Has spring finally sprung?

Pansies in the snow

The Mary Livingston Ripley Garden between the Hirshhorn Museum and the Arts and Industries Building on the National Mall. (Photo by Eric Long)

Janet Draper is a senior horticulturist with Smithsonian Gardens. Among her responsibilities is the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden. She originally wrote this post for the Smithsonian Gardens newsletter.)

Although there is still snow on the ground and iciness in the air, things are alive and well at Smithsonian Gardens’ greenhouses thanks to all of the efforts of the staff and volunteers there. Without our greenhouse staff and the multitude of volunteers who assist them, none of the Smithsonian gardens on the National Mall would be possible.

Potted tropical tree on pallet

And you thought repotting your houseplants was a chore.

For example, where do you think all of those massive tropical plants that grace the gardens go in the winter?  Well, back in the fall, prior to killing frost, all of the ‘keepers’ were loaded up and transported back to the greenhouse facility in Suitland, Maryland. That is where horticulturist Matt Fleming and his crew of volunteers sort them all into particular greenhouses based on the winter needs of the plants.

All winter, Matt needs to keep the plants alive while also preventing them from putting on substantial growth (otherwise, they would overrun the greenhouses.) To do this, the plants must be kept in a semi-comatose state until early spring when Matt needs to wake them all up, plump them up, and get them ready to go back downtown for the enjoyment of millions of visitors to the Smithsonian.

And then there are the hundreds—oops—I mean thousands of annuals which go into all of the gardens. Due to budget cuts, more and more of these plants are being grown from seed. Our ‘human seeding machine’ Jill Gonzales is the one who diligently tends nearly every one of these from seed to the day they are packed on trucks to be transported for planting. The quality and diversity of plants she, Joe Curley and the rest of the crew churn out is superb!

And then there are the hanging baskets, the cuttings to be taken, the orchids to be tended to…I could go on and on about our amazing horticulturists working behind the scenes to beautify the gardens at the Smithsonian. None of it would exist without the work they do… but I hope they know how much their efforts are enjoyed by every one of our visitors. Thank you Greenhouse team!

Smithsonian Gardens' greenhouse facility in Suitland, Maryland

Smithsonian Gardens’ greenhouse facility in Suitland, Maryland

Posted: 31 March 2014
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