If you happen to see Ambler Arboretum Gardens Manager Stephanie Bross traveling around campus visiting every garden and natural space on campus, that is just the start of her day-to-day routine.

"I do a lap of the Arboretum to see if anything has changed from the day before — hopefully nothing major has occurred," said Bross. "During the growing season, I like to see what's in bloom to see if any flowers have opened or trees have leafed out. I make tasks for the student workers and the horticulturists — weekly and day-to-day, with a lot of flexibility built into the schedule because things can and do change often since this is a living, growing environment. Then we get to work on what needs to be done for the day."

Bross didn't have to go far to get far. A May 2022 graduate of Temple's Horticulture program offered by the Tyler School of Art and Architecture, she diligently worked in the Arboretum as a student, gaining hands-on skills in every aspect of her chosen profession.

"I was planting trees, planting herbaceous material, mulching, weeding, pruning, basically any maintenance that the Arboretum needed," she said. "I also worked a bit with plant records and plant propagation. For two seasons in the spring, I planted all of the seeds for the plants that we were planting in that current year."

Bross said after building such long-lasting connections to the Ambler Arboretum and Temple Ambler, "I knew I wanted to stay here as long as I could."

"I loved going to school here and working in the Arboretum as a student worker," said Bross, who began her Gardens Manager position in January 2023. "I love the campus and the people and the amazing history here with the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women."

The tornado that struck campus in September 2021 proved pivotal in Bross' decision to become part of the Arboretum team after she graduated.

"After the tornado, it could have been easy to say 'I just want to go somewhere else. I don't want to deal with this; it's too much.' But it made me want to stay because I wanted to make the Arboretum better for future generations," she said. "I wanted to be here to help rebuild the Arboretum by planting new trees and truly anything that the gardens needed. I know what it was like before the tornado and I can see what it's like now and how we can and should work on recovery, change and adaptation."

During a single week in April, Bross said, "we planted about 75 trees and more are being planted all of the time."

"These trees will be here for decades and more to come. They are trees that future students and visitors will learn from and that's something I'm very excited about," she said. "We are getting our tree species back on campus that were lost during the storm and adding some species that we didn't have before. We're able to choose what we want and base it on climate change and climate science — what will be viable here in the future. We're planting some trees from traditionally warmer zones to see how they do here. We're also working on the connecting gardens and paths and walkways, which will make the gardens feel even more cohesive."

Bross said all of the horticulture skills that she learned as a student, "I use every day and I continue to learn each day."

She also passes on that knowledge to an army of Arboretum volunteers, who she helps to oversee as they support garden maintenance and recovery efforts throughout the year.

"It is great having people know that we are here and open for them to learn and enjoy — the volunteers help spread the word. Once they are here, they stay connected to the Arboretum; it's a true growing community," she said. "For people or groups who come to the Arboretum, whatever their intention is — taking a peaceful walk or connecting with friends and family or learning about plants or our history or coming for a guided walk — I hope they are able to get the most out of their experience here. I'd also like them to learn about what our students are working on — that these gardens are used for education and learning and will continue to be used that way for generations to come."