What Horticulturalists Do in the Off-Season

March 11, 2019 Jameson Coopman , Horticulture Research Associate

When their gardens are blanketed in snow, what do the horticulturists at Denver Botanic Gardens do? Well, for starters, they still garden! When the temperature is above freezing, our dedicated horticulturists are still pruning, removing plant debris and impeccably maintaining gardens for the coming spring. During the winter, horticulturists also expand their job descriptions immensely. Allow me to share just a few examples.

First and foremost, horticulture at the level we strive for requires meticulous planning and preparation. This consumes a large portion of a horticulturist’s time during the winter. They synthesize observations and data recorded throughout the growing season. Understanding how plants, design schemes and watering regimen affected their garden, they can continuously improve from each year to the next.

The horticulturists create comprehensive designs for every garden and order and propagate plants during this time to be ready for the first sign of spring. Horticulturists really tap into their creativity to try new plants, new designs or new planting techniques to keep Denver Botanic Gardens one of the best botanic gardens in the country.

The Gardens’ horticulturists here aren’t satisfied with only expanding their own knowledge. They take their expertise and share it with the Colorado community. This information is provided through symposia, conferences, classes, presentations and career fairs.

One of the best parts of this time of year is the ability for our staff to really work with other departments at the Gardens, such as education, research or marketing, to develop workshops, tours and interpretation to make a patron’s visit more educational and interesting.

Beyond all this, winter provides time for some very interesting work – plant exploration. Botanic gardens are first and foremost living museums of plants. We are constantly striving to expand collections, both for horticultural interest and conservation. Winter here in the northern hemisphere means the growing season in the southern hemisphere. It provides a great opportunity to observe plants in their prime and collect seed around the globe. During these winter months, while our plants lie dormant, we can collect and add more unique and interesting plants for you to see on your next visit! A few past trips we have undertaken in the southern hemisphere include plant exploration and collecting in South Africa, Lesotho and Argentina (Patagonia).

Now when the gardens are covered in snow and the horticulturists hard to find, I hope you have an idea of the work they are engaged in.


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