Students enrolled in the horticulture certificate program recently concluded their first year of coursework with a visit to Hedgleigh Spring, the private garden of the Cresson family, currently owned by horticulturist and author Charles Cresson. A lifelong plantsman, Cresson gardens on a property that has been in his family for over a hundred years. Via a combination of grade changes, stone walls, and screening plants, the two-acre garden unfolds into a series of intimate garden spaces incorporating a stream, a pond, and even a meadow. A large-production vegetable garden takes up much of the level ground near the stream.
A plant collector, Cresson’s decades of work with hardy camellias recently led to a feature New York Times article. He has long championed the use of species thought to be too tender for the Delaware Valley, and his garden includes many plants not considered hardy here, such as pomegranate and palmetto palms. He is also an expert on bulbs, and grows hundreds of rare and unnamed new cultivars that bloom throughout the year.
While Hedgleigh Spring is not open to the public, through Cresson’s generosity and passion for education, visitors like Barnes students are permitted to see one of the most remarkable plant collections in the country. Garden Appreciation instructor Gay Kimelman believes that visits to private gardens like Charles Cresson’s are an integral part of the Barnes educational experience, remarking that “Observing Charles's attention to detail in both garden design and plant choice distills and unifies everything the students have been studying this year. It’s a privilege to learn from such an accomplished horticulturist.”