Our featured IrisBG community member for the month of August is Jaime Frye, the Assistant Curator of Living Collections, at Newfields in Indianapolis, Indiana. She shares with us a story of her journey into horticulture, a tip about snips, and a science-related dream.
How did you begin your career in Horticulture?
I definitely took the “long way around” in my path towards horticulture. I grew up spending summers semi-feral in the woods surrounding our neighborhood, but was raised the daughter of a scientist. I wanted to follow in his footsteps when I went to college, but quickly learned that math, hours in a lab, and the competitive nature of academia was not a good fit for me. The first summer of college I worked for a mom-and-pop garden center under an amazing third-generation plantsman (Hendrik Verkade III) who taught me how wild and fascinating the world of plants could be. From there I took my first horticulture classes and quickly realized I had found “my people”, never looking back.
I took a job at the South Carolina Botanical Garden while I was in school that taught me about plant collecting and ex-situ conservation, followed by internships at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University and Polly Hill Arboretum that solidified my passion for living collections management, and eventually landed at New York Botanical Garden for a couple of years focusing on plant records and curatorial work. I feel uniquely fortunate to have had so many incredible mentors that took the time to guide me towards a career specifically geared towards my personality and skillset.
Is there a particular tree or plant or that you have learned a valuable lesson from or about?
I’m always going to default to my love of Shortia galacifolia, but I’ll let you read my ramblings on that via the link. I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to toot the horn of the American Public Garden Association's (APGA) Plant Nomenclature & Taxonomy Community and Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries’ (CBHL) hard work creating a resource on potentially problematic common names.
I helped these communities over two years work on collecting, analyzing, and promoting this incredible information that I think is an interesting, thought-provoking read (you can download the pdf from the APGA website), regardless of what part of our industry you’re focused on. The communities really pulled together to produce this massive lift and I’m so tickled that I got the opportunity to be a part of it.
What's the best thing about your current position?
I love the autonomy that the Newfields leaders (Jonathan Wright and Chad Franer specifically) give me to follow passion projects and build programs to better our institution. They’ve put a lot of trust in me to come in and become a resource for numerous departments within our institution, and I have loved the challenges and opportunities that brings with it. I’ve had a lot of growing moments, with many more to come, and it’s been wonderful to spend time stretching my wings under a single institution long term.
Which garden tool/aid could you not live without?
At work, I’m starting to become awfully attached to my new tablet, and am working through finding a field data collection method that suits my style and needs. From a garden perspective, though, I’m almost never without my little pocket snips. They’re relatively inexpensive and I use them for EVERYTHING. Harvesting cut flowers/veggies? Check. Cutting jute? Check. Snipping zip-ties that we use to hold together all of our seasonal festivals? Perfection. They’re tiny, accurate, and fit ever so well into an overalls pocket.
Can you share a favorite blog / book/ film/ podcast?
I am an Ologies-obsessed girlie. If you are a generally curious person who loves learning about different science-related subjects this podcast hosted by Alie Ward will breathe life into you. There are some delightful plant-related episodes (Bryology, Carnivorous Phytobiology, Dendrology, Cucurbitology, Cycadology, and Foraging Ecology to highlight a few) but so many more wonderful, wild things to learn about that I never knew I wanted to know (Hagfishology anyone?).
I may have a (not so secret) dream of getting to do a “PlantRecordsOlogy” episode with her someday to gab about the magical science/accounting/education world that is plant collections management! Feel free to spam her suggestion box here.
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