Sep 28th, 2020

Designs for Diversity: Dean Dietrich

IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility) is an evolving committee where different voices are heard.  Departmental representatives gather in a safe, neutral zone to address important topics related to inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility. The IDEA committee embraces a culture where all people are welcomed, valued and appreciated. This is part of a series of profiles on members of our IDEA committee.

Meet Dean Dietrich, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Horticulturist

Dean Graham, a horticulturist at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. Image by Graham Copeland

Dean Dietrich, a horticulturist at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, watering the daffodils earlier this spring.  Image by Graham Copeland

Horticulture has always been part of my life. I grew up on a Pennsylvania farm where my family grew corn, wheat, and barley, and my mom had a small vegetable garden. I studied horticulture at college and interned at Longwood Gardens and Chanticleer Foundation. For the last five years, I’ve been at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

I can’t name a favorite plant because my favorite changes every season, depending on what’s new or in my next design. I can tell you what I don’t like, though: overuse of the same plants in residential landscapes. People miss out when they don’t consider new things.

Last year, I planted popcorn cassia (Senna didymobotrya), and visitors loved it. It’s a sensory plant that smells like buttered popcorn when you rub its leaves. This year, my Central Garden displays included other fascinating plants: root beer plant (Piper auritum), voodoo lily (Amorphophallus konjac), Siam tulip (Curcuma alismatifolia) and lion’s tail (Leonotis leonurus).

Pink bloom of Curcuma 'Siam Shadow' Image by Tom Hennessy

Curcuma alismatifolia ‘Siam Shadow’ Image by Tom Hennessy

People ask me where I get my ideas. I follow designers around the globe and read their books, Instagram and blog posts. Their designs inspire me. Unique plants do, too. Color, texture and the way plants grow are important, but I also consider what will overwinter in Richmond and how much work it will take to maintain.

We’re furthering our botanical collections here at the Garden, especially dogwoods, magnolias and pitcher plants (Sarracenia). We collect them because they’re interesting. Saving germplasm can also help save a species, but you can never collect them all.

Designs for Diversity

Botanical gardens do important work. They’re also a welcoming place – a sanctuary for staff and visitors, in more ways than one. Diversity in species’ genetic material makes the entire population stronger. It adds beauty and interest. It must also be preserved.

That’s like the concepts emerging from the Garden’s new IDEA committee. Each of us is different with our own unique lifestyle and point of view. But we want to live with honesty and transparency. Through IDEA, we can inspire each other and make each other stronger. Together we make Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden a better place to be.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is intentional in providing access to people of all abilities, races, cultures and backgrounds.

Tropical Container Gardens

Senna didymobotrya or popcorn senna! Can you believe it smells and looks like buttered popcorn?

Dean Dietrich is the Central Garden/Greenhouse Horticulturist and Orchid Grower at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. A self-proclaimed plant nerd, he is constantly growing his design ability and plant knowledge to better the garden’s displays. Outside of work Dean enjoys spending time with his partner Andrew and their two dogs.

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