Many children grow up dreaming about taking a trip to Disney World to meet their favorite characters and experience the thrills of an animated world full of music, rides, and spectacular shows. And while scores of people visit the theme park each year (over 52.5 million, to be more precise), few have the privilege of spending an entire summer within Disney’s magical borders.
Alisha Hershman (Horticulture ’15) became one of the lucky few when she was chosen for a gardening internship with Disney last year. Hershman had the opportunity to spend 3 months shadowing resident gardeners throughout areas of the park, exposing her to an array of garden maintenance experiences—from the posh gardens of Hollywood Studios, to mini-golf courses and sports-themed interior gardens at Disney’s All-Star Resort, to the “wild” habitat at Animal Kingdom. Hershman had some experience in the latter environment, having previously maintained grounds at the Como Zoo in St. Paul.
“It was really interesting to see how plants were deliberately used to coincide with the different park themes,” reflects Hershman. “I think sometimes the gardens can go unnoticed because of how they just fit right in with the theme, but they are such an integral part of the overall feel of the park.”
As part of her internship, Disney also provided weekly classes taught by garden managers and expert horticulturalists. Students learned about plant identification and care, tool use, and safety techniques and had the chance to take learning tours of Bok Tower Gardens, Leu Gardens, Sea- World, Gaylord Palms, and other area gardens.
With one year left in school, Hershman is considering a career in public garden management. Her experience at Disney will certainly provide her with a head start in understanding a variety of garden landscapes.