By: Ken Darsney, Curator of Horticulture

Being someone who has decided to work outside for a living, there are two questions I get asked more than anything else.

The first, which happens in the summer, is: “Hot enough for ya?

at which I reply, “Yes. Yes it is.

The second, and much more legitimate, question is:

What do you guys do in the winter if it doesn’t snow?

Well, I figured I would spend this introductory blog listing the top five things we do in the winter.

1. Tree Work

Without their leaves, trees are much easier to climb for corrective pruning, and create less mess if you are completely removing them.  We can more easily see defective branching, physical damage, and signs of inner issues, such as fungal growths and bark peeling.  Also, the (normally) frozen ground lends access to the trees with trucks and equipment that would normally cause damage to the root system.

2. Mechanic Work

Since we have a limited amount of the season to operate our equipment, it usually is run hard, for long periods of time, with as little downtime as possible.  Now is the perfect time to thoroughly go through our equipment, make any repairs that had to be postponed during the busy season, and completely prep and maintain the machinery, so when the season cranks up we can run them hard, for long periods of time, with as little downtime as possible.

3. Greenhouse Production

The greenhouse is getting busy now, with seeds being ordered, indoor plants being stored and groomed, and potting mixes being delivered and prepped.


4. Pruning

This is an excellent time to perform one of the most critical steps in the long-term health of an evergreen shrub, depth pruning.  This is a practice most often performed on boxwood and holly, although it can be performed on any shrub that you are trying to keep contained within certain space.  Depth pruning involves removing portions of the shrub, not too large, in a uniform way, so as to increase air circulation within the shrub, and allow light to penetrate the inner sections of the shrub to encourage new growth.

5. Regroup and Plan

This is probably the most important, and frankly, the most fun, part of we are doing this time of year.  We’ve just been through the non-stop gauntlet of mowing, weeding, watering, watering, weeding, a hurricane!!, more watering, snow on Halloween?!?, leaves, leaves, leaves, holiday decorations, etc.  The holiday season is kind of the gardeners way of busting across the finish line, and now it’s time to sit down, analyze what worked and what didn’t from the past season, make changes and adjustments for next season, and start waiting for spring.

Ken Darsney has been in horticulture since 1991, spending 16 years with a large-scale residential and commercial landscape firm before going into business with his wife, Angie, in 2005, with a company specializing in estate maintenance. He joined HCA in 2011 with an interest in sustainable landscapes, noting that “a healthy landscape ecosystem is the best defense against pest and disease,” which lends itself the Division’s mission. Ken and Angie have two boys, 7 and 3, so he doesn’t have much in the way of free time, but he does get out into the woods as much as possible.