Plant pathologist at the Bainbridge Island preserve is in charge of one of the largest public moss gardens in North America.

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Darren Strenge

What do you do? I manage the moss garden at the Bloedel Reserve [on Bainbridge Island — one of the largest public moss gardens in North America]. I’m also a plant pathologist, managing the health of the plants in the garden by diagnosing problems and developing treatment. … Moss grows really well in our mild and wet Pacific Northwest climate. Mosses fascinate me for many reasons; they are particularly interesting because despite being small and delicate, they rival or even exceed the drought tolerance of desert plants — and moss species grow on every continent, including Antarctica.

How did you get started in that field? I’ve loved plants since I was a kid. In college, it was natural that I pursued degrees in horticulture [bachelor’s] and botany [master’s]. When a job opened at Bloedel Reserve, I took it and the rest is history.

What’s a typical day like? Every day is variable in terms of actual work. Typically, we try to do the noisy work (mowers, leaf blowers, etc.) before we open. We work to keep the grounds beautiful.

What is the best part of the job? Working outdoors in an office filled with trees, moss and fresh air.

What surprises people about your work? I find that visitors are more often envious of my job than surprised by anything.

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