By Bridget Lamp
Conservatory Senior Gardener
When I started out as a horticulturist, little did I realize the majority of my career would be spent gardening under glass. I envisioned establishing myself at a botanical garden; which I did for several years at the University of California Botanical Garden in Berkeley and the University of Washington Botanic Garden’s Center for Urban Horticulture.
In 2005, I was hired as a gardener with Seattle Parks and Recreation at Jefferson Greenhouse. This is the hub for growing annuals, perennials, ornamental trees and shrubs, and natives citywide. I was in charge of the native propagation program as well as assisting with ornamental production.
After a brief stint gardening in the field for the south-end districts, I have recently returned to propagation in the Lower Greenhouse at the Volunteer Park Conservatory. The greenhouse as a structure is almost identical to Jefferson (the two greenhouses were built around the same time), but its function and purpose are dramatically different.
The Lower Greenhouse exists to support the fabulous displays within the Conservatory. Working closely with David (Helgeson) and Giselle (Blythe), I shape my production according to their design. Also, their design is shaped by what plants are prolifically blooming. Sometimes the timing and color are perfect. Other times, we wait again with a particular plant until it all comes together with the perpetual rotation of changing context and textures.
The plants are dramatically different along with their methods of propagation. At Jefferson, I was used to seeds needing three months in the refrigerator to germinate. Here, plants like coleus and dracaena seem to need very little to root. A little soil, a warm bench, and Voila—roots! And in addition, I have an entire zone devoted to orchids that range from large showy Cattleyas and Vandas to small Brassavolas and Paphiopedilums.
I must say it’s a delight to be here. If we haven’t already, I hope to cross paths with you soon in your next visit to the Conservatory!