A Tribute to Ed Hasselkus

A Tribute to Ed Hasselkus

Part of Ep. 1204 Great Gardens & Garden Greats

Nationally known teacher and plantsman, Ed Hasselkus is Professor of Horticulture and Curator a the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Arboretum. His greatest contribution has been years of evaluating trees and shrubs so Wisconsinites grow only the best and healthiest.

Premiere date: Sep 22, 2004

Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

If you go to the hardware store or a garden center, you’ll find many products there to help you get rid of moss.  Apparently, for many of us in the garden, this is a bad thing.  I’m Shelley Ryan.  Welcome to the “Wisconsin Gardener.”  On this edition of the “Wisconsin Gardener,” we travel to Rotary Gardens in Janesville to find out why they turned an entire section of land into a moss and fern garden.  Believe it or not, it’s beautiful and green year round.  Anyone know what this is?  This beautiful plate was made by molding concrete over a rhubarb leaf.  We travel to Green Bay to learn how to make these beautiful leaf sculptures, and find yet another way to play with our plants.  Also, just when you thought it was safe to put back out in the yard again.  They’re back.  Asian Lady Beetles are in Wisconsin to stay, but there are ways to keep them out of your house.  Extension entomologist Phil Pelliteri tells us what to do and when to do it.  But first up, we honor one of Wisconsin’s and the Midwest’s greatest plantsmen and educators, Ed Hasselkus.  It’s all coming up on the “Wisconsin Gardener.” 

Major funding for the “Wisconsin Gardener” is provided by Fiskars garden tools, a Wisconsin manufacturer of garden tools, ergonomically engineered for durability and comfort.  Fiskars garden tools.  A Fiskars brands company.  Additional funding is provided by the Wisconsin Master Gardener Association and the Madison Chapter of the Wisconsin Landscape Contract Association. 

If you grow one of these in your yard, or one of these, or if you have one of these in your yard, then you have this man to thank.  Ed Hasselkus, Professor of Horticulture and curator of Longenecker Gardens at the UW Madison Arboretum.  He is known across the country as a teacher and a plantsman.  But for most home gardeners, his greatest contribution has been years of evaluating trees and shrubs so that we grow only the best and healthiest. 

Ed Hasselkus:
White Bark Birches are probably one of the most popular small-scale trees, at least  in the eyes of most home gardeners.  They often fail to realize, though, that birches require cool moist soils in order to thrive.  When I arrived on the scene in 1966 as the curator of Longenecker Gardens, there had been on this site a collection of White Bark Birches that had been planted about three years previous.  In that short period of three years almost all the others had succumb to the Bronze Bora, yet there was this group of White Bark Birches that I realized had been resistant to the Bora.  In addition, it had this wonderful spiral-like form and so we came up with a name White Spiral and it was introduced in 1983.  Several Wisconsin nurseries grew thousands, hundreds of thousands of them in those early years.  And now, no matter where I go in the country, I find my White Spiral Birches growing wherever I travel. 

Ed has made major contributions to the gardening world with his evaluations of ornamental crab apples.  A very popular small-scale landscape tree.  Thanks to Ed, Longenecker Gardens has probably the most up-to-date collection in the world.  With hundreds of ornamental crabs to choose from, Ed still has a favorite. 

If I could have but one crab, it would be Prairie Farm, which was developed on the basis of disease resistance and it just has a very lively, bright pink flower color.  And of the pink-flowered crabs, it probably has the glossiest red fruits of them all.

Eastern Redbud trees are another of Ed’s success stories.

It’s not native in Wisconsin, so a number of years ago working with a graduate student, I had sort of kept track of these hearty redbuds around the state of Wisconsin.  So we collected seed from them, grew out the seed and low and behold the heartiest one of all was one that had come from Columbus, Wisconsin.  I have distributed the seed of the Columbus Redbud all over the country, particularly to the Canadians and so now that is the Columbus strain of Redbud grown from seed. 

In addition to serving as curator of Longenecker Gardens, Ed was also on the UW Madison faculty for 33 years and taught every single semester. 

It’s foolish enough not to take a sabbatical, I don’t know why.  I couldn’t leave my plants, that’s really the reason.  And in that time, I figure I had about 3,000 undergraduate students and I had 35 students who got their Masters degree with me.  I have kept track of a great many of them.  I’m very proud of a lot of their accomplishments.

Jeff Epping:
There’s no way I’d be here at Olbrich or have had the career that I have without his guidance and that’s probably true for a lot of his students.  I think he’s– through his example maybe– to see how excited he would be about what he’s doing and what and to get you excited about it and others excited about it.  It’s sort of infectious.  Every student who’s had a class with Ed, plant identification class at the University, can relate to Ed’s walks around campus and through the area neighborhoods.  Looking at plants, he would always be at a pace of a greyhound or a thoroughbred horse.  He’d be out and just out on the go and all the students would be struggling to keep up with him and it was always a lot of fun. 

Dave Guthery:
His nickname used to always be Fast Eddie when he was teaching classes because Ed’s an incredibly tall person, has very long legs and just at his normal pace could out-step somebody about one-and-a-half times.

He’s still in the front of the pack, even in his years. 

Sandy Allen:
The way that I initially met Ed was that Olbrich Gardens was having a series of seminars.  He is a phenomenal teacher.  I think the best thing that I can say about Ed as a teacher, he’s very approachable.  This is a man who is very famous in his field and to be able to go up to someone who has that kind of a reputation and still consider him a friend, knowing that he’s never going to make you feel stupid– that he wants to continue to be a teacher and to teach as much as he possibly can to every one of his students and followers.  Thank you Ed for everything that you have taught me.  You have begun a new career for me.  I now work in a nursery, guess what, selling trees and shrubs and I feel very comfortable doing that because he has given me the education and the knowledge.

I mean, I’ve just always been grateful to Ed because of the opportunities he has given me and he’s always one of the kindest gentlest people you’ll ever meet and always wonderful about teaching.

Just looking back over 45 years, I can’t imagine a field that I would like better.  I’ve been retired for 10 years, I’ve found that you’re never too old to really be involved in this field.  There’s always something new to learn.  I have always found people who love plants are really nice people.  It’s been a wonderful life. 

Ed Hasselkus, curator of Longenecker Gardens, educator, plantsman, mentor, and I’m happy to say friend.  Thank you Ed from all of us and thanks for my Prairie Fire Crab and my Redbud and my Birch and my Cornelion Cherry Dogwood and my Juneberry and my Prunistomentosa, oh and my roses.



Funding for The Wisconsin Gardener is provided, in part, by The Wisconsin Master Gardener Association.


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