Worker gets to express her artistry at museum.
Shaded paths meander through lush plant life and alongside ponds in the “gardens” part of Memorial Art Museum and Gardens, 78 E Granada Blvd. While the traffic outside the park provides a background “white” noise, you can hear the cicada, and the wind rustling through the leaves and knocking the bamboo together.
Asked what people should know about the place, gardener Janett Taylor said, “That it’s here.”
She said a person needs to “slow their life down” to experience the gardens.
“If they’re buzzing down that highway, they won’t see it,” she said. She said people sometimes stop and say they are amazed that it’s here.
Taylor has been the gardener there for 34 years, and still loves every day.
“It’s such a beautiful and peaceful environment,” she said. “It’s a very special place. You can feel it. It’s natural and so full of life. It’s inspiring to be here even though it’s hard work. It’s the most peaceful place in town.”
She had two close calls in those 34 years when she almost had to leave the place she loves.
In the early 1990s, the city decided to privatize all of its gardening efforts. But citizens missed the special touch provided by Taylor, and complained to the City Commission. The officials made an exception in her case, and kept her on the payroll as the city’s only gardener.
In 2008, the city eliminated her position, in a move to outsource all landscaping work, but she was hired by the museum, a 501(c)3 organization, to do the gardening. The museum works in the partnership with the city, which owns the land.
The fact that she’s still there, pruning, trimming and planting, is a testament to the way she keeps the grounds.
Taylor said she only uses hand tools, and tries to make it look untouched. Even though she may remove a “huge truck load” of debris, she doesn’t want people to be able to tell where she worked.
Taylor has had some challenges over the years. Much of the gardens flooded after the 2004 hurricanes, many tropical plants were lost in a severe freeze in the early 1980s and there have been occasional droughts, but the plants always come back.
“The resilience of nature is amazing,” she said.
In addition to small plants, there’s a wide variety of trees, and she also enjoys seeing many migrating birds that have found the park to be a nice stopover.
Some of her practices might be copied by the home gardener. She’s careful to plan her workday so that she “follows the shade,” especially in the summer. Also, she said, a project might seem daunting when you think about it, but it’s often not that bad once you get started and “just do it.’
Susan Richmond, director of the museum, has found that Taylor has a creative and artistic nature that is valuable inside the museum. Taylor, who is also a musician, selects the music that accompanies the museum displays.
Richmond says Taylor is perfect for the position.
“She’s artistic and loves nature,” Richmond said. “She knows what plants will grow and also knows what will look good together.”
Another artistic contribution by Taylor is the impressions of leaves and pebbles in the walkways through the gardens. When the concrete was poured, she selected plants and pebbles to be placed in the wet concrete for a design.
Taylor said she gets to express her artistic side in her work as gardener.
“I don’t paint or draw, but create with living colors, the flowers,” she said.
Taylor found the place she wants to work, 34 years ago.
It’s a special place, she said.