This post was written by Emma Wallace, RBG Horticultural Intern
As my internship at Rotary Botanical Gardens comes to a close, I am beginning to reflect on my time here. I have learned lots about plants, but what I’ve learned about people and mindsets, I will carry with me the rest of my life.
First, I’ll let you in on what I’ve been working on this summer. I have done lots of planting and weeding, in addition to plant identification, building planters, coming up with inspiration, leading volunteer groups, guiding tours, and any other odd jobs Michael decides to find for me to do.
I spent lots of my time planting and weeding the Reception Garden, as well as the Sunken Garden. I attempted to make floating Iris boxes (and failed), but it was the effort that counted, right?
It’s amazing to think that trees I have planted this summer will be enjoyed by thousands of people over the years, and that I will get to watch the gardens I helped with mature into established beds. This garden has become my own garden in a way I wasn’t expecting it to be at the beginning of the summer.
Lots of jobs feel like a separate place from home that you commute to, but the Rotary Gardens has really become Mine. Obviously, it’s not, but the pride I feel and the community we have here makes it feel like home. I will always look fondly on my time here for that reason.
One of the main reasons for my joy here is the community of volunteers and workers here. As many of the volunteers are older, I feel like I have adopted 20 new grandparents that I adore and that love me just as much as I love them. They have all been my teachers in many ways, especially the ones I got to work with one on one.
I wish I could have gotten to work more with everyone here, but here’s some of what I learned from the volunteers I got to work regularly with.
Del is a blast to work with, super upbeat and cheery. She has many great ideas about the gardens, and I love brainstorming with her. She does amazing work for the education and horticulture department, always pushing forward and creating new programs and ideas. She is an absolute joy to work with, and I will miss her a lot.
Doris is one of the hardest workers I know. She is also a great leader and is always motivating her peers to accomplish more. She donates not only time to this garden, but a deep love and care for the gardens that spreads to everyone working with her. She is extremely sweet and kind as well. I just adore Doris, and she is such a role model.
Janet taught me the place that precision has in gardening. She is the most meticulous person I have ever met. No detail is left unnoticed by her, and it shows in her work. She is often in the Moss Garden with tweezers, getting the tiny weeds I couldn’t even notice. She is always happy to be here, and it is contagious. I am a better gardener from knowing Janet.
I worked with Cathy a lot this summer, and I am blessed to have gotten to. Cathy is the type of person to give you the shirt off her back if you needed it. She brings in cookies every Monday for us, and everyone gets excited when they enter the break room because they know they will get to enjoy her delicious treats.
Barb is the unofficial ringleader of the volunteers; she gets so much done that it is unbelievable. The way she organizes the story walk every year and how it turns out is genuinely impressive to me. The other volunteers call her the ultimate grandma, always taking care of everyone and making sure everyone has everything they need.
Cathy is another incredible worker here, who always comes in with a smile. She always checks in on me and makes sure I am taking care of myself in the heat, as well as that I am in good spirits. She helped me on a day I was sick, and it meant a lot to me to have her support.
I haven’t talked much to Ava, but she is probably the hardest worker I know. She gets down to business. She is also extremely meticulous and precise, but she somehow still works extremely fast and effective. She is the gold standard of a worker.
If Richard came into work, it was a guaranteed good day, and he regularly made my day when he surprised us with his presence. He is hilarious, meticulous, passionate, and caring. He always tells me stories about his family, and it is so clear how much he loves and cares about them.
He taught me a lesson that I needed to learn not just for work, but for my life, which is to slow down and enjoy the process of doing things. He’d regularly tell me to slow down while I work, not to an unproductive level, but enough to not be flying by the seat of my pants so that I could enjoy my work and efforts.
His pride in his work is contagious, in addition to his compassion for others. He wears the Grumpy hat, but he is the farthest person from Grumpy that I have ever met.
Casey and I got to work on many projects together. He was shy at first, but I soon realized he is always thinking something witty and hilarious. He is extremely hard working and is always covered in mud to the point it is comical. Casey is a great listener and greater friend, and I am very glad to have met him this summer.
I didn’t get to work much one on one with either, but they are both hard working staples to Rotary gardens. Without them, the gardens would simply not function. Brian is very diligent and kind, and Larry is always off doing some crazy job. Both of them are the foundation of this place, and they do fantastic work.
Obviously as my boss, I’ve probably learned the most botanical things from Michael. He’s taught me identification and all about plant care in multiple facets. He’s taught me to pay attention to the details, the importance of sustainability, and how to achieve it on a bigger scale.
He’s a great boss, always open to suggestions, compassionate but direct, efficient but not at the loss of fun or community, and always understanding. He also knows just about every plant in the gardens, including the scientific name, and that has lit a fire under me to retain more names. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to work here and learn from him.
Overall, I am eternally grateful for my time here. It has been foundational for my education. I am excited to take what I have learned with me back to school this fall.
Thank you to all the volunteers and workers who made this job so special. Thank you to all the donors who made my job possible as well. Lastly, thank you Michael for the opportunity!