Gardening is an art to me like music, painting, or photography are to others. Unlike the aforementioned forms of art, in gardening, the palette is alive. It weaves a tapestry with living flora to create something that beckons the viewer to explore the natural world and gain a sense of relation to oneself. I am writing this to explain why I, a horticulturist, do this for a living. We are not separate from the world around us, but as the dominant species on this planet, we are stewards to the future. We have the ability to create beauty, provide an oasis, and inspire hope. That is how I fulfill my role as Lead Horticulturist at Wellfield Botanic Gardens.
The view of the entrance of Adventure Path Garden
For me, this job holds much more than just a love of plants. The big picture is creating an aesthetically beautiful space for the public to come and gain a deeper connection with the world around us. My hope is that visitors will pause and be captivated by the many blooms in the native prairie and see pollinators hard at work. I want people to brush their fingers across a fuzzy Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) in the Sensory Garden, or step into another culture’s gardening practices in our Japanese-themed Island Garden. If a few visitors leave feeling more akin to the flora and fauna around them and a further understanding of their ecological importance, then my work and passion are made richer.
Bee perched on a Tall Goldenrod (Solidago altissima)
Visitors see and express a general magic and beauty of the gardens, but may not be aware of the hard work and attention to detail this achievement requires. A horticulturist must see both magic and blunder. Our perspective is mixed with beauty, possibility, and awe; jaded by error, displacement, and conflict. We have to be able to look at a beautiful landscape and pick out what’s wrong with it in order to maintain the gardens to the standard they deserve. We must see a messy crab apple tree (Malus spp.), and picture a work of art. Our job is to exert a form that is not only ornamental but beneficial to the health of the tree and the plants around it. We have to see errors that an untrained eye may miss, manage pests and soil health, control aggressive species to allow for homeostasis throughout the gardens, and much more.
Bee perched on a New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
The role of horticulturist encompasses both art and science, and the result is a functioning ecological system enveloped in grace. We have the power to encourage life and growth. Ultimately, we have the opportunity to be part of something bigger than ourselves and communicate these intersections to our community and our visitors.
Kyle Strain Lead Horticulturist Wellfield Botanic Gardens