Zoo FAQ: What's Growing in the Gardens?
Getting to the Root of Your Questions About the Zoo's Gardens
The zoo’s gardeners let their lovingly pruned plants and cultivated blooms speak for themselves. But while these green thumbs tend to blend in with their leafy surroundings, they often field questions from visitors intrigued by their activities and impressive results.
Director of Horticulture Brian Houck answers five of the most frequent garden-related queries:
1. How do you choose your plants?
All gardeners are passionate about their plant choices, and we’re no exception. We consider many factors home gardeners also scrutinize: amount of sun/shade, if the location is wet or dry, height, how we’ll be able to water this plant and, finally, blooms and how the plant contributes to the garden aesthetically. Unique to the zoo, we consider height to make sure children can see over plants to spot the animals too!
2. Why are you pulling out those nice-looking plants?
We do swap out water-thirsty plants for ones that can survive with far less water. We also harvest plant material that can be fed to certain animals to add variety and nutrition to their meals.
3. How do you work in and around animal exhibits?
Teamwork is critical! We work closely with animal keepers to access these areas and do these projects with as many people—and as quickly—as possible. It can be a lot of fun for the garden volunteers to be in an animal’s exhibit one morning.
4. What do you do in winter?
The gardeners work just as hard in the winter, but yes, the work does change. Pruning trees and shrubs keeps us very busy on the zoo’s 49 acres. Admittedly, on those very cold days even the gardeners are inside working on the next year’s garden plans or the zoo’s interiorscapes.
5. How do I volunteer?
The Volunteer Information Sessions held in February are a great place to start. You’ll learn about the horticulture volunteer program and can sign up for an interview. Garden volunteers have great camaraderie and share a passion for contributing in a meaningful and direct way. Their caretaking efforts are directly connected to the success of the zoo’s gardens.
By Craig Keller • Published February 21, 2014 • Originally published in Winter 2013 Lincoln Park Zoo Magazine