2021 Season Wrap Up: Horticulture Interns

17, Aug, 2021

Written by Phoebe Westbrook, Horticulture Intern

Hello, my name is Phoebe Westbrook, and I am a Horticulture Intern at the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy this summer. I am a rising junior at the University of Maine, double majoring in Environmental Horticulture and Wildlife Ecology. I was born and raised in Binghamton, New York, which is where I got my start gardening at our high school’s community garden. It was there where I learned the importance of sustainable agriculture, and where I began to develop a deep love for and understanding of the natural world. With this foundation, I began my first year of college knowing I was interested in some sort of Environmental Studies but not quite sure which direction I wanted to take it in until I took my first Dendrology class (in which we studied trees and woody shrubs) and I learned about 150 native species. 

Everything kind of clicked after that. I liked seeing how everything in the ecosystem was connected and, because my Dendrology professor, Dr. Peter Pekins, was also my Wildlife Ecology professor, I had a well-rounded view of the interconnectedness of the world. My previous school had Horticulture as a minor, but in an attempt to immerse myself further I went looking for an internship that would build upon the knowledge I had already possessed. This led me to The Greenway and the Greenway Conservancy, and to one of the most rewarding and influential experiences I have had in my life. 

At the Greenway Conservancy, every day brings something new. The people and the atmosphere are unlike any other place I’ve been. It’s weird (in a good way) to come to such a busy and urban setting and see so many familiar faces every day. But being in such an urban setting also brings such unique challenges, especially when managing 1.5 miles of green space organically. During my time here I learned things such as how to water effectively, proper pruning, how to orient plants for aesthetic appeal, among many other expected gardening tasks. But I also learned about compost tea, and how different soil depths affect plant health and moisture retention. I experienced the joy of hand weeding clover from a grass lawn and pest management without the use of pesticides. Some of these things could have easily been learned elsewhere, but this is such a special place, that is cared for in such a special way, that a lot of it couldn’t have been learned elsewhere. 

I was also given the opportunity to complete a research project of my choosing, and not really knowing what piqued my interest, I took inspiration from a past project of creating a green wall. A green wall is a vertical structure fixed with live plants and it is either hand watered or has an attached irrigation system. As opposed to the previous version of green walls on The Greenway, my project would be completely self-sustaining, with a solar-powered irrigation system. This project definitely came with some feedback, as I was very excited to just start building and see what happened. I was reminded to slow down and really think through how this would work. With help from my colleagues, including Ecological Health Care Horticulturist Tori Hiney, I was able to design an 8’x2’ prototype for a green wall to be hung in the park. The demo green wall will be completed around the end of August, and if all goes to plan you just might be seeing a full-sized green wall come next summer! 

I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to work with such determined, benevolent, and intelligent folks at the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy and am very much looking forward to the organization’s future as a leader in organic horticulture.

Phoebe’s internship is one of three summer workforce development opportunities made possible through a generous grant from Citizens.