College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Institute of Applied Agriculture

IAA Internship Stories: Adeline McCaul

Author: 
Salvador Fawkes
Adeline McCaul spent her summer at work in a "Garden for the Ages" at Washington D.C.'s National Cathedral.
Image Credit: 
Meredith Epstein

Stewardship of the land has long been ingrained into our culture. Whether from the stories of Adam and Eve living off the fruits from the Garden of Eden or the stories of humble shepherds rising to the occasion, agriculture impacts our daily lives and it is reflected in our nation’s capital. 

Washington D.C. claims some of the most beautiful gardens: the National Arboretum, U.S. Botanical Gardens, the Smithsonian Gardens, and perhaps the most sacred, the Bishop’s Garden located at the Washington National Cathedral.

The Bishop’s Garden, known as “Garden for the Ages” occupies 59 acres surrounding Washington, D.C.’s National Cathedral and requires constant attention. Who keeps the weeds and hedges from overgrowing? Who helps the roses keep their lustrous glow? This summer Adeline McCaul, a Sustainable Agriculture major at the IAA, held the responsibility of caring for the Bishop’s Garden. Each morning, she walked the grounds to assess which areas needed to be tended that day. Watering and weeding are the two major daily activities, and with a garden as big as the Bishop’s Garden it could take most of the day just to finish weeding one area.

McCaul grew up in Takoma Park, MD, caring for plants and running around outside. “I loved working outside all day and seeing the sunrise, she says of her internship. “I realized how much I’d missed just being outside.”

She was exposed to a plethora of flora and fauna where she worked as a rosarian, cultivating rose bushes. McCaul explains that her time at the garden helped her gain more experience in plant identification. Her advisor Meredith Epstein says, “Addie landed an impressive internship that allowed her to explore her many interests in the world of horticulture. I think she got two amazing things: she realized her passion lies in the agricultural production side of gardening, and she’s become a plant I.D. whiz!”

McCaul says she had many interesting encounters at the garden, but perhaps the strangest incident was coming face-to-face with death. A long-standing but seemingly frowned upon tradition at the Bishop’s Garden has seen locals and tourists alike coming to spread the ashes of loved ones. McCaul, who arrived at the garden at 6 a.m. each day, had the pleasure of taking care of the remains in a conscientious manner.

She says her internship was an eye-opening experience and that her time working in an ornamental garden made her realize she really wants to work in agronomy, where she can directly help those in need with food security. McCaul says, “I’m glad I had a chance to work in such a long-standing garden where I have been able to expand my taxonomic knowledge of plants. If you’re ever in D.C. near the Cathedral, make sure to take a tour of the garden. And, who knows, you might just see a spirit.”

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