Tori Hiney, the Greenway Conservancy’s Plant Health Care Horticulturist

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Tori Hiney, Greenway Conservancy

 

How did you come to The Greenway?

I graduated from the University of Maine Orono in 2014. I studied Environmental Horticulture and Landscape Design. When I left I thought, while I’m not exactly a city person, I grew up in NH and spent college in the middle of nowhere Maine, the city would be a great place to go to make a difference… a place with very little natural areas and tons of people to influence! When I heard back from The Greenway I was psyched. From my perspective at the time, and still now, The Greenway is this crazy mix of a restoration project meets green roof meets public park meets pollution buffer…all right in the heart of Boston!  It was the Ace of Spades, that was it! I’ve now been at The Greenway for three years as part of the Horticulture staff, just soaking up all I could. All while completing my Massachusetts Certified Horticulturist (MCH) and NOFA Accredited Organic Land Care Professional certifications.

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Tori applying compost tea to the lawn with the sprayer.

What is your job on The Greenway now?

Well, I am the Plant Health Care Horticulturist. I look at everything whole picture; I think all of us here do. If a tree is showing stress symptoms and the cause is not obvious all eyes go to the soil and under. From the ground up… I think that’s horticulture!

During the growing season I brew and apply compost tea to the garden beds, lawns, and containers in The Greenway parks. I also apply the other organic amendments we use on the lawns and plants. Anthony [Ruggiero], the Horticulture Foreman, and I take soil samples from every lawn and bed of the park and send them off to UMass in Amherst for a chemical analysis and the Soil Food Web lab in New York for biological level testing. When those tests come back, things get cookin’. Based on the results, Anthony and I decide our brew recipe and I get to work brewing tea! I do this two to three times a year. We have had great success building a healthy, thriving soil biology over the last 6 years and we adjust our applications and recipes to best meet the garden’s needs. While I’m out and about I’m always looking at the plants and at the soil, scouting for pests and diseases, looking for stress symptoms, and checking out our beautiful buzzing beneficials! To me this job means connecting all the dots.

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4-tank compost tea brewing system

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Kubota vehicle with spray tank and hose reel attached for compost tea applications

What motivates you?

I just want to make an environmental difference…it’s pretty simple. My first goal is to influence Boston. There are tons of great parks, landscape companies, and home gardeners in this town and I think it’s our responsibility to do right by the environment we are trained and educated to work with. Having this motivation makes my day-to-day pretty exciting, both in my job and my personal life because there is always a challenge. I feel super lucky that The Greenway is where I landed, even more so now as I continue to learn. It’s great to work with a group of people who are all extremely motivated and passionate. As you could imagine it really fuels the fire and helps me keep my goal to make a difference because I believe that we do!

On influencing change, I think the best advice I ever got was from my dad, he said “You have to move a person before you can move a crowd.” No one likes to be told what to do or how to think. It’s a great reminder to pump the brakes a little and take other people’s perspectives into consideration.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on a few things.. for one I’m working with Darrah [Cole], Senior Horticulturist and Designer, to finish changing our containers over to winter holiday décor – we have approximately 74 containers on The Greenway!  I am also doing the occasional anti-desiccant application. The goal is to apply 3 times during the winter season. Simply put, I spray an organic waxy product on all of our broadleaf evergreens to help prevent winter drying and desiccation. The one catch with this is that it has to be over 35 degrees for the product to dry, so it’s been a little tough! I’ve also been working with Anthony to get our vermiculture operation back up and moving for next season. Here come the worms! The vermiculture, or worm castings, are an essential component of our compost tea.

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Tori prepping Greenway winter containers.

 

Do you have a favorite garden or park on The Greenway?

I love the Wharf District park. I love the whole Greenway – there is something about each parcel of land that excites me and poses a different challenge. But the Wharf District is all native plants. As a homegrown New Englander, autumn is obviously my favorite season, so to have three straight parcels of land with native plants that explode in the fall… it’s just an incredible experience every time. And if we are talking fall and favorites, my absolute favorites for fall foliage are our Amsonia hubrichtii, Fothergilla gardenii, and of course Fraxinus americana. I could go on about favorite plants and parcels per season forever so I’ll leave it at that!

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What is the most fun part of your job?

A few years ago Michael Pistininzi (Seasonal Horticulturist) and I created a social media hashtag: #GreenwayHort for Instagram and Facebook. We created this hashtag mostly for educational purposes. We wanted a central location where people could post pictures if they weren’t sure of a plant on The Greenway and we could easily respond and answer questions. More often though we post pictures to show off plants during the season, using scientific and common names so people can easily find specific plants if it’s something they want in their own yard! I really do encourage any questions comments concerns etc. The great thing about The Greenway is that you know these plants are hardy and tough and for the most part very low maintenance. Just think of it – we are on top of a tunnel, next to the ocean, between two streets, in a busy city, in New England, with limited staff. These are resilient plants!

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Tori with Keelin Purcell, Volunteer and Education Manager

What have been your favorite volunteer projects?

Honestly, I probably work around 60 volunteer projects a season, give or take a few, but if I had to pick favorites I’d say planting our pollinator ribbon with a group of our regular volunteers. That day we planted hundreds of plugs and gallon pot plants and we got it done in three hours… Thank God for our regulars! I also always enjoy planting fall colchicum and crocuses, which we did with a couple different groups this year, but it’s always very rewarding because those bulbs are up within the week. We really couldn’t do what we do without the help of volunteers!