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Waterfront Botanical Gardens offers 'subdued beauty' during its offseason

Horticulture expert Jamie Burghardt walked us through the gardens to show us the beauty behind dormancy in plants.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Driving down I-71 towards the city, near the impound lot and on top of the old city dump, beauty springs from the discarded.

The talented Waterfront Botanical Garden team, tasked with growing from trash, works year-round to ensure our community always has a fresh perspective.

Jamie Burghardt, the Chief Horticulture and Education Officer at the Waterfront Botanical Gardens., said people in the U.S. tend to want perfect, neat lawns.

"But here, none of our plants are dead, but they're dormant in the winter," Burghardt said. "There's still a lot of beauty in the color and the textures. There's a subdued beauty in the winter."

Changing your surroundings and changing your perspective, there's tons you can learn about plants at the botanical garden even in the offseason.

"There's all kinds of things that are happening around us," Burghardt said.  "A botanical garden is a nice way to connect with the land where our life unfolds."

Four years ago, Burghardt came to Louisville to accept his position at the botanical gardens. The Minnesota native is humble, hardworking and funny.

"I went into college to get a biology degree, and everyone was pre-med or pre vet," Burghardt said with a chuckle.  "I was like 'I like plants.'"

Part of the allure of the city for Jamie is much of what we all love about the city. It's small but big, fast paced but slow, and old, but new.

"I love history and interesting stories and Louisville has a lot of them," Burghardt said.  "It ties in nicely with our garden.  The fact that we're on the Ohio street dump, which formed on top of a historic neighborhood in the point, so if you literally dig down, you're digging into history."

As we walked around the grounds, Jamie showed all the ways the sea of darker colors can come to life, making me think differently about the gardens and encouraging a mentality of perspective in more parts of life.

"It's ornamental now, but we'll have to wait until March until the buds swell, and we get the white petals of the star magnolia," he said, showing off a bush most could mistake as dead.  

"It shows its alive. It's dormant now but it's just waiting for the right photo period, length of day and temperatures to break out of the dormancy," he said.

During the winter months, visiting hours at the gardens vary. You can click on this link for details on hours.

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