Horticulture Spotlight: Michael Bechtel
Aug 24

Horticulture Spotlight: Michael Bechtel

By Lindsey Beck

Horticulture is the art or practice of garden cultivation and management. Without horticulture, and the people who are most passionate about it, Phipps would not be what it is today. Phipps takes pride in having elaborate, beautiful and well-kept gardens throughout the conservatory. This would not be possible without the hard-working horticulture team. In this series of profiles, we meet some of the people who make Phipps possible.

Michael Bechtel is the Display Foreman at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. He has been working at Phipps for eleven years and had plenty of experience with horticulture and gardening prior to his career here. Mike has always loved spending time outdoors and became immersed in plants at a young age. Growing up, his family always had a garden – from perennial to vegetable gardens! He credits his grandmother as the biggest influence in encouraging his passion as he would spend much of his time helping her in her garden.

Phipps played significant part in Mike’s childhood! His parents and grandmother would bring him to see the annual spring flower show. Since his family lived a few hours away from the city, these visits to Phipps were always special and hold an important place in his heart. These childhood memories stuck with him and ultimately influenced the career he has today.

All of these experiences in Mike’s early life led him to continuing his education in horticulture and pursuing it as a  career path. He attended Penn State University and gained a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture. After graduating, he worked in several garden centers, plant nurseries and eventually found his way into landscaping. His landscaping job would lay him off work during the winter months, which allowed him to take the opportunity to volunteer at Phipps during that time. Through volunteering, he fell in love with Phipps all over again.

A typical workday for Mike consists of ensuring the display rooms are properly watered. He does a walkthrough of the conservatory and touches base with his team to ensure everyone is prepared and able to take care of their assigned areas. He thinks of each day as a “refresher” for the display room, meaning that water, fertilizing, deadheading spent blooms, removing yellow leaves and taking care of any pruning are all part of the daily responsibilities. The goal is to complete most of the heavy work prior to guests arriving at the conservatory. After that, he moves on to office work and back of house checklist items. Something most people would not know about his job is that he has access to many tunnels, walkways and behind-the-scenes areas that enable him to take care of the displays discretely and efficiently!

Mike’s favorite part about working at Phipps are the people. He says that the people who are drawn to Phipps are incredible and make each day more fun than the last. However, the plants come in close second. We asked Michael what his favorite plant was, and he said: “I am a sucker for an heirloom tomato. When they are fruiting, I think they are the most beautiful plants, and the smell of the tomato foliage is like heaven.”

Phipps is proud to have Mike as part of our Horticulture team. As someone who is so passionate about Phipps, plants and people, his work makes a huge impact on our displays and indoor gardens. Thank you, Mike!

Header photo © Paul g. Wiegman