Avery Maltz shares some fun facts about the Holyoke Community College greenhouse and what they enjoy the most about being its caretaker with Zydalis Bauer.  

Watch our full interview with Avery Maltz.

This interview was originally part of our January 20, 2022 show.

Read the full transcription:

Avery Maltz, Point Foundation Wells Fargo Scholarship Recipient: We have about anywhere from two hundred and fifty to three hundred plants. It can vary, you know, depending on depending on the season. And within that, about one hundred and thirty species.

It’s a very diverse little place. It’s small, but we pack a lot in there. I’ve kind of divided things into different regions, little mini ecosystems. So they’re kind of all clumped with their friends, and it’s just a beautiful place.

You walk in and you just, like, immediately smell the fresh air. And yeah, it’s really nice.

Zydalis Bauer: And you even have had some fruits come from these plants, correct?

Avery Maltz, Point Foundation Wells Fargo Scholarship Recipient: Yeah, we’ve had limes. We have a banana tree. It still hasn’t flowered.

The most exciting fruits, I think, have been…the monstera produced a fruit, which I had never seen before. So I got to take that.

Zydalis Bauer: Yeah, to be honest, I didn’t even know monstera produced a fruit, so that’s pretty cool.

Avery Maltz, Point Foundation Wells Fargo Scholarship Recipient: They do. It has to be really mature to produce a fruit, and most of the ones that people have in their homes, like they just don’t have the resources in a house to actually be able to to produce a fruit like that.

Zydalis Bauer: So as I mentioned us being home with the pandemic, can you talk to me about some of the therapeutic value that being inside the greenhouse offered you, especially during the times that we’re going through?

Avery Maltz, Point Foundation Wells Fargo Scholarship Recipient: It was really, really nice to be able to go in and take care of the plants during that time. And it was very eerie because the whole school was empty and all the posters were still up from like the week before everything went remote. And, you know, I would just go in and and take care of the plants, and it felt like a really powerful way to stay connected.

During that time, I started an Instagram account for the greenhouse so that I could share with the campus community the different things that were happening in the greenhouse, things that were flowering, or little updates on the plants. And it was just a really nice way to kind of bring people in to that experience.

Zydalis Bauer: And now that we are deep in the winter months, it’s cold, it’s dreary outside.

Do you have any tips for us about houseplants and what should we be looking out for? What are the what are the perfect plants to have during this time of year?

Avery Maltz, Point Foundation Wells Fargo Scholarship Recipient: The perfect plants to have it depends on your house and your situation, but a few winter tips: please move your plants away from the heaters. Oftentimes, you’ll have like a baseboard heater or something like right below a window, but you really want to make sure your plants are not right next to that heater because it’s going to dry out the plant.

And also, I don’t fertilize in the winter, even if it still looks good and feels like it’s growing — like the plants behind me look good, right? But most plants are a little bit dormant in the winter months because they’re not getting that same amount of, like, light and warmth that they would need. So yeah, they don’t need fertilizer in the winter.

Zydalis Bauer: Where did your passion come for caring for plants? How did you even end up in the role as caretaker of the HCC greenhouse?

Avery Maltz, Point Foundation Wells Fargo Scholarship Recipient: Honestly, I don’t know where it comes from! I just love plants. But my first semester, I — I would walk past the greenhouse on my way to class and I would look in the window and I just I just felt like I wanted to be in there, you know?

And so I reached out to one of the biology professors and I asked her if there were any opportunities to get involved. And yeah, the rest is history.