Profiles

Helen Meeks Horstmann, MD 

Vice-Chair, 2019 PHS Philadelphia Flower Show Committee

For February 27, 2019

Helen Horstmann is excited about the Flower Show for good reason. It’s the first WOW of the horticultural season and has world-class standing among flower shows. It is a Philadelphia gem.

Following the show, PHS gets to work improving the city and its surroundings through programming that focuses on gardening for the greater good.

Helen's family, especially through her six grown daughters, has been involved with city government, poverty initiatives, after-school programs, city parks, and educational institutions in the Philadelphia region. “I am very aware of food insecurity and poverty in the city and the benefits of sustainable greening practices in our region. PHS addresses these problems while getting city residents involved in projects to better their neighborhoods, and beyond.”

She credits PHS and its thousands of volunteers for making the city better by doing their part, whether it be as a Tree Tender, a Flower Show volunteer or attendee, or gardening in the community.  “PHS is part of the fabric of Philadelphia, part of what makes this city great,” she says.

Helen recalls helping her father, a home gardener, plant fruit trees, raspberries and tomatoes as a child after the family moved to the Philly area from Minnesota. “He was amazed at the things we could grow here,” she says.

Helen began attending the Flower Show as a teenager with her mother when it was at the Philadelphia Civic Center. “I remember that ride down the escalator with the scent of hyacinths and tulips floating up.” She continues the tradition of attending the Flower Show with her own children and grandchildren.

Helen’s daughters attend the show every year. This includes Jane, the youngest (pictured above with Helen), whom she named in admiration of Jane Pepper, former PHS President.

“Gardening increasingly became my passion along with Philadelphia,” says Helen. “PHS blends my interests in these things.”

She joined the Board in late 2016 soon after Matt Rader was chosen as President.  She has also served on the Preview Party Committee, the Flower Show Events Committee and the Development Committee. Recently retired from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where she worked as an orthopedic surgeon for many years, she now has more time to devote to PHS. This year, she serves as Vice-Chair of the Flower Show Committee and will Chair the Committee for the 2020 Show. 

Helen, with the support of her husband, John, has been at work in her own garden for the past 30 years. She grows tomatoes, peppers, herbs and other edibles in her sunny front yard. Her garden is grouped around perennials and shrubs that include spring bulbs, evergreen magnolias, hydrangeas, day lilies, Japanese anemones and grasses that bloom sequentially through the season. Acanthus (Bear’s Breeches), a favorite that she discovered at a past Flower Show, flourishes in her garden, and was a highlight on a PHS tour of her garden last May.

Says Helen, “I expect the 2019 Flower Show to be the BEST EVER, until the 2020 Show which will only surpass that. Of course, the best show has been happening year after year since 1829.”

 


Pictured Above: Helen and John Horstmann with their grandchildren.

 


Don Slater

Chair, 2019 PHS Philadelphia Flower Show Committee

Posted on February 6, 2019

Don Slater’s relationship with the Philadelphia Flower Show began in the 1960s when, as a 15-year-old, he helped his mother Irene move her plants into the old Civic Center. “I started by helping out my mom, then it became a thing to do -- my hobby.” Fifty-three years later, Don is Chair of the Flower Show Committee for a second year, with 23 years of continuous volunteering.

“I enjoy it, it’s the Flower Show -- an incredible collection of people and plants that come together once a year and give you a great shot of spring six weeks early,” says Don. “It’s very inspiring. I like looking at things that spark ideas for what you can do in your house and garden. The best thing I get out of this is the people. Seeing the show from behind the scenes is fundamentally different than seeing it as a guest. I do it for the volunteers and the staffers -- the people are the reason I keep coming back,” he explains.

Chlorophyll runs through the veins of his family tree. His mother had hundreds of plants, with a preference for rock garden varieties and bonsai.  “The house was full of plants all the time and most of the yard was a garden,” says Don. “I helped move all the plants around from outdoor to inside for the winter, then back out in the spring.”

Irene completed the Barnes Foundation Horticulture Program and took classes at Longwood Gardens, and she and his father, Randy were members of the North American Rock Garden Society, Delaware Valley Chapter.  Irene became very involved with nomenclature through Dr. Richard Lighty.  

The Show became such a tradition that even when Don left the area to study at the University of Pittsburgh, he traveled back for the Show every year. Years later, Tina, Don’s wife and his daughter Jessie both got involved.  Tina has volunteered in the typing booth for 20 years, and Jessie has volunteered in the Horticourt for over 25 years. She is currently one of the hort chairs.  Last year, Jessie entered the Beginner’s Luck classes and won three blue ribbons with her Staghorn fern.  “We’re hoping to attract more young people to the show and to educate them about PHS,” he says.

Over the years, Don has volunteered as a stager, staging chair, hort chair, chair of cards and ribbons, vice chair of competitive classes, chair of competitive classes, and co-chair of the Flower Show Committee with Leslie Anne Miller in 2017. In 2018, he became chair of the Flower Show Committee. He has accomplished all this while working full time as an aerospace engineer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and commuting to the Show from his home in Silver Spring, Maryland.

“I always look forward to seeing old friends, seeing all the plant material on the show floor, and seeing what Sam has done with the entrance garden,” he says. “Coming to Philadelphia is always a homecoming for me.”

 


Ken and Teresa Wood

Board of Directors, Vice Chair; Executive Committee, Governance and Nominating Committee, Vision2027 Steering Committee

Posted on January 16, 2019

With their deep love and respect for both gardening and American history, it’s not a surprise that Ken and Teresa Wood found their way to the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, one of Philadelphia’s most longstanding institutions and a fixture for nearly 200 years in the region’s public life.

Almost two decades of involvement with PHS have allowed Ken and Teresa to become deeply knowledgeable about various facets of the organization, from Governance, to the Flower Show, to Meadowbrook Farm. Ken’s perspective as a current board member and past chair of the Meadowbrook Committee, as well as terms spent on other board committees and in various volunteer capacities, have given him a unique perspective on PHS, which has proven to be particularly invaluable during times of significant change. Most recently Ken has taken an active role in Vision2027, the comprehensive strategic planning process which will guide our work leading to PHS’s 200th anniversary in 2027 and beyond. Ken views this process through a characteristic lens of the historic record. “A wonderful foundation for Vision2027 is to understand where we, as an organization, came from – the trials, tribulations and successes that brought PHS to where it is today -- and how this influences who we want to be going forward,” he explains.

“I have always been a strong believer in the organization, and I’m very excited to be part of the steering committee for Vision2027.  We’re taking a close look at ourselves and thinking about what we want PHS to be when we turn 200 years old.”

This desire to see current initiatives firmly rooted within the historical context recently led Ken and Teresa to underwrite a very special project - a thorough documentation and examination of the first 190 years of PHS history. This initiative included some housekeeping items, such as a project to organize and catalog PHS’s more recent archival collections, as well as allowing for a series of oral histories to be recorded, capturing voices and experiences that may not have otherwise been reflected in the “official” PHS record.

With their deep involvement in both Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, both located in Teresa’s home state of Virginia, PHS is grateful for the commitment Ken and Teresa have made to the future of our region through their intention to include PHS in their estate plans. “We added PHS as a beneficiary in our will four years ago. We don’t have children -- our philanthropic efforts are our children. We want our assets to benefit these organizations that we value so deeply,” Ken says.

 


Ann & Charlie Marshall

2019 Preview Party Committee Chairs

Posted on December 5, 2018

Ann and Charlie Marshall were introduced to PHS and the Philadelphia Flower Show at the 1979 Preview Party. “It was spectacular!” Ann recalls. Forty years later, the Marshalls are serving as Preview Party Committee Chairs for the 2019 Flower Show.

“We support PHS because we are impressed with the organization’s impact on greening, land care, and health in the city of Philadelphia,” says Ann. “PHS has found a way to use plants and gardens to meet some of the pressing social needs of the city,” says Charlie.

 “We come into the city a lot and we are always inspired by the beauty of the public landscapes as well as the community gardens that PHS maintains,” says Ann. She recently visited the Rodin Museum garden. “I was so impressed by how lovely it was in October. What a treat right in the center of the city.”

Ann and Charlie share a love for horticulture, land, and land preservation.  As a graduate, and now Trustee, of Rosemont College, Ann went on to receive a degree in Landscape Design, Magna Cum Laude, from Temple University’s School of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture. She is past president of the Four Counties Garden Club, where she has been a member for 40 years. Charlie grew up on the family farm in Pottstown. This familiar township landmark has been in the Marshall family since the early 1900s and has been an operating farm for nearly 300 years. 

Since moving to Bryn Mawr in 1978, Ann has had a dream of Philadelphia becoming a center of gardening on the East Coast. “It’s my dream that people will come to Philadelphia to see and learn best practices for gardening, design and horticulture. “I see PHS at the forefront of these efforts that will enhance city living and health and preserve our open spaces,” says Ann.

Participating in the Flower Show has also become a family tradition.  Ann and Charlie have cultivated a love for horticulture and nature in their four children. Their daughter, Elizabeth Marshall Dinsmore, and her husband Andrew are serving on the 2019 Preview Party Committee for the Show. “We want them to continue this important mission,” says Ann.

 


Steve Mostardi

PHS Board Member and Gold Medal Plant Committee Chair

Posted on November 14, 2018

When gardeners seek guidance in choosing the best plants for their home landscape, they can turn to PHS Gold Medal winners for outstanding options selected by a team of horticultural experts, landscape architects, designers, and nursery owners.

The chair of that selection committee is PHS Board member Steve Mostardi, a third-generation plantsman. His grandfather worked as a gardener on the Main Line, and Steve’s father Louis, a landscape contractor, and mother Winnie built the family business, Mostardi Nursery, in Newtown Square. Today, Steve’s life is rooted in the family garden center -- where his wife Cecelia, sons
Michael and Paul, and sister Debbie work with him – and in the potential for gardening to improve lives and communities.

Steve’s hands-on experience at an early age was critical in developing his passion for horticulture. “We propagated our own shrubs and cared for them through every phase of growing,” he recalls.

Steve’s life-long affinity for plants was a perfect fit with the mission of PHS and its Gold Medal Plant Committee. The 2019 winners were recently announced by PHS and included hardy perennials for the fourth year. “We honor plants on a yearly basis that meet the rigorous criteria for excellence set forth by PHS,” says Steve. “Gardeners who acquire a Gold Medal-designated plant can be assured the plant will exhibit standards of excellence for pest and disease resistance, as well as ease of growing when planted and maintained appropriately.”

In addition to his role on the PHS Board and the Gold Medal Plant Committee, Steve is an 1827 Society Benefactor-level member, and serves on the Meadowbrook Farm Committee. He was recognized with the 2013 PHS Certificate of Merit for his service and dedication to the organization.

He also serves on the PHSVision2027 advisory committee. “Looking ahead, I believe the most significant achievement for PHS will be increased visibility in the community -- throughout the city as well as suburbs -- as a viable resource for improving the health of the community through greening efforts and connecting people with horticulture,” Steve says.

Mostardi Nursery has had a 20-year presence in the Flower Show Marketplace, including three years as a landscape exhibitor before the Show moved to the Pennsylvania Convention Center in 1996. Steve has served as a judge, a hort passer, a Gardener’s Studio presenter, and an Early Morning Tour guide. Steve also serves on the executive committee of the Horticultural Research Institute, the research and development affiliate of AmericanHort foundation. 

At Mostardi Nursery, Steve’s focus is on having a good presentation of cutting-edge plants in all categories for do-it-yourselfers and avid gardeners. “Many of my customers are members of PHS. We cater to those folks. My main emphasis has always been practical knowledge and learning by doing.”

 


Deb Donaldson

Champion Flower Show Exhibitor and Donor

Posted on October 3, 2018

Deb Donaldson and her husband John became PHS members in the late 1980s. Deb’s love of plants began with growing orchids and bromeliads. It wasn’t until a trip to Arizona in 2001 where she saw cacti and succulents growing in the wild, followed by a visit to expert horticulturist Dr. Gerald Barad in 2003, that she fell under the spell of succulents. “I saw his plants and fell in love with the architectural elements of them and the bizarre, wild, crazy, diversification in the succulent family. I was hooked.”

She entered the Philadelphia Flower Show for the first time that year with the encouragement of Mrs. Dorrance Hamilton. “I didn’t find it intimidating -- I was used to competing at that level at horse shows such as Devon as a child,” Deb recalled. She found the other exhibitors warm and welcoming and so encouraging at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

Dr. Barad, one of the most acclaimed cacti and succulent growers in the world, exhibited at the Flower Show for years, often coming in as a runner-up to Mrs. Hamilton. “When he passed away in 2016, I started propagating more plants to fill in the void he left at both the Flower Show and at the Members’ Plant Dividend,” says Deb.  This year, Deb donated 90 plants to the popular Dividend that is a benefit for PHS members. 

As Deb’s entries in the Show have grown, so has her enthusiasm and group of helpers.  Team Donaldson, a group of 12 to 15 close friends and their husbands, load, transport, and unload approximately 500 plants yearly at the Flower Show, depending on the weather. In 2018, she plowed roads at 3:30 a.m. to get her precious plant cargo to the Show on time. “We get together throughout the year -- it’s a marvelous effect of our passion for the Flower Show,” she says.

With the self-described energy of 10 people, Deb cares for approximately 600 plants inside her Malvern home and attached greenhouse, as well as three rescue dogs, and four acres of lawn and gardens.  She spends an average of 20 to 40 hours with the plants and taking care of the property.  “Plants can be very fragile. There’s something special about container plants.  A plant does not grow in a container naturally, so when you grow in a container, the plant presents more challenges. It’s very satisfying. You need to try many different techniques to make a plant thrive.”

Today, Deb is a champion in her own right serving on the Flower Show and Events Committee and a three-time winner of the Hamilton Greenhouse Award at the Philadelphia Flower Show. She and her husband John serve on the Preview Party Committee. Deb was awarded Full Horticulture Judge Status by the Garden Club of America, a process that took more than five years, and now judges horticulture classes at club garden shows for the Garden Club of America shows three to five times a year. When she spots a quality plant, she will seek out the owner and encourage them to enter the Philadelphia Flower Show. She also participates in a judging panel every year at the Show for the Philadelphia Cactus & Succulent Society.

Deb is committed to helping others getting started. She lectured once this year about succulents at Longwood Gardens, and lectures a class, “How to enter the Philadelphia Flower Show,” at different locations, including PHS Meadowbrook Farm and Valley Forge Flowers.  She opens her house to local garden clubs, and everyone leaves with a succulent she has propagated. “PHS is the number one organization my husband and I support. It’s important to give back and people have been so kind and encouraging to me.”

 


Julia Fisher

PHS Development and Awards Committees Chair

Posted on September 5, 2018

Julia Fisher started her career in law before moving into private banking, a job which required her to travel much of the time. In 2018, Julia retired as a Managing Director/Wealth Advisor for JP Morgan Chase & Co. and was able to turn her energies full time to her varied interests and creative pursuits.

When asked about how she first became involved with PHS, Julia explained, “I first got involved probably in the mid-2000s.  The thing that really got me involved [with PHS] was City Harvest and the Roots to Reentry program,” she says, referring to the food security and job training programs.

“I’ve been involved with PHS for a long time and I’m really looking forward to the future with Matt Rader and the team.”

An excellent home gardener and avid traveler, Julia’s horticultural knowledge was honed by many PHS trips to visit gardens around the world, including numerous visits to England with PHS past president Jane Pepper, a close friend. Julia enjoys growing shrubbery in her intimate home garden. When asked why she gardens, she said "I am inspired to garden because I enjoy spending time outside."

As a member of the 1827 Society, Julia supports PHS’s mission to connect people with horticulture and create positive impact in communities. “I’m motivated to stay involved with PHS because of the multifaceted ways that PHS engages with people in the city…bringing people together to find beauty through horticulture. I give to PHS because it’s my investment in the things I care about,” she says.

“Every year there are a thousand needs in our region, and of those that PHS can have an impact on, the organization is willing to try different ways to achieve that…reaching out and embracing change.”

Julia is currently chair of the PHS Development Committee and serves as the PHS Awards Committee co-chair.