What did you do before you came to the Conservatory and what drew you to work here?
I have been a horticulturist for over 22 years. Most recently, I was the lead landscaper for the City of Saint Paul's Natural Resource Department. In that role, I co-directed the Blooming Saint Paul Program, which is the City of Saint Paul's urban beautification program. I worked with city architects, environmentalists, foresters, growers, trades and summer student crews to create and maintain downtown Saint Paul landscapes including the Hanging Basket Program. During that time, I also developed, with the help of several University of Minnesota horticulture student interns, a summer Youth Horticulture Academy for Saint Paul youth aged 15 to 21 that is still active today.
I was also a large-scale floral artist and collaborated with the Ordway Theatre, the Huss Foundation and Flint Hills Research to create whimsical display gardens for the annual International Children's Festival. I dabble in garden magazine article writing and have published a few things.
I was drawn to the University of Minnesota because of the world-class educational benefits and the idyllic atmosphere of the Saint Paul campus.
What do you most enjoy about working at the Conservatory?
As a life-long learner, my joy comes from being surrounded by amazing science-minded colleagues, faculty, students and researchers, and to be entrusted to share what I learn with our Conservatory audience. To me, outreach is the most enjoyable part of our mission. We are entrusted to share the wonders of the plant kingdom with a spectacular living showcase of examples.
What is your favorite biome or plant and why?
My favorite plant currently is a small ball cactus, Escobaria vivipara, one of Minnesota’s rarest plant species. They only occur within a 2-3 square mile area in the west-central part of the state in the Minnesota River Valley on granite outcrops. I am fortunate to be in a position to help coordinate efforts here at the Conservatory to preserve this unique species in partnership with the University Landscape Arboretum and other organizations.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical morning begins with a walk through to check on the health of the plants and the working parts of the greenhouse. Every once in a while this may involve a life-saving dose of water, chemical or re-plant. Next, I check on the daily class or lab planting and delivery schedule for several semester courses put in place at the beginning of each semester. A typical day also includes coordinating and assisting with undergraduate and graduate student projects or research, and leading conservatory tours and visits with faculty, lab coordinators, researchers and partners.