2022 Rock Alpine Garden Internship

August 23, 2022 Horticulture Department

My time at Denver Botanic Gardens has been a unique educational experience that I know will prove to be a pivotal moment in my horticulture career. I applied to the Rock Alpine Collections Intern position knowing that both parts of this position were rare opportunities and would allow me to grow in a multitude of ways. 

As an Indiana native I was wholly unfamiliar with the flora of Colorado, especially alpine plants, and saw this as an opportunity to expand my plant repertoire. I have also had a growing interest in plant collections and the importance of well-organized accessions, so this internship seemed like a perfect marriage of concepts for me.

My weekly activities were two-fold. I had to assist in the maintenance of the Rock Alpine Garden as well as meet with my supervisor, Mike Kintgen, curator of alpine collections, for mapping sessions. The weekly mapping sessions involved Mike working down area specific plant lists I prepared and marking the plants’ conditions while I mapped the living plants on a physical map. We also often try and make notes of any important characteristics of the plant, like whether it is alive and thriving or alive but struggling. That way in the future it isn’t a surprise if the plant marked as “condition dwindling” has died. I would then use this data to update our data bases and digital maps to accurately reflect the garden’s current state. 

This process gave me a lot of opportunities to learn the living collections as well as significantly improve my understanding of the Gardens’ collections systems. I also found that I greatly enjoyed the process of mapping and entering data. It’s a repetitive but satisfying process, and this experience has made me truly consider that plant records could be a good fit for my future career.

The opportunities didn’t stop at my work at the garden however, as we had weekly activities that gave the interns ample opportunities to learn. These activities included classes on plant families, information sessions on projects at the Gardens, meetings with department heads and weekly field trips. I found the field trips to be, generally, the most beneficial. They provided a great opportunity to see Colorado and expand our understanding of the different live zones, microclimates and native plant population. It also granted opportunities to work with staff with unique and fascinating skill sets that we otherwise may not have been able to work with. 

This internship is an amazing opportunity, and I am grateful that I was chosen to be a part of the great work the garden has been doing.

This article was contributed by Harrison Smith, the 2022 Rock Alpine Intern.

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