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Inside Central Park's gardens

August 16, 2012 2:51:53 PM PDT
Some amazing gardeners work at New York's Central Park. It takes the best of the best to keep the massive park pristine, and you might be surprised to know that one of the park's best gardeners learned her craft on the job.

Maria Hernandez grew up on the Upper West Side.

She played in Central Park as a kid but, she didn't' know she'd wind up spending the last 20 years with plants, she basically wandered into it.

"One day I'm walking through the park, considering a life change, saw a man gardening and asked how do I get a job like yours, he led me in the right direction," Hernandez said.

She started as a seasonal gardener and now oversees a staff of 58.

Her mission is to plan and protect the landscape for the parks 42 million annual visitors.

One of her favorite spots is the butterfly gardens at 102nd and 5th.

"A whole pallet of plants that have been chosen to attract pollinators, most are native, flowering most of summer continual bloomers," Hernandez said.

At the end of the summers, the flowers disappear and so will the bees and the butterflies, but Maria has planned the garden so that it will feed the birds all winter long!

"We leave these on here for birds in winter, winter interest," Hernandez said.

While most might see her job as a bed of roses, Maria also manages the invasive plants, trouble makers like Flea Bain woodland aster.

"Biggest culprit is mugwort, very aggressive, compacts it in a stand, we have our own war zone here," Hernandez said.

With the biggest green thumb assignment in New York, she says the best advice she can give for learning how to grow healthy plants is to jump right in.

"Come to the park and volunteer and big learning opportunity there," Hernandez said.

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