Resident Horticulturalist Creates Urban Oasis at South Carolina
Dirty hands, beads of sweat and delicate blooms define Charlie Ryan’s job as USC’s resident horticulturalist. Every day his flowers, vegetables and trees are the centerpieces of USC’s urban oasis.
But that’s not why he comes to work with a passion in his heart. “It’s not work to me,” he said. “I just love what I do, especially the learning aspect of horticulture. Plants are never predictable, and seeing how they perform is very rewarding.”
In fact, Charlie believes he’s lost more money in his 30-year career than he’s gained just killing plants. “But that’s the learning part of my career that I love so much.”
More importantly, Charlie loves sharing what he knows with the campus community. He’s deeply rooted that way.
He’s played an instrumental role in several student-gardening initiatives, including the Carolina Community Garden and the Outdoor Recreation Center Garden and Orchard. Located behind the Strom Thurmond Fitness and Wellness Center, the outdoor rec garden features 17 fruit-bearing trees as well as seasonal vegetables and herbs grown organically and without the use of pesticides.
What’s more, he works closely with USC first lady Patricia Moore-Pastides, cultivating the President’s House Garden. The backyard garden has tomatoes, squashes and cucumbers in summer and Swiss chard and Asian greens in the winter months.
A mentor and guiding hand, Charlie celebrates each time a student or faculty or staff member find his or her inner self through the wonders of our natural environment. “They’re so excited when they grow something,” he said. “Their enthusiasm is contagious. It makes me excited to help them.”
When asked if he has a favorite flower, Charlie said his current passion is for tweedia.“It has a sky blue blossom. Blue is a very unusual color in nature,” he said of the summer blooming self-seeding perennial. “It’s just a beautiful shade of blue.”
As for his work at Carolina, Charlie — in his own special way — is making our world greener, cultivating one green thumb at a time.