Student Spotlight: Spencer O’Bryan, Conservato…


Hi, I’m Spencer O’Bryan and I am
the Conservatory Management Intern here at Longwood. I’ve been working here for
a total of twelve-months now and will be leaving at the end of this week. I was
born and raised in upstate New York, and studied Geology at Carleton College. 

planting Guzmania ‘Hilda’ in the East

What is your favorite plant?

One of the first plants that drew
my eye was in the Garden Path inside the East Conservatory. Euphorbia cotinifolia, has beautiful
reddish-copper foliage and this is commonly called the Caribbean Copper Plant.
It is currently featured on the Flower Garden Walk this August, so be sure to
check it out if you come to visit the Gardens.

What is your favorite Garden? What is your favorite
part of Longwood?

The Philadelphia region is a
horticulture hotbed with more than 30 wonderful gardens to explore in the area.
My personal favorites are Chanticleer Garden, the Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore
College and of course, Longwood Gardens. At Longwood, my favorite areas include
the Cascade Garden, Silver Garden, Flower Garden Walk and the small gardens
surrounding it.

newly planted bed of Sanchezia and Chrysanthemum.

What is the best part of being a student?

I love living with other horticulturally
and environmentally conscious students. It has been wonderful exploring gardens
in the greater Philadelphia area with them during Longwood sponsored field
trips each Thursday, and during our own personal time as well.

assorted Tillandsia and Peperomia tree from the Christmas

What is your background in horticulture (or
whatever field you are in)?

I grew up gardening with my
parents and great-uncle at our home in upstate New York. I studied Geology at
Carleton College, and had a special love for courses involving plants. My
favorite courses at college included those pertinent to horticulture such as Paleobiology,
Hydrology, Geomorphology and Environmental Anthropology.

walkway during the March Blues Festival highlighting Scilla peruviana and Echium candicans.

Why did you want to come to Longwood and what
do you think helped you get the position?

The College and University
Internship Program at Longwood was a wonderful opportunity to explore a
life-long passion of mine. I have always loved plants and the chance to work
with them for an entire year was something I could not pass up. I had visited
Longwood years before applying and loved the Gardens— particularly the
Conservatory. I was drawn to the Conservatory Management internship for
numerous reasons. The staff are incredibly knowledgeable and each have their
own focus – succulents, tropical plants, aquatic plants, orchids, palms, ferns,
bonsai – and I have been able to work with each of these experts. I love the wide
diversity of plant palates in the Conservatory and that this position allowed
me to work with each type.

new planting in the Mediterranean Garden featuring Anigozanthos, Euphorbia
‘Diamond Frost’, Pelargonium, Salvia, Ornithogalum, and Felicia

What do you do at work? Highlight your
favorite project or what you do day-to-day.

Each day in the Conservatory is
different, though there are parallels across the board. We typically begin at
6:00 am and complete the big projects before opening to the public at 9:00 am.
These projects include display changes and large-scale grooming projects. We
have five major seasons at Longwood: Festival of Fountains (Summer),
Chrysanthemum Festival (Fall), A Longwood Christmas (Early Winter), Orchid Extravaganza
(Late Winter) and Spring Blooms (Spring). The start of these seasons means lots
of displays changes, particularly throughout the Orangery and East
Conservatory. These changes are very involved and can occur over a period of
weeks. The most intense change was for the Christmas season, which occurs over
three days before Thanksgiving.

of my favorite flowering plants: Salpiglossis
sinuata, commonly called Painted Tongue.

What are your future plans or what is your
intended career path?

My goal after completing this
internship is to continue to work in public horticulture. I have been inspired
by the staff members at Longwood and continue to learn on the job every day.

Article and Photos by Spencer O’Bryan