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Winter is Coming: An Interview with Rough Point’s Estate Gardener, Tessa Young

As Rough Point Museum wraps up its regular season, our Estate Gardeners must also prepare the gardens for the upcoming winter. We took some time to interview Estate Gardener, Tessa Young, to see what goes into winterizing the grounds of Rough Point, what the camels will be up to, as well as what not to miss when you visit the museum this fall and winter. Listen here or read the transcript below!



Could you remind us about how many different people are on the Grounds crew, and then what it is that you do and how that would change during this time of year heading into fall and winter? 

Tessa Young: Currently there are four people on the Grounds Crew. There’s one full time employee (he’s the Groundskeeper), one seasonal Groundskeeper, and then another employee who is an assistant to Grounds and Gardens. And then there’s me, as the Estate Gardener.

This time of year heading into fall, it’s a lot of leaf cleanup and leaf blowing after the drought of the summer. Typically in the past few years we’ve had droughts, so the grass is finally coming back. There’s minimal grass mowing, and that’s all on the Grounds side of things. Then on my side, it’s a lot of cutting back plants as they expire in the gardens and starting to slowly get all the plants cut down in preparation for the winter so that the gardens will be bare for the spring.


What happens to the [living sculpture] camels over the winter?

TY: Over the winter, the camels just hang out where they are. The plants go dormant and some of them do unfortunately die over the winter, just from the cold. And then in the spring we’ll get back to taking care of them and clean them up for when you guys come and visit when it gets warm out again.


Do you, as a gardener, typically spend this time doing more planning for the future, or is there stuff that happens indoors as well?

TY: In some ways there is planning. I’ve been walking around looking at bare places that could have fall flowers, and I’m thinking about what I could plant next year so that this time of year there’s more to offer in this season. Otherwise when it gets a little bit colder, I’ll start ordering more Dahlia tubers for the spring to plant and thinking about what kind of color scheme I might want out there next year. I’m also getting all the different Kitchen Garden seeds for vegetable crops in order and making a list of things that I might want to add, or different seed packets I might need to get for the future.

During this time of year as well, we winterize the fig trees in the Kitchen Garden and the Banana Tree in the Tropical Garden. So with the fig trees, this’ll be our second year trying this new method which worked very well last year. We tie them together into almost teepee shapes and then we wrap them with moving blankets. Then on top of that, we wrapped them with heavy duty, sheeted, plastic wrap and they stay there until it stops being so cold at night. When the temperatures start to regulate, then we take that all off. Sometimes there is some deadheading just from some frozen branches from the top down that we have to take care of. With the Banana Tree, I cage it off with some chicken fence and build a cage around it. I then layer a whole bunch of fall leaves on top of that to help keep it warmer in there so that the core doesn’t die and freeze over the winter.


We still get people who comment on how spectacular and beautiful the grounds are even into the fall and winter. Even though it’s clearly different than when it blooming, is there something that you find special or attractive about the grounds when it’s in this stasis?

TY: The winter time is a great time on the Rough Point grounds to really notice how spectacular our Pines and Yews are here. We have a great number of really old Yews, which you don’t see a lot of at that kind of age. It’s a specimen tree. You don’t see a lot of those sorts of trees around very often. That’s really the time to appreciate evergreens. And if you’re here on a day that it snows, or there’s snow on the ground or in the trees, that’s really great too. Especially looking at the Turkey Oak because it’s such a big magnificent tree. Just having the branches laden with the snow is a really pleasant experience.

And even in the barrenness of the gardens, there’s something beautiful in that because you can use your imagination and try to think about what might be coming in the following spring, without it being so busy and already presented to you. That’s a fun [way to] look at it in the winter time.


Rough Point Museum closes for the regular season after Sunday, November 15. You can also join us for A Rough Point Holiday coming weekends this holiday season starting Friday, November 27. Click here to learn more.


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