Meet the Governors Island Gardeners

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Gardening team at work planting bulbs in Liggett Terrace.
This year, thanks to generous donations from supporters, Governors Island was able to hire our first-ever team of full-time, year-round gardeners. This small but mighty team of five cares for the 120 acres of open space on Governors Island–that’s the equivalent of 158 football fields! Each gardener focuses on a certain section, or “zone” of the Island’s open spaces within the Historic District, and new park on the Southern portion of the Island. Assisted by the many helping hands of our corporate and individual volunteers, the team made a lot of great progress this year, including sowing 12 acres of seeds in the Hills, Hammock Grove and Liggett Terrace, pruning nearly 1,000 of the young trees in the new park and planting nearly 8,000 bulbs, which will bloom in 2020. Read on to learn more about the team and their important work.

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Gardeners Dana (left) and Ben (right) working in their respective zones.

Malcolm
Gardening Zone: Hammock Grove
Tell us more about Hammock Grove: In addition to hammocks, Hammock Grove is home to the largest concentration of trees on the Island – 1,400 individual trees of 40 different species. I prune and care for them to foster a healthy and dynamic urban forest.
Favorite plant on the Island: Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)–part of my job is to remove this invasive plant from the landscapes. I have a healthy respect for my adversary!
Favorite place on the Island: Picnic Point, with it’s great view of the Statue of Liberty

Ben
Gardening Zone: Hammock Grove
What’s your day-to-day work like?: My role is to remove invasive phragmites and mugwort from Hammock Grove, so it remains a beautiful place for visitors to enjoy.
Favorite plant on the Island: Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)
Favorite place on the Island: Hammock Grove is divided into sections we call petals (because they look like the petals of a flower)–my favorite part of the Island is petal 12, near the Urban Farm.

Dana
Gardening Zone:
Liggett Terrace
What’s your favorite thing about Liggett Terrace?: Liggett Terrace is a unique space to build upon my fine gardening and design experience, as it is a formal garden connecting the older, historic North Island, and the newer, experimental South Island. I love that Liggett allows me the chance to play with flowers and colors.
Favorite plant on the Island: American Elm (Ulmus americana)
Favorite place on the Island: Nolan Park in the historic district

Chris
Gardening Zone: the Hills
Tell us more about the Hills: The four Hills were designed to help the Island be more resilient to climate change and rising sea levels. In addition to providing a great view for visitors, they’re also home to 42,000 shrubs and 800 trees that increase the Island’s biodiversity and attract pollinators and birds.
Favorite plant on the Island: Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida)
Favorite place on the Island: Discovery Hill

Kevin
Gardening Zone: Outlook Hill and Discovery Hill
Which is your favorite of the four Hills?: Slide Hill is probably the most fun hill. I make sure it remains a fun place for kids of all ages to climb and play.
Favorite plant on the Island: Summer Sweet Shrub (Clethra alnifolia)
Favorite place on the Island: Rachel Whiteread’s Cabin on Discovery Hill

While Governors Island is closed for the season, the Horticulture team is still actively keeping the Island’s plants and landscapes healthy during the winter, while also strategically planning for the upcoming season. Keeping Governors Island vibrant is a year-round job!

Want to support the gardening team? Consider making a donation. Donations support their work to care for and beautify Governors Island’s landscapes, ensuring this Island remains a lush oasis for all New Yorkers to enjoy.

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Chris at work with young volunteer gardeners.