Welding for horticulturists?

From metalwork to massive mixers and large-scale planting, you can learn so much in just a few months at Longwood Gardens

Preparing the 1,000 bloom display

My time here has passed very quickly so far and I cannot believe how much I have learned in such a short time. Here are some of my experiences in the garden.

Formal displays

The outdoor display team looks after the formal area around the Gardens including the car park, Brick Walk, Idea Garden and Oak and Conifer Knoll. In November 2015 we planted 750,000 bulbs – that is 20,000 a day. I helped with removing and planting the containers outside the front of the Visitor Center. This involved a crane taking out the Acer saccharum ‘Legacy’ (sugar maples) and replacing them with Nyssa sylvatica, a native tree. I was also involved in planting massive Thuja specimens in the Terrace Garden by the restaurant.

Compost monster

compost mixing on a huge scale

The production team grows and produces plants to go on display in the gardens. During my month in that department I potted many plants and cleaned a whole variety of plants. One of the most interesting bits of kit I have seen at Longwood was the soil mixer. A computer system allows the user to type in which plant they are potting up and the computer says which mixes need to be used whilst the machine will create the compost mix needed for that plant. It is a remarkable machine, something I haven’t seen before. The dust it creates is amazing and there is a substantial amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) worn to carry out this task.

Fine welding

welding plant baskets

The metal workshop creates and builds metalwork for the garden. There are many different creations that the metal workshop produces for the gardens. A new skill, I had the opportunity of developing was welding. I had an afternoon of working with the welding equipment. I constructed some fine welds and made a metal doll's house, which my roommates admire every time they walk in the front door.  

Plants galore

In February I spent four weeks with the nursery and plant production team. My jobs included dead-heading and making hanging baskets of pansies. I spent a great deal of time creating chrysanthemum spider baskets and training the chrysanthemums in the baskets. The chrysanthemums would grow fast so every week I had to tie them to the canes to stop them from losing their shape. It took us a whole day to ferry Echium plants from the nursery to the Conservatory, we handled a lot of plants! 

Trip to New York

New York Botanic Garden orchid display

I was very fortunate to be asked to give a presentation to the Garden Club of America, at their headquarters in New York. I spoke about my time at Longwood, and my previous horticultural experience. It was a fantastic evening and it was such a privilege to meet and talk to members of the GCA. The next day we went to New York Botanical Garden where we were shown around the garden and behind the scenes in the herbarium seeing specimen’s Darwin and Joseph Banks had collected. 

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