Quick Update

By Laura McPhail

Tyler Tales is getting a facelift!

If you are following Tyler Tales, you might be getting a few notifications about new blog posts. Actually, we are consolidating our Vegetable Demonstration Garden blog with the history blog, to have one-stop-shopping for all kinds of great stories, gardening techniques, interesting photos, etc. from Tyler. You’ll notice that the dates on the vegetable posts are from last year, which is correct as these were originally posted last year.

So visit us soon for some more interesting tales from Tyler Arboretum!


Last volunteer work day of 2014 season

By Gabrielle LeBlanc

tumblr_ndg6lwnXdv1twfy5io5_540 What a beautiful day we had for the garden’s last volunteer day of the season! A scrumptious potluck and a happy harvest day. Thanks to all who contributed to making the garden such a splendid place to work; it wouldn’t be this spectacular without lots of help from our volunteers!

tumblr_ndg6lwnXdv1twfy5io2_540The garden fed a lot of people in the community, collectively the Media Food Bank received 1,000 pounds of produce over the course of the season. Who knew such bounty could come from just a quarter of an acre?

As for you home gardeners, now is the time to plant garlic! Find out how with this simple tutorial.

tumblr_ndg6lwnXdv1twfy5io1_540Enjoy the cooler months and all the coziness it brings. I am looking forward to walks with my dog through crunchy leaves, and hot tea on dreary mornings. This blog will continue next spring, when the ground begins to thaw and groundhogs peek out from their burrows.

Welcome to autumn!

By Gabrielle LeBlanc

The beginning of the end is finally here. Welcome to autumn!

This weekend will be very eventful at Tyler Arboretum. On Saturday morning I will be leading the annual Late Season Vegetable Gardening Workshop between 10:00 and 11:30 am. Preregistration is required, please see additional information here.

tumblr_inline_ncda2tCy7F1qaihieThe same day, Tyler Arboretum will also be the host of Villanova’s Day of Service, and the garden will be getting a healthy dose of TLC from our volunteers and yours truly. If you’d like to extend a helping hand laying down mulch and giving the garden a face lift, feel free to join us between noon and 3 pm.

Wondering what to do with your extra tomatoes?

Summer lingers with late veggies

By Gabrielle LeBlanc

tumblr_nao9naWNts1twfy5io1_540Summer camp is over, the kids are back in school, and the yet the garden is still celebrating the summer heat. The okra is in full swing, and the peppers are bright red. The summer squash has had its day and is slowly being replaced by rutabagas and mustard greens to feed the community through autumn. Dill and cilantro are still being seeded, and less common greens such as escarole are being transplanted.

If the weather has you beat, you might be looking forward to the hurricane warning in mid September. Don’t hold your breath, though, the farmer’s almanac isn’t omniscient.

tumblr_nao9naWNts1twfy5io3_400September’s full corn moon is coming up next Monday and Tuesday, making it a perfect time to reap what has been sown. The full moon pulls water up into the top of the plant, just as it pulls the oceans up during high tide, and makes it the perfect time to pick crops, as they are at their peak size and weight.

Looking to extend your season so you can keep your garden active well into the winter? Everything you need to know about season extension will be covered in the upcoming workshop on September 27th. See you there!

A hint from the past: South Farm ruins

By Chris Lawler

If you’ve ever crossed Painter Road while visiting Tyler to explore the Minshall and Pink Hill Trails, chances are you’ve come across the ruins of the South Farm barn. Just a standing corner remains today, with a stone arched opening hinting at the majesty of this once proud building.

South Farm

The area known as South Farm began as a 50-acre tract of land purchased by Thomas Minshall in 1734. Future generations, namely the Painter Brothers, added land through various acquisitions, and the farm eventually grew to 130 acres. The property was always used as a tenant farm, and from the mid-1700s well into the next century, a number of farmers and families took up residency, worked the land for a few years, and then moved on.

In 1839, James Edwards, a ward of Jacob Minshall II since the age of 6, took up residency and ran the farm until his death in the early 1860s. His son, Milton, took over operations, and stayed there another 25 years until the property was sold at a sheriff’s auction to John J. Tyler, the highest bidder. Milton Edwards gained ownership of the land for a brief span of time before his financial hardships, and during this period the farm became known as Edwards’ Farm. The property was christened South Farm under the ownership of John J. Tyler, and it remained a tenant farm until it was abandoned in the 1930s.

The main buildings in the South Farm complex consisted of the barn, a small manor house, a springhouse and a smokehouse. An ice house was constructed in 1874 by John J. Tyler, a necessity as the farm was primarily a dairy farm by that point. Only a few bits and pieces from the foundations of these buildings can be found today, and they are best seen in the winter months when the foliage is gone and the under story is sparse. It wasn’t too long ago, however, that these buildings were still standing in a state that could be described proper ruins and structures…not too long ago on the Tyler timeline, that is.

I remember distinctly the first time I stumbled upon the South Farm barn as a teenager, perhaps 30 years ago. Those days, most things at Tyler were still brand new to me, so when a big shell of a building appeared on the trail, seemingly out of nowhere, the euphoria of discovery–and a twinge of reverence–washed over me. I walked inside over rubble and debris and stood in the middle, looking up at the blue sky (by that point the roof was long gone). The four walls seemed impossibly tall, and while I knew I was standing in the ghost of an old farm building, it sure felt like a cathedral to me.

I returned many times over the next few years, pausing on hikes to rest and to measure the decline of the structure. Red-back salamanders could always be found by lifting a rock, and every now and then a garter snake would make an appearance. The ravages of time persisted, and one day I returned to find it all gone, razed to the ground for the concerns of safety. We’re blessed that a small piece of it remains today.

The South Farm barn ruin is a comfortable walk from the Visitor’s Center and is quite easy to find. Some of the best times to visit are in the coming months, as the changing colors make a pleasant pallet against the stone archway. Please admire this treasure from a distance and tread gently, so hopefully this small window to another place and time at Tyler remains intact for many years to come.

Superior Salsa

By Gabrielle LeBlanc

As tomato season cranks forth thousands of multicolored bubbles of nature’s joy, you may be wondering what to do with them all.

tumblr_nakbyuu8AI1twfy5io3_250Allow me to suggest a wild idea: you could make a salsa superior to all salsas come before it. It could be Your. Best. Salsa. Yet. I know you don’t have time to experiment too much, you need that perfect salsa recipe without going through 50 recipes that are just so-so. How do you know what tastes the best? Sample the entries at the upcoming salsa contest organized by the staff at Terrain in Glen Mills. This is a part of their Heirloom Tomato Festival, on Saturday, August 23, from noon to 6.

The weather has been gorgeous since the healthy dose of rain. The rain meter read 1.6 inches, and the newly planted fall cabbages are loving their new home. There are still more fall goodies growing in the greenhouse, and will ensure plenty of green goodness throughout the rest of this season.

I will be teaching a workshop here in September, here’s the info!

Late Season Vegetable Gardening

Saturday, September 27, 10:00 – 11:30 am

tumblr_nakbyuu8AI1twfy5io4_250Vegetable gardening doesn’t have to be over just because the weather gets colder! In this workshop, Tyler Vegetable Gardener Gabrielle LeBlanc will show you tricks for extending the growing season while also preparing your vegetable garden for a great spring. Learn about cold weather crops that can grow into winter and how low tunnels can help extend your season. The workshop will also cover ways to care for perennials in the off season, cover crop planting and other best practices for end-of-season garden care.

Pre-registration required; $20 members, $25 non-members


Feel free to call or email Joanne Landau to register: (610) 566-9134 x215 or jlandau@tylerarboretum.org

Minshall/Painter Mysteries

By Shannon Crowe

When looking at the collection at Lachford Hall, it is easy to focus on the many large pieces of furniture, but there are also many small items of great interest including two pieces of folk art displayed on a fireplace mantel originating from the Painter generation. Both pieces hold unmistakable similarities, yet they also have predominant differences that raise a number of questions.

"M Painter 1811"

“M Painter 1811”

The illustrations are ink and watercolor on paper, materials which were easily accessible at the time of origin. The first illustration is a freehand, naturalistic motif that displays an image of a flowering plant and birds. At the bottom of the piece there is an inscription band which reads “M. Painter 1811” that clearly identifies the piece with the Painter Family.  The other piece is also a freehand illustration created with ink and watercolor that depicts the profile of young woman, a cat and birds. Similarly, this illustration has an inscription band which appears to read “Sarah Painter 1811,” although there is a small motif that partially obstructs the band.

SPainter Drawing 2

“Sarah Painter 1811”

The parallels that can be drawn between the two pieces are substantial. Primarily, the birds depicted in each illustration appear to be of the same hand and variety. Additionally, the inscription bands also share the same appearance and are both dated 1811.


There is a great mystery within these illustrations and many theories attempt to answer the unknown. The first explanation, which is also supported by Tyler’s catalog entries, is that Minshall Painter created the naturalistic painting, and Sarah Painter created the profile piece. This theory assumes that the inscription bands chiefly distinguish the artists. However, some difficulties arise with this belief. In 1811, Minshall Painter would have only been 10 years old and Sarah Painter would have only been 7 years old. The work seems to be a bit too sophisticated to be created by a 10- and 7-year-old. Another theory is that Minshall Painter illustrated both pieces. Yet, the question of artistic ability at such a young age develop with this theory as well. Again, the paintings are naïve, but well-executed and may be too complex to have been created by a 10-year-old Minshall. Also, the profile illustration seems to be of a young woman, not a 7-year-old Sarah Painter. The last theory is that an itinerant painter was hired and painted both pieces. Itinerant painters were commonly known to travel from door-to-door offering their services of painting portraits, animals and naturalistic scenes for a small fee in this time period.


Lois Brooks, one of Tyler’s dedicated volunteers and historic guides recently gave us her preferred theory:

“​​​I think that, at the very least, the drawing and coloring of the three flowers in the M. Painter illustration and the drawing of the girl in profile on the Sarah Painter illustration and the floral design around the top rim were done by a “professional” artist. ​​(The girl looks rather generically thin and attractive for that Jane Austen period. Since we know that Enos Painter and his brothers were not particularly attractive, I suspect this may not be Sarah.)

But there is coloring on both the illustrations that could have been done by a neat child that was supervised by an adult. And on the Sarah illustration there are two animals that have been cut out and pasted rather amateurishly over work underneath that probably was deemed sloppy by someone.

Since in 1811 there probably weren’t stores in West Chester where the family could have purchased these, it’s possible that some itinerant peddler sold these to the family for finishing by a child or a visitor from Philadelphia brought them to the house and that the Painter children may have added the coloring.”

Whichever theory is true, the two pieces add great visual interest to the many unsolved mysteries and unanswered questions in the history of the collection at Tyler Arboretum.

The colors of gardening

By Gabrielle LeBlanc

tumblr_n9ugc6gwvH1twfy5io1_500August was ushered in with more than our fair share of pleasant weather, and the plants have been loving it! The melons seem to be multiplying before my eyes, and even the succulents and sebum seem to be celebrating as they bloom to feed all of our beautiful pollinators.

As the fruits of summer are piling up, the garden attracts more and more children to come see the wild trellis overflowing with purple cascades of yard-long beans and tomatoes of all colors, shapes and sizes. Butterflies flutter in and out of the blossoms of the cup plant, which is now at least 9 feet tall.

tumblr_n9ugc6gwvH1twfy5io4_500The dye garden is underway and all of the plants are finally in the ground! This bed was originally a bunch of grass, until a few gracious volunteers dug it up and mulched it with leaf compost. Now, the bed is established and there are marigolds, indigo, amaranth, and yarrow growing. All of these plants have been cultivated for use as natural dyes. If you are visiting the garden and would like to take a look, it is on the outside of the garden’s fence, on the side closest to the Wizard’s House.

tumblr_n9ugc6gwvH1twfy5io2_500The garden’s first resident tomato horn worm was spotted hanging from the end of a tomatillo branch. The destructive beauty of these creatures is impossible to deny, as is the perfect balance of parasitoid wasps hatching eggs on the side of its head (can you spot the little white dots, nearly hidden by the leaf?). They were almost too small to photograph, but the wasps were present and I thanked them for their fine work. If you would like more information on this fascinating display of insect parasitism, read this.

Wishing everyone a happy week!


Summer harvest and mosquito repelling plants

By Gabrielle LeBlanc

tumblr_n94gylZHfA1twfy5io2_400The end of July is nigh, and the weather has been giving us a nice respite at the moment. The garden has transformed into its summer skin, with fall quick on its heels. Now is the time to seed the plants for autumn. Beets, carrots, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage will all be on the menu for the Media Food Bank.

For anyone facing a mosquito problem, there are 11 plants that help to repel mosquitoes, and they are discussed in detail here. Many of them are planted at the vegetable garden!

tumblr_n94gylZHfA1twfy5io5_400Our harvest now include tomatoes, tomatillos, and we will soon be picking the peppers and eggplant! Better late than never, I always say.

Big thanks to the volunteer crew on crafting detailed signs for the pollinator habitat!  They look beautiful, and are made from wooden cutouts of different shapes that were painted and coated with polyurethane.

tumblr_n94gylZHfA1twfy5io4_400 tumblr_n94gylZHfA1twfy5io1_540 tumblr_n94gylZHfA1twfy5io6_r1_1280 tumblr_n94gylZHfA1twfy5io7_r1_400 tumblr_n94gylZHfA1twfy5io8_r1_1280 tumblr_n94gylZHfA1twfy5io9_r1_400

From Minshall to Matriarch

By Shannon Crowe

When talking of the history of Tyler Arboretum, the discussion often focuses on the Painter Brothers, the two unmarried brothers whose interest in science and horticulture planted the seed of the modern arboretum. Today however, we steer the discussion to Hannah Minshall Painter (1782-1838), the mother of the Painter brothers, Minshall and Jacob.

When reading about the circumstances around her birth, one cannot help but assume that Hannah Minshall was a bit of a miracle when she came into the world.  Hannah was the only child born to Ann Heacock Minshall and Jacob Minshall II. In addition to the fact that her parents wed later than the common age in the 18th century, they were married five years before Hannah’s arrival, leaving room for the possibility that Jacob and Ann may have struggled to have a child. Nonetheless, they were blessed with Hannah, who made her debut on January 28, 1782.

Hannah Minshall Book

Hannah Minshall’s school copy book

Unfortunately, the information regarding Hannah’s everyday endeavors throughout her life is incomplete. From the writings of Quaker historians, we can assume she enjoyed a childhood similar to the average young girl of her age in this area. Hannah most likely spent her first years as an innocent child, playing and discovering her world. As she grew, her responsibilities most likely grew as well. In a Quaker family, a young girl’s job was to learn how to properly manage the household. Managing the household included cleaning, cooking, preservation of food, dairying, tending to the flax fields, spinning and sewing.


HM cloth measurements

Hannah Minshall’s cloth measures lessons

Hannah was likely a very busy girl. She may have also partaken in some informal education within the home, which would have included reading, grammar and arithmetic. These skills would have helped her during her formal education in boarding school. At the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College, Hannah’s student workbooks and copybooks, dating from 1794-1798, are well preserved. Her school-chest can also be seen in the history collection at Lachford Hall at Tyler Arboretum. Hannah’s belongings give insight to what was important in her education. The lesson books focus heavily on housewifery. Inside her student workbook there is curricula on arithmetic, clothing measurement, loss and gain and bartering. Each lesson includes common skills that were used in domesticity and would have helped to improve household management.

On May 8, 1800 Hannah married Enos Painter. Together they had seven children. When they married, Hannah’s father had built a substantial business from his farm and land. Enos was very fortunate to be marrying into Hannah’s family. Before the marriage, he had only been trained as a hat maker. It is well documented that once Enos Painter began expanding the scope of the farm, which we can assume he did with help from Hannah, that he made their businesses more profitable and bought back land that had been mortgaged. Hannah provided the farm a strong family by producing seven children to help with the domestic chores. Hannah most likely also helped to manage profitable flax, dairy and weaving productions.

Several portraits of her husband Enos, and her sons Jacob and Minshall are on display in the collection. Her portrait is noticeably missing, but we can still see her hand and get a taste of her life through her school books, her bed, and the many other objects in the collection that she may have used – such as the spinning wheels, the baby cradles and the kitchen utensils.