EVERETT — The broad leaves of the ficus trees that tower over the casino lobby with its flower-covered carousel; the yellow carpetroses that sway in the breeze on the harborwalk; the salt-marsh cordgrass on the brackish banks of the Mystic River; the golden euonymus, inkberry, and petunias that line the path to a 45-foot red oak tree — all this is the charge and joy of Patrick Chadwick.
He is Encore Boston Harbor’s flower foreman, shrub whisperer, tree tender-in-chief. Officially, Chadwick is the director of horticulture and floral, overseeing the $2.6 billion property’s plants, inside and out. His goal is lofty.
“We should have a transcendental garden experience,” he said on a sparkling summer day. “You’re no longer in Everett, you’re no longer in Boston. You’re at Encore.”
If casino flowers as transformational sounds like a load of corporate hooey — and it does — spend an hour or two with Chadwick, a redwood tree of a man with a quiet demeanor, a Montana accent, and nearly 40 employees in his department.
First, he’ll hit you with the numbers. There are 900 trees, 100,000 shrubs, and 55,000 flowers — and that’s just outside.
Inside, mingling with the slot machines and table games, the conference space and hotel rooms, are 4,000 potted flowers, many of which are switched out daily, all of which are swapped every two weeks. Special color schemes are coming for the fall, Christmas, Chinese New Year, and spring.
“The lobby also evolves as the seasons evolve,” he said.
Amid the array of flowers are 4,000 pots of foliage plants, including 95 kentia palms, native to Australia.
Each of the casino’s 671 hotel rooms have at least one plant. More than 120 have a five-orchid arrangement. The top-end rooms have even more greenery.
All the casino resort’s plant razzle-dazzle isn’t something you can just go and buy at Mahoney’s. Chadwick and his team of gardeners, florists, supervisors, and managers plan and plan and plan, he said.
They purchase flowers about a year in advance and work with a range of vendors to bring plants to bloom: seed companies, propagators, and growers.
“None of these are flowers that you can just go buy off the shelf somewhere,” he said in the Encore Boston Harbor lobby not far from some of his workers, who were adding fresh yellow and orange arrangements. “You start talking about 4,000 flowers every two weeks — there are not a lot of places that can do that.”
Walking through the casino’s front entrance, Chadwick explains the thinking behind the thick-leaf blend of yew and Japanese white pine nearby (a pleasant look for people being dropped off on one side; a protection for outdoor diners at the fancy Sinatra restaurant from the glare of headlights on the other).
The son of a landscape designer and a landscape installer, Chadwick regales you with the story of some of the 89 Scotch pines, all dug up in far-flung places, trucked to Everett and placed just so for the right Wynn Resorts look. Chadwick speaks with joy about the weeping cherries and Taylor junipers, about how he has a desk, but “most of the time, my office is out here.”
He tells you about tree number one, an autumn splendor maple, that stands as a marker of the site’s transformation from a polluted former Monsanto chemical factory to a high-end casino resort. (He doesn’t mention the Exelon power station that is still across the street.)
He explains how to build a six-and-a-half-acre park after cleaning up loads of toxic waste: planting the trees, then putting in the walkways, layering in shrubs, and installing irrigation.
And he describes the awe he feels seeing the property filled with people, finding serenity in the natural landscape he helped create.
He encourages you to walk the property.
And so you find your way to the harborwalk near the river and you look toward Boston. You can’t even tell you’re standing right next to a casino, with all its beeping and flashing slots, hoots and hollers at the table games, money lost and won — but mostly lost — in an instant.
You can’t tell you’re near a hulking power plant, with its towering smokestacks.
Chadwick is right. It doesn’t seem like you’re in a big city. It just seems like you’re in a lovely garden where you can take a breath and enjoy the wonder of a New England summer away from it all.