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  • Writer's pictureMartha Keen

Jenna Bachman: For the Love of Plants

Jenna Bachman is a Philadelphia-based horticulturist who currently works at Andalusia Historic House and Gardens, a sprawling landscape dating back more than 200 years and located immediately adjacent to the Delaware River. Previously, she was a Garden Design Lead at Terrain, where she worked directly with clients to implement gardens and container displays as well as the occasional floral arrangement for events. Jenna's career in horticulture developed from her keen sense of observation and patient curiosity about native plants. She majored in Environmental Science at Kutztown University and got an additional horticultural certificate from the Professional Gardener Program at Longwood Gardens. Moreover, Jenna's drive to experience plants thriving in their native range has taken her all over the United States, including internships cultivating alpine plants at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail, Colorado and in the meadow garden at Mt Cuba Center in Hockessin, Delaware, as well as a formative period as a gardener at Montrose Gardens in Hillsborough, North Carolina.

Thank you, Jenna, for your thoughtful responses and captivating photographs!


WinH: You obviously garden for work, tell us a little bit about how you garden for play?

JB: Living in the city [of Philadelphia] is a challenge when it comes to gardening for play so I have to get creative. One of my favorite ways to play with plants is to find an empty lot begging for a bit more beauty, throw some poppy and nigella seeds down and hope for something amazing to happen. I also have a small plot in fishtown where I grow vegetables and cut flowers and keep connected with larger community gardening projects.

Jenna's Fishtown, Philadelphia community garden; a farm to table dinner there

WinH: What do you think about while you weed?

JB: I cherish the thinking time I get from weeding. My mind often bops around from an existential question, to a social issue, to a matter of the heart, but mostly I’m appreciating the garden and entertaining new ideas about the space I’m working in.

Jenna weeding the Easter Garden at Andalusia

WinH: How do your travels inform your work? Have you incorporated anything you've seen elsewhere into your practice here?

JB: I would say my travels inform my work and my work informs my travels. My favorite part of traveling is seeing what I recognize as an ornamental or landscape plant in its native environment. I don’t think I’ve used a specific combination that I’ve seen in travels but I know I get a better understanding of the culture of many plants through traveling and a better sense of design. Admiring the balance of groupings of plants vs. sporadic placement of plants that you find in nature has taught me so much about making a captivating naturalistic design.

scenes from a trip to Italy in 2017

WinH: Most treasured tool or article of clothing to use outside? JB: I love a good sharp soil knife! So versatile, I feel lost trying to garden without one.

WinH: Favorite heirloom vegetable?

JB: Mmmmmm a Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato- so beautiful and tasty. Thinking about eating one is bringing me right back to summer.

WinH: Preferred foliage for arranging?

JB: I love arranging with Autumn Olive, or Eleagnus. It’s so easy to forage and it’s an invasive species in this area so I always hope that I’m doing a bit of good but cutting from it so heavily. The foliage goes well with so many color palettes which made it a go to for wedding arrangements when I was at Terrain.

top: versatile autumn olive clippings utilized in a floral design installation;

bottom grid: a sampling of Jenna's projects for private clients of Terrain

WinH: What is your motto?

JB: Always give love and remember to accept it too! This is my motto for life but I think it can be applied to the garden as well.

WinH: Is there a topic in our field you would like to see discussed, addressed or explored more often?

JB: Accessibility to horticulture, whether it’s food access or the affordability of a public garden, is something that should be deeply considered throughout this industry. It’s increasingly important to make sure the inspiration, joy, and education that you get from visiting a public garden is truly public in the sense that it’s accessible to all people, no matter their economic status.

WinH: What's something you learned early in your career that you feel made you a better gardener?

JB: To slow down, and take the time to observe plants closely, whether it’s in the garden or in nature. This has helped me learn so much that could never be taught by a person or book. It has led me to constantly be taking pictures of the garden and very careful notes that are so important!

WinH: And lastly...What is your go-to midday snack?

JB: Anything involving chocolate! Chocolate is the perfect pick me up to get me through the morning.

a gardener' view of Montrose. Click through to see more!

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