Public Gardeners Tackle the 2016 Blizzard



Did you all see the Smithsonian’s blizzard video? You know, the panda playing in the snow.  You probably shared it.

But to this gardener, the blizzard story I love wasn’t online anywhere. It’s about horticulturists sleeping on cots at the Smithsonian and other public gardens – deliberately, not because they’re snowed in. Their winter duties include being there ahead of blizzards, because they’re the snow-removers.


And thanks to the Smithsonian’s butterfly garden horticulturist, James Gagliardi, there are photos to tell the story. Here he is in warmer times, then measuring snow during the blizzard, along with James’s photo of some of the food provided to the gang of 20 Smithsonian gardeners who spent three nights on cots and four long days clearing snow.

In the evenings they played card games, watched TV (for weather news, I was told, but surely not just that!) and for some, dropped in at the nearby Holiday Inn that managed to stay open.


And for James, snow-removal doesn’t start until he’s photographed the scene as only the snow-remover can.



On the left, a peek at the National Museum of African-American Culture and History, scheduled to open this fall. (Very exciting.)


Above, James’s charge, the Butterfly Habitat Garden.




The Air and Space Museum is on the left in this shot of Independence Avenue during the storm.

Thank you, snow removers!

Now for some of James’s photos of the Butterfly Garden during previous snows.

Without snow, would gardens ever be photogenic in the winter?





  1. This reminds me of back in the day when I volunteered time doing various things with church and school. There were many events that required a big sleep over. It always made the volunteer event a lot more fun! But when I think about it, I was young. I wonder how three days would feel today on a hard snow removal routine… probably not as much fun as I remember. So kudos to the volunteers, great job on the snow removal!

    Growing up in the Seattle area, winters were rarely white and for just a few days each year if they were. I moved to Minnesota later on and the transition from a warmer, wetter winter to a very cold, dry, and snowy one took some time getting used to. But I agree with you- the snow makes everything very pretty, even the dormant garden. Earlier in the winter, the red and purple berries stand out, as do the colorful barks and stems- so obvious among the white landscape. The colors are so bright! From plants, to the sky during the day and the stars at night.. everything twinkles and sparkles and is in high contrast this time of year. I do look forward to it all now.

  2. All in a day’s work I suppose, but duty over and above it seems to me. Many thanks. next time you see one of these guys (gals?) give then a big hug, even if it is July!

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