Polly Samland

I was introduced to The Arboretum during my first week of classes as a Landscape Architecture graduate student at the University of Guelph in 2009. Chris Earley toured my class through the boardwalks of Wild Goose Woods, our attention drawn to particular native trees, insects and birds. It was a very different landscape from the dry hillsides and orchards of interior BC where I grew up, from the temperate forests of Vancouver Island where I completed my horticulture diploma, and from the urban gardens of Vancouver and Montreal where I worked for years before returning to University.

I am an avid reader with an undergrad in writing, and I feel that the term ‘Living Library’ is an interesting way to view The Arboretum, which acts as a reference for us to learn from. The conceptual and physical organization of botanical gardens was a main theme of my graduate thesis, and it was fascinating to explore beyond The Arboretum’s role as a local amenity to its place in a global network of plant research and conservation.  

I began work at The Arboretum in 2010, first as a summer student, then as a horticultural conservation intern, and now as a horticultural assistant. My time is divided between the woody plant collections, the nursery, and conservation projects.  For much of the year I am outside doing physical work: planting seeds and trees, pruning and weeding, working with summer students and volunteers, and collecting seed. An equal amount of energy is spent on updating collection inventory, labeling accessions and checking taxonomy. I have developed a long standing passion for willows and conifers, and a fresh hatred of buckthorn.

The small staff here is dedicated and engaged, and always a pleasure to work beside. I have learned so much through assisting Sean Fox in the nursery and the varied conservation projects he manages, such as the Elm Recovery Project. For the past year I have been collaborating with curator Aron Fazekas and GIS technician Kellen Wood to update our plant records and make them accessible online. I have also had the opportunity to discover the history of Arboretum gardens and collections while organizing archival records with manager Ric Jordan.

 I hope that you also enjoy exploring The Arboretum and spending time in its fields and forests.