IAA Internship Stories: Meg Smolinski
Meg Smolinski - Heading to the Great Outdoors
Second semester IAA horticulture student, Meg Smolinski, spent nine years working indoors as an executive assistant for Smithsonian Associates before deciding to pursue a career in the great outdoors. Smolinski’s interest in plants led her to volunteer with Smithsonian Gardens and later, to pursue her Master Gardener Certification and to enroll in the IAA. This past summer, Smolinski was chosen as one of five horticulture interns to work at Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, in Charlottesville, Virginia.
At Monticello, Smolinski divided her time between different areas of the historic property. She spent three weeks caring for flower beds that surround the house on the west lawn, which consisted mostly of perennials and annuals. She spent three weeks at the Visitors Center grounds and three weeks working with the fruit gardener in the vineyards and orchard. During her remaining time, Smolinski performed all sorts of gardening jobs, including “using a tiny shovel to put tiny seeds into a tiny envelope” said Smolinski, referring to the task of filling Monticello seed packets with seeds from plants grown on the property. Rainy days were usually spent filling the seed packets for eventual sale. Many of the seeds packaged were from plants that Thomas Jefferson received from the Lewis and Clark expedition.
When Smolinski began her internship, she wanted to learn more about pruning techniques and plant identification. With the help of the Monticello staff, she not only improved her pruning techniques, but also improved her skills in planting, weeding, raking, edging, watering, greenhouse work such as potting up new plants, inspecting sprinkler operations, harvesting grapes, apples and peaches and assisting with revolutionary garden tours. As an unexpected bonus, Smolinski learned how to operate a Trimble GPS system to remap the south orchard of Monticello.
After graduation from the IAA, Smolinski would like to work in a public garden because of the educational component. “Public outreach is such an integral aspect of public gardens,” explains Smolinski, who would love to teach in the great outdoors.