Joanna Reed sent me this picture along with her Christmas card in 2000, less than two years before she died at the age of 85. I grew up in Malvern, PA, but it took me 16 years after moving to Colorado and then New Hampshire to find a gardening mentor in my home town.
Joanna and her husband, George, moved to their home, Longview Farm, in Malvern in 1940. The house was built in 1780 and was in desperate need of repair when they bought it. Joanna's gardening career began when she had a chance meeting with Dr. Albert C. Barnes. Dr. Barnes collected fine art and formed the legendary Barnes Foundation http://www.barnesfoundation.org/ in Merion, PA and his wife, Laura, had launched a tuition-free school of horticulture at the Barnes Foundation Arboretum. Dr. Barnes had car trouble in front of the Reeds' house and asked to use their phone. While waiting for a tow truck, Dr. Barnes convinced Joanna to enroll in the first class at the horticulture school and she began to study and propagate woody plants.
I had heard about Joanna and finally met her in 1996. I was just beginning to make my own garden and she encouraged me to learn my shrubs and trees. I was inspired by the huge katsura tree, Cercidiphyllum japonicum, that she had propagated from her classes some 50 years earlier. It was in her garden that I saw hellebores and epimediums for the first time. I was also introduced to one of my favorite trees, Magnolia sieboldii in Joanna's garden.
I got my own katsura tree in 1997. When I was visiting Charles O. Cresson, another wonderful and very generous gardener from Swarthmore, PA, and he offered me a 3" tall katsura seedling. I planted it on axis with wooden steps to the lower woodland garden and waited. Last spring, I installed the French doors on that same axis. Now when I open the French doors, I see a 25 foot tall Cercidiphyllum japonicum. It is a reminder of my dear gardening friend and her constant optimism to plant small trees and watch them grow in your garden.
Joanna's garden is profiled in three books: The Authentic Gardener by Claire E. Saweyers, The Unsung Season by Sydney Eddison and Star Ockenga's Earth on her Hands.