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Sub-Region: Colorado
State: Colorado
Staff Horticulturist - Botanical Interest Seeds
 

We're asking gardening experts from all over to tell a little about their background, gardening philosophies, favorite gardening books, gardening websites, and most importantly their plant recommendations. We're always looking for more experts to spotlight, so please contact us if you're interested in participating!

Biographical Information

Please tell us briefly about your favorite cause/business/product in which you are involved that you would like to share with the general public and why.

Botanical Interests seeds is a family owned business that has been providing gardeners with the best selection of home gardening varieties since 1995. Our large selection of almost 600 heirloom, OP and certified organic varieties is dispensed in the most informative packet available and always untreated and GMO FREE. Every packet is printed inside and out with everything you need to know to be successful with each variety. Our goal is to inspire and educate gardeners so that they can make good choices and grow prolific gardens from seed.

Tell us briefly about your favorite cause/business/product in which you are involved with that you would like to share with the general public and why.

I am a big supporter of the community gardening movement across the US. I am lucky that Botanical Interests helps me support these efforts with donations of seed and my time. I feel that having a relationship with the growing world is an integral part of our humanity. Community gardening allows people to discover or reclaim an important part of what it means to be human.

Where can members get more of your advice?

I am the Staff Horticulturist and Content Manager at Botanical Interests, so answering questions is part of my job on a daily basis. I can be reached on the Botanical Interests website in the 'contact us' link by clicking "ask our staff horticulturist". I can be found teaching seed starting seminars in the Denver Metropolitan area and around the country. I also write the In The Garden blog for Botanical Interests along with the informative articles that can be found on the site.

Background Information

Briefly describe the climate where you garden now (climate zone, state, area) and any other areas where you have gardened in the past.

I grew up in Western New York, with rich soil and ample rain. I always say it was a great place to learn to love horticulture. I now garden in the High Desert of Colorado's Front range. The soil is shallow, the rain is scant, the sun is blinding and the weather is schizophrenic. I always say it is a great place to learn to respect horticulture. The myriad challenges that gardeners face here make it a great place to develop all sort of trick and strategies. It has made the grower I am today.

How long have you been gardening?

I have been gardening for 23 years.

What triggered your interest?

When I was 12 my dad showed me a beet seed. He put what looked like a rock into the soil. We came back a couple of months later and there was food on the ground! Being the portly lad I was, this was my kind of magic! The fascination has never worn off.

What is your specialty, expertise or claim to fame?

 

What formal education do you have?

I hold a BS in Biological Sciences and a Masters of Science in Horticulture.

What is your favorite garden or plant-related topic? Tell us a little about them.

My current exploits include breeding vegetable crops that perform well in Colorado. I have a growing collection of plants in the Euphorbia genus and work with dormancy cycles in cacti and cactiform succulents. I have worked and researched in greenhouse crops and I always look for ways to involve myself in controlled environment agriculture.

What is your biggest gardening pet peeve? Tell us about it.

My biggest gardening peeve is the unfortunate lack of understanding that seems to exist about gardening and farming's role in nature. It seems that humanity fails to understand that we have taken part of nature out of context and that is the source of much our problems. When we try to put farms and gardens back into their natural system, every problem has an innate solution.

How much time per week do you spend gardening?

20-40 hours per week…it's part of my job.

How much time per week do you spend working at the business of gardening, such as consulting, reading, writing or talking about your gardening subject?

46 - 60 hours per week.

What gardening or horticultural clubs, societies, or organizations (or any other interest) do you belong to?

I belong to the 11th Ave Community Garden, Garden Writers of America, American Horticultural Society.

Gardening Questions

What do you like most about gardening?

Participating the cycles of the natural world.

What do you dislike most about gardening?

The possibility of skin cancer.

What individual has influenced your gardening interest the most? How?

I think the general public as a whole (i.e. my class attendants) act as mirror for my experiences with the plants world. I get the opportunity to share what I love with the general public on a regular basis, and it is their reaction to it that shows me where to go next, what to discover, and how to better translate the natural world to make understanding it feel more accessible.

What is your favorite place or activity in the garden?

I treasure the time I get to spend carefully pollinating my experimental plants.

What is your favorite time in the garden?

When it's raining.

What is your favorite public or private garden in the world? Why?

If I had to choose 1 place it would be the Japanese Garden at the Denver Botanic Gardens - Shofu-en. It is so purposefully designed and manicured that it is hard to see where nature ends and man begins.

What is your favorite color in the garden?

Blue.

If you could grow only one plant, what would it be?

Kale...ya got to eat.

What plant have you tried to grow that has given you the most trouble? Or, what plant would you like to grow and can't, and why?

I am currently determined to grow a hardy fig in Colorado. I can grow them in pots but they don't survive the winter here…yet.

What is your favorite gardening outfit or costume?

Bib overalls with no shoes.

Do you have a gardening philosophy you would like to share with other gardeners? What is it?

When you have a problem in your garden, look at how nature solves it and act accordingly.

Who is your own favorite gardening personality on TV, radio or in print? Why?

Eliot Coleman - he gave me a lot of well-founded hope for what is possible outside the bounds of the traditional gardening season.

What is a garden myth you hear frequently which you know is untrue?

Plants need a period of dark each night to perform certain essential functions.

And, what is the reality?

Plants do not require dark. There is nothing that plants do in the dark that they can't also do in the light. The famous "dark reactions" in plants should really have been called "light-independent reactions" because they don't require dark at all.

What group or kind of person do you think would benefit most from the advice you can give on gardening?

I like to think that gardeners of all level can learn something from just about any advice, whether it's tips and tricks of the how-to's or insight into the bigger ideas that connect all the plants we grow.

Would you like to participate, or can you recommend someone who you think should? We're always looking for more expert gardeners to tell about their philosophies and give their plant recommendations contact us and we'll get started (it's easy and a great way to promote yourself).

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Ryan Schmitt
Author: Ryan Schmitt
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