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Philadelphia's Gardening World Loses Two Good Friends, as Year Wanes
Friends mourn passing of Marjorie Bayersdorfer, a native plant advocate, and Christopher Goodrich, who served on Morris Arboretum board.
by Denise Cowie - 1/5/2009
The horticultural world in the Greater Philadelphia area lost two good friends as the
year wound down: Marjorie Bayersdorfer, 75, a wonderful gardener and a native plant advocate who served as volunteer coordinator of the native plant program at Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust in Huntingdon Valley; and Christopher Goodrich, 65, also an avid gardener and for six years a board member for Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania.
Both died in December – Mrs. Bayersdorfer of ovarian cancer on Dec. 14 at The Hill at Whitemarsh, a retirement community in Lafayette Hill to which she had moved in recent years with her husband, David; and Mr. Goodrich of a heart attack on Dec. 1 in the woods on his property in Bucks County, where he lived with his wife, Susan.
An Extraordinary Gardener
Before they downsized and moved to Lafayette Hill a couple of years ago, Marjorie and David Bayersdorfer had lived for half a century at the Elkins Park property they bought as newlyweds. The mature and majestic trees in the back yard – tulip poplars, oaks, dogwoods – were a major selling point for the young couple, and eventually provided the canopy for a lush woodland garden that was a magnet for wildlife.
Mrs. Bayersdorfer, who was a clinical social worker in private practice, had an office in her home – which worked well, she once said, as she would have hated to leave her garden to travel to work.
“Marjorie was an extraordinary native-plant gardener,” says Nancy Beaubaire, director of communications for Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve in Bucks County, where Mrs. Bayersdorfer taught a class about observing nature to understand the habitat in your own backyard. “My jaw dropped the first time I visited her home garden, and was transported into a naturalistic setting sprinkled with evidence of Marjorie’s artistic and whimsical touch.
“As I became friends with Marjorie through working together on the Millersville Native Plant Conference, I saw that her influence extended well beyond her home garden. Marjorie had a gift for inspiring others to become stewards of the environment. She shared her passion without preaching, was interested in learning from others, and wanted to hear what they had to contribute to the conversation.”
In 2002, Mrs. Bayersdorfer started a native plant group at Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust.
“These dedicated volunteers grew native plants, installed gardens and started two public plant sales that take place each year,” said her daughter-in-law, Cyane Gresham. “They constructed and installed a native garden for stormwater from parking areas. [Mrs. Bayersdorfer] was especially proud of creating a butterfly garden that attracted awards and recognition from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society – as well as butterflies!”
A Garden for Wildlife
It was the “indirect influence” of Cyane Gresham plus the Conference on Native Plants in the Landscape, held each year at Millersville University in Lancaster County, that changed the way Marjorie Bayersdorfer thought about gardening, and turned her into a native plant advocate (but not a purist – spring-flowering bulbs were part of her sunny front garden).
“I realized that wildlife was so directly involved with what was planted,” she told me when I interviewed her in 2003 for a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer. “If we were going to plant a garden that would sustain itself, we had to have wildlife in the garden. If you can attract birds to your garden, they take care of the insects. And if you don’t spray, you have good insects in your garden, such as ladybugs, and you don’t have aphids, because they eat them.”
Sharing With Other Gardeners
The idea of gardening to attract and sustain wildlife was a concept she loved to share with other gardeners. She was on the executive committee for planning the Millersville conferences, and spoke to gardening clubs and other organizations.
“I remember a lecture she gave at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve that essentially focused on looking at the big picture in a garden or in a natural environment, beyond just the plants,” Nancy Beaubaire recalled this week. “For the lecture, she created a very beautiful, and very useful, calendar template for suggesting what one might observe and how to record it. I saw eyes wide open at that program – people becoming aware of a new way of seeing. As always, Marjorie went the extra mile, touching minds and igniting imaginations.”
A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. on April 26 at the butterfly garden at Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust, 2955 Edge Hill Road in Huntingdon Valley.
A full obituary appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Dec. 21. To read it, click here. For more information about Marjorie Bayersdorfer and her interaction with Pennypack, click here for a blog maintained by her son Alan and daughter-in-law Cyane.
Chris Goodrich, Activist and Gardener
Christopher Goodrich had been a member of the board at Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania for six years before stepping down recently.
“He was active on the marketing committee and chaired that committee during times of dramatic growth and innovation,” arboretum Director Paul Meyer said in an email. “The Arboretum has lost a dear friend.”
He was also a hands-on gardener. As John Morrison wrote in the Philadelphia Daily News this month: “Chris was a passionate gardener, and the garden he created at his Tinicum home was on the Philadelphia Horticultural Society’s garden tour. During the season, he would rise at 5 a.m. to work in his garden before going off to work.”
A Renaissance Man
Others described him as “a true Renaissance man,” interested in a wide variety of activities. The organizations on whose boards he served included the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts Presents at the University of Pennsylvania, The Rock School for Dance Education, the Pennsylvania Ballet, and the Philadelphia Boys Choir, among others.
He also traveled all over the world. Born in England, he moved to Australia in the late 1970s and worked for Ogilvie & Mather, an international advertising agency. Even then, he was involved in the community, working on the Adelaide Festival of the Arts, and starting one of the early “Earth Fairs” to bring attention to the nascent green movement.
Memorial Service at Morris Arboretum
He continued his community involvement after he moved to the United States, including volunteering for a homeless center in New York and Manna in Philadelphia. In 1993, he also started his own firm, Goodrich Advertising, in Philadelphia.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on January 10 at the Widener Center at Morris Arboretum, which is at 100 Northwestern Avenue in Chestnut Hill.
An obituary for Mr. Goodrich appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Dec. 16. To read it, click here.