THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC HAS SHUTTERED countless workplaces for the foreseeable future. But a botanic garden isn’t like most offices: The flowers and trees that live there don’t pay any mind to human health or anxieties, and they need a hand from their caretakers, especially at this time of year. “Right now is the season when everything has to happen with garden collections,” says Tim Johnson, director of the botanic garden at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.
At Smith, students are learning remotely, and the college grounds are closed to the public, but the plants and trees are of course staying put. The botanic garden team is navigating the thorny question of how to take care of them in an era of social distancing. “Everything is waking up, everything is demanding attention, from the indoor collections to the outdoor collections,” Johnson says.
To keep up with botanic gardens from a distance, you can peruse the Morton Arboretum’s at-home educational offerings or check in on the Conservatory of Flowers’s current stunners, including the giant water lily. The Smith College Botanic Garden and Chicago Botanic Garden are both blooming on social media. In the meantime, Atlas Obscura asked four botanic garden employees (including two Tim Johnsons—no relation!) how they’re caring for their leafy green charges in the midst of a tumultuous spring.
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