Denise Snook: Stopping to smell the roses

Horticulture graduate Denise Snook.

For Denise Snook everything is literally coming up roses.

Upon completing her bachelor’s degree in Horticulture at Temple in December, Snook settled into a career as the Horticulturist, Landscape Manager and Rosarian at Wyck, a National Historic Landmark house, garden and farm in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, which served as the ancestral home to the Wistar-Haines family for over nine generations.

“I’m responsible for the care, interpretation and propagation of the Wyck roses, which isn’t something I take lightly. This is one of the oldest rose gardens in America,” said Snook, 32, of Philadelphia. “I also am involved with the festivals at Wyck, speak at local events and teach a rose workshop series on the history and propagation of the roses. I’m looking at beginning ethnobotany and plant medicine workshops. Initially upon graduation I was exploring graduate school, but this has been such a perfect fit for me.”

The connections between Wyck and Temple University Ambler run deep. Jane Bowne Haines established the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women — the forerunner of what would become the Ambler Campus — ushering in more than a century of environmental education and stewardship.

“That connection, to me, is incredibly important. I want to continue to explore the botanical and horticultural history of both locations as they have deeply impacted the history of horticulture in the Philadelphia area and throughout the country,” Snook said. “I’d like to connect the two landscapes in a significant way within the context of their horticultural impact.”  

A Diamond Peer Teacher, Teaching Assistant and Diamond Research Scholar — a competitive undergraduate program providing the opportunity to engage in a funded research project — Snook was as comfortable in the lab as she was in the gardens, publishing several horticultural research pieces with her mentor, Temple Assistant Professor of Horticulture Dr. Sasha Eisenman.

“I came to Temple having studied ethnobotany (the study of the relationships that exist between people and plants) with traditional healers in the western hemisphere and studying herbal medicine in Vermont — in exchange for teaching me, I tended their garden. I have a very diverse plant palette thanks those experiences in combination to what we were able to accomplish while I was a student at Ambler,” she said. “I was able to go much more in depth with the taxonomy and botanical history of the plants, which ties directly into what I do at Wyck. I understand the provenance and context of the roses and have a strong background in all of the plants in Wyck’s gardens.”  

While a student, Snook helped coordinate a joint carbon offset project between Temple, the Ambler Arboretum, the Philadelphia Zoo and Fairmount Park, helping to oversee the propagation of more than 1,000 trees to be planted at the park. As president of Pi Alpha Xi, the national honors society for horticulture majors, she additionally organized several “Sustainability Action Days” on campus, recruiting volunteers to help clear invasive plant species in the campus woodland gardens.

Adeptly juggling many responsibilities inside and outside of the classroom, Snook was up to every challenge afforded her and graduated summa cum laude with a perfect 4.0 average.

“The things that were priorities to me — the projects that took the most time and effort — were all focused on things that I love to do. None of it ever felt like work to me,” she said. “I don’t recall ever being stressed or feeling like any of it was a burden — things had to be done when they had to be done. The research was detailed and a lot of work went into it, but to me, it was a fun addition that provided me with terrific experience moving into my profession.”