Horticulture Diaries: The Wind Orchid

Gardening, Horticulture

I first learned about the Gardens just days before I saw the help wanted ad. My interview was on a cold March morning, and snow still covered most of the ground. I pulled my zipper up to my chin as we walked through the gardens. I wasn’t sure what to expect—I had no background in horticulture, and I didn’t have a degree or any professional experience. What I did have was a love for gardening and being amongst the greener things in life.

We walked from the horticulture building towards the Visitor Center, then onto the main campus. “We” being myself and the man who was trying to decide if I would be a good fit or not. He was talking, telling me the Gardens’ history. He told me a little about himself and about the small staff he had just introduced me to.

I was listening, but I was too excited to actually hear what he was saying. I’m sure that I nodded, and I must have answered questions, but I was looking around at the gardens. I knew that, beneath the snow, plants were waiting to emerge. All around were colors waiting to burst forth. Aromas were nearing the surface, ready to spread with the breeze. Just weeks away, people would fill these pathways.

And then, among all that stillness, something caught my eye.

Off in the distance, a moving shape glistened and danced in the wind. I will never forget that moment.  Thirteen years later, and I can still recall the feeling. We walked closer to it and with each step, I felt my breath catch. Among the cold stones and bare branches of winter, art moved before me.

The Wind Orchid, created by George Sherwood, just took my breath away. There on the edge of the Great Lawn, it swirled ever so gently until a gust of wind sent it dancing faster. Just the slightest breath of air would bring it to life. It was mesmerizing. We stood for a moment, but I could have stayed for hours. The cold wind no longer bit at me or, if it did, I no longer noticed.

I didn’t know if I would get the job or not. My only qualifications were a good work ethic and a love of plants. But I did know, at that moment, I needed to be at the Gardens. Something had stirred in me on that cold March day, and, still now, not a day goes by that my breath doesn’t catch at the beauty before me.