For many of our residents and visitors, our parks are a place to take a stroll, exercise, and/or enjoy the nature that surrounds us. But for others (like some of our staff) our parks are their office five days a week.

While nature does its thing and helps define the way our parks look, did you know that there’s a team of people who spend nearly every minute of their work week making sure that the parks are as beautiful as can be? We wanted to investigate a little bit more about what it’s like to be a horticulturist, so we recently sat down with Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation’s own Kris DeBerry. Here’s what we learned.

park flower1. Our horticulturists do a lot of research. Though a great deal of it is, not all of their work is hands on. Our horticulture team also spends a lot of time researching plant trends to ensure that our parks are following best practices when it comes to the landscaping!

2. What we might not notice, they certainly do. That bench was always there, right? And that tree was always that shape and size? Not necessarily! Since our horticulturists are in the parks five days a week, they notice every change no matter how subtle it may be. The act of simply observing how things look is a huge part of their job!

3. They’ve got an eye for design. Horticulturists are artists in their own way. Making our parks beautiful isn’t as simple as putting plants wherever there’s space. Our team considers the way things will look as they grow, plus they think about factors such as how the location of a plant will affect park goers.

4. Sometimes adjustments have to be made. Changing conditions can have a big impact on whether or not a plant continues to thrive where it was originally placed. So, our horticulturists have to pay close attention to the way environments shift over time to ensure that the plants are still in the best location possible. In some cases, they may have to move or replace them for the best results.

5. Time is of the essence. There’s a good time and a bad time to complete certain tasks, which makes scheduling very important! For example, the opportunity to plant seasonal color comes twice a year – April and November. Pruning grasses and perennials also has a specific timeframe – February and March. To keep things looking their best, our team has to be very attentive to when they do things in addition to how they do things.

6. They cover a LOT of ground (literally!). The horticulture team maintains everything in the mulched areas of our parks. Considering that their territory includes the County parks within the many municipalities that make up Mecklenburg County, you can imagine they’re very busy. Even when it isn’t planting season or time to complete tasks like fertilizing, they continue to make their rounds to ensure that everything is properly maintained and that all issues are addressed.

7. We can do a lot to help! This is a big one. Many of the plants that are low to the ground or aren’t fenced-in see foot traffic that makes it difficult for them to thrive. To give our horticulturists a hand and to keep our parks looking their absolute best, we as park goers should be careful not to walk through the gardens and be attentive to where our pets are doing their business.

Oh, and one final thing – our horticulture team would love to talk to you, so don’t hesitate to say hello if you see them around! They’re a wealth of information that can help with your own garden. Here are some tips they’ve already shared with us.