Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sunken Garden Carousel Show

This winter's Sunken Garden Holiday show is almost here! This year's show is unique because it will feature six carousel horses from the 95-year-old Cafesjian's Carousel. The horses are original to the carousel that was constructed on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in 1914. The carousel was removed from the fairgrounds in 1988, and has been in the pavillion at Como Park since 2000.

The featured plants of the Holiday Show are the tradtional poinsettias, with celosia, coleus, and begonias as accents. The poinsettia cultivars chosen for this show are 'Carousel Pink' and 'Carousel Dark Red', in keeping with the theme. The approximately 1000 poinsettia plants have been grown from rooted cuttings in our on-site greenhouses since early summer. The Sunken Garden will be closed the week of December 1st-5th to change out the fall mums and create the new exhibit, opening oficially on Saturday the 6th.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Winter's in the air!

It seems like only yesterday we were fighting 90 degree heat and sweating all day. Now we have dug out the long underwear and our hats and mittens, and braved our first snow of the year. The seasons have quickly changed, which means the outdoor staff's job duties change. We went from watering, to pruning; from deadheading to pulling annuals and cutting back perennials. This is the time where we rake lots of leaves, and do a lot of fall cleanup. All of the annuals get pulled out and many of the perennials will get cut back for the winter. One thing we do is collect some interesting grasses and other prennials we have cut, and make a winter display in some containers. This is an easy way to spruce up a boring container or window box that might otherwise sit vacant all winter.

The zoo and conservatory have been a bit more quiet these days. There are still plenty of things to see here, and the grounds take on a special beauty with a layer of snow on the ground. Many animals are inside for the winter now, but you can still come view them 365 days a year! Though the outdoor seasonal staffs' time here is coming to an end, soon spring will be here, and we will be back in full force.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Interns play a very important role as members of the horticulture staff at the conservatory. This week two of our interns have completed their work with us, and we are featuring an interview with Doreen, who has worked along side us since last spring.

How did you become interested in Horticulture?

Doreen: My father was a gardener in his spare time. Every spring he would have all of us kids go to the store with him to pick out seeds to plant. My favorite seeds were Celosia and Snapdragons. My father had a fabulous yard, which he built all of the gardens himself. He designed and built all of them by hand, hard work & sweat.

I got away from gardening for a few years and worked in various jobs, none of them in gardening. Always in the back of my mind, I wanted to get into the horticulture field, but did not pursue it, because of my needing the security in my current jobs. All of the houses I lived in, I had very nice gardens. My current home, we bought in 2001, and I designed most of the gardens around it. My best design was my boulder job, but I had hired a company to come in to build it. It was a traffic stopper! I had complete strangers coming by to talk to me about it, and “who designed it?" So, one day I decided I am going to go back to college to get my degree in the field.

Where did you go to school and what were the requirements involved?

Doreen: I decided that since it had been so long since I was in college, I would attend Century College in White Bear Lake. It would be a smaller setting, more adults and close to my house. Being as I was 48 years old, I decided I would go for my Associates Degree, which is a 2 year Full-time program. I was working part-time for a healthcare clinic, so it would be easier for me to do classes part-time. Also since I was not getting Financial Aid or student loans, it would be cheaper for me each semester. The program for the degree is 64 credits. Most of the classes except the generals would be in the greenhouses at the school. Century is a very “hands on college” and they have their own plant sale in the spring. All of the labor was done by the teachers and the students and the proceeds went directly back into the program along with a $1000.00 scholarship given out yearly.

How did you find out about us?

Doreen: I decided that I wanted to work eventually in a government position in horticulture because of the excellent benefits and stability. I looked online for City, County and State Jobs in horticulture. That is where I found the Intern Position that was available. I talked to my instructor at Century and was told I could use my Internship 1, 2 and 3 there. I got my paperwork together, updated my resume and got a couple of reference letters together, and sent them all in. I actually met one of the gardeners at an Orchid Society meeting, and I also knew a woman who volunteered at MMC also. So I interviewed and got the position. It started out as an unpaid position for approximately 90 hours. When the outside crew came back in the spring for the season, I was hired on as a paid intern and got an additional 180 hours towards my Internship 2 & 3. I stayed on as a paid intern almost until the end of the season; my last day was November 4th.

What was your favorite part at MMC?

Doreen: When I started, I was working on the inside with the gardeners in the Sunken Garden, the North Garden, the Fern Room, the Palm Dome and various other duties as assigned. I loved all of it. How wonderful to be “working” inside in the winter in a warm and sunny place with all of the wonderful plants and gardens. It was fabulous!

Then in late March, when the outside crew came back, I started working outside with them. I guess working outside was really my favorite part. It was always something different and new. I really loved the designing aspect of the projects, and my crew leader gave me plenty of opportunity to help plan. I also really enjoyed building the Butterfly Exhibit and planting the Gates Ajar.

Any advice for other people wanting to study Horticulture or interested in Internships

Doreen: If you have an interest, go for it, right away. Check out the various schools and see which schools have the more hands on training (It’s easier to learn). If you are interested in Internships, check out websites online, check the Como Zoo website, check with your advisors at school and get involved. Some schools have Gardening clubs.

What will you miss about us?

Doreen: I will miss the public walking by and thanking me for my work, complimenting me, or asking questions about my job. I will miss all of my co-workers thanking me for helping them. I will miss the meetings I was included in where I was part of the team and was asked for my ideas and suggestions. Most of all, I will miss the Gardens.

Thank you,
Doreen Peterson
White Bear Lake, MN

We, the horticultre staff, would like to thank Doreen, and all of our interns, for the enthusiasm, new perspectives, and help they each give us.