I had the opportunity to do my Spring 2018 internship at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. The Arboretum is run by the U.S.D.A.’s Agricultural Research Service and hosts many different types of gardens and exhibits. I had three different tasks: spend four Saturdays working in the National Herb Garden, create herbal monographs for several herbs that I worked with, and finally, to assist in the design, planning, and execution of a workshop on herbal bitters that would be held on the Arboretum grounds in August.
The work in the gardens provided a new appreciation for the hard work horticulturists put in. My internship started with hours of carrying and planting herbs, and digging up tulip bulbs from the Spring entrance display. The next Saturday, I planted enough corn and sugarcane to fill in the entire display we had dug up the week before. I pulled weeds, planted lemon balm, and pruned other herbs. Dozens of people stopped to ask questions, providing an opportunity to share knowledge about the plants. During my two remaining days of work, I pulled weeds and helped shape plants in the Medicinal, Native American, and Culinary Herb Gardens. The hard work in the garden paid off because I learned new gardening skills such as the right planting depth, proper pruning, and all about several garden pests. These skills will be very useful for cultivating my own herbs.
Creating the herbal monographs required a lot of research, my own organoleptic experience, and taking photos of properly identified plants. The monographs can be viewed here. The final task, preparing for the Bitters Workshop, required extensive soft skills. I worked with the Arboretum staff via email, telephone, and through live collaboration sessions where we edited documents as we exchanged ideas.
Each of the three tasks was very different from the others. I was able to do some manual labor, research, and event planning all surrounding herbs. In the end, I walked away with some cultivation skills, experience creating monographs, and an appreciation for the amount of coordination that goes into planning events.
Disclaimer: Due to the beauty of Arboretum, I took an obscene amount of photos from May – July so I captured both Spring and Summer in the Herb Garden.