Chloe May – AmeriCorps member, Nursery Manager

My name is Chloe May, and I am so excited to be on the nursery team this year! I am an AmeriCorps member serving through Washington Service Corps at the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, where I split my time between the SER-UW native plant nursery and the adult education program. I graduated from UW in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences with a degree in Environmental Science and Resource Management. 

Working in the SER-UW nursery has proven to be a great opportunity for me to learn more about plants in all aspects: identification, ecology, life history, and propagation practices. Being involved in the managing of a nursery has presented quite the learning curve, too: from researching native seeds to order for next year, finding a new poly-cover for the hoop-house, throwing the Autumn Native Plant Sale, organizing quarterly internships, to arranging our weekly public work parties, and coordinating sales with our customers.

What would a wildly successful year look like to me? I would love to get more people, UW students or not, to learn about the nursery. Not enough people are exposed to horticulture, restoration ecology, or plants in general to develop an appreciation for the faunal life and biodiversity that surrounds us every day. There are many ways to become involved in nursery work, and I would like those opportunities to be more accessible and well known to younger students. 

One of my favorite plants the nursery currently houses is the cascara tree (Rhamnus [Frangula] purshiana). Their leaves give an awesome tropical vibe in the summer and then perfectly match the PNW fall aesthetic come October. But, I also love any species of ferns, native or not, but especially those of the Adiantum, or maidenhair, genus.

Will Braks – Nursery Manager

My love of nature began with my upbringing — my dad was an avid gardener, devoted naturalist, and professor of environmental philosophy; and the motto of my hometown was “Near Nature, Near Perfect.” Manito Park, a breathtaking landscape designed by the world-renowned Olmsted brothers, was just a few short blocks from my parents’ house, so I was able to spend countless hours strolling through magnificently diverse gardens and a free-of-charge conservatory. Slightly farther away, in a 500-acre natural area colloquially known as “The Bluff,” minimally managed Ponderosa Pine forests and bunchgrass/basalmroot meadows offered a refreshing contrast to the meticulously manicured landscape of Manito Park. The natural beauty, relative isolation, and subsequent peace that these two drastically different parks made accessible, in addition to the tremendous environmental and aesthetic benefits offered by sustainable agriculture, environmental horticulture, and ecological restoration, made me realize that growing and studying plants might be the path for me.

So after transferring to the University of Washington, I promptly enrolled in the Biology Department’s Plant Biology major and also applied for a SER-UW Native Plant Nursery internship. It made for a spectacular first quarter! Working in the Nursery was so enjoyable and rewarding that I ended up returning for two more internships, and my plant-related classes were so interesting and informative that I continued to register for as plant classes many as possible, regardless of whether they were offered by BIO, ESRM, ENVIR, or ESS. During my senior year, I was able to greatly improve my horticultural knowledge and experience by landing jobs with the University of Washington Botanic Gardens and the Biology Greenhouse. Now, in addition to my work at the SER-UW Native Plant Nursery, I also help out in Jon Bakker’s Terrestrial Restoration Ecology Lab, the Rare Care rare plant conservation program, and the University of Washington Botanic Gardens. All in all, the University of Washington (and the Center for Urban Horticulture, in particular) is a phenomenal place to grow and learn about plants, so I could not be happier about the opportunity to continue working here.

This year at the Nursery, we hope to increase production in terms of both overall number of plants grown and the diversity of species being grown; improve the visibility of the Nursery on-campus, off-campus, and online; and continue to offer unique and exceptional educational opportunities similar to the one I was fortunate enough to experience during my time as a student here.

For the past few months, I’ve been saying that my favorite plant currently grown at the Nursery is Lupinus lepidus, also known as the prairie or dwarf lupine. Its wonderfully fragrant, purple-blue inflorescences are easy on the eyes and a favorite of the bees, and the silvery hairs on its modestly-sized leaflets give its palmately compound leaves an almost variegated appearance. Furthermore, as a member of the Fabaceae, or legume family, this species houses nitrogen-fixing Rhizobia within nodules in its roots. Lately though, another species has begun to win me over: Myrica gale. This dioecious, deciduous, wetland shrub has attractive bluish-green foliage covered in minute glands that secrete pleasantly aromatic oils. Additionally, like Lupinus lepidus, Myrica gale also houses nitrogen-fixing bacteria within nodules in its roots, but unlike members of the legume family, Myrica gale has developed a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship with Actinobacteria instead of Rhizobia. So I guess my two current favorites illustrate an interesting case of convergent evolution! 

Ally Kruper – Student  Assistant

First and foremost: I love plants. I love seeing them, I love being around them, and I love interacting with them to the point where it very well may be a problem (I really probably should not have poked all those cacti spines in LA to test their toxicity…).  But anyway, I also love learning about plants: how they function, what their roles in their environment are, and what makes them unique.

Last quarter I learned more than I could have imagined in the nursery, and I cannot wait for another quarter of discovery. Every week brings new learning opportunities—whether it is in the form of new work parties to organize, new Latin names to learn, or new species to propagate. Or better yet, brainstorming our next moves in the great war against the bunnies, which first began when the bunnies performed their infamous decapitations of some of our baby Douglas firs.

I learned an important lesson last quarter, which I am excited to expand on this quarter: running a nursery takes a lot of organization, and a ton of planning. For my individual project last quarter, I created a visual crop planning schedule. In a colored-coordinated table, this schedule showcased some of our more prominent species and included the time of year and length of their various stages for propagation. These stages included the various processes that the seeds go through: seed collection, cold stratification (only required for specific species), and warm stratification (also only required for specific species). It also included the stages that occur after the seeds are sown, such as the establishment phase, rapid growth phase, and hardening phase. To complete this project, I spent many, many hours researching, sifting through information that often times didn’t even match up with other sources. For me, this really underscored the importance of keeping detailed records and planning propagations months—if not years—in advanced.

My major is Environmental Science and Resource Management, and I hope to use this degree to work in a hands-on, outdoor environment after graduation. This will likely involve working in ecological restoration or horticulture, where plant identification skills are key. My favorite plant right now at the nursery is the piggyback plant (Tolmiea menziesii) because it forms little plantlets—new, young plants—on its leaves, which I think is a really cool way to propagate. My favorite plant that the nursery does not currently have would definitely be the Western Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum aleuticum). This fern has a gorgeous black stem and fascinating fan-shaped leaflets. And the best part about both these plants: you can probably find them on your favorite Seattle hike!

Alyson Bergomi – Autumn, Winter Quarter Intern

I’m Alyson Bergomi, and I’m thrilled to be interning with the nursery this quarter! My current responsibilities include general plant care, such as spraying for pests, weeding, watering, potting up plants, and fertilizing. I also assist with our weekly volunteer work parties and our fall plant sale, and will complete a quarter-long nursery project, the topic of which has yet to be decided at this time. 

I’m a third-year student majoring in Environmental Science and Resource Management (ESRM) within the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). I have had numerous opportunities to gain hands-on experience through SEFS, including an ethnoforestry internship, which introduced me to nursery skills, the cultural importance of native plants here in the Pacific Northwest, and some of our on-campus restoration projects. I also worked as a field intern last summer at the Olympic Natural Resources Center, where I learned about soil composition, seed collection, and began to work on my plant identification skills within Pacific Northwest coastal ecosystems. I am also pursuing a second major in Law, Societies, and Justice, which enables me to explore my interest in environmental law and policy. 

While at the nursery, I hope to further develop my plant identification skills, as well as learn more about the species ecology and cultural significance of native plants. I would also like to increase my knowledge regarding restoration ecology, and in particular, how the nursery uses different species of plants to effectively restore different areas. Finally, I hope to engage with the UW community through on-campus restoration projects, including our weekly work parties at the nursery.

Julianna Hoza – Winter Quarter Intern

I’ve always loved nature (especially birds and plants), but my hobby of growing plants for my own enjoyment is slowly turning into a career path as I pursue restoration ecology through UW’s Environmental Science and Terrestrial Resource Management degree. This degree allows me to gain hands on learning experience as a nursery intern, and I’m so excited to be learning about plant production and management this quarter! 

School credit definitely is not the only thing I’m gaining from interning at the nursery, though. As a SER site manager and officer, I’ve had a lot of questions recently about which plants to put where, how to grow plants successfully, and how to communicate with different managers in order to make my SER site a success. This quarter, I’ve started a monitoring project to look at how effective SER’s restoration really is, and interning at the nursery is giving me a much better perspective for this project than I would otherwise have. I’m learning about how pests can affect plant growth, the condition some of SER’s plants are in when they’re put into restoration sites, and how all of that could affect SER’s overall success in on-campus sites. Besides all the context this internship is giving me, I’m learning key techniques for taking cuttings, germinating seeds, and keeping restoration plants healthy. All this new knowledge will allow me to implement restoration plans for campus sites much more productively than I could have otherwise. 

Using the skills I’m learning this quarter in order to complete restoration projects on campus and set my monitoring project up well would make my quarter successful. I’d love to come out of this quarter with a clearer understanding of where restoration plants come from and how to keep them healthy and happy, and I’ve already learned a lot about this!

My favorite plant is Acer macrophyllum (big leaf maple), mostly because I grew up with an enormous one right at the edge of my backyard. As a kid, I learned to respect their splintery “helicopter” seeds, realized that some flowers can be green (my favorite colors), and enjoyed staring up into the many layers of huge leaves rising into the sky. Being around big leaf maples makes me feel at home.