A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Playing in the greenhouse

I worked in a greenhouse today for the first time. I have visited greenhouses, both at nurseries and at botanical gardens, but I have never had a "behind the scenes" look at what actually goes on in them. The Director of the Volunteer Program at Rutgers Gardens gave me a tour of the greenhouse complex at Cook College first. I got a chance to see the poinsettia trials, more orchids than I knew existed and other tropical plants. I got to peek into the greenhouse where the Gardens are overwintering their plants and then I was whisked off to the greenhouse where they are propogating plants both for sale to raise money and for use in the Gardens.

My job today was to continue the current project of transplanting hundreds of coleus cuttings from their original cellpacks to 4" (10 cm) pots. I had no idea it was such tedious and time consuming work. Moisten the soilless potting medium, fill the pots (8 to a tray), insert a single plant in each pot, make a label for each variety, repeat over and over again. I managed to do over 100 plants before my back was just too tired and sore from leaning over the potting bench. I have a much better appreciation for the amount of work that goes into all those plants for sale at nurseries as well as why they are so expensive.

One unexpected thing was the feline supervision. The greenhouses at Cook College are "owned" by a lovely tortoiseshell cat who goes by the name of Beatrice, Bea for short. Ms. Beatrice made it her job to keep an eye on me while I worked. She "tested" out the bench, "checked" the potting mixture and then ensured that the empty trays were stacked correctly. All of this entailed a lot of purring and tail flicking. It must be exhausting work because she took several long naps. She was curled up on top of the stack of empty trays with a paw over her face when I left. On my way out, I checked with the (human) lady who runs the greenhouses to find out if I could bring treats for Beatrice next time I come to the greenhouses. I can and I will.


At 4:48 PM, Blogger kerry said...

I love playing in the greenhouse. Someday I'd love to have one of my own. I've worked in several with different jobs I've had over the years and there is something so peaceful about it all. Once I was watering the big trees in the house I was responsible for and just after the stream of water hit a large 5 gallon pot a rather long black snake shot up out of the pot. He liked to have scared me to death. We headed in opposite directions and I never saw him again. What a rude awakening for him when the water came pouring in.

At 4:51 AM, Blogger Stuart said...

What a great way to spend a day. Very envious.

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Alice said...

I'm sure it would be very interesting to see 'behind the scenes' but I don't think I could do that all day.

I dearly love propagating and potting plants but I could never do it hour after hour. I like emptying a pot of cuttings and seeing just how many have taken root, but I find writing plants labels the most tedious part of the job.

At 12:20 PM, Blogger Beverly said...

I love greenhouses. When I worked at our botanical gardens I worked in one. I love the calm, quiet atmosphere. And the fresh air. I always take deep breaths in a greenhouse.


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