It was not so long ago, April 2001 to be exact, that I took my first step onto The Arboretum grounds as an employee. I had left my footprints on the site many times before; strolling through the forests, jogging the recreation trails, enthusiastically checking out the labels under every tree in the collections trying to put the names to memory. To have such a diverse green space adjacent to campus was a privilege that the students at most other institutions do not get to experience.
I first arrived in Guelph in 1998, to study at the University. My interest in plants was clear, but the direction I would choose to endeavor was still being questioned. I enrolled in the B.Sc. (Agr.) program, majoring in Horticultural Science, after contemplating the study of Botany and Plant Ecology. 'Horticulture', defined as the cultivation of plants and gardens, would allow me to learn by getting my hands dirty.
My first memorable admiration of plants took place at a young age while exploring the forests around my grandparent's home. The ephemeral wildflowers were a big attraction at this time and a gift from a cousin, 'Familiar Flowers of Eastern North America', was the first of many plant books that has become part of my collection. Throughout this time, many years were spent in my parent's vegetable patch learning to make the most of the land without the use of irrigation or pesticides. Around the age of 13, I inherited a small patch of shady, debris-laden land in the corner of the yard. I soon began filling it with whatever I could find; Solomon’s seal clumps, lilac suckers, roadside weeds (not weeds to me…), fern spores, tiger lily bulbuls, old forget-me-not seeds, whatever I thought had the possibility of developing. The experimentation process is such a great way to learn. Soon, it would be with my first employment experience that my garden really began to take off.
I was hired by Potter's Greenhouses, in Violet, ON when I was 15 years old. Over the course of 6 years, they provided me with innumerable plants and invaluable experience. It was one of those opportunities where you have the benefit of learning something new everyday. My interest in horticulture, and my shade garden, quickly began to grow.
While in high school, I complimented my seasonal work at the greenhouse with a job at Kingston Cogen by maintaining the grounds and designing and implementing some accentual shrub beds. This was my first opportunity to really investigate the woody plants that are available in nurseries. Size, shape, colour, and texture suddenly become a bigger issue.
After 4 years of study at the University of Guelph, supplemented with two summers working on the grounds of The Arboretum, I obtained my honours degree in 2002 and began working full time with The Arboretum.
I'm fortunate to have some very diverse responsibilities with my position that have allowed me to express, as well as acquire many skills. Much of my work is done in the nursery where I am responsible for propagating the trees and shrubs for our collections, the Wall-Custance Memorial Forest, and our annual plant sale. Operating the daily functions for the Elm Recovery Project and The Arboretum’s Gene Bank for Rare Woody Plants of Ontario, plays an important role in my duties. You will also find me on the grounds, accountable with the upkeep of our woody plant collections. When I'm not doing these things, you may catch me pouring over plant records, leading a tour, or instructing a workshop.
Away from The Arboretum, some of the things I enjoy include camping, hiking, guitar, volleyball, and lots of reading. Unfortunately, I don't currently have a garden of my own, but my anguish is eased knowing I can work everyday with such a wonderful, 400 acre expanse of land.