On the QT | The Official Newsletter of GWA August-September 2016 | Page 23



My first introduction to Stephanie Cohen was at the OFA Short Course ( now known as Cultivate ) several years ago . I had gone to a talk by noted plantsman Allan Armitage and there was this woman up on the stage with him . At first , I thought it was Dr . Ruth Westheimer because I could hear this accent and this undeniable attitude with him . I was definitely confused by why she would be among all these growers . After a couple of minutes I realized that it wasn ’ t Dr . Ruth , but a woman named Stephanie Cohen . I since learned that many of her friends call her “ The Dr . Root of Perennials ,” as a nod to resemblance in voice and stature to Dr . Ruth . While many of us call her friend , mentor , and fellow communicator , she is so much more to so many others .
In the 1960s , Stephanie developed an interest in houseplants , which led her to learning more about horticulture . Although she already had an undergraduate degree in English and was teaching high school , she decided to get a degree in horticulture . Stephanie kept on her educational journey by obtaining a master ’ s degree in environmental studies .
Like so many of us , she had various jobs within the industry , including working in and selling greenhouses . She then started teaching a perennials class . By chance , Stephanie was asked to fill in at Temple University in Philadelphia , Pennsylvania as an adjunct professor for a semester . More than 20 years later , she retired after changing the face of horticulture at Temple . Stephanie helped establish the Landscape Arboretum of Temple University at Ambler and became its founding director .
Stephanie is a garden lecturer , writer , and a contributor to many trade and consumer magazines and is a best-selling author with books focusing on perennials and design . She was recognized by the Perennial Plant Association as Educator of the Year in 2003 . The PPA has given her the Honor Award for Design and the Special Service Award . She also received the Garden Communicator of the Year Award for 2000 and
Stephanie Cohen takes a break in her garden .
2001 by the American Nursery and Landscape Association . In 2014 she became a GWA Fellow .
Stephanie has even been on QVC as “ The Perennial Diva .” There are plants named after her including Hemerocallis ‘ Stephanie Returns ’ ( daylily ), Tiarella cordifolia ‘ Stephanie Cohen ’ ( foamflower ) and Phlox paniculata ‘ Shortwood Gardens ’ ( garden phlox ), which is named after her garden .
She is a regular benefactor to the Camden ( New Jersey ) Children ’ s Garden . This unique garden is designed for children and families to explore and discover nature . Any money that is collected from tours of her personal garden is donated to the Camden Children ’ s Garden .
Stephanie is a firm believer in mentoring . I asked her what she got out of it . “ Not money , nor even respect , not love ,” she said . “ I have a tendency to want to help people , give them a gentle , firm push off a cliff . The joy of someone coming back and saying that they enjoy it . It ’ s something I like to do .”
She can name dozens of former students and others who she has mentored — from nursery and garden center owners to curators at the Morris and Scott arboreta , and one other person , our current GWA President Kirk Brown . She gave him and his alter ego , John Bartram , their first keynote speaking engagement at the now defunct Waterloo Gardens in Exton , Pennsylvania .
What are Stephanie ’ s favorite plants ? Here are a few :
• Thalia daffodil , because it is small and fragrant
• Fothergilla , a plant for every season with shades gold and orange
• Elizabeth , a yellow magnolia
• Dahlias
• Zinnia angustifolia ( narrowleaf zinnia ) in an herb garden
HOPE FOR HORTICULTURE I asked Stephanie what her hope was for the future of horticulture . “ Numbers are finally getting higher , how much interest there is in organics , in farm to table . Carve out niche for yourself ! There will always be a use for horticulture but esthetically , it is beautiful . Everything evolves .”
What does she consider her greatest gardening achievements ? Establishing the arboretum at Temple University , Ambler Campus , becoming a Fellow at GWA , all the other awards but most of all , is inspiring her students .
Stephanie lives in Collegeville , Pennsylvania with her husband Dick . She is busy this summer in her garden , which is the site of her daughter Rachel ’ s September wedding .
Denise Schreiber is the author of Eat Your Roses , Pansies Lavender and 49 Other Delicious Flowers . She has been the greenhouse manager and horticulturist for Allegheny County Parks Department for more than 25 years and is a certified ISA arborist . Denise won a 2016 Silver Media Award for her column “ Ask the Expert ” in Pennsylvania Gardener .