From Physics to Flora

March 13, 2015

Rosalind Black

Kirsten Liebl ’13
Photo credit: Lisa Roper, Courtesy of Chanticleer Garden

One might not expect a student of physics and art history to pursue a career in horticulture, but for Kirsten Liebl ’13 it was the natural choice. After graduation, she headed northeast to work and intern at several gardens and farms, currently working at Essex Farm, in Essex, New York, where she grows vegetables and is expanding the cut flower operation.

As a physics major, Liebl found support from professors plentiful. She says her advisor, John and Marianne Schiffer Professor of Physics Daniel Styer, “supported—and understood—[her] love of plants in addition to being interested in physics.” Professor of Physics John Scofield, with whom she conducted research, also urged her to follow her interests—wherever they might lead.

Since graduating, Liebl has worked at a series of gardens and farms, beginning at Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library in Wilmington, Delaware, then taking an internship at Chanticleer Gardens in Wayne, Pennsylvania. At Chanticleer Gardens, Liebl shadowed the seven head horticulturists to learn their different styles and areas of expertise. She also met many horticulturists from the more than 30 public gardens in the Philadelphia area and guest gardeners from around the world.

“I love the unpredictability of what I will be doing each day. It changes according to: who I'm working with; what area of the garden we are in; what the weather brings; and what time of year it is,” Liebl says. “The combination of thinking artistically, using horticultural knowledge, problem solving, and physical work makes each day a satisfying endeavor.”

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