Hershey Rose Garden, which opened with 12,500 rose bushes on a 3.5-acre plot, now boasts more than 5,000 in season, plus theme gardens, a butterfly house, a children’s garden and educational and cultural programs. Alternately called a nut-tree “grove” or “forest,” the nearly eight-acre work-in-progress will be home to over 100 nut-bearing trees of various species including black and Persian walnut, butternut, heartnut, shagbark and shellbark hickory, pecan, hican (a hybrid of hickory and pecan), hazelnut, chinquapin, American chestnut, pawpaw, persimmon, white oak and pinenut.
A new approach to the garden’s arboreal vision, it will provide a place for children and adults alike to discover and observe the mystery and history, the beauty and bounty of deciduous trees that bring a living tapestry of brilliant autumn colors and foliage that falls and nourishes the earth.
When leaves and small branches drop to the ground in the fall, they’re not removed, but remain to become mulch for the trees, slowing down storm water and filtering rainwater into the soil. The new addition will increase the plethora of trees already in place, including 100-year-old sentinels guarding the entrance and greeting visitors.
Since the gardens’ birth in 1937, more than 400 more trees and shrubs have been added to adorn the grounds including dwarf conifers, boxwoods, hollies, Japanese maples and weeping trees that add color and diversity to the landscape.
Huge lindens, Kentucky coffees, red maples, cornelian cherry dogwoods and redbuds will remain in the area, welcoming guests as they follow the winding path to the cool canopy of leaves. The idea has been envisioned by a network of creative minds for the past 20 years, waiting for a magic wand to bring it to life.
Initiated by Bill Kieffer, Hershey Gardens’ grounds and facilities manager since 1998, and Jamie Shiffer, Hershey Gardens’ grounds and horticulture operations manager since 1989, the magic wand has waved to make their long-awaited vision become reality.
“Jamie and I have been thinking about a way to forest the large, open expanses in the back of the gardens for many years,” Kieffer says. “This opportunity seems the perfect answer.” Kieffer and Shiffer shared the idea with fellow arborist Bob Good, owner of Good’s Tree Care Company, which has been caring for Hershey Gardens’ trees since the early 90s. The excitement was catching, and Good’s enthusiasm took it to the next level.
“I know the perfect person to work with us – a nut man,” he says with a chuckle. He was referring to Tucker Hill, secretary emeritus and former newsletter editor for the Northern Nut Growers Association, a national nonprofit organization focusing on nut-tree cultivation. Hill, with his knowledge of grafting and tree-growing, was thrilled to join the team.
“I offered to contact the NNGA on behalf of the Gardens, and it was agreed that trees solicited from members would be donated for the project,” he recalls.