After I have worked for a public garden I think of it as mine. I think anyone who has spent time and energy on a parcel of land understands this. Once I have dug in the earth and spent a year watching the seasons that place becomes a part of me. I know the spots that dry out first, the places where the rain runs off and where the garter snake lives. These were my gardens for a little while.
In honor of National Public Garden Day, May 10, I’d like to tell you some little known and entertaining facts about my gardens:
Chicago Botanic Garden – Glenco, Illinois
Reiman Gardens – Ames, Iowa
Longwood Gardens – Kennet Square, Pennsylvania
Taltree Arboretum and Gardens- Valparaiso, Indiana
Charley Creek Gardens – Wabash, Indiana
Chicago Botanic Garden
My first public garden was Chicago Botanic Garden where I was an intern for Alana Mezo in the Fruit and Vegetable Garden. After this internship I knew I wanted Alana’s job. I wanted to be a horticulturist when I grew up.
Little known fact: Chicago Botanic is touted as a series of “islands” in a “lake”. It is actually a series of raised bumps in a swamp.
I worked on the Fruit and Vegetable Island. It had a huge ground squirrel population the summer I was there. They ate all the bean, squash and melon seedlings! We used have-a-heart traps to live-catch the little buggers and transport them off the “island”. In the end we caught and relocated 19 ground squirrels.
The great part of gardening on an island they didn’t come back! Also bonus, no deer! Although the raccoons would swim over and tear down the grape arbor to get a midnight bunch.
I was a intern at Reiman Gardens. This little gem is located right off Iowa State University’s Campus. It’s 16 acres of winding paths and many little garden rooms. This is a great place for home gardeners to get ideas.
Reiman also has a butterfly wing conservatory that is an absolute treat.
Little known fact: when they first opened up the butterfly wing there was a major problem. The acute angled roof confused butterflies and they would run into the glass committing butterfly suicide. There would be little piles of dead butterflies in the corners the entomologist had to clean up every morning before visitors could come in. The problem was fixed by hanging nets in the corners to keep the butterflies from out of peril.
I love internships. This was my fourth and final internship and it was a year long. Longwood is considered the premier public garden in America. It’s an old DuPont Estate in the southeast corner of Pennsylvania.
There are so many fascinating facts about Longwood. Here’s a good one: Longwood does a big Fourth of July lighted, dancing fountains and fireworks display all choreographed to music. It is impressive. But even more impressive is the staff wets down all the plant material the day before and even has sprinklers running over some of the more valuable specimen plants during the show because one year a very old hemlock bush burned from some way ward sparks. There are even a couple bushes with fire damage if you know where to look.
Another fun fact is there is a secret underground passage from the Longwood house to the conservatory so Pierre didn’t have to go outside in the winter to get to the green houses.
One more thing, in the above picture is me in the lily pond and as you can see the pools aren’t that deep. To get a nice reflective surface for showing off the Victorian Hybrid Waterlilies developed at Longwood, they dye the water black so it looks dark, deep and opaque.
Taltree Arboretum and Gardens
This was the first garden I have worked for that is actively growing. There are huge plans in the works. A model railway opened in 2011 and a Children’s Garden opened this spring (2013). Plans also include a visitor’s center. The arboretum continues to grow and new trails are opening through recently acquired land.
Fun fact: The Taltree Railway Garden show cases a collection of dwarf conifers. There are over 1000 varieties of plants ordered to go in this two-acre area. I’m learned a lot about dwarf conifers as I spent much time cataloging and tagging them.
Charley Creek Gardens
This summer I will be helping out at a little public garden called Charley Creek. This six-acre oasis is a luxury for the town of Wabash, Indiana. The patron of this garden has a love for plants and art. Many sculptures can be found as you wend your way through.
Fun Fact: Charley Creek is named after a Maimi Indian named Charley who lived on a reservation near Wabash County. The creek that runs through the gardens was named for him. His Maimi name was Kintunga which translates to sleepy.
Visit Your Local Public Garden for Free!
On National Public Gardens Day, Friday – May 10th, you can get in free to many of public gardens for free thanks to Better Homes and Gardens and Rain Bird.