Where I work: San Antonio Botanical Garden

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I started visiting the San Antonio Botanical Garden four years ago in 2017 after receiving a membership as a gift. I worked full time as a floral designer and went to the garden every week to explore on my own and with friends. It was my getaway and even as a guest I was comfortable calling her home.

Floral design may have been my career path, but it’s not where my love for plants started. It all started in the garden of my childhood where, before planting our vegetable gardens, my father and I took mud baths to celebrate a big harvest of tomatoes. At the end of winter, we cut down the banana trees and I helped transport the pieces. It was the time when I learned what a heat-induced mirage was and the howl of the cicadas found a place in my heart.

Years later, when my second job was only a florist, I dove head first into design, color, the artful handling of natural objects, and working with perishables and living plants. I have spent several years studying the desires of locals, travelers, grieving souls and professionals. Creating beautiful things has become the world for me. Now, as the main gardener of the conservatory at San Antonio Botanical Garden I am a gardener and a young architect of gardens. Maintaining flourishing specimens and imagining living garden designs is my goal.

Chelsea Crisler, senior gardener at the San Antonio Botanical Garden Conservatory, takes care of light cutting of flowers in her area. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Walking towards the opportunity placed me in a beautiful niche position in the garden. A small team and I are responsible for the detailed maintenance of our five veranda, yard and koi pond buildings. My job is to tackle whatever plants need, when they need it. This involves watering, pruning, identifying problems and implementing solutions while communicating with various departments such as education, maintenance and the rest of horticulture.

My favorite part of the season is designing our semi-annual bed changes and focal pot displays. Introducing new ideas and plants is exhilarating when successful and there is always a lesson to be learned. In addition to my daily responsibilities, various teams in the garden use my talents in different ways. I make floral arrangements from our beautiful garden for special events and requests. I am always thrilled to help create great horticultural displays for all kinds of events, like a 20ft tall poinsettia for the winter season and a living orchid wall for our annual Orchid Week in January.

I also teach various workshops throughout the year which is a treat. Over the seasons, the bustle in the garden is stronger and stronger. The gardens are being remodeled and we will be having our winter ‘change’ this month, where we store our summer plants in the greenhouse and plant winter annuals to bloom all the way through. throughout our unpredictable winter in San Antonio. The remainder of 2021 will be spent planning and planting gardens while coordinating with our upcoming winter light show, Light landscape, and prepare the coming months for spring.

Chelsea Crisler, principal gardener at the San Antonio Botanical Garden Conservatory, leads a flowering vine along a trellis.
Chelsea Crisler, principal gardener at the San Antonio Botanical Garden Conservatory, leads a flowering vine along the trellis of the Northrup Tropical Room. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

I get a sense of accomplishment when I see clients use the spaces I maintain in different ways. People propose to loved ones here, make creative videos for projects, pull out their easels to paint the scenery for hours on end, and often enjoy a beautiful first date. You name it and it takes place in a corner of our 38 acre Texas backyard. It is important in my career to give to others and to help this world in one way or another. Being part of the culture of a beautiful canvas for my hometown community has been more than a job and the end product is exciting. The process can sometimes be nerve-racking; the saying is “trust the process” and it couldn’t be truer. Most of the pre-beauty steps are not so pretty. On a busy day, I will exceed the 10 mile walk, jog, climb and squat of gardeners in any weather.

I used to ask the universe how I ended up in the amazing field of floriculture and horticulture. I haven’t looked for this career but I know I’m meant to be here. My intuition shines in this environment like nowhere else and I am fortunate to be able to listen to it on a daily basis to carry out my responsibilities large or small. The search for knowledge is essential but letting my passion shine and trusting my instincts has opened more doors for me since my first day in the garden. Almost three years later, I am honored to be an emerging female leader and representative of tropical plants in South Texas and beyond.


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