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First Person

Making Boston’s Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway bloom

Horticulturist Darrah Cole savors bringing people and plants together. See for yourself at a free Greenway Horticulture Tour.

Boston, MA - 03/19/15 - Darrah Cole, a horticulturist for the Rose Kennedy Greenway, in the bamboo forest in Chinatown Park on Surface Road downtown. Lane Turner/Globe Staff Section: MAG Reporter: Slug: 040515first

Lane Turner/Globe staff

I arrived at my current role through a rather nontraditional path. I studied sculpture and glass blowing with Dale Chihuly at RISD. Afterward, I worked with various art forms, but supported myself as a chef. I ended up running my own organic farm and learning horticulture at a rare plant nursery, where I met Martha Stewart and took a job as the garden manager at her summer home on Mount Desert Island in Maine. Working for Martha was a great opportunity in a very special place in the world.

When I came for my job interview here, it was the first time I visited the Greenway. I walked most of the park — from North Station to Dewey Square — [about] a mile and a half. I learned that it is comprised of five distinctly designed parks, each with a very different and diverse plant palette. I was very attracted to the fact that it was a new park, a public park, and a dynamic situation full of new challenges.

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There are two things that often surprise people about the Greenway. One thing, we manage it 100 percent organically with no use of herbicides and toxins, so children and pets can safely enjoy playing on the lawns and any water runoff won’t pollute Boston Harbor. Another is it’s basically a rooftop garden on top of the 93 highway tunnel with lots of extra considerations as to the underground drainage and infrastructure.

My job has many facets. I like the creative parts best — like coming up with new plant combinations and choosing bulb displays. We’re all excited about the installation of Janet Echelman’s huge aerial sculpture this May and are looking for volunteers to act as “art ambassadors” to inform the public. I like that role of working in a place that everyone can enjoy

FOR MORE Free three-hour Greenway Horticulture Tours will be offered May 28, June 18, and September 17. For reservations, or to apply as a volunteer “art ambassador,” visit rosekennedygreenway.org or call 617-292-0020.

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