News & Press

Full STEAM Ahead: Introducing Youth to Careers in Horticulture

Seed Your Future logoWhen you picture someone who works professionally with plants, gardeners, plant breeders, and landscape designers probably come to mind. However, digging a little deeper, you’ll find that green-collar careers (those in the environmental sector of the economy) can be found in the art, science, technology, and business of plants. In partnership with Seed Your Future, the American Horticultural Society (AHS) recently assembled a group of individuals representing careers that are not exactly top-of-mind when one thinks of plant-related work. As pre-teens and teens begin to consider post-secondary education and career possibilities, it’s important that they see the range and diversity of positions that combine STEAM skills with an appreciation for plants, nature, and the environment.

The panel discussion, convened as part of the AHS’s National Children & Youth Garden Symposium, introduced outside-the-box plant-related positions and the paths that led our panelists to them. Do you know a child who likes climbing trees and tinkering with mechanical parts? He or she could grow up to be a drone pilot like Colby Borchetta at the Morton Arboretum’s Center for Tree Science. Maybe you know someone who likes digging in the dirt, but also has a fierce sense of style. Abra Lee is a horticulturist and designs her own line of garden attire. Aurélie de Rus Jacquet combined a love of plants with an education in biology to become an ethnopharmacologist. She studies the traditional uses of plants as medicine in her quest to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. Brad Austin grew up loving flowers and had a strong eye for color and design. He is an Emmy award winning floral designer whose work can be seen in over 60 films and 25 TV shows. From chefs to urban planners to sports turf managers, there are so many entry points into the world of plants and for every interest, skill set, and personality, there is a corresponding plant job.

Unsurprisingly, each panelist described taking different, and sometimes winding, pathways to arrive at their current position. These types of jobs probably wouldn’t be any child’s immediate answers to that favorite adult question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” So how do you as a parent, educator, or caregiver help expand a young person’s notion of what green collar careers look like? Here are some ways:

  • Do you or someone you know work with plants? Adults who love their jobs may be interested in talking with or mentoring young people. The Seed Your Future website has a list of over 100 plant-related careers.
  • Tune in together to the Morton Arboretum’s podcast Planted: Finding Your Roots in STEM Careers or have young people take their Canopy Career Chronicles quiz to find out which career path is best suited to their interests and skills.
  • Does your local school have a club for students that are interested in horticulture, agriculture, or the environment? The National Junior Horticultural Association, 4-H, Junior Master Gardener, and National FFA are just a few national examples.
  • Look for opportunities to volunteer on local environmental projects such as community garden tending, clearing invasive species, or participating in a Citizen Science project.
  • For the highly motivated teen, check out horticulture-themed summer camps and internships on the Seed Your Future website.

News & Press

Keeping organized with DIY garden markers

You’ve started your seeds indoors in your tiny DIY pots and prepped your soil with a hearty offering of compost. Congratulations! You are well on your way to a productive garden this season. Before you transfer any seedlings or direct sow any seeds into the ground, take time to create the tools that will help keep your garden organized. Keeping track of plantings in a very small garden may be simple, but if your plot contains several different plants (and even more so, different varieties of the same type of plant) an organizational system becomes key. 

Garden markers are a great tool that can identify your plants, track growing information, assist in weed identification, and add a little color or style to your garden beds. Here are some ideas for DIY garden markers, ranging from straight up functional to arts and crafts project.

Aluminum tags – Avoid purchasing pricy plant labels by creating your own long-lasting tags from aluminum beverage cans. A can, a razor blade, and tin snips or old scissors are all you need, although a straightedge will help keep your labels uniform.  Be sure to wear eye protection and cut resistant gloves!  Etch your info into the front of the aluminum, or for a more finished look, etch it from behind.  Attach labels to stakes or plants with wire.

 

Painted found materials – Every good shed or garage has materials lying around that can be turned into garden markers. Bricks, smooth rocks or cut stone, or even broken terra cotta pots will work. Use any acrylic craft paint to label and decorate your marker and, once thoroughly dry, cover it with a clear UV-resistant waterproof topcoat. For the potshard labels below, we used industrial paint markers, which do not need additional weathering treatment. Bright colors look right at home in a family garden plot but this style can be elevated or, with large surfaces or fine-tip paint markers, accommodate additional planting information.

 

Stakes – These are the horizontal version of the painted rocks above – a simple label sticking upright out of the ground that made from a variety of materials. Natural materials, including branches and logs or bamboo fit nicely in a rustic garden bed. For a more modern look, roll air-dry clay into a ¼” slab and slice into ¾” stakes. Rubber alphabet stamps make the lettering uniform and markers or paint add a pop of color.  

Tips and tricks:  

  • Paint markers work best on smooth surfaces. If you are writing on rough surfaces, consider buying extra replacement tips for a fraction of the cost of new markers.
  • Paint markers contain solvent that can smudge painted materials.  Use only on unpainted surfaces.
  • Topcoat your creations with UV resistant clear gloss spray paint to extend the life of your masterpiece.

Share your #GardenMarkerCreations with us on Facebook and Instagram.

News & Press

River Farm Grounds Reopening To the Public on 6/8/20

The grounds of the American Horticultural Society’s River Farm headquarters in Alexandria will reopen to the public on Monday, June 8, 2020.  Starting then the property will be open from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday until further notice. The grounds will be closed on weekends. 

Please note that for safety reasons, all indoor facilities–including restrooms and water fountains–are closed, as is our Children’s Garden. While we are pleased to once again be able to share the natural beauty of our gardens, we ask that all visitors share in the responsibility of protecting each other’s safety by practicing appropriate social distancing guidelines.  

News & Press

AHS Award Winner Catharine McCord Describes the Power of Horticultural Therapy

COVID-19, and its accompanying stay-at-home orders, self-quarantine measures, and breakdown in food supply chains, has given rise to a new cohort of home gardeners. While gardening fits the bill as productive domestic activity that will, in the coming months, yield edible results, are there other benefits to digging in the soil and nurturing plants? Horticultural therapists across the country sound a resounding “Yes!” and Catharine McCord, recipient of the AHS’ 2020 Horticultural Therapy Award adds her voice to the chorus. Read on as Catharine answers our questions and describes the myriad mental and physical health benefits to gardening.

In your words, what is horticultural therapy?  

Catharine McCord explores plant growth with seniors

Horticultural therapy is the practice of using plant-based activities, where participating in the activity itself is considered therapeutic. At Denver Botanic Gardens, we focus on social and emotional enrichment through active or passive involvement with our activities. We design our programs with a focus on promoting socialization and stimulating memory recall. 

 This field is founded on connecting people to themselves through plants, but it is also important to note that we can connect with each other through plants. We all have stories that can be shared through interacting with plants and talking about plants with others. The more we share our stories and hear others tell their stories, the more we connect to each other and feel like we are part of something bigger than ourselves. The more we feel part of something bigger than ourselves, the bigger the difference we can make.  

 

Generally, how can plants and gardens contribute to positive mental health during this time of anxiety, grief, and social distancing? 

This is no doubt an unprecedented and stressful time in our lives and we are all looking for healthy coping mechanisms and ways to process what’s happening in our world. Passive interactions (just simply being) in a garden can restore our ability to focus and assess how we’re feeling physically and emotionally. Studies indicate that spending just ten minutes in a garden can improve our moods and reduce blood pressure. When we actively nurture our plants, we can also take notice of how we tend to our needs and ourselves. Research shows that physical activity, like weeding and digging in the soil, helps to activate parts of our brain to process our thoughts, feelings, and emotions effectively. 


Your Therapeutic Thursday webinars with the Denver Botanic Gar
dens focus on certain plant groups – trees, thorny plants, and aquatic plants. What are the therapeutic lessons inherent in these particular plants? 

We can look to plants as guides in how to adapt to our surroundings and situations. In forests, trees communicate their needs through their roots and respond to each other by sending nutrients and other resources. This vast underground network of connectivity is similar to our social networks and helps us to remember that we are not alone right now; we can reach out and be seen and heard and connect with so many others. 

Thorny plants like those in the rose family teach us about setting boundaries and to take care of ourselves and protect our hearts and what we hold dear. They remind us to be kind to ourselves and take time to give ourselves the love and support we often give to others as caretakers, but don’t necessarily give to ourselves. 

Grief, suffering, and resiliency are inherent in all of our lives, but for many are uncomfortable to talk about. When we look at the beauty and delicate nature of a water lily, it’s easy to overlook its humble beginnings. As other aquatic plants, emerging through murky and muddy waters, while seemingly less-than-ideal conditions, these are essential to producing the beautiful blooms. 

 

What advice would you give to the parents or caregivers of children who are struggling with the “new normal”? 

If you and your children are having trouble focusing on schoolwork or any other indoor tasks, take a break to look out a window or go outside and allow your senses to explore. Move around outside with your whole body and make some loud noises. Take walks, jump around, be playful! Unstructured time outdoors will help your mind to refocus when necessary. 

Try planting seeds together! Basil grows well on a sunny windowsill. By growing a plant from seed you are making a plan for the future and that is one of the most hopeful activities you can do. Nurturing a plant teaches us life lessons about patience, anticipation, and delayed gratification. Harvesting the basil to prepare a meal together can cultivate a sense of connection. Just rubbing basil leaves and smelling the oils that are released help us to slow down and feel calm. This simple act of breathing and noticing our senses can help us to regulate or uplift our moods. Something fun about plants in mint family like basil, lavender, and rosemary, is that their stems will feel square between your fingers. 

 

Gardening is often an individual activity that contributes to self-care and self-sufficiency. What can a home gardener do at this time to support a collective effort or assist others in need? 

Sharing in any capacity promotes connectivity. Share seedlings with friends and family if you’ve started some. Post on social media and build your social and emotional network by sharing photos and stories of what you’re growing. A colleague at the Gardens has been making seed mixes with her children and sharing with neighbors to help brighten their spirits and their neighborhood. My nephew in Georgia loves marigolds, so I planted some in my garden and sent the rest of my seed packet to him. Now we can both grow the same plant, half a country apart. We plan to share pictures and talk about how they are growing in our different climates. At the end of the season, we can save the seeds for next year. 

 

What does winning an AHS Great American Gardeners Award mean to you? 

This award is a tremendous honor. I’ve always known that I wanted my work to be of public service to others and chose to pursue my degree in landscape architecture to focus on therapeutic gardens to be an advocate for mental health awareness. This led me to study horticultural therapy and herbal medicine as a way to create immersive experiences in gardens. Sensory and therapeutic gardens can function as safe spaces for those coping with stress and trauma, those who have experienced loss, and veterans- like my father who died by suicide. The combination of my personal experience with loss, my education, and work experiences have given me a unique perspective on garden design.  

 

 

 

News & Press

Great American Gardeners & Book Awards Ceremony Going Virtual

Every year it’s our privilege to host a wonderful celebration at our River Farm headquarters recognizing the Great American Gardeners Award recipients. This year however due to extraordinary times, we’re pleased to honor our Award Winners virtually on the web and across social media platforms. Follow the American Horticultural Society on social media where, beginning in mid-June, we will be sharing video messages from this year’s horticultural champions about the inspiring work that they do. It is our hope that by honoring our award winners in the online sphere, it will provide more exposure to their accomplishments.

Created in 1953, the AHS awards program recognizes exemplary professionals and organizations in horticultural fields, and outstanding garden-related authors and publishers. Each of our honorees is selected from nominations across the country for their efforts to advance and celebrate the art and science of horticulture. The 2020 honorees include:

  • Blocks in Bloom, a community outreach program in Rochester, NY instilling neighborhood pride through planting
  • Landon Reeve, IV, longtime supporter of the AHS through a position on the Board of Directors and grounds maintenance by Chapel Valley Landscape Company
  • Catharine McCord of Denver who designs garden spaces for children suffering from mental health issues or trauma
  • Steve Castorani whose Philadelphia-area North Creek Nursery was an early champion for the power and utility of native plants.
  • Ciscoe Morris, Seattle’s beloved Garden Guru and longtime grounds manager for Seattle University
  • Jessica Turner-Skoff, a treeologist at the Chicago-area Morton Arboretum inspiring the next generation of green collar workers with her Planted podcast
  • Charles “Chipper” Wichman whose 40 year career at Hawaii’s National Tropical Botanical Garden has been dedicated to the discovery and conservation of tropical plants
  • Dan Heims, President of Portland, OR’s Terra Nova Nurseries, breeder of over 1,000 new plant varieties
  • Nancy Ross Hugo who, through her floral design workshops, encourages participants to appreciate the unique beauty of every plant
  • Michael Balick, preeminent ethnobotanist working to preserve traditional plant knowledge and healing practices
  • Grow Dat Youth Farm, teaching leadership and work skills through growing to urban teens in New Orleans
  • Leslie Bennett who combats gentrification and displacement in Oakland, CA by creating culturally-relevant garden sanctuaries
  • James Folsom whose leadership, dedication, and vision have ensured The Huntington’s place as one of the country’s premier public gardens
  • Barry Fugatt, longtime educator in the Tulsa, OK garden community motivated by the desire to “sow seeds into the hearts and lives of people”

For more information on the 2020 honorees, please see ahsgardening.org/awardwinners. Celebrating the successes of our award winners brings attention to the important role that horticulture plays in the health and wellbeing of people and the planet and highlights career pathways for younger generations. Please consider supporting the AHS’s Awards program. Your gift will help us honor America’s best and brightest in the horticulture field and further spread the word about their important work.