What a treat to have our first meeting in September at the Henry Foundation for Botanical Research located in Gladwyne.
Susan Treadway, director, gave us a captivating slide presentation on the different species of plants grown from seed by Mrs. Gibson Henry, her grandmother and the renowned plant explorer, botanist and horticulturalist. Mary Gibson Henry died at the age of 83 while on a plant collecting trip. She was among the first women who entered a male dominated field and won the respect of scientists for her scientific acumen and horticultural expertise. Like many botanists of the time, Mary didn’t attend a university or college to learn plant botany and horticulture, but was well-read and had resources available to her to develop her knowledge and expertise of horticulture.
Following our garden club meeting, Susan Treadway led a small group of us on a short tour not only pointing out many important plants, but also she peppered her talk with family lore and background on her grandmother. The family bought the Gladwyne property in 1926—90 acres. According to an article by Mary Harrison, a greenhouse was built with a house attached. By 1931 there were some 850 trees and shrubs in Mary Gibson Henry garden. Her mentor, Francis Purnell, curator of botany at the Academy of Natural Sciences, schooled Mrs. Henry in the proper documentation in the identification of plants. Mrs. Henry was honored by the Royal Horticulture Society, received a medal from the Garden Club of American for excellence in horticulture in addition to other commendations and awards.
In 1949 Mrs. Henry’s garden in Gladwyne was threatened to become a dumping ground for silt and sewage that was going to be pumped up from the Schuylkill River sanctioned by the State of Pennsylvania and the US Army Corps of Engineers. Mrs. Henry appealed to her botanist and horticulture colleagues in the US and Great Britain for support. Their letters of appeal sent to the governor of Pennsylvania cemented Mrs. Henry’s status as a foremost botanist and horticulturist and her garden was not disturbed.
Below are some photos that Barbara took the day of our meeting: