Grace Chapman found her love of gardening while strolling among the topiaries at an amusement park in Florida.
“I always thought the landscaping was so cool,” she says. “So that’s what I wanted to do — landscape theme parks.”
“Then I was introduced to real horticulture,” she says.
That’s what she now practices as director of horticulture at LewisGinter Botanical Garden. “To be clear,” she says, “I don’t want to work at theme parks anymore.”
She came to the position two years ago, injecting new life and creativity into the 83 acres under her charge. Managing a staff of 20, she coordinated the design and construction of three new gardens, in the process bringing rare, new show plants to the attraction — an Amazon lily, for example, which has a pad that grows more than 6 feet in circumference. And under her leadership, the garden has expanded to offer interpretations of its exhibits for the visually impaired – a first for an American garden.
Chapman also has expanded Lewis Ginter’s kitchen garden, which has harvested 12,500 pounds of fresh produce for FeedMore’s Meals on Wheels program and other nonprofit food organizations.
Up next, Chapman says she’s launched an initiative to repair stream banks on the grounds and remove invasive species to improve the quality of water that runs from the grounds. “I’ve committed to this being a beautiful, positive place,” she says. “And I want to keep fostering that creatively in the garden.”