University of Delaware Botanic Gardens Internship

This past summer I worked as an intern at the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG).  I learned how to take care of a gardens in a variety of ways alongside three other interns.  It allowed me to familiarize myself with horticulture, while also allowing me to learn more about the plant side of my major.  Through this internship I was able to apply the knowledge I learned in class and get great hands on experiences when using the equipment and tools.

The larger projects can vary from year to year but the everyday jobs tend to remain the same.  We would mow the production garden, the lepidoptera trail and the wetland pathways. There were always areas to weed, mulch, or spray with round up and occasionally trees and shrubs that have to be pruned to remove dead wood or stray branches to make them more visually appealing and keep them healthy.  As interns we often planted new herbaceous and woody plants in the gardens and around south campus, and maintained them by watering as needed.

Below you will find more information about the larger projects we completed, some of the wildlife I spotted, links and information about the field trips we attended, and some of the tools we worked with throughout my summer at UDBG.


Installing and Organizing Plant Frames

The first tasks we completed at the start of our internship were installing and organizing the plant frames in the production garden area of UDBG.  We set up and moved all the plants that were previously inside the green house, over the winter, into frames in the production garden area.  By doing this, the plants are able to receive full sun and be attached to a drip tube irrigation system, making watering the plants more efficient.  Throughout the summer we continued to organize and transplant other plants into larger pots and add them to the outside frames in the production garden area.

empty houseoutside house

Clearing Wetlands of Invasive Plants

During the summer we continually worked in the wetlands removing plants that had become invasive.  For example cattails, mulberries, willows, Canadian thistles, various roses and other plants are fast growers and spread quickly within the wetlands when they are not controlled.  Our job was to remove these species of plants so they would not take over the ecosystem that we were trying to maintain.

wetlands 1wetlands 2after wetland

Creamery Flavor Garden

Part way through the summer, we did an installation of a flavor garden at the UD Creamery.  Our goal with this project was to install plants whose names could serve as possible inspirations for new flavors of ice cream.  Some of the plants in this garden include: pineapple sage, chocolate mint, chocolate basil, blueberry bush, oregano and many more.  This garden has the potential to be an educational platform for students, while adding to the visual landscape around the creamery.
creamery1creamery2creamery after

Tarp Installation in Greenhouses

A couple of the interns and I replaced the tarps in two of the UDBG greenhouses for it had been years since they were last replaced.  We removed all of the stakes holding down the original tarp, cut and rolled out the new tarp, and then nailed down the new tarp so it was straight and covered the entire floor of the greenhouse.  It was amazing to see the difference it made once the tarp had been replaced and how new the greenhouses looked upon completion. Pictured below is the second, and larger, of the two greenhouses we worked on.

tarp beforetarp after

Sidewalk Installation

Building this sidewalk was the last and the largest project we did all summer.  It was a very involved and precise project that required the hard work and labor of all four summer interns, UDBG Director John Frett, Summer Intern Supervisors Jackie Perry and John Raike, and Horticulture Greenhouse Supervisor Rodney Dempsey.  First we had to dig down and remove as much dirt as possible so we could fill the bottom layer with gravel.  The purpose of the gravel is to assist with drainage underneath the sidewalk.  Once all the gravel was leveled and in place, we installed a snap edge.  Once that was in place, we proceeded to fill in the sand made sure it was level. It is important that the sand is level so depressions or slanting does not occur after the sidewalk is complete.  After laying the brick down, we tamped down the entire surface of the sidewalk using an electric tamping machine while filling the spaces between the bricks in with sand.  Once that was all complete, we filled the edges with soil, and later grass sod, for the finished look.


Wildlife Sightings

Below are a few pictures of some of the insects, birds and mammals I found when working at UDBG.

bunnyswallowtail2baby birds

Field Trips

One of the fun things about this internship was that the interns were given the opportunity to go on various field trips to arboreta, pleasure gardens and botanic gardens not too far from campus.  By going on these Field trips, we were able to see how other institutions use plants to create beautiful landscapes with different plants and design styles.  The three  locations we went to were Mt. Cuba, Chanticleer, and Morris Arboretum.  To get more information about each of these gardens click the links provided below.

Tools of Choice

As interns, we had to learn how to use a wide variety of tools and machinery so we could complete our daily talks in a more efficient manner. Below are a few of the equipment items I learned how to use by the time I completed my internship.

Hand ToolsUses
Hand Saw
Prune or cut large branches off of treesJohn Deere Mow large areas of turf grass, collect and move mulch, gravel or other supplies
PrunersScissor like tool used to cut small branches or herbaceous materials"Hummer"Small work vehicle use to carry tools, mulch, plant materials
Hori horiSmall, hand digging tool, helpful when removing weeds or planting small plantsString Trimmer/Weed WhackerFine tuning after mowing around edges of buildings and posts
Root WrenchLarge clamp with a long handle, used to grasp and yank small trees out of the groundPush mowerMow the smaller places around the nursery
Rake/Pitch ForkFork or rake mulch onto garden bedsLeaf BlowerClearing sidewalks and other areas of debris


Originally from upstate New York, I am a junior at the University of Delaware, majoring in wildlife conservation with a minor in art. My hope, at the start of my UDBG internship, was to learn more about plant science and landscape design, to hone my plant identification skills, and to get more experience in plant related aspects of my major. Throughout the summer, I certainly learned more about plants and horticulture through my experiences than I normally would have by just sitting in a classroom.  Not only was I able to utilize my knowledge from my classes, but I was also able to be creative throughout the entirety of the internship.  I have always enjoyed drawing ever since I could pick up a pencil, and this internship showed me how I would use my artistic eye to shape the landscape around me. Overall, I learned valuable skills through hands-on projects and as a bonus, I had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people, who have inspired and mentored me.  I took a lot away from my experiences with UDBG and  hope that the interns, in years to come, will have a fun and positive experience like I did.  


    If you would like more information about this internship program, please feel free to visit the UDBG website or email me using the links below:

    UDBG Official Website

    Emily Slingerland

    University of Delaware Logo   

Last Updated October 8, 2014