A Winter Home for our Plants in the Nursery

Tue., Dec. 7, 2021

By Greg Wright, Nursery Manager

Every year right before winter, we move our plants (that aren’t already in a polytunnel) from our lath house or our large container area into winter storage to provide them with an extra layer of winter protection. This year we accomplished this the week before Thanksgiving.

Herbaceous plants get moved into a polytunnel while larger trees and shrubs are moved into a barn designed for winter storage. This is a large undertaking every year with hundreds of plants being moved. It does beg the question as to why? Are the plants not hardy in this area?

The answer is yes, most of the plants that are grown at the nursery are winter hardy. However, because the plants are in pots and not in the ground, their roots can suffer damage or even death in extreme freezes especially if they aren’t insulated with a cover of snow or compost. When the nursery was built at the current location a cold storage barn was constructed utilizing a Scandinavian design. The barn is built of cinderblock, insulated, and covered with siding. The goal is to keep the temperature between 28 and 35 degrees. To do so, it has both systems for heating and cooling. It is designed to not pull in outside air if the temperature outside is below 28 degrees or above 35 degrees. The heaters will only turn on if the temperature inside goes below the 28 degrees. There are no grow lights needed as the plants are in a dormant state and don’t need light. Although some yellowing can occur on evergreen trees or shrubs, they tend to green up just fine once they are back out in the sunlight in the spring. Herbaceous plants don’t tend to do well in the conditions of the barn and thus they are stored in a polytunnel for the winter.

Moving the plants in and out is a big job, and we wouldn’t be able to get the job done without extra help. For the last two years we have enlisted the help of the students from the Gates Mills Environmental Education Center. The students are learning about and developing skills in horticulture. This is a great program with different areas of focus that the students can participate in landscape horticulture, greenhouse, and floriculture. They have dedicated teachers who really care about the students and provide training and support, not just in the subject, but also in practical professional skills. These students have helped us immensely in the Nursery and we appreciate their hard work in what is sometimes unpleasant weather to say the least.

Polyhouses at HFG’s nursery
Students helping move plants from the large container area
The cold storage barn at HFG’s nursery

Greg Wright

Greg Wright

Nursery Manager

Greg Wright is the Nursery Manager at the Arboretum campus. Greg has degrees in horticulture and landscape architecture. He started his career at the Arboretum in 1999 as a manager in the Education department after completing an education master plan for the USU Botanical Center as part of his Landscape Architecture degree. Within the education department, he managed our Intern Program and the Landscape Horticulture Certificate program that we had at the time. Greg transferred over to the nursery in fall of 2004 as a Nursery Technician and began managing the Nursery in 2007.


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